|FORGING TIES: Jone Baledrokadroka, Mara and Tuilaepa in Australia a few days ago.|
It looks like Samoa will be the next port of call for the former commander of the 3FIR, Roko Ukui Mara, in his Pacific-wide campaign to build support against Fiji's regime.
Mara met with Samoa's prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielelagaoi, three days ago in Australia and now plans to travel to Apia next month to cement those ties.
Tuilaepa has long been a critic of illegal prime minister Frank Bainimarama so it's no surprise Mara has joined forces with him (and not the Solomon Islands which has said he will not be welcome), with Samoa next to roll out the welcome mat.
In a statement this morning, Mara said Tuilaepa has given his support to the pro-democracy movement and the plan to hold free elections in Fiji soon.
"We discussed the 10 point transitional plan outlined in Canberra last week and the current situation in Fiji including the ongoing human rights abuses instigated by the regime."
The Samoan PM has been quoted as saying: "I tend to look at the defection and the pro-active role he (Mara) is playing now, as part of the process of a solution initiated by the Fijians themselves and in this situation it is so important because here is a person who was a former colleague of Bainimarama, who has seen the light and decided to leave and who is now taking the leading role in promoting democracy.”
Mara says the invite to Samoa next month will allow him to brief government officials and its people "on the situation in Fiji and to discuss the progress that we are making towards returning Fiji to democracy."
"I welcome his (Tuilaepa's) support and this meeting was part of the process of isolating the Bainimarama regime internationally, regionally and locally within Fiji."
The illegal regime this week sent extradition papers for Mara to Australia and has said it will be sending them to every country the runaway soldier visits.