|PIF IN CAIRNS, 2009: The year Fiji was kicked out.|
As the Pacific Islands Forum celebrates its 40th anniversary in Auckland, Fiji's chair at the Forum will be empty for a third year.
Fiji will get mentioned but it is not expected to take centre stage in Forum discussions and neither will it be a priority for a majority of the Pacific leaders who are adamant it should not be allowed back into the fold just yet.
Founded in 1971, the Pacific Islands Forum was originally called the South Pacific Forum. The first meeting was held in New Zealand where Fiji was represented by the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the prime minister at the time.
Fiji was suspended from the Forum in 2009 after failing to set a date for elections as promised.
Since that suspension, Fiji hasn't been allowed to take part in block events or receive development funding from the Forum. Instead, it has turned to the Melanesian Spearhead Group made up of Papua New Guinea, Solomons Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji, for support.
Last week, Frank Bainimarama called a meeting of the MSG in Nadi under the umbrella name of Engaging in the Pacific, obviously wanting to overshadow this week's Forum.
He was also trying to establish a new sports meet similar to the South Pacific Games but none of the three Melanesian countries were keen on hosting it, probably because of cost and probably because it doesn't want to get on the bad side of the Forum - all three are still members.
At that meet last week, the leaders of PNG, Vanuatu and the Solomons, supported Bainimarama's call for the chair of the Forum, Neroni Slade, to be removed and a candidate of its preference voted in.
The question that needs to be asked is: Why are the other three Melanesian countries supporting the illegal regime?
One of their answers would be that it's the Pacific Way. But the leaders of PNG, Solomons and Vanuatu need to be asked: So, is it the Pacific way to beat up citizens and run a dictatorship?
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has reiterated that Fiji won't be taking centre stage at the Forum this week. Key says he is not overly concerned that some Pacific leaders support Bainamarama because it's a few out of the 16 island members.
"Yes, there's been one or two that I'm sure would hold a view that they would like to have Fiji back simply because the Pacific way is a friendly way, but on the other side of the coin from our perspective, we want to see democracy. We think that's the right of every Fijian."
Key will be holding one-on-one meetings with each Pacific leader today and said he will discuss Fiji briefly with them.
"I'll raise that with every one of them just to get a sense of taking their temperature if you like, but I don't think it's going to dominate the discussion at the leaders' retreat. We don't have a lot of time and the emphasis will be largely economic."
The NZ Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, this morning repeated how important it was to work together for sustainable economic development in the Pacific.
He announced the Government would give $7.9 million for the construction of a one megawatt photovoltaic solar plant in Tonga.
Key also announced a $2.7m to upgrade tsunami risk management systems in the Cooks, Samoa, Tonga, Niue and Tokelau and said New Zealand would also help Pacific nations strengthen their Maritime safety.
The New Zealand Government has created a position for a Pacific maritime safety adviser to help with updating regulations or training.
Fiji and her people, meanwhile, continue to lose out on opportunities like these, just like it is losing out on the Commonwealth, the United Nations, and aid from international donors including the European Union.