Fijivillage and others report on the expulsion of the Acting High Commissioner for Australia. Why? Did Sarah send just one too many emails, or make one too many phone calls to Vanuatu?
MSG chairmanship unresolved, Roberts told to leave
Publish date/time: 13/07/2010 [11:42]
No date is set for the next Special Melanesian Spearhead Group Plus meeting following issues raised about the Chairmanship of the meeting that was expected to be held in Fiji next week.
Last night the Chair of the MSG and Vanuatu's Prime Minister Edward Natapei announced the deferral of the meeting in Fiji, until further notice. Natapei said this is a collective decision of the leaders of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the FLNKS in New Caledonia and Vanuatu in light of the current impasse within the grouping over the Chairmanship of the MSG. According to the rotation cycle of hosting of the MSG, Fiji is the next host and Chair of the Leaders Summit.
The deferment came after Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama's chairmanship of the grouping was questioned last week after intervention from Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare for MSG Leaders to accept Commodore Bainimarama as chair. Natapei said the potential long term ramifications of allowing Fiji to Chair the MSG this time cannot be ignored. He said there are basic fundamental principles, values of democracy and good governance that the organisation is built on and they must to continue to uphold them. Natapei said he has advised Bainimarama on the latest development and he has also invited Fiji's Prime Minister to attend a Special Meeting of the MSG Leaders in Vanuatu to resolve the matter.
However Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Solo Mara said to their knowledge, only Vanuatu has an issue with Fiji hosting the MSG Summit with both the Prime Ministers of PNG and the Solomon Islands writing to Natapei last week seeking his understanding and support for Fiji to host and Chair the MSG Summit.
Mara said the understanding was based on the Melanesian custom of deferring to your host when entering his or her village or bure.
He said Natapei's suggestion for him to chair the meeting hosted by Fiji sought to dispossess Bainimarama of his role and responsibilities of hosting in his own country.
Fiji is calling for a Special meeting of MSG Leaders as early as next week to resolve the Chairmanship issue.
And as the MSG Chairmanship debate continues, the Acting Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Sarah Roberts is expected to leave the country within 24 hours after she was declared persona non-grata by Fiji.
Fiji Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said her expulsion is regrettable and a direct result of recent reports that Roberts has been interfering with the internal affairs of Fiji and conducting unfriendly acts.
Kubuabola said the Australian government has been engaged in strategies to undermine Fiji's sovereignty and weken the economy, and this has been further highlighted by calling on MSG countries, especially Vanuatu, not to attend the MSG Leaders Summit.
According to Kubuabola, most of the non-MSG member countries had already accepted the invitation to attend. He said Australia has no business in the MSG Leaders Summit but has continued to discourage MSG member states.
Kubuabola said this is evident in the increase in aid from Australia in its 2010 and 2011 budget to the Pacific. He said the special aid from Australia will see the Vanuatu government receive 66.4 million dollars, the highest ever in the country's aid from Australia.
The Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, said Fiji's decision to expel Sarah Roberts is deeply disappointing. Roberts will be served with a notice this morning, giving her 24 hours to leave the country. The Australian High Commission is expected to comment later today. Smith said the reasons of the expulsion are linked to Vanuatu's postponement of the Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting. He said he suspects it also relates to his criticism of the Fiji government. Smith said he would not respond by removing Fiji's only official in Canberra.
Story by: Vijay Narayan