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Fijian PM slammed Australia and NZ tactics, not happy with PACER plus

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimara says it’s a shame for the two metropolitan powers Australia and New Zealand for turning back on his country in its pursuit to create the first genuine democracy in Fiji.

While addressing the 22nd Australia Fiji Business Forum in Sydney, Bainimarama took the opportunity to lecture Australia on its unfavourable behaviour towards Fiji before the election last year.

Bainimarama cast as a pariah by the Australian Government after the events of 2006, couldn't attend an Australia-Fiji Business Forum in Australia after nine years because he was banned from the country.

“But I do want to say this: It is a great shame that Australia and New Zealand - our traditional friends - turned their backs on us when we set out to substitute a flawed democracy in Fiji with a proper one like theirs.

“To sabotage our efforts to create the first genuine democracy in Fiji of equal votes of equal value - a democracy based on the legal and moral basis of a common and equal citizenry.

“I personally will never understand why they couldn't understand that Fiji simply couldn’t go on being a nation in which some of its citizens enjoyed more rights and privileges than others.

“Couldn’t go on with a situation in which the votes of some citizens were worth more than others.  A nation made to be divided along ethnic lines in which people were categorised by their race and ethnicity.

“With certain elites entrenched at the expense of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens. Where merit was shunned and cronyism thrived.

It was certainly something no Australian or New Zealander would ever have accepted in their own country yet their governments tried to enforce it on ours,” he told delegates at the Forum.

“I also can’t help wondering how things might have been different if Australia and New Zealand hadn’t tried to destroy us with their sanctions, travel bans and their diplomatic offensive to damage Fiji’s interests the world over.

How much sooner we might have been able to return Fiji to parliamentary rule if we hadn’t expended so much effort on simply surviving.  If you had been more understanding. More engaged. Been able to recognise that defending the status quo in Fiji was indefensible, intellectually and morally. Contrary to the fundamental principle of any democracy - the right of every citizen to enjoy equal opportunity and equal access to substantive justice,” he said.

All this simply didn’t exist in Fiji before the revolution we embarked on in 2006. But it does now, he said.

Bainimarama said Fiji went to the election based on the 2013 Constitution, as he had always promised in September 2014.

“An election declared free and credible by an international monitoring force of some 20 nations co-led by Australia, India and Indonesia.

“I know there was widespread surprise in official circles in Australia and New Zealand when the Fijian people endorsed our revolution and our new Constitution by giving my FijiFirst political movement 60 per cent of the vote under the proportional representation system.

But it came as no surprise to me or to most Fijian voters. Because not only had my Government created a fairer, more equal and more just society, he said.

Bainimarama told delegates attending the Forum that Fiji used the period of 'our estrangement to develop other relationships'.

“We’ve reached out to the world and the world has responded. But it is now time for Fiji and Australia to also reach out fully to each other again at an official level.

“For our governments to rekindle the warmth of our old relationship and match the unshakeable relationship between our peoples.

He said Fiji seeks a new relationship with Australia - a reinvigorated partnership based on mutual respect and friendship.

“Letting bygones be bygones. Building an atmosphere of confidence, cooperation and trust.

“And working more closely together than ever before on both our bilateral relationship and our cooperation across a broad front in the region and the world,” he emphasised.

In terms of the existing regional architecture, Bainimarama said both countries have their differences.

“Fiji will continue to press for Australia and New Zealand to step back from the main table at the Pacific Islands Forum and allow the island nations to determine their own agendas.

“We also have a fundamentally opposing view of what needs to be done to reduce the carbon emissions that are causing global warming and the rise in sea levels and extreme weather events that pose such a serious threat to Pacific island nations," he said.

He said Fiji still aren't satisfied with the Pacer Plus Agreement.

“One cannot negotiate such an agreement let alone sign it when the fundamental premise of the proposed agreement fails to take into account the realities of the economies of small island developing states.
 “Such an agreement must recognize the power differentials and the economic capacities between countries such as Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and on the other, Pacific Island states that lack comparative economic sophistication and strength,” Bainimarama explained.

He said there must be understanding if any such agreement is to be successful.

“We are still irritated by certain impediments to trade such as the Australian ban on imports of Fijian kava.

Yet none of this should be an impediment to a higher and more friendly level of engagement between us and better relations generally,” he said.


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