(o+) Tuilaepa is No Fool...

 Opinion: Which puppet is on 
Whose String?
Crosbie Walsh

First, Tuilaepa  said that with Fiji suspended from the PI Forum, its Secretariat should be moved from Suva, hinting only vaguely that Apia was "available." Then Bainimarama replied saying the Samoan PM was trying to whip up a regional outcry so that the Forum Secretariat would be moved to Apia. But no, says Tuilaepa. New Zealand or Australia could be possible locations. Clever!

If the Secretariat is moved from Suva (which would be a logistical disaster given the physical and human investment in the Suva Forum headquarters, Suva's international diplomatic representations,  and Fij's central location), Tuilaepa is now assured of Australian and NZ support for Apia if the Secretariat is moved. And if not, he's surely earned Samoa enough new development aid brownie points to see him re-elected. 

It doesn't seem so long ago that Pacific Island nations were questioning whether Australia and NZ should even be full Forum members. It is significant they weren't invited to any sort of membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, despite their aid support to MSG countries.

Readers who think that aid comes without strings  should read  what happened to Peter Ellis, AusAid head in Timor Leste, when he refused to lie about why aid was cut to NGOs which spoke out against Australian ambitions in the country's oilfields in the Timor Sea. They may also care to ponder Australia's more recent role in pushing the "free trade" Pacer Plus   discussions from which Fiji, conveniently, has been excluded.

But for now, we'll wait to see whether Tuilaepa has tempted Australia or NZ to change roles with an Island nation, and become, for one dizzy moment, a puppet on his string.

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