Minister McCully on Fiji, the Forum and the World Cup
|The Minister in Samoa|
Pacific talks won't dwell on Fiji: McCullyTamara McLean, AAP South Pacific Correspondent
August 4, 2011 - 3:54PM . AAP
Upcoming Pacific regional talks won't dwell on the problematic issue of Fiji's military regime and its lack of progress towards democratic elections, New Zealand's foreign minister says.
Pacific leaders will converge on Auckland next month to celebrate 40 years of what Murray McCully called "regional unity and togetherness".
Missing from that united front, however, is the largest and most powerful South Pacific island nation, Fiji,
which was suspended from the forum in 2009 after its military-led government abrogated the constitution and failed to hold elections.
Two years on, the regime, which seized power in a December 2006 coup, has vowed to go to the polls by September 2014.
However, Mr McCully said there were few clear signs that would happen.
"What's being sought by forum leaders is some tangible and visible indication that we're moving towards elections potentially sooner that 2014... but we're yet to see that," Mr McCully told AAP.
There was also a regional push to see steps towards removing emergency regulations, a series of rules that impinge on media and public freedoms and curb human rights.
"Those are areas where we need to see some signs of progress too," he said.
While the door remained open for Fiji to rejoin the forum, Mr McCully said there was "sadly no evidence that will happen immediately".
Even the forum's ministerial contact group formed to maintain links with Fiji had not been able to meet with Fijian officials prior to the annual meeting.
Samoa's prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told AAP he believed the regime was refusing to co-operate with forum officials, however Mr McCully said he thought logistical issues were to blame.
"For some reason we haven't been able to agree dates for that meeting," he said, describing the failure as a "great pity".
However, forum members have made it clear that they don't want to spend too much time focused onFiji.
"There's a sense that we have big challenges to deal with and that we shouldn't be diverted, and while there will be no doubt some reflection on Fiji I don't detect a desire to dwell on the issue in any of the conversations I've been having." Mr McCully said.
He said he hoped this year's meeting, to be held from September 6-9, would focus on the positive issues of industry development throughout the region.
Fisheries, tourism, agriculture and horticulture were all areas with "huge untapped potential", the minister said.
The meeting finishes the day before Tonga plays New Zealand at the opening of the Rugby World Cup, an event Mr McCully, who is also cup minister, says is a Polynesian affair.
"We want to share it with our neighbours," he said, adding that these neighbours may even prove to be a competition threat.
"Samoa gave an indication to Australia that you wouldn't want to take them too cheaply and of course we saw the Pacific Nations Cup won by Japan," he said.
"You can guarantee that there will be a team that no one expects that really does well. My betting has always been that it will be a Pacific nation."
Acknowledgement. My thanks to Fiji Today for this posting.