Collective discussion on Fiji concerns is the way forward: S-G

Pacific Islands News Association:

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor says Fiji's participation in the regional organisation is important.

And, concerns raised by Fiji about Australia and New Zealand’s membership of the Pacific Islands Forum need to be discussed in a collective manner.

Dame Taylor told Fiji Live, ‘member nations should not be afraid to raise their concerns.’

She acknowledged that the organisation needs to go back to its real vision of regionalism and make it work.

Fiji, the host country of the Forum Secretariat, has been of the view the Forum has not been able to adequately address the needs of its members, hence the need for reforms.

Its official position has been that the Pacific Islands Forum will need to undergo reforms before Fiji will consider re-joining the 16 member grouping of nations.

As a result, Fiji has not actively participated in the Forum despite the lifting of its suspension two months ago.

Fiji was absent from the Forum Officials meeting currently underway at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva.

"I think rather than accept the status quo, we acknowledge that Australia and New Zealand are great members of the PIFS, but if Fiji has this concerns, then Fiji should raise them and Fiji has raised them.

"There are things the island countries should not be afraid to discuss and that is what having a democratic institution is about. I think Australia and NZ would not be afraid of a discussion either.

"I would not know what the outcome will be, but we will need to discuss it."

Taylor admits no discussion has been made about Fiji's concerns, but if one is to be done, it will require the presence of Pacific Leaders.

"What I know is what I read in the press, but I understand documents are being prepared by certain individual in Fiji.

"If there is to be a discussion then who hosts that it will be an issue. Right now, I understand when the Foreign Minister of Australia was here there was discussion with Fiji and we are waiting to see what happens.'

Taylor further acknowledged that concerns raised by member countries need to be addressed, some better dealt with at regional level and others at sub-regional level.

"But, we have to be brave enough to be able to say that and acknowledge where it can work and where it can't work."

She hopes Fiji will return to the Forum as an active member and contribute to a rigourous debate about how to move the organisation forward.

"I think that is recognised by Leaders in the Pacific.

"There is tremendous challenges ahead for this institution.I know there is tremendous challenges ahead for the region and I think Fiji has outlined some of these challenges."

Taylor who has spent a week in her new role says she values and takes her role seriously.

"I understand there are sensitivities with the host government, but I am assured by the Fijian Government they take their responsibility as host of the Forum very seriously and I believe them.

"I am looking forward to living here."

Meanwhile, the Forum Officials Committee meeting continues today in Suva.

The Forum Secretariat has not been advised by Fiji about its presence and participation in the meeting, but Taylor says the work continues.

"But, I think if Fiji was here there will always be a much richer debate. Members that were not in attendance, including Palau, over the two-day meeting will be advised about the outcome, said Taylor. 

Read story: Pacific Islands News Association

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