Pacific Media Watch

22 April 2015

SAMOA: PM attacks Bainimarama as 'drum playing' leader over Forum

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Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Mailelegaoi ... New Zealand and Australia are needed. Image: Omar Torres/RA

Mata'afa Keni Lesa
APIA (Samoa Observer/Radio New Zealand International/ Pacific Media Watch): Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is back on Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s hit list.

This time, Bainimarama has upset Tuilaepa by calling for the removal of New Zealand and Australia from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Asked for a comment, Tuilaepa did not hold back.

“Bainimarama’s issue is insignificant,” he said.

“Remember all the man did was to play the drums (in the military) and train."

“So he doesn't understand these things. He is only new and he is still learning about matters of international relations.”

Tuilaepa said Bainiamarama’s area of speciality was to “play the drum and yell left, right, stop!”

Forum needs funds
If New Zealand and Australia are not removed from the Forum, Bainimarama wants China to be included in the group.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister,John Key, rejected the call, saying it was a joke.

"A Pacific Forum without Australia and New Zealand would be an interesting thing I suppose, in that those leaders would be able to talk about things,” Key told the media.

"But exactly where would they get the money to do anything, and the answer is nowhere.”

Tuilaepa agreed with Key.

He said that many years ago the body known as the South Pacific Commission (now the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) involved only Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

New Zealand and Australia, he said, were brought in to fund the plans of the Forum.

Fast forward to today, and the Forum now had 16 members.

“The Forum is made up of 14 very poor nations and then these two nations who fund the plans by these 14 very pour nations,” Tuilaepa said.

“Now John Key is right. He has hit the mark because that’s why New Zealand and Australia came in, they fund our stuff.”

Key 'dangling funds'
But Bainimarama last week rejected Key's comments, accusing him of "dangling funds" over the Forum.

"They only see our relationship is to do with funding and that is their outlook on what our relationship is in the Forum, to dangle funding in front of us,” Bainimarama told Radio Tarana.

“Obviously that is a poor view of what our relationship should be like."

Tuilaepa disagreed.

“He’s perhaps forgotten that the Forum relies on funding,” he said.

“It’s not a body where you talk, talk, talk and go away with air. We talk and implement these plans but we rely on New Zealand and Australia to fund it.

“So you need to talk and be mindful of whether there is enough in your pocket to pay for your plans.”

Asked about claims that New Zealand and Australia were too domineering, Tuilaepa said this was far from the truth.

“No, that’s not the case,” he said.

Tuilaepa a 'lap dog'
“The decisions are made at the Forum. If Fiji doesn't want to join the Forum, so what?

“The Forum is not going to die.

"It’s not as if any money comes from Fiji. It’s the money we get from New Zealand and Australia we are using for our stuff.”

Bainimarama responded to his Samoan counterpart's comments, labelling Tuilaepa a "lap dog".

He said he was not bothered about Tuilapea as he was dancing to the tune of the Australians and the New Zealanders.

Bainimarama also took Australia and New Zealand to task for not leading with strong commitments to alleviate climate change.

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