Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama today reiterated the need for leaders of all islands nations in the Pacific to be united in order to “face global economic forces and giant economies.”
He also reassured Fiji’s role as a facilitator and collaborator in the needs of other Pacific Island nations and called for Fiji to be accorded full participation in the Pacific branch of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (PACP) Group.
“The Pacific Islands forum has wrongly used its influence to bar Fiji from top-level participation in this forum. This policy is no longer sustainable," Bainimarama said.
“There is too much at stake for us all - such as PACP’s negotiation of an economic partnership agreement with the EU and the implementation of the Pacific Island Countries’ Trade Agreement (PICTA) - to continue to exclude Fiji.”
Fiji’s full participation in such institutions, he says, serves only to strengthen the region.
“From Fiji’s perspective, we embrace our role in facilitating and collaborating,” Bainimarama said. “Not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors. We can all benefit from the training, co-ordination, study, trade, and infrastructure available in Fiji. Where we can lead, we will lead.
“Where we can facilitate and encourage, we will facilitate and encourage. Where we can assist, we will assist. And where we need support, we will ask for it. We will do all of this in a spirit of co-operation.”
Addressing participants at the 3rd Annual “Engaging with the Pacific” meeting which he opened in Denarau, Nadi today, Bainimarama said the Members of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) meeting like other regional gatherings are avenues to help island nations to face up to global giants and let their voices be heard.
“We are all well aware of the asymmetrical nature of our relationships with the rest of the world. That is why we come together in forums such as this— and such as the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) group, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the Asia-Pacific Group, and the Non-Aligned Movement,” Bainimarama said.
However, he said the leaders cannot be just content with just meeting to discuss and solve problems collectively saying they need to do more.
“We need to go beyond creating structures; we need to aggressively use those structures for our own benefit," Bainimarama said.
“We will have to assert our interests not selfishly, but thoughtfully with intelligence, strong reason, and conviction. We must insist that our voice be heard and heeded. Yes, we are small states, but we wish co-operation and partnership with other nations.
“We will dine at the table; we will not be content to pick at the crumbs that remain on the table cloth after the decisions are made and dinner is over.”
He told leaders that together “we can gain greater control over our future.”
“We must face the world boldly together. We must be smart. We must be prepared. And above all, we must be united.”
The Prime Minister of Tuvalu is among special dignitaries at the meeting.
By Ropate Valemei