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FIJI: Critical Kubuabola speech on asylum seeker agreement hits media

Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola's critical speech on Australia's asylum seeker agreement with Papua New Guinea drew attention. Image:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Item: 8372

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch): Several media reports have highlighted Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola’s critical speech on Australia’s asylum seeker agreement with Papua New Guinea the last few days.

In the speech, Ratu Inoke clearly stated the Fijian Government’s dissatisfaction with the agreement.

“The Fijian Government is decidedly less than happy about Australia’s plan to move asylum seekers seeking to settle in Australia into Melanesia - into our neighbourhood.”

“For an Australian problem, you have proposed a Melanesian solution that threatens to destabilise the already delicate social and economic balances in our societies,” Ratu Inoke said in the speech held in Brisbane on Monday.

In the article Arrogant PNG Solution a shock to Pacific nations, says Fiji, news agency AAP focused on what Ratu Inoke said the consequences might be of the controversial agreement.

“This deal, and those mooted with Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, clearly threatens our interests by altering the fundamental social fabric of any member country that accepts a deal.”

Melanesian fallout
The Foreign Minister said he feared that the stability of the Melanesian countries will be threatened as a result of the agreement.

“We are deeply troubled by the consequent threat to the stability of these countries and the wider Melanesian community by the scale of what is being envisaged.”

The Fiji Sun described the speech Ratu Inoke made as “hard hitting”, and made a point of the Australian dignitaries present at the speech, which included Australia’s Pacific Islands Minister, Senator Matt Thistlethwaite and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

The Fiji Sun article focused on Australia not consulting with other Pacific nations when landing the deal with Papua New Guinea.

It said Fiji has now “demanded that Australia conducts a thorough consultation with regional governments before it proceeds with its plan to transfer asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat to Papua New Guinea”.

In the speech, Ratu Inoke said that the deal was “a sudden and unilateral announcement, which is not the Pacific Way and has shocked a great many people in the region”.

Overbearing attitude
The Fiji Times linked Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s characteristic of Australia last week as a Government having an “overbearing attitude” with Ratu Inoke’s speech.

It quoted the Foreign Minister saying that “the Australian Government has used its economic muscle to persuade one of our Melanesian governments to accept thousands of people who are not Pacific Islanders, a great number of them permanently”.

In The Courier-Mail significant parts of Ratu Inoke’s critical comments were quoted, with the story focusing both on the impact the agreement may have on Melanesia, but also on Australia’s role in Pacific politics.

"Regrettably, from Fiji's perspective, this deal continues a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Australian Government that is inconsiderate, prescriptive, highhanded and arrogant.

"Instead of treating the Pacific nations as equals, your decision-makers too often ignore our interests and concerns and take it for granted that we will accede to their wishes and demands."

Ratu Inoke also said Pacific countries were "deeply concerned about the impact of Australian politics on our own affairs".

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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How can someone seek asylum in Fiji???

Held about Oceania so-much, have fallen in love with Oceania generally. I like Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Cooks Islands vividly. I want to know the condition seeking asylum in any of these countries???? But I have Fiji in mind, which is the lonely planet. I'll really love to be there start a new life and become Fijian citizen in due time, but I will likely love to know the cost of seeking asylum??

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