Savali/Pacific Media Watch:
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is disappointed with recent
comments made by American Samoa congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin on the situation in Fiji.
Faleomavaega appears to have been won over by Fiji strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama after meeting with the unelected Fiji Prime Minister in Suva last week.
Addressing a committee meeting, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Faleomavaega accused Australia
and New Zealand of “heavy handed tactics” in pushing democracy in Fiji.
Faleomavaega told the committee that Fiji was not ready for democracy
“Faleomavaega has been in the (U.S.) Congress for a long time and
therefore is far removed from the reality of Pacific politics,” says
Prime Minister Tuilaepa. “Perhaps he (Faleomavaega) has forgotten that Fiji has been independent since 1970 and its Legislature, Judiciary and the
Executive branches of Government have been functioning until the
Military started to meddle with the affairs of Government — a responsibility it was least capable of performing.”
The leaders of the Forum (not just New Zealand and Australia ), the
Prime Minister said,“have been unanimous in their condemnation of this
military dictatorship in Fiji and now a mere congressman in Washington
is barking up the wrong tree.”
Tuilaepa said: “I would’ve thought Faleomavaega should comment on
American Samoa — U.S relations he is far more familiar with. Not the
complex issues in Fiji he does not understand.” “The good congressman completely ignores the fact that the regime in Fiji is a military dictatorship. And that Bainimarama’s regime has been engaging in a ruthless crackdown on dissenting public opinion and complete suppression of the media. Is not freedom of speech, freedom of the media and engaging in free and fair elections hallmarks of American democracy?,” asks Prime Minister Tuilaepa. Faleomavaega told Congress, “For too too long…we’ve permitted Australia and New Zealand to take the lead even when Canberra and
Auckland operate with such a heavy hand that they are counterproductive to our shared goals.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa believes Faleomavaega should be spending more
time contributing to the Territory’s constitutional commission review
later this year, in which Governor Togiola Tulafono has taken the
lead, instead of “meddling in matters that are beyond his
“He should’ve had the courtesy to talk to his governor and myself to
see what policy, ideas that we have on Fiji .” Prime Minister Tuilaepa attended the American Samoa Flag Day celebrations last weekend. Faleomavaega was also there. “He (Faleomavaega) must always remember that he is American Samoa’s representative to the U.S Congress and that his priority is voicing to Congress issues that affect his constituents in American Samoa. After all they’re the ones who voted him to office.”
Similar voting and elections that brought Faleomavaega to office time
and time again, Tuilaepa added, have been systematically deprived by
the military junta to the people of Fiji.
“It’s therefore ironical, even hypocritical that he (Faleomavaega)wants to deny the people of Fiji the same rights.”