Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has downplayed past tensions between himself and his Fijian counterpart, Frank Bainimarama.
“Hon. Bainimarama and I are professional politicians and good visionary politicians,” he said.
“We are often misunderstood and quoted out of context deliberately by undernourished and hungry looking business minded journalists out to make a fast buck.”
Tuilaepa made the comments in an interview released by his Office following his state visit to Fiji on his way to the Pacific Islands Forum held in Nauru last week.
The visit raised a lot of eyebrows in the region given Tuilaepa and Bainimarama’s hostile past where they have been calling each other names.
But Tuilaepa said all that is in the past and those views are “no more.”
“You see I was focusing more on the emergence of a seemingly radical political system which centered on the military and the urgent need to return to normality,” he said in response to a question of what he and Bainimarama discussed.
“Hon. Bainimarama was defending, as he must do the new system, as a way he saw to transition Fiji to a new order to raise the welfare for all the Fijians."
“Fiji had enormous social and economic challenges which we in Samoa did not have. I was also aligning my views with those of the Forum Leaders. Fiji has since returned to democracy and instantly therefore the differing views existed no more.”
But even democracies has its faults, Tuilaepa said.
“Democracy of course is the best of the political systems yet available though not the most ideal. Democracy also produced some of the worst leaders like Hitler in our modern history,” Tuilaepa said.
“Fiji has since taken its rightful place in the Forum. And in our meeting with Hon. Bainimarama I congratulated him on his world leadership in COP23 which focused much on climate change sustainable development and resilience. Challenges facing our many island countries today.”
According to the Prime Minister, his state visit in Fiji was not planned.
“I was invited by U.S.P. to come and address and declare open a very special event which highlights the significance of the research focus for U.S.P. as part of its celebration of 50 years of service producing educated leaders of the Pacific today."
“Being the current Chairman of the Pacific Leaders Forum, my speaking role raises the profile of U.S.P which is the most successful example of regional integration. This is what political leaders of the Forum do. When the Chairman is asked by any important Regional Organisation within the Pacific Region to come and help by talking, I just get up and go and deliver a worthwhile message for the audience to digest."
“The Government of Fiji had learnt about my visit and I was subsequently requested by the Prime Minister that he and his Government would like to host me as their official guest which I warmly accepted."
“I was honoured on my arrival and again on my departure with a guard of honour, and a welcomed traditional Fijian kava ceremony, reception, and dinner. I also paid a courtesy visit to His Excellency the Governor General and met with Bainimarama’s Cabinet Ministers, including the Attorney General and Minister of Finance, the Minister of Trade and Minister in charge of Defence."
“I also took the opportunity to meet with the staff of the Forum Secretariat, our students at U.S.P, our Samoan community in Fiji and other potential investors for Samoa, quite a full programme.”
And with Fiji going to the General Elections later this year, Tuilaepa also shared his views about the process. He called for prayers for Fiji.
“In the short time that I was in Fiji I saw many improvements in infrastructure building, and the simple rule that I believe in when it comes to campaigning in the case of Samoa is “Actions always speak louder than words” in the minds of the voters,” he said.
“There is also a political gimmick – An Opposition should not win a General Election. The Ruling Government simply loses it.”
“General Elections outcomes are not easy to predict for us in Samoa. We should pray for a peaceful General Election for the people of Fiji. As Christians we believe that leaders and governments are appointed by God. As St Paul aptly reminded us All Authorities come from God.
“We often waste a lot of time speculating about who the next Government will be when the decision is simply not ours to make. And that’s what our spiritual leaders have reminded us of.”