Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato has played down suggestions of tension between his country and Fiji over regional leadership roles.
It comes as Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama pushes for changes to regional architecture.
The future make-up of the Pacific Islands Forum and other regional organisations is to be reviewed by Pacific leaders in Sydney next February.
Mr Pato told Radio New Zealand that Port Moresby welcomed the chance to review which regional structures worked best.
“I think the best approach is to look at all of these structures, and see that there’s no duplication and what are the outcomes that each of them drives or one of them will drive, or should we need one super structure, and if there’s some issue of concern for example with respect to the Pacific Islands Forum, how should we improve that,” he asked.
“And now we have a very experienced person from PNG who is going to be the secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum (Meg Taylor). It’s the first time in the history of the Pacific Islands, that there’ll be three women leaders of the PIF so look, we’re doing some fantastic things. Papua New Guinea’s position is, look, we’re not opposed to these structures but let’s ensure that the best structures will remain and if there’s an exercise of refining what will work for the Pacific Islands without excluding Australia and New Zealand, then we should all be working together.”
Mr Pato was asked about the reception from Suva on Dame Meg Taylor’s appointment.
“They (Fiji) are very excited for her to arrive. I just arrived from Fiji yesterday. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Ratu Inoke (Kubuabola), my counterpart, and he was asking when is she coming. She’s arriving there on the 1st of December,” he said.
“There was no issue. Fiji and Papua New Guinea are true Melanesian brothers. If there is an issue, we will resolve it in the Melanesian way. I’m not saying there is an issue. I think that’s a construction the media has created, that there is a rift. There isn’t. And there’s a lot of things that we can do together as two of the largest Pacific island states that together can bring connectivity, prosperity and drive many of the agendas of smaller states of the Pacific islands. There is nothing to be gained by jockeying for power over small issues like that when we can sit down, discuss them and see what will work for the region.”
Mr Pato was asked whether PNG and Fiji could share the leadership role in the region.
“I think we can exist side by side. As I said, these are two Melanesian brothers and there’s certainly no rivalry on PNG’s part for Fiji to work together with us or for us to work together with Fiji. Our challenges and interests are common and in many respects the same,” he said.
RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL