Savali newspaper interview with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

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HOW WAS YOUR MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL?

PM TUILAEPA: A special meeting was requested for the leaders of the Pacific Island Nations to meet with the President of the State of Israel.  It was very important for this great nation to have regular meetings with the leaders of the Pacific, especially when all or most of the Pacific Islands are Christians.  The objective of the meeting was to improve relations, particularly durable partnerships between the State of Israel and the small island nations of the Pacific in a range of sectors from Agriculture, Fisheries and Telecommunications, where the expertise of the people of Israel is paramount.

The Prime Minister of Fiji hosted the meeting.  The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and the Prime Minister of Fiji, along with myself were the only leaders present.  The other islands of the Forum sent Ministers.  The importance of the engagement between the leaders of the Pacific Islands and the President of Israel highlighted the many challenges confronting the Pacific in areas such as climate change, rising sea levels threatening our existence as well as the exploitation of the Pacific Ocean resources.

SAVALI: YOU ALSO PROCEEDED TO WELLINGTON TO DELIVER A SPEECH AT A CONFERENCE HOSTED BY THE VICTORIA UNIVERSITY IN RELATION TO THE PACIFIC ISLANDS AND THE PRESSURE IMPOSED BY GEOPOLITICAL INTERESTS OF TODAY.  CAN YOU ELABORATE?

PM TUILAEPA: Yes I did stress in my address that it is important for leaders of the Pacific Islands to work together in their search for durable partnerships, with countries that are willing to help the development of their small island countries.  It’s a fact that the Pacific is a bit overcrowded with differing geopolitical interests of the major powers of today, but that should NEVER distract them from focusing on their priority, to work together on interests that are mutually beneficial for their development.

A MAJOR ISSUE THAT HAS CREATED QUITE A FEW ADVERSE REACTIONS FROM BUSINESSES IS THE DECISION BY CABINET, TO CLOSE DOWN THE FLIGHTS BETWEEN FIJI AND SAMOA PROVIDED BY FIJI AIRWAYS AS WELL AS THE WEEKLY FLIGHTS BETWEEN HAWAII AND SAMOA. CAN YOU SHED SOME LIGHT ON THIS?

TUILAEPA:The decision by Cabinet is to promote proactive talks between the two airlines to revive discussions on their code-sharing agreement, executed many years ago but had not been implemented.  In essence, Cabinet’s intervention is to ensure that the discussions resume between the management of Fiji Airways and Samoa Airways, especially when we are facing daunting challenges with reduced travels as a result of the Coronavirus, restricting travel opportunities between Samoa and the outside world.  Fiji is one of the gateways into Samoa.  We also have to remember that we had bad experiences in similar arrangements with ANSETT and Virgin Airlines years ago, so we want to make sure that these incidents of the past will not be repeated.

Cabinet’s priority is to bring the two airlines back to the negotiating table to resume productive brainstorming sessions between them.  We are only a one work-horse airline, Fiji has many.  So it is quite possible that Fiji is not treating our Airline on an equal basis. And we want to ensure that if the agreement does not work, then we move ahead and reschedule our routes.

SOURCE: SAVALI NEWSPAPER/PACNEWS