And in doing so he invited Palau to join the Pacific Islands Development Forum or PIDF.
“Fiji seeks to build a closer relationship with the government and people of Palau, and in time, by eventually formalizing our ties which would encourage more people to people contacts between our nations,’ Ratu Epeli said.
He said the time was right for Fijians and Palauans to get to know each other better and to discuss possible areas of cooperation and trade, including partnerships in tourism, agriculture and fisheries.
“We are especially keen for Palau to join the new Pacific grouping that Fiji is forging with its neighbours – the Pacific Islands Development Forum, or PIDF, which had its inaugural meeting in Fiji last August.”
“You are already a member of the Pacific Islands Forum and indeed you will host the next gathering of forum leaders here in Palau at the end of July,” he told his Palauan hosts.
“Where the PIDF differs from the Forum is that its reach goes beyond government to encompass the views of a much broader cross section of Pacific society,” he said.
Ratu Epeli said that the membership of the PIDF is confined to Pacific Island nations, whereas the Forum includes some of our larger regional neighbours.
Ratu Epeli also updated his Palauan counterpart on recent economic and political developments back home.
“Before the end of September, we will hold the first genuinely democratic election in our history, of equal votes and of equal value instead of the weighted formula used in the past based on race and province,” he said.
“We have a new constitution that establishes a common and equal citizenry, that guarantees a range of civil and political rights and that provides ordinary Fijians with an unprecedented array of social and economic rights, such as the right to education, housing, and clean water.”
He adds, “This year, we have achieved a landmark transforming breakthrough in being able to provide our young people with free primary and secondary school education – plus a tertiary loans scheme – so that poverty is no longer a barrier to attaining any level of education.”
Ratu Epeli said that with social, economic and political revolution – coupled with the holding of elections – this should “soon deliver a genuine democracy in Fiji that meets the highest international standards.”
“We are determined that our General Election before the end of September, will be free and fair and express the genuine will of the people.” he said.
He also ended his official address in Palau by saying that that it was now time that we take charge of our own affairs.
“We need a fundamental change in our psyche – in our mindset – and the way we see the world. We need to take ownership of our problems, to acknowledge our own roles and responsibilities instead of seeing them as someone else’s,” he concluded.