Suva: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Wednesday accorded a traditional iTaukei ceremonial welcome at the Albert Park here.

Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit Fiji in 33 years.

Earlier, Modi was received at the airport by Prime Minister Bainimarama.

The traditional welcome ceremony was conducted by people from Sorokaba in Ba. The welcome was designed to greet Modi in the proud iTaukei tradition, and also in a way befitting a leader who rose from humble beginnings to lead the world’s largest democracy, said the Fijian government.

The opposition SODELPA party has said it would boycott the special parliamentary sitting that Modi is to address later in the day.

SODEPLA leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, told Fiji media she was disappointed to hear that the Fiji prime minister’s vote of thanks will not include mention of her as the leader of the opposition, according to Radio New Zealand.

In turn, the 15 SODELPA members in Fiji’s new parliament say they will not attend the parliamentary sitting during which Modi will give his speech.

Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit Fiji since Indira Gandhi travelled there in 1981.

The Fijian government, criticising the SODELPA’s decision to boycott the parliamentary sitting, said Modi’s visit was a national event, not a political one. “It is an opportunity for our nation to engage the leader of the world’s largest democracy and one of Fiji’s most important international partners in discussions that are critical for Fiji’s future.”

“The visit to parliament is an opportunity for the elected representatives of all the Fijian people — not just government — to share in this visit. Obviously, the government has primary responsibility for the visit and the official discussions, but it has taken care to ensure that H.E. Prime Minister Modi experiences a visit with all the people of Fiji.”