Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fiji Judge Told No Shopping during NZ Medical Visit

by Michael Field - www.stuff.co.nz

4/11/2009

The government is expected to expel the NZ head of the Fiji high commission after both New Zealand and Australian envoys were expelled from Fiji.

Immigration New Zealand refused today to release letters its officials have written to Fiji Judge Anjela Wati.

It was treatment of her by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) officials in Suva that sparked Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama order the expelling of top Australian and New Zealand diplomats.

An INZ spokesman said they would never release such letters without a "privacy waiver" from the person who received the visa.

Her medical visa included a provision that there be "no shopping".

Bainimarama said that Ms Wati was "harassed and humiliated" by the New Zealand High Commission.

Fiji's military appointed Chief Justice Tony Gates over the weekend gave details of the contact between Ms Wati and immigration officials.

He said Ms Wati and her husband on October 15 lodged an urgent application for a medical visa with the New Zealand High Commission.

Their 22-month-old boy Kartik had been diagnosed with a fully detached retina on his left eye.

An ophthalmologist's report went with the application saying the condition required an overseas operation.

Later that day the branch manager of INZ wrote back to Ms Wati.

"To most readers of that letter it was abundantly plain from its contents that the visa was to be rejected," Mr Gates said.

"When this matter blew up in the media the visa staff swiftly moved to explain that the visa had 'not' in fact been rejected and was still under consideration.

"As we all now know the medical visa was eventually, if begrudgingly, granted."

Mr Gates said the letter to Ms Wati said, in part: "By virtue of accepting an appointment to the Ministry of Justice and you fall within the parameters of New Zealand's travel sanctions…

"Despite any other provisions of Government immigration policy, none of the people to whom the ban applies may be issued a visa to enter New Zealand (including a transit visa) or granted any permit to be in New Zealand."

Mr Gates said the letter added insult to injury by reminding her that "all applicants must be of good character."

Mr Gates said "out of a mother's desperation for her sick child and suppressing her own feelings of insult" she went to the High Commission in Suva to see INZ manager Steve Janes and a Ms Myers.

She was told she could appeal the decision.

"Judge Wati derived little comfort from this advice since she had already been told she was regarded as 'a person associated with the 2006 coup' by virtue of her accepting an appointment to the bench."

Mr Gates said Mr Janes was "dismissive of the gravity of the child's condition saying 'It wasn't life-threatening anyway'.

"Later those officers claimed ignorance of the gravity and urgency of the child’s condition," Mr Gates said.

"Life threatening the condition may not have been, but how much further medical explanation did they require of 'full retinal detachment'.

If untreated, it was a condition that would result in loss of sight in that eye.

"Anyway Judge Wati told them of the danger.

"If in doubt, one of the visa staff could have picked up the phone and spoken to the Suva ophthalmologist about it. Instead the officers went upstairs to refer to consult their superior officer, no doubt the Acting High Commissioner. They returned and said the visa was refused.


Mr Gates said once the refusal entered the media, the New Zealand High Commission changed its tune and issued a medical visa: "Even this visa was subject to absurd restrictions such as that there was to be ‘no shopping’. Were it not for the kindness, generosity of heart and support of the Suva and New Zealand hospital doctors, Judge Wati would not have persisted with her intention of seeking medical help for her child from New Zealand."According to Judge Wati this was an unpleasant, hectoring and hostile interview."

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