Thursday, January 14, 2010

NZ stance on Fiji 'confusing' - Bainimarama

By MICHAEL FIELD - Stuff.co.nz





Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama has labelled New Zealand's decision to improve relations while maintaining sanctions against the island state as "very confusing".

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully yesterday announced that New Zealand and Fiji would begin to rebuild diplomatic ties following the expulsions of three diplomats since Bainimarama's 2006 coup.

Sanctions against regime leaders, the military and their families entering New Zealand would continue.

Speaking to Auckland's Indian station Radio Tarana, Bainimarama said the sanctions should be lifted.

"That is very confusing because that goes against all the gist of all the press statements that [have] come from New Zealand foreign affairs," he told Tarana.

"The whole idea behind it is to move toward understanding of what we want to do and needs to be done and that means lifting the sanctions."

He thanked New Zealand for its willingness to work with Fiji.

"This is very significant for the government and the people of Fiji.

"For us, the people of Fiji, it is about recognition."

The decision meant Fiji was seen as a sovereign nation charting its own path.

"We welcome New Zealand's efforts to resume diplomatic relations with us," he told Tarana.

He said he had a message for new New Zealand diplomats arriving in Fiji.

"My message to the officers concerned is to take the time to fully understand and appreciate Fiji."

The diplomats need to come with an open mind and a genuine desire to recognise what the regime was doing, he said.

Bainimarama was moving Fiji from being a "racially polarized nation that prompted racialist (sic) views that is determined to treat all its citizens equally."

Having good ties with New Zealand was "absolutely critical", the commodore said.

Bainimarama overthrew a democratic government in 2006.

Relations with Wellington were hit when Bainimarama declared, over an 18 month period, three New Zealand diplomats persona non grata.

McCully went to Fiji last weekend on an unannounced visit to meet the military-appointed Fiji foreign minister Inoke Kubuabola.

Kubuabola has long been a controversial figure in Fiji and played a high level role in Sitiveni Rabuka's 1987 military coup.

He claimed to have created the Taukei movement for indigenous supremacy.

Now with Bainimarama he is opposed to indigenous nationalism.

Kubuabola played a role in George Speight's 2000 coup. He was investigated on treason charges but by then had the support of the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. He was given diplomatic immunity as Fiji's High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea. The treason investigation ultimately lapsed when Bainimarama staged his coup.

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