Wednesday, June 01, 2011

NZ: Fiji travel bans won't be lifted for Rugby World Cup

Posted by Coup Four Point Five - 01 June 2011

The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully have confirmed the travel ban will not be relaxed to allow members of the Fiji military into New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.
They say the Interntional Rugby Board was informed of their decision today and that the decision reflects New Zealand's unchanged policy since Frank Bainimarama took control of the country in 2006.
This story from Tracy Watkins,
Fiji has been threatening to boycott the event, which kicks off in Auckland in September, unless New Zealand drops its travel sanctions.

Mr McCully said that would not happen unless Fiji made progress toward democratic elections.

He said he informed the IRB of that today after the issue hit the headlines.

"Obviously they [the IRB] have an interest in seeing all the teams able to participate on the best terms possible. I understand that…. I volunteered that briefing for them today because [the travel ban] does have some implications for Fiji's participation in the Rugby World Cup."

Mr McCully said there were people involved in Fiji's RWC bid who were on the list of people banned from entering New Zealand because of their association with the Fiji military.

That meant they would not be allowed into New Zealand for the tournament.

"Our position has been quite clear. The recently elected chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union had something to say about that publicly. He wanted some clarification. I told him that banned meant banned."

Mr McCully confirmed the IRB had a different point of view.

"Their starting position is they want to see as many teams that are participating in the tournament as possible able to participate on as free as possible terms."

"Obviously they don't want to have limitations on who can get into new Zealand affecting the character of teams."

But they also accepted it was up to the New Zealand government to decide who should be allowed into the country.

"That's never been contested."

Mr Key said New Zealand took the travel sanctions seriously and he saw no reason to change them.

If that resulted in Fiji being forced to field a weaker team that was unfortunate but no reason to change the policy.

"We've been in a position for a long period of time where our expectations are Fiji will make progress toward democratic elections. It's in the hands of the Fijians to change that position." 

Editor's Note: Australia's Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, also today reiterated the sanctions imposed by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and the Pacific Forum on Fiji, saying there was a united approach to maintaining them. In his address for National Press Day, he urged the gathering to take particular note that a regime had lost a key officer, Roko Ului Mara, and what he was saying about 'what was going on in that internal machinery of that government.' Rudd said he expected Mara to head to 'these shores' at some stage soon.


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