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Airport Tears As NZ's Deputy High Commissioner To Fiji Flies Out

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Nov 5 NZPA - New Zealand head of mission Todd Cleaver wore a traditional sulu -- a wrap-around garment like a skirt worn by both men and women in Fiji -- to Nadi International Airport for his precipitate departure from the islands.

"There was a tearful farewell," the Fiji Times reported as Mr Cleaver and his family quit the country.

His departure was ordered by Fiji coup leader Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who also booted out Australia's High Commissioner James Bartley.

Mr Cleaver is the third New Zealand diplomat kicked out by the regime in two years.

"The Cleavers, with their two children in tow, left Fiji with good wishes for the country, and thanks for their time here," the Fiji Times reported. Earlier in the day they had been farewelled by staff and diplomatic families, and given a high-level diplomatic escort out of Suva.

The family boarded the Air New Zealand flight NZ55 at 6.30pm local time.

The family had no comment to make on the expulsion.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully yesterday confirmed that Mr Cleaver was formally declared persona non grata and told to leave.

"As a result of the expulsion of Mr Cleaver, and the impact this has had on the New Zealand High Commission in Suva, the High Commission ... will remain closed while we assess its capability to continue to carry out its main functions."

In Wellington, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials told Fiji's acting head of mission in Wellington, Kuliniasi Seru Savou, he had been declared persona non grata.

The latest flashpoint in poor relations with Fiji is over the inclusion of judges in a travel ban imposed on members of the regime.

The extended ban has been in place since April when Cdre Bainimarama abrogated the constitution, sacked the judiciary, and imposed measures curbing free speech as well as setting elections back to September 2014.

New Zealand and Australia say judges are now hand-picked by the regime and therefore are treated as part of it.

Fiji says the judges are independent.

Australia has informed Fiji that six Sri Lankan judges would not be allowed to transit through that country after they were appointed.

Fiji also highlighted difficulties it said one of its judges, Anjala (crct) Wati, had in getting a visa so her son could get medical treatment in New Zealand.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the pair were given a compassionate exemption in a timely manner and the boy, Kartik, was being treated at Starship Hospital for a detached retina.

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