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Anger Over Visa Treatment Prompts Expulsiuon

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Nov 3 NZPA - Fijian anger over perceived delays in the processing of a medical visa for the sick child of a judge has led to the expulsion of acting deputy High Commissioner Todd Cleaver.

When Fijian judge Angela Wati sought a New Zealand medical visa for a sick child it was granted grudgingly, and only after the media became involved, Fiji's chief justice Anthony Gates told a press conference yesterday.

Fiji's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama Tuesday ordered the Australian and New Zealand envoys leave within 24 hours over alleged interference with Fiji's judiciary.

"I have told the minister of foreign affairs to issue communications to the Australian and New Zealand governments that their respective heads of missions are to be recalled within 24 hours," Bainimarama said in a televised address.

"I have also informed them our high commissioner (ambassador) in Australia is to be recalled with immediate effect," he said.

New Zealand and Australia had imposed travel restrictions on the Fijian judiciary, in protest at the Fiji being run without a democratically elected Government.

But the New Zealand High Commission in Suva issued its own statement, saying an application for a visa on medical grounds by Justice Wati was not rejected.

The High Commission said the Wati family's passports were returned to the judge with visas attached, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Judge Wati is in Auckland, where her child was in Starship Hospital, NZPA understands.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully could not be reached for comment.

Fiji ordered envoys from Australia and New Zealand to return home within 24 hours, accusing them of interfering in its internal affairs.

Fiji, which has suffered four coups and a bloody military mutiny since 1987, was plunged into a fresh crisis in April after the president reappointed Cdre Bainimarama as prime minister, less than two days after a court ruled his 2006 coup and subsequent government was illegal.

It is the third time in three years the top New Zealand official has been kicked out.

In 2007 then High Commissioner Michael Green was expelled and last year his successor, acting High Commissioner Caroline McDonald was expelled.

Mr Cleaver was the commissions number three.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said he was in a state dinner with Prince Edward this evening, and was not sure if he had been briefed on the expulsion.

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