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Fiji Given A "Passport To Poverty" - John Key

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Beijing, April 14 NZPA - Recent events in Fiji mean the country is being given a "passport to poverty" by its military ruler Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Fiji is becoming increasingly unstable, with the military today taking over the Reserve Bank in Suva and sacking Governor Savenaca Narbue.

Local media are being censored, papers are no longer covering political events and international media have been expelled.

The latest turmoil in Fiji was prompted by its Court of Appeal ruling last Thursday that Commodore Frank Bainimarama's regime, in power since staging a 2006 coup, was illegal under the country's 1997 constitution.

In response, the country's ailing 88-year-old president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution, ruled out any election for five years and briefly removed Cdre Bainimarama before re-appointing him as prime minister.

Fiji is a popular holiday destination for New Zealanders, particular families, and the latest unrest comes as the school holidays kick in.

Speaking in Beijing, Mr Key said he was very concerned

"In some sense I think it was predictable, because I don't think Frank Bainimarama had ever shown a desire to restore democracy in Fiji," Mr Key said.

The moves in recent days had taken democratic elections off the table for five years and that was unacceptable and the consequences could be dire.

"I understand their economy is becoming more and more stressed by the day."

Mr Key said the occupation of the Reserve Bank meant Fiji now also faced even further exchange risks.

"That is one of the serious issues that their economy is facing but not the only one. It is hard to see that there will be any inbound investment in Fiji, we know tourism numbers are falling... Frank Bainimarama is effectively delivering a passport to poverty."

The Pacific Forum had set a deadline of May 1 to set a timeline for elections or face expulsion and Mr Key said this process would continue unless there was a massive turnaround by the regime.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today said anyone considering travelling there should think "long and hard" about it.

"Not because of anything we've seen so far except that we're now entering a realm of unpredictability in the behaviour of the administration there, and I wouldn't want anyone to think that it is a riskless exercise for them to go to Fiji," he said.

"Obviously events in Suva are more concentrated and more dynamic than elsewhere but I think that New Zealanders should be quite careful about travelling to Fiji at the moment."

However, Mr McCully all but ruled out imposing a travel ban on New Zealanders.

"I personally don't believe that we would want to go down that track. It makes us no better than the administration in Fiji," he said.

"We have got ways of toughening up the warnings that we give and so on. Again, I think that we need New Zealanders to make their own decisions about what they do."

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