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NZ Government Considering Response To Expulsion

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Nov 4 NZPA - The Government is now considering what action to take in response to Fiji's expulsion of acting New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner Todd Cleaver yesterday.

Interim head of Fiji's government Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama ordered out Mr Cleaver and Australia's High Commissioner James Bartley. Mr Cleaver was New Zealand's acting head of mission after Fiji previously ousted High Commissioner Michael Green then his successor, acting High Commissioner Caroline McDonald.

Mr McCully said retaliatory action could be taken against Fiji diplomats in Wellington.

"Obviously the question we will consider today is whether we should do that, that's what we did last time," Mr McCully told Radio New Zealand.

"The basis for that is that when steps are taken quite capriciously you need to emphasise that in fact these are gratuitous steps that are being taken (and require) some sort of gesture in return. But we will think about that over the next few hours."

The expulsion made progress with Fiji more difficult.

"This is just another step down a path that makes maintaining civilised relationships a bit difficult but we're used to that at this particular juncture."

The move was disappointing, Mr McCully said, as New Zealand and Australia had been moving to boost their depleted Fiji offices and were supporting Fiji efforts to do the same in their countries.

Last week Mr McCully approved a new counsellor to the Fiji Consulate in Wellington and had indicated then he wanted to lift staff in Suva. Meanwhile, Australia had upgraded the status of Fiji's representative in Canberra to High Commissioner.

"Having been pushing down a path of looking to add people or lift their status in both New Zealand and Australia Fiji have turned around and moved in the opposite direction which is obviously disappointing."

The Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs would reconsider the travel advisory to Fiji.

"The primary effect (of the expulsion) is it's going to make it difficult for us to offer the full range of services at the office in Suva, obviously we are down a number of people and there are some implications for the kind of consular support we can provide and some other services."

Fiji raised the case of delays in the processing of a medical visa for the sick child of a Fijian judge as a reason for the expulsion.

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

However, Mr McCully said the Government granted Fijian judge Anjala (crct) Wati a compassionate exemption from the ban and approved a New Zealand medical visa for her child.

It is understood the pair are in Auckland, with the child having been admitted to the Starship Hospital.

Mr McCully believed Fiji was irritated by travel sanctions that impacted on judges it was recruiting from Sri Lanka.

"I think the Judge Wati episode in New Zealand was probably a convenient flashpoint from the regime's point of view but that's what we've come to expect."

Transparency International said the travel ban on judges should be lifted saying it supports any initiatives to strengthen the Fiji judiciary and the rule of law.

The ban was imposed when the interim government sacked the judiciary and appointed those who it thought friendly, Mr McCully said.

Cdre Bainimarama said the heads of Australia and New Zealand's diplomatic missions in Fiji had refused to engage with the government.

"They misinform Canberra and Wellington and wage a negative campaign against the government and people of Fiji," he told news agencies.

"It is my government's duty to ensure that no foreign government should interfere with such judicial independence and integrity. We must always protect and be proud our sovereignty."

The New Zealand and Australian envoys have 24 hours to leave.

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 the High Court ruled his 2006 coup and subsequent government was illegal.

Australia and New Zealand have been at the forefront of condemnation of Cdre Bainimarama since he toppled Fiji's elected government in a December 2006 coup.

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