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UN Playing Into Fiji Military's Hands -- McCully

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Murray McCully
Murray McCully

Wellington, April 15 NZPA - The United Nations is playing into the Fiji military's hands by continuing to use peacekeepers from the island nation, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says.

The military, led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has run Fiji since staging a 2006 coup and Mr McCully yesterday said the UN should stop using those same soldiers.

"Quite frankly, the fact that the UN continues to use Fijian peacekeepers plays into the hands of the interim regime," he said.

"They sustain the interim regime both in terms of credibility and in terms of cash.

"It's very regrettable that the UN continues to do that and, in light of current circumstances, I'll be raising that issue again directly with them."

Fiji has become increasingly unstable in the past few days after its Court of Appeal ruled last Thursday that Cdre Bainimarama's regime 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.

The military yesterday took over the Reserve Bank in Suva and sacked Governor Savenaca Narbue.

Local media are being censored, papers are no longer covering political events and international media have been expelled; TV3's Sia Aston and Matt Smith are back in New Zealand after being detained in Suva, and Australian television reporter Sean Dorney has also been deported.

New Zealand and Australia already have trade and travel sanctions in place against Fiji, and it is set to become even more isolated; the 16-nation Pacific Island Forum had given it until May 1 to set a date for a democratic election or be suspended.

"I don't think there's much prospect that we're going to see anything other than a suspension from the forum," Mr McCully said.

"I think it's true that the Commonwealth, the UN, the EU, other organisations internationally take their lead from the regional organisation, so forum members will no doubt look at whether there is any collective action they should take."

Mr McCully also warned holidaymakers to think "long and hard" about visiting Fiji.

"Clearly the military regime is looking to assert itself and that is why we've been warning New Zealanders to think carefully about whether they need to go to Fiji at the moment, because the situation is volatile and uncertain," he said.

"There are probably a lot of very safe places to hang out on the beach. It's just that to get to them you've got to pass by some authorities that are now under the control of ... a military that is behaving in a manner that is less predictable than we've been used to."

However, Mr McCully all but ruled out imposing a travel ban on New Zealanders, saying to restrict people's freedom in that way would make the Government no better than the Fiji's administration.

It was also unlikely trade sanctions would be toughened as they tended to punish innocent people.

NZPA PAR sl nb

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