One of the first messages sent to John Key after National’s election came from Fiji’s military usurper, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.In it the commodore reportedly referred to Helen Clark with sentiments less than diplomatic.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is said to have received a similar greeting a year ago when he defeated John Howard.
Clearly Fiji’s self-appointed ruler is aware of the possibilities presented by a change of Government.
But he has a strange idea of how to take an opportunity.
Any prospect that New Zealand’s new Government might make an early move to review the sanctions imposed on Fiji’s regime has probably disappeared with the threat to expel this country’s Acting High Commissioner in Suva over a visa denial.
The Government has no option but to ignore the threat and to retaliate in kind if it is carried out.
Commodore Bainimarama was lucky to be accorded the courtesy of a call from National’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, yesterday to discuss the issue.
His threat had already put Mr Key on the spot, causing the Prime Minister to affirm that his Government had “no intentions of lifting the ban on people travelling to New Zealand if they are part of the regime, or associated with the regime”.
New Zealand’s position would not change until Fiji took concrete steps towards democracy, Mr Key said, noting it was now impossible for Fiji to meet the Pacific Islands Forum deadline for elections.
So that, for the time being, is that.
New Zealand will remain as intransigent as Australia in maintaining sanctions that appear to be achieving nothing.
The illegitimate regime seems to be as firmly entrenched as ever it has been since the 2006 coup.
The highly selective travel sanctions are no more than an annoyance for officials and their families, and occasionally an embarrassment for this country when a sports event was cancelled or exemptions were made for purposes that suited the previous Government.
The visa issue that prompted the latest diplomatic incident is a case in point.
The applicant, George Nacewa, the son of a secretary to Fiji’s President, is a student at Massey University.
He needs a visa renewal to continue his studies.
In October the Labour Government refused him.
It seems harsh to make him pay for the coup his father serves but that is the nature of the sanctions.
It could have been a good case for Commodore Bainimarama to take up with the new Government had he gone the right way about it.
Instead, he sent an ultimatum: grant the visa or the Acting High Commissioner will be expelled, possibly with other New Zealand diplomats.
It would not be the first time; High Commissioner Mike Green was ordered to leave last June. The commodore’s abysmal timing is attested by the diplomatic response of Mr McCully.
“All I can say is that when you have sanctions of the sort we have in regard to Fiji, there are often pressure points and issues that arise,” he said of the threat.
“We try to manage those issues in a constructive fashion.”
The tone of those remarks was so much milder than the previous Government’s as to suggest National was ready to review New Zealand’s response.
If so, it now faces a difficult diplomatic decision.
Should it allow itself to be deflected by Commodore Bainimarama’s clumsy belligerence, or should it persist in seeking a more effective relationship?
If the goal remains to restore democracy and civil rights to a near neighbour, the Government cannot succumb to threats. If Fiji now waits a while for a new reception in Wellington, it has only itself to blame.
* http://www.nzherald.co.nz. This was the New Zealand Herald’s Editorial for yesterday.
Solivakasama is adding names of the coup supporters in their list send names you know to Info@solivakasama.org , the pressure is working.
Bloggers, don’t forget to register on www.solivakasama.org because our smart strategies beginning next year will be lobbying Governments about their citizens involved in treason in Fiji and people like John Samy lobbying his former employer like the ADB to ensure, they do not touch him again for the rest of his natural life!