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Fiji and New Zealand Bloggers Debate Diplomatic Row

Categories: Oceania, Fiji, New Zealand, International Relations, Media & Journalism, Politics

Bloggers from Fiji and New Zealand are discussing an ongoing diplomatic row between their governments that intensified when New Zealand refused to grant visas to three family members of senior officials in Fiji's government who came to power in a coup in December 2006.

When the son of a secretary who works for Fiji’s president was denied a visa to return to university in New Zealand this November, rumors started flying that Fiji was preparing to expel New Zealand’s High Commissioner. If that happened, it would be the second Kiwi High Commissioner expelled [1] from Fiji in the past 18 months.

As the diplomatic language became more pointed, Fiji’s government refused a New Zealand television journalist, Barabara Dreaver, from entering the country, claiming she was blacklisted [2] after reporting a story “totally the opposite to what was actually happening on the ground.”

Dreaver was taken into custody shortly after arriving Monday night at the international airport in Nadi, making her the fourth journalist [3] from New Zealand to be deported from Fiji in recent years. After spending the night in a detention center, she was placed on the first plane the next morning.

The growing quarrel may have cooled somewhat by Tuesday when Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign minister, placed a call [4] to Fiji’s leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama. No agreement was reached on the visas, and New Zealand said they would uphold the travel bans. But both countries indicated they will continue talks.

Let’s step back, to follow story this from the outset:

On December 15, Raw Fiji News [5] argued that the New Zealand travel bans should continue to apply pressure on Fiji's government.

The travel ban is working and is affecting Frank’s regime and their cohorts. We know the international community understands that and we can only hope that the NZ Prime Minister will not give in to the whims of Frank the dictator. NZ should stick by its decision not to issue visas to anyone associated with the regime, not even to the three children who are causing this commotion. Should Frank decide to still go along with his delayed plan to deport NZ’s Acting High Comm to Fiji, then let it be paving the way for NZ to do the same with Fiji’s Acting Ambassador in Wellington.

…So NZ and the rest of the international community, yes please, step up your sanctions against Frank. The people know how to get to you directly but please, squeeze the bugger even more!!!

At the Fiji Live [6] story on Dreaver’s deportation, there are a few comments supporting Fiji’s regime.

Arnold sees fault with New Zealand:

Diplomacy at its worst. Why did the NZ government refuse student visas for those wanting to complete their studies? That is indeed childish and they have not learned the lesson from the expulsion of Green, the former NZ diplomat. If Fiji's High Commissioner is expelled from Wellington who cares? But if the NZ diplomat is expelled for the second time from Fiji it will be embarrassing for NZ. Grow up guys, this is international politics.

And david1005143 says that New Zealand's travel ban targets the wrong people.

Travel ban on the perpetrators of the coup would be real and acceptable. But to the families who have no other choice, this is blatantly punishing the innocent and the poor. We need to help the country to move forward and to democratic elections. So please the smart, educated big brothers show your sense of judgment.

Moving to New Zealand, David Farrar at Kiwi Blog [7] argues that if Fiji does kick the High Commisioner out, Fiji will suffer a far greater loss than New Zealand will.

Commodore Bainimarama seems to be very misguided if he thinks he is in a position to demand NZ issue visas to various family members of Fijian officials.

Such a demand would guarantee the Government won’t issue a waiver. If he wants waivers, then you have to make concessions, not threats. Such as a firm timetable for elections.

The threat is very lame – expelling our Acting High Commissioner. So what? It hurts Fiji far more not having NZ diplomatic presence, than it does NZ.

And this morning, they have expelled TVNZ’s Barbara Dreaver. Again, the Commodore is getting bad advice if he thinks this upset the Government at all.

I’m open to persuasion that the Commodore has good motives – his planned reforms to get rid of race based voting are laduable. But the longer he remains the self-appointed ruler, without taking concrete steps towards elections, the longer sanctions will remain. The way ahead lies with him.

At least one commenter at Kiwi Blog thinks the detained journalist story is a bit overblown.

From big bruv [8]:

I do find it hilarious that our press treat the expulsion of a journalist as a big news story, it lead the morning news on TV One and was delivered in the most serious tone by Paul Henry, it just proves that all media have a massively over inflated opinion of their value or importance to us.

Mostly the general public could not give a toss if some silly little girl is given the boot from a country that does not want her there.

Peterwn [8] does not agree:

Barbara had an anxious night. I am not surprised – the poor woman was probably scared stiff of being bashed up or worse by out of control cops or soldiers.

big bruv – of course the media will treat it as a big news story. A major objective is to heap scorn on those who try and attack the freedom of the media.

If people do not like her style – they can always watch TVNZ news. Her style is a minor issue compared with media freedom.

Moving on, one commenter in Kiwi Blog argues for improving relations with Fiji so the country does not wind up befriending China instead.

kiwiscouse [9] says:

Bananamarama does not possess political skills and is trying do deal with those who have. The big danger is that he will turn to China for support. They would love a deep sea port in Fiji. The Chinese are already well established in Raratonga, see the new police station there. Oz and Nz are being very short sighted.



In my view the new Goverment should extend a helping hand to Bananarama to overcome the obstacles he is facing in establishing a corruption free regime. Banning students or sportspeople because of who their relatives are is the hallmark of the previous NZ Regime and is in the interests of neither NZ or the Pacific. As others have stated the vacuum in the middle of the Pacific can easily be filled by our free trade partner Communist China.

Getting back to bloggers, Adolph, writing in No Minister [10], claims the tensions between the two countries are, “much ado about little” and will soon simmer down.

So the Commodore kicked out the smart arse TVNZ reporter who had been up there before, stirring up trouble; and he's threatened to boot out the second NZ High Commissioner if New Zealand persists in denying an entry visa to the son of one of the Fijian President's secretaries. The Commodore is also demanding an end to all travel sanctions.

…Adolf's pick is that Mr McCully will realise that the President is not in fact part of ‘the regime.’ After all, he has been President since 2000 and the coup took place in 2006.

So, the deal will be that the sanctions stay for the time being, NZ recognises that the secretary's son is not technically part of the regime and gives him a visa and the High Commissioner stays. Mr McCully might also ask the Commodore what NZ can do to assist the completion of elections at the earliest possible time, under a new non racist constitution, which is what the whole silly argument is about anyway.

Meanwhile Thailand prospers and enjoys full diplomatic privilege under it's non democratic government installed at the point of demonstrators’ guns and mass violence..