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Bloggers react to NZ Maori Party's proposed trip to Fiji

Categories: Oceania, Fiji, New Zealand, Citizen Media, Elections, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, Indigenous, International Relations

Bloggers are reacting to proposals by members of New Zealand’s Maori Party who wanted a delegation to travel to Fiji to speak with the country's Prime Minister to better understand what he is trying to achieve.

The announcement came just hours after Fiji was stripped of benefits from the Pacific Islands Forum for refusing to schedule elections by May 1. Maori leaders feel [1] that New Zealand’s troubled relationship towards Fiji needs changing and would like to support their ancestral brothers, the indigenous Fijians which make up two-thirds of Fiji’s population.

(Unlike Fiji’s first three military coups, military leader Frank Bainimarama took power in December 2006 in the name of righting past wrongs against the minority ethnic Indian population that has fewer political rights than indigenous Fijians but enjoys economic success on the islands. )

However, Prime Minister John Key tampered hopes [2] for the meeting. Because the Maori Party belongs to New Zealand's governing coalition, the Prime Minister said his government should speak with “one voice,” meaning no face-to-face talks will take place with Fiji’s Prime Minister until he is willing to move up elections earlier than his intended date of 2014. Maori Party members have suspended an official trip to Fiji, but said a delegation may travel in an “unofficial captacity.”

Fiji’s political blogosphere, which is mostly anti-regime, was unimpressed with the Maori plans from the outset.

Talking Fiji [3]:

The Maori delegation had explained yeterday that the NZ govrnment had ”misunderstood” what Frank and his military regime were doing in Fiji.
It seems they were the ones who had “misunderstood” what Frank was doing.
Thankfully they had the presence of mind to admit they were wrong when they thought Frank was fighting the whole world to safeguard Fiji’s best interests.
Someone must have sat them down and explained to them that Frank was actually fighting the whole world (and the whole of Fiji) to safeguard his own best interests.

Victor Lal, author of the blog Musings on Fiji, writes this [4] in Raw Fiji News:

The agony of the people of Fiji, to a large extent, can be laid at the door of Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Michael Somare (and a few others) who constantly talked of dealing with the anti-democracy gangsters and gun-haw-haw coupsters in the so-called Pacific Way.

The Maori Party’s Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples should go to Papua New Guinea and have a word with Somare, who will give them a better picture of the psychological state of the present goons in Fiji.

He thought he was dealing with brotherly and sisterly Pacific Islanders, only to find out that they were devils in disguise, feasting on their own people.

If Somare had taken a tough stance with Australia and New Zealand, the gangsters might have thought twice before tearing up the 1997 Constitution, dismissing the Judiciary (which also had been propping them up), not to mention being thrown out of the Pacific Islands Forum.

In New Zealand, the planned trip was seen in a much more positive light. But the diplomatic give-and-take within the Key government was criticized.

No Minister calls it “common sense.”

While our foreign affairs poobahs who seem to have captured John Key and Murray McCully continue to insist on ‘elections now, no matter how bad they are’ for Fiji, Mrs Turia suggests we actually sit down and talk civilly with Mr Bainimarama and, in her words, find out what is going on in Fiji.

Adolf sincerely hopes she goes to Fiji. I suggest the delegation should comprise the Maori King (mana) Dr Sharples (cabinet minister) and Lt Col (R) Wira Gardiner. (emminent Maori leader and National Party member)

Mr Gardiner has precisely the right background to put the Commodore at ease during discussions.

A circuit breaker such as this is essential if New Zealand's interests in the South Pacific are to be fulfilled.

Fiji: The Way It Was, Is and Can Be wonders whether John Key’s strategy of only negotiating with Fiji through the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth is the best choice.

I can see John Key's point but why doesn't he accompany the delegation? It would be in line with his familiar hands-on, up-front approach to other issues: a round-the-table dialogue by a down-to-earth pragmatist rather than hands-off bureaucratic negotiations? Unlikely, but it could actually help.

Tumeke takes the proposed [5] dialog into the context of inter-governmental politics within New Zealand’s ruling coalition.

Mactional is an ugly mash sometimes – and the Maori Party's kite-flying on Fiji was another lost opportunity. It was a potentially valuable back channel to the regime in Suva, but it was fumbled. Why did the PM shift his position? Did clumsy MFAT has their fat paws on it, or was it a political botch from McCully? Or was it the Fijian regime that scotched it?

It was the timing the PM could have played with in permitting any delegation that included a Minister of the Crown – enough time to work something out; but now it's all gone. The Maori Party isn't too hot on the diplomatic tango either and has stood on the government's feet because they didn't read the nuances themselves.

Kiwi Blog is one person who admits to being perplexed [6].

I’m a bit puzzled by the Maori Party stance on Fiji. The original Fiji coups were about preventing the majority Indians from forming a Government. It was about protecting what they saw as the right of indigenous Fijians, and that stance had the support of some Maori activists in NZ.
But the Commodore’s coup is (officially anyway) about the opposite. He is saying he wants to remove any special rights from indigenous Fijians, and replace the constitution which has race based seats.
Somewhat strange bedfellows for the Maori Party I would have said whose entire party is about how there should be special rights for indigenous people.

From Political Editor Audrey Young, blogging [7] at the New Zealand Herald.

John Key hasn't made many mistakes since becoming Prime Minister in November – and those that he has made haven't mattered much anyway.
That changed this week with his mishandling of a possible Maori Party visit to Fiji…
On Sunday Key responded quickly saying a visit by Sharples would be okay so long as it was in a private capacity as Maori Party co-leader and not as a minister representing the Government.
On Monday he had had a change of heart. He said he had talked to Sharples, that he had agreed New Zealand had to have one voice on the issue of Fiji and that he did not believe Sharples would be going to Fiji.
On Tuesday, it became very untidy: Sharples said he might still go and Key said he would stop Sharples from going if he went ahead.
It would be helpful if the Prime Minister had one voice, as well. It should not have taken him long on Sunday to realize that such a trip by Sharples would be problematic for perceptions of Government unity, at the very least.