18 May 2011

McCully says Mara defection weakens Fiji regime

3:17 pm on 18 May 2011

The New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully has told the American Secretary of State that Fiji ruler Frank Bainimarama's grip on power appears to be weakening.

Speaking in Washington, Mr McCully said this was demonstrated by the defection of Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara to Tonga after he was charged with sedition.

From Washington, Daniel Ryntjes reports.

"Murray McCully told Hillary Clinton that the desertion of Colonel Mara who he said was effectively the number three man for the Commodore with close ties to the former and current leadership was significant: 'there are forces at work inside Fiji that we need to understand; certainly it is a sign that the grip of the Commodore has weakened somewhat. Prime minister John Key has kept open the possibility of allowing Lieutenant Colonel Mara of coming to New Zealand but Murray McCully said it was merely a matter of keeping options open in a dynamic situation and didn't indicate any initiative was actually on the table."