12 Nov 2015

Rule of law abused in Fiji - Winston Peters

8:18 am on 12 November 2015

The resignation of Fiji's Police Commissioner will have Australia and New Zealand re-thinking their stance on Fiji, says former NZ foreign affairs minister Winston Peters.

Winston Peters on the bridge at Parliament.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ben Groenewald, who took up the job just eighteen months ago, cited interference from the military in his decision to step down earlier this week.

Winston Peters - who was New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time of the 2006 coup - said this claim of interference was proof that some Fiji institutions were above the law.

Mr Peters said it was unacceptable that police officers who were charged for assault in relation to allegations of torture should be recruited by the military.

"Australian and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Departments are going to ask themselves seriously now, 'did we make a premature stand in support of Fiji, given this emerging evidence?' Frankly this is to do with the rule of law, it is to do with the separation of powers, it is to do with the quality of democracy and also it is to do with a leading member of the Pacific community. That's the great disappointment here."

Mr Peters said the resignation was a huge setback for Fiji, and that Mr Groenewald's replacement had no background in upholding the law.

Fiji's police commissioner Bernadus Groenewald. Appointed in May 2014.

Ben Groenewald, Fiji's outgoing Police Commissioner. Photo: RNZI/ Sally Round