New NZ High Commissioner to Fiji 'good sign'
An academic following Fiji-Australia relations says the reinstatement of a New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji is a good sign the relationship between the two countries is getting back to normal.
An academic following Fiji-Australia relations says the reinstatement of a New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji is a good sign the relationship between the two countries is thawing.
However the Director of the Centre for International and Regional Affairs at the University of Fiji, Richard Herr, also says the choice of appointment could come with baggage.
The new High Commissioner will be diplomat Mark Ramsden, who has been the Acting High Commissioner in Suva since September 2013.
Richard Herr spoke to Amelia Langford about the significance of the appointment, following Fiji's elections in September.
RICHARD HERR: Well it's certainly a sign that the election result has resolved the remaining difficulties over the sanctions and the difficulties between the two countries and it's a good sign that the relationship is underway in terms of being repaired and restored.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Is this New Zealand saying, look we really do have faith that this was a democratic election?
RH: Well it's certainly saying that we were content that it met the criteria of the international community and yes we are prepared to resume relations fully and of course its a both way street. Remember in 2012 there was an agreement to restore High Commissions and that fell apart so, at the Fiji end. So I think that it's a two way street. Both countries have agreed that they need to restore relationships and get back on an even keel and this is the clearest sign that its going to happen.
AL: And how much significance do you give to this role?
RH: Well it's a highly important job. It's one of the areas where New Zealand diplomacy has been particularly effective the recognise that the relationships in Pacific Islands often tend to be highly personalised its important to have someone who's knowledgeable and accepted locally and Mark Ramsden was the acting High Commissioner for sometime he's had a wide experience in Melanesia. The fact that he's going to be appointed now the full High Commissioner is interesting. It means that there's a degree of continuity from the sanctions period to the post sanctions period and that can be both a good thing and bad thing. There's continuity and on the other hand their is a certain amount of baggage that comes with that continuity as well.
AL: Yeah that's a really interesting point. Why do you think they did that?
RH: Well I think the obviously the New Zealand government and the Murray McCully clearly has confidence in Mark Ramsden and believes that he will do the job that New Zealand wants. And Mark Ramsden clearly hasn't so upset Fiji that he was regarded as unacceptable or a political difficulty so it's probably a good thing on balance.
ALL: How does it work? Does Fiji have any input on who the New Zealand High Commissioner is?
RH: Well normally a government will sound out a government on the acceptability of the proposed appointment simply because it would be embarrassing to have it refused. And that's a situation course that we found in terms of 2012 when the agreement was that the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners would be returning to Suva and then it was decided that it was premature and that the time wasn't right and that added to the tensions between all three countries. New Zealand and Fiji and Australia and Fiji.
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