20 May 2011

Firm stand needed against Fiji, McCully tells US

4:27 am on 20 May 2011

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has told United States officials that a firm stand needs to be taken towards Fiji to stop political instability in the Pacific.

Mr McCully is in Washington this week where he has met with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top foreign affairs leaders.

His message has been that Pacific countries need to know that military dictatorships such as the one in Fiji are not acceptable.

"I will be quite clear about this. Fiji is not the only country in the Pacific that could find itself being run by a military dictatorship if that sort of behaviour was to become acceptable or fashionable within our region."

His comments come as Fiji seeks to extradite a military official charged with sedition from Tonga.

Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara was charged after criticising Commodore Frank Bainimarama's military regime and then picked up by the Tongan navy while on bail.

Colonel Mara says he got into trouble while on a fishing trip and the navy helped him out. He believes he would not get a fair hearing in Fiji because he says Commodore Bainimarama interferes with the judiciary.

Fiji was to have held democratic elections by now, but Commodore Bainimarama has deferred them until 2014. However, Colonel Mara says there is no intention to go to the polls.

The New Zealand Government is monitoring events, but has said it will not intervene in the diplomatic and legal row between the Fiji and Tonga.