22 Jan 2010

Fiji 'playing politics' over diplomat nominee

8:43 pm on 22 January 2010

Fiji is being accused of playing political games with New Zealand by proposing to sending a senior military figure, banned from entering the country, as its special counsellor.

The permanent secretary for the Ministry of Information, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, has been suggested for the position. He is the military's spokesperson.

Fiji and New Zealand agreed two weeks ago to send representatives to each other's capitals to improve diplomatic relations.

Fiji had expelled New Zealand's top diplomat in November, prompting this country to send home home Fiji's high commissioner.

The interim regime in Suva is strongly opposed to New Zealand's policy of refusing entry visas to Fiji coup leaders and their associates.

Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka, a former commander who was once a close associate of Fiji leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says Fiji is playing political games with New Zealand, in order to gauge its reaction.

Auckland University academic Dr Steven Ratuva says the nomination is an attempt by Fiji to have travel sanctions on members of the military lifted.

NZ response 'keenly awaited'

Commodore Bainimarama says Fiji is keenly awaiting the New Zealand's Government's response.

He told Radio Tarana in Auckland he is looking forward to progressing discussions and seeing the removal of all sanctions on Fiji.

The New Zealand Government is not commenting on specific appointments while discussions are ongoing.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International is calling on the New Zealand Government to ensure human rights are included in any dialogue with Fiji.

The organisation's Pacific researcher, Apolosi Bose, says New Zealand and Australia should strengthen their calls for Fiji to halt arbitrary arrests, intimidation and detention of opponents.