16 Dec 2008

New Zealand Government to call Fiji's bluff today following reports of expulsion

12:07 pm on 16 December 2008

The New Zealand Government will today call Fiji's bluff over the threatened expulsion of New Zealand's acting High Commissioner in Suva.

Radio New Zealand understands Fiji has told the Government it will expel Caroline McDonald unless New Zealand grants an exception to its travel ban on family members of the military and the interim Government.

The son of the principal secretary to the Fiji President, George Nacewa, has previously studied in New Zealand.

Its understood New Zealand will ignore the threat and this morning refuse to grant him a visa.

The Foreign Minister, Murray McCully will not confirm such a threat exists.

"There are always going to be challenges in a relationship where you got extensive bans on people being able to enter New Zealand and where those sanctions are hurting and let me quite clear about this that when I was in Fiji members of the regime made it clear that they detested the sanctions."

In June last year, Fiji expelled New Zealand's last High Commissioner, Michael Green.

Meanwhile, Television New Zealand has confirmed its Pacific Affairs correspondent, Barabara Dreaver, is now on her way home from Fiji after being deported from the country.

Ms Dreaver was taken into custody overnight not long after she arrived in Fiji.

However, Fiji's interim Government has denied the New Zealand media reports.

Fiji's attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says there is quite a lot of speculation on the issue but he can't confirm the reports.

There is some very good discussions between our Prime Minister and your Foreign Minister when he was here. And there is some fairly robust discussions, very frank discussions, as you know he came along with the Ministerial contact group, but we also had a bilateral meeting with him. And we hope our relationship in particular with the New Zealand government now in place will be repaired.

The editor of the Fiji Times, Netani Rika says it is difficult to say what will happen if the New Zealand government continues with the travel sanctions, but he thinks Commodore Bainimarama will follow through on the threat.

It's always been difficult to predict how this government will react to anything. I suppose they are two possible reactions, one is that life will go on as normal and the second is that they will take the hard line and remove the acting high commissioner as they did to Michael Green sometime ago. If we look past relations between Fiji and New Zealand I think it's safe to assume he will react in that way.

The editor of the Fiji Times, Netani Rika.