22 Oct 2016

Fiji PM seeks better ties with New Zealand

2:37 pm on 22 October 2016

The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key officially welcomed his Fiji counterpart Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland and both leaders spoke of their productive talks and improved relationship.

The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland

The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

Mr Bainimarama also said he and his New Zealand counterpart had let bygones be bygones and were now working constructively on many fronts.

Although Mr Bainimarama called himself Prime Minister well before the 2014 election and visited New Zealand that year, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said it was his first visit to New Zealand as the Fiji Prime Minister.

Mr Bainimarama was upbeat and positive in his speech following a meeting with Mr Key, and said they have always been 'close personal friends'.

He said he came seeking a much stronger engagement with New Zealand.

"I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister has agreed to work with me to take our relationship to another level. A relationship in which we let bygones be bygones and work closely together to advance the interests of the Fijian and the New Zealand peoples," he said.

No criticism of arrest process

Fiji's Prime Minister has declined to say if he supports the recent criticism of police by the country's Director of Public Prosecutions.

Christopher Pryde announced that six prominent Fijians would not be charged for attending a meeting last month, saying police were too slow in arresting and questioning the men, as well as too selective in who they chose to detain.

Frank Bainimarama, who is visiting New Zealand, had earlier defended the police and their actions, but said the DPP's comments prove his independence from the government.

"That has not only happened in Fiji, that has happened here in New Zealand and in Australia, and all over the world. And sometimes the police are criticised in what they do. But at the end of the day, as I told Prime Minister Key this morning, it shows the independence of our institutions," he said.

Key stresses media role

The New Zealand Prime Minister said he spoke to his Fiji counterpart to explain the importance of a free and vibrant media.

Ahead of his visit, Mr Bainimarama announced he was lifting the ban on several foreign reporters including Barbara Dreaver and Michael Field from New Zealand.

John Key and Murray McCully in talks with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama

John Key and Murray McCully in talks with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Photo: Alex Perrottet / RNZ

Mr Key said he stressed the importance of the media in a democracy.

"That's the nature of any healthy democracy, being challenged by the fourth estate. I mean ultimately you can believe you'd be better as a politician without it but the truth is any democracy would not be well served unless it was challenged by both a legitimate opposition that can operate freely and fairly and a legitimate media."

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