18 Dec 2008

Fiji leader sends strong letter to McCully

3:12 pm on 18 December 2008

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has received a letter from Fiji's self-imposed leader, Frank Bainimarama, outlining his views on the diplomatic standoff between the two countries.

Mr McCully would not divulge the contents of the letter, received on Wednesday, but described the letter as robust and said he was in no doubt as to Commodore Bainimarama's views.

The letter makes no mention of New Zealand's acting high commissioner, Caroline McDonald, whom Fiji has threatened to expel.

The threat stems from New Zealand's visa ban on members of the Fiji military, government and their families.

Fiji's interim government has threatened to send home Ms McDonald unless New Zealand grants a visa to the son of the principal secretary to Fijian President, Josefa Iloilo, so he can resume his studies in New Zealand.

The Government has told the Fiji government it has no intention of lifting the travel ban.

George Nacewa previously studied in New Zealand, but is banned from entering the country under the Government's post-coup ban on visas for top members of the ruling military and their families.

Mr McCully said he would respond to the letter on Thursday.

The previous high commissioner, Michael Green, was expelled in June 2007 and the latest move is being seen as a sign of a further deterioration in the relationship between the two countries.

No backdown - Clark

Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson Helen Clark says no government can back down in the face of the kind of threats Fiji is making.

Miss Clark says it is one thing to reconsider policy when Fiji shows it is serious about democracy, but that is not what is happening.

She said there is obviously some diplomatic choreography going on, and with Fiji making no formal threat, it has left itself some room to manoeuvre.

Miss Clark said Fiji has shown no signs of coming along the pathway that the Pacific Islands Forum wants to help it along.