18 Mar 2015

Solomons official 'suspected' NZ was spying

9:19 pm on 18 March 2015

The chief of staff of the former Solomon Islands Prime Minister says he suspected New Zealand was spying on his emails well before the latest claims emerged.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)'s spy base at Waihopai, near Blenheim.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)'s spy base at Waihopai, near Blenheim. Photo: SUPPLIED

New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager has claimed there is mass surveillance by New Zealand in the Pacific region.

Mr Hager said the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) intercepted communications from countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa, and even nations as small as Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati.

Robert Iroga, who works for the former PM, Gordon Darcy Lilo, said he was often frustrated in bilateral meetings with staff from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He said they had information about the plans of how Solomons was using aid from Taiwan when New Zealand encouraged Solomons to be transparent in its dealings with China.

He said he thinks New Zealand shared those communications with China.

"New Zealand was bullying us in a lot of our negotiations. I was quite surprised that some of the information that they shouldn't know, they know already in some of the discussion and I won't tell what the information is but this all goes to tell you that they read exactly word for word what our discussions were and they had the upper hand."

Mr Iroga said he challenges Foreign Minister Murray McCully to live up to the standards of transparency his country demands of others.

Meanwhile, the Director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at Canterbury University, Professor Steven Ratuva, felt relations between New Zealand and Solomon Islands will take a hit from the revelations.

He said New Zealand's actions amount to 'subtle bullying'.

"I think it's quite unprecedented in the history of the Pacific," said Professor Ratuva.

"It raises a whole lot of questions in relation to New Zealand's relationship with Pacific Island states. It's something which I would call very subtle diplomatic bullying, because a small island state like Solomon Islands has no way to respond to spying. I mean if you do it to the Chinese and Russians, they can respond in kind."

Steven Ratuva says the muted reactions from Solomon Islands officials may be due to the country's dependence on New Zealand for aid funds.

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