NZ Diplomat Faces Fiji Expulsion In Sanctions Dispute

NZ diplo faces Fiji expulsion in sanctions dispute

The Associated Press
Published: December 16, 2008

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand refused Tuesday to grant a visa to the son of a Fijian official a move likely to push the military regime to expel another of Wellington's senior diplomats.

The rejection of the student visa stems from travel sanctions New Zealand imposed on key members of Fiji's government and their relatives following a bloodless coup in December 2006.

The sanctions have incensed the regime as they prevent even Fijian sports teams from entering or transiting through New Zealand. Fiji ejected Wellington's top diplomat was last June.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters that his foreign minister had spoken with Fiji's military leader and prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and that the ball was now in Fiji's court.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully “had a direct conversation with Frank Bainimarama and there's been no agreed pathway” for resolving the issue, he said. “It's work in progress. … Taking the matter forward is in the hands of the Fijians now. We want our acting High Commissioner to stay there.”

In a message last month, Bainimarama warned Wellington that if the student visa was not granted, acting High Commissioner Caroline McDonald would be expelled.

There was no immediate comment from Fiji.

Earlier Tuesday, Key said the visa rejection “spells out our position, which is we have no intentions of lifting the ban on people traveling to New Zealand if they are part of the regime, or associated with the regime.”

The student was identified as George Naceva, the son of Rupeni Naceva, secretary to Fiji President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. In October, New Zealand refused to renew the visa held by Naceva who was studying at a New Zealand university.

The United States, European Union, 53-member Commonwealth and 14-member Pacific Islands Forum have all demanded a speedy return to democracy. But Bainimarama has insisted the volatile nation's “racist” electoral system and “systemic corruption” must be changed before elections.