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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More sanctions from NZ on Fiji?

New Zealand is deciding on what further sanctions it will impose on Fiji in light of the removal of its High Commissioner to Fiji by the Interim Government last week. Australia has also suggested that it may send a peacekeeping mission to Fiji "if the situation becomes unstable" which has drawn a response from Fiji's Interim Prime Minister.

An economist has said that further sanctions or negative travel advisories will have very serious implications on Fiji.

Read more on the articles from the Fiji Times and Fiji Sun, Tuesday, 19 June 2007, below.

"NZ vows harsh bans, Fiji Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday vowed that within a week it would decide what "considerable" sanctions it would further take against Fiji.

According to The Stuff, Ms Clark told reporters that Cabinet yesterday talked about the response to the expulsion of its High Commissioner Michael Green, who is expected to leave the country this morning.

Reports that Mr Green was not given a June 18 deadline to leave the country could not be substantiated.

"There are some other things that can be done," she said.

"What Fiji's done is a serious and significant act. Our response must be serious and significant and we are not going to be rushed into that."

She urged New Zealanders to reconsider before taking up the cheap holidays that Fiji had to offer.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will co-ordinate talks with officials from departments, including defence, police, immigration and NZAID about what further action could be taken," she said.

"We've asked them to do a very thorough review of the relationship and what else might be done.

"I must stress it is not business as usual. Fiji's provocative act makes it absolutely clear that there should not be business as usual.

"I think this lashing out has come because of the very severe pressure the regime has been put under."

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has accused Mr Green of interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs a charge New Zealand rejects. Commodore Bainimarama has refused to disclose details of the alleged offence.

In his last statement on the issue, he said Mr Green had been "in our face" since the military takeover on December 5, 2006.

New Zealand condemned the coup and imposed sanctions which included suspending aid, banning sporting contacts and visits from government members and other measures.
Since then Fiji has been excluded from the Pacific seasonal employment scheme, which it had lobbied for intensely.

"We will be going back again to the UN pointing out the great irony of Fiji personnel being deployed to troubled countries in an endeavour to bring peace and security when their own is exactly such a country which is troubled and doesn't enjoy peace and security at this time," said Ms Clark.

Fiji has been excluded from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands since the coup.
Meanwhile, the Australian Army says there is a possibility of its troops being sent on a peacekeeping mission here if the situation becomes unstable.

According to a Radio Australia report yesterday, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy said the recent coup in Fiji had the potential to incite tensions that could leave the country vulnerable to instability.

"I think we would need to have prudent plans and just see whether we need to do that. I would rather not go to any place at all," he said.

"But I think we do need to make sure we have plans and we have the capabilities to support governments in those locations should they ask for support."

Army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said it was the first he had heard of the report. He preferred to comment only after he had read the report.

Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti had said the interim Government believed Mr Green and former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji Jennifer Rawson were allegedly part of "the team" that plotted to remove the military chief during the lead-up to his December 5 coup.

Talking to New Zealand's national radio station, Colonel Driti said there was no direct evidence of either diplomat being involved.

"It doesn't have to be something you've got to have evidence for. It is just a matter of gauging what took place and reading between the lines," he told New Zealand's National Radio. Colonel Driti could not be reached for a comment yesterday.

Major Leweni said he was not aware of the issue and Colonel Driti would be the best person to explain further on the issue.

The report said the Australian government did not immediately respond to the allegation, but Ms Clark said the charges against Mr Green were without foundation.

"That's complete nonsense. A complete fiction. This is a disgraceful move and has no foundation whatsoever," Ms Clark said.

Ms Clark said New Zealand would step up its advocacy at the United Nations to stop Fiji troops being used as UN peacekeepers.

She said she had suspended talks under way with Fiji about sea boundaries."

"More sanctions will be disastrous: Economist, Fiji Times, Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Any further sanctions or travel advisories will be disastrous for Fiji, says an academic.
University of the South Pacific economist Professor Biman Prasad said tourism numbers were already down and that would have a terrible impact.

Tourism numbers from Australia and New Zealand would be affected as Australia had already indicated it would support actions by New Zealand, he said.

"I think the tourism industry will face even bigger challenges now to bring back tourists from New Zealand and Australia," said Dr Prasad.

Another economist, Doctor Satish Chand said the economic fallout from the expulsion of Michael Green could be significant.

He said the decision could have ramifications on the growth of international merchandise trade and tourist arrivals, and the acceptance of the interim regime by the international community.

The challenge for Fiji was in containing the fallout, Dr Chand said.

"Our diplomats need to work harder in improving relations with Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America.

"Fortunately, the European Union has refrained from commenting and thus could act as a broker between Fiji and its near neighbors," said Dr Chand.

"We must acknowledge that the relationship between Fiji and New Zealand runs a lot deeper than between the two administrations.

"It is time for the leaders to take a cold shower and rethink the effects of their actions on the population at large.

"Tourism is the only hope for a quick rebound in the economy.

"We simply cannot afford to see this industry wither any more," Dr Chand said.
Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto said any sanctions and other measures to hamper trade would affect the economy.

He said 60 per cent of visitors to Fiji were from Australia and New Zealand."

"No need for Australian peacekeepers, says PM, Fiji Sun, 6/19/2007 8:46:05 AM

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says there is no need for Australian troops to come to Fiji for peacekeeping operations.And he said the security situation in the country is stable.

“They can’t come here because they are not required here. The situation in Fiji today does not warrant outside forces to intervene,” said Cdre Bainimarama.

Australian military chief General Peter Leahy had told a regional media organisation yesterday that they had not ruled out the possibility of Australian troops being sent on peacekeeping operations to Fiji or Papua New Guinea.

Lt. General Leahy said they would need to have prudent plans and determine whether they needed to send peacekeeping operations troops to Fiji.

He said the recent coup in Fiji had the potential to incite tension that could leave the country vulnerable to instability.

“It is unfortunate for the Australian army chief to be drawing up plans for a non-existent situation. I don’t know what is the reason for this plan but maybe he wants to justify the intervention requested by Qarase (Laisenia) last year,” said Cdre Bainimarama.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard had confirmed that ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had sought military intervention from him in the lead up to last year’s takeover. “I got this request at the last minute from the Prime Minister (Qarase).

Now I understand his position and I have a lot of regard and respect for him,” Mr Howard had said.

He said he had then refused to send any troops to Fiji because he ‘did not want the horror of Australian and Fijian troops firing at each other in the streets of Suva’.

Mr Qarase who is being investigated for alleged treason maintains he did not seek military intervention from Australia or New Zealand."

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