Venkat Raman in Suva
Fiji, Thursday, June 9, 2016
Fiji is keen to foster relationship with New Zealand but there should be proper understanding of Fiji’s circumstances, its stage in democracy and economic development, Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama said here tonight.
In a hard-hitting at a State banquet that he hosted at the Grand Pacific Hotel in honour of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and his official and media delegation, he said that he, his government and the people of Fiji were grateful to New Zealand for the timely help that was rendered after Tropical Cyclone Winston devastated the country in February this year.
“But New Zealand must understand that Fiji is still developing its own brand of democracy, which would be distinct from that of New Zealand. We ask for understanding and cooperation at the most critical period in our history,” he said.
In a direct attack on former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark (without mentioning her by name), Mr Bainimarama said, “The New Zealand Prime Minister who visited Fiji in 2006 refused to understand the plight of our country. Fiji was suffering from utmost level of poverty, corruption was deep-rooted in every aspect of public administration and the government had largely failed to meet its obligations towards the people. The New Zealand Prime Minister ignored the inequality that existed in our society; that people were classified not as a human race but on the basis of their ethnicity. (She) did not want to understand our situation,” he said.
Mr Bainimarama said that press freedom can be possible only if media personnel were unbiased and reported facts and not twisted facts.
“Until then, we will choose who can come into Fiji and report about our country,” he said.
His 20-minute speech was packed with courageous accusations against New Zealand but a carefully worded message for the future.
“Let bygones be bygones,” he said and added, “Mr Prime Minister, we want you to be with us in not only rebuilding Fiji but also our relations with your country.”
Mr Key was measured in his response.
He said, “Rather than answering every point that you have made,” he said, addressing Mr Bainimarama, “Let us focus on what should be done to improve our relations. A progressive and strong Fiji with a well-rooted democratic tradition. I look forward to constructive discussions during my stay in Fiji,” he said.
Foreign Minster Murray McCully and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are a part of the official delegation.
Indian Newslink and Radio Tarana will bring further updates tomorrow.
Key, Bainimarama, McCully and Fijian Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola at the State Banquet at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva on June 9
Picture by Sanjesh Narayan, Radio Tarana