Crisis hits Tonga-Fiji relations
Delhi-May 19 Relations between Fiji and Tonga, the two South-Pacific Island Nations have descended into a diplomatic crisis after the Tonga Navy rescued on May 14 Fiji’s Colonel Tevita Mara, who is facing sedition charges in his home country.
Fiji has formally sought his extradition, but the war of attrition may do neither country any good.
It is alleged that Mora was involved in planning a coup against Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and is presently on bail.
Mora has argued that he would not get a fair trial in Fiji, a contention, contested by the Fijian authorities.
Fiji also alleged that the Tongan Navy had breached the Fijian sovereignty by intentionally planning the escape of Mora.
That claim was promptly disputed by Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano, who said his country’s independent judiciary will handle Fiji’s case for extradition and that Tonga will not interfere in the internal affairs of Fiji.
However, since Mora is facing sedition charges, it will be hard for Tonga to refuse a strong case for political asylum.
New Zealand and Australia have followed a hands-off policy in the new row of diplomatic strains between Fiji and Tonga.
Apart from this diplomatic standoff, relations between Fiji and Tonga are constrained by the unresolved Maritime boundary dispute, which involves demarcation of the continental shelf beyond the 200 miles Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone as provided by the United Nations Conventions of the Law of the Sea 1982.
It is complicated issue, which cannot be solved under the current framework of the Law of the Seas.
According to some observers, the current impasse is an extension of the unresolved crisis.
Further, Tongan leadership had been urging Fiji to get back to the democratic path after the former successfully held elections in November last year.
Bainimarama has promised to hold elections in 2014 with a new Constitution and would not be pushed for an early poll.