Ardern’s visit lifts New Zealand-Fiji bilateral bond

Ardern’s visit lifts New Zealand-Fiji bilateral bond

Venkat Raman in Suva
February 27, 2020

Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama with her New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern on her departure at Nausori Airport on February 27, 2020 (Fiji Government Photo)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden scored her high both with Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and his cabinet colleagues and officials and the people of Fiji this week.

Her four-day first State visit as Prime Minister was replete with meetings, speeches and most important of all, immense opportunities to mingle with the common people.

And she did with her characteristic style and genuine concern for human beings, to wide applause wherever she went and spoke.

For instance, inaugurating the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre in Nadi on February 27, 2020, she said, “The next time you invite me, please arrange for me to be seated with you on the floor. I am not the Queen, I am one among you.” And concluding the speech, went and sat on the floor.

Grieving with Muslims

Earlier that morning, speaking at the Jamia Masjid (Mosque) in Lautoka, she grieved with the familied and friends of people who were killed in the Christchurch massacre on March 15, 2020.

Jacinda Ardern speaking at the Lautoka Mosque on February 27, 2020 (Fiji Government Photo)

Among those killed were Imam Hafiz Musa Patel of the Mosque, Ashraf Ali Razat and Ashraf Ali from Fiji.

“Our love goes out to their family and friends, and to all of you, their Muslim brothers and sisters who have been left with painful memories to this day. While I will never know your pain, I carry with me many memories from that day, and the days that followed. I still recall visiting the hall where the day after the attack hundreds of members of the Muslim community gathered,” she said.

“Amongst them was Mrs Patel. I still remember talking with you that day as you desperately looked for your husband, your Imam, I remember talking with you as you retraced your steps and feeling pained as I handed you over to a member of the Red Cross to continue to support you and to assist you. In your darkest of hours I can tell you that I will never forget that grief I saw that day,” she said.

Stories relating to the visit appear under Fijilink in our March 1, 2020 Issue.

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