Positive Start To PM’S NZ Visit

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama started his first official visit to New Zealand on a positive note yesterday. NZ Prime Minister John Key welcomed him and said he was ready to
21 Oct 2016 11:00
Positive Start To PM’S NZ Visit
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with staff and students of the Bula Centre Kindergarten in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday. Photo: DEPTFO News

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama started his first official visit to New Zealand on a positive note yesterday.

NZ Prime Minister John Key welcomed him and said he was ready to engage with him in constructive conversation.

Mr Key said the relationship between the Fiji and New Zealand was “good, strong and stable”.

Mr Bainimarama spoke warmly of his relationship with Mr Key despite issues highlighted by the NZ media.

Speaking at a Trade and Investment Symposium in Auckland yesterday, Mr Bainimarama said: “It’s unfortunate that some of the New Zealand media reporting of the Prime Minister’s visit back in June

suggested that I had given Mr Key a hard time.

“It’s true that I politely outlined to him the reasons why we had chosen to embark on a radical programme in 2006 to create a level playing field for every Fijian. And that we had fulfilled our promise to return Fiji to parliamentary rule in the election of September, 2014.

“I also said that it was a shame that New Zealand, Australia and certain other countries had failed to understand what we were trying to do – which was to introduce genuine democracy for the first time in Fiji and guarantee the rights of every Fijian in the 2013 Constitution.

“Yet far from being the insult that some members of the media chose to cast it as, I think John Key understood that the speech I made was merely outlining our position and that no disrespect was intended.

“The indignation was on the part of some of the New Zealand media, not the Prime Minister, and undoubtedly because I also criticised their unrelentingly negative and unbalanced reporting of events in Fiji.

“But away from their gaze, the atmosphere between John Key and I personally was very cordial and we got on famously.

“It’s true that I’ve had a couple of issues with him saying that I’d shot my mouth off about the Pacific Islands Forum or that he hoped we weren’t going to be “silly” about enforcing the provisions of our Public Order Act. But it hasn’t unduly affected the warmth of our relationship.

“He knows that I’m Frank by name and Frank by nature and I know that he’s a similarly plain speaking Kiwi.

“Which is undoubtedly why the New Zealand people keep voting him back into office. So we’re big enough to say what we think and then move on.

“And I want to thank him for being a straight shooter, for not taking things too personally and especially for giving me the opportunity to get together with him again in New Zealand and enjoy each other’s company.”

He said he had come to NZ with a message for the New Zealand media.

“Now that the bans on individual journalists visiting Fiji have been lifted, you are welcome – without exception – to visit Fiji like the journalists of other countries.

“You are free to report without restriction once you’ve been accredited in the usual way by our Department of Information. And all we ask is that you cover events fairly and in a balanced manner, which is the obligation of journalists the world over.

“I hope you will come and see for yourselves the progress we have made on the back of seven straight years of economic growth – the longest in Fijian history. And to see for yourselves that our institutions of State are functioning properly and we are strengthening those institutions as we move forward. To ensure that they are truly independent and free from political and personal influence, as happened far too often in the past.

Other highlights of his statement:

Mr Bainimarama said he wanted to take his personal relationships with Mr Key and both governments to a new level like he did with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He wanted to strengthen the quality of their engagement to “bring our nations even closer together.”

He said “of course, we will always have our differences, such as on the Pacer Plus trade negotiations. But I believe these differences can be worked through much more effectively in this new era of goodwill. Because, as I said in Sydney, now more than ever – given the uncertain global outlook – nations with shared histories and values must stick together.

“We must never allow those things that divide us to take precedence over the things that bind us together. And especially when Fiji and New Zealand share our particular corner of the world and share the warm personal links between our peoples.

“Fiji has emphatically not withdrawn from Pacer Plus. We are still at the table. Yet neither are we prepared to sign the document in its current form, because we simply don’t believe that it is in our interests to do so.”

The NZ Herald reported that Mr Bainimarama smiled and appeared at ease as he met children at a Fijian kindergarten, Bula Kindergarten, in Mangere, Auckland, yesterday.

He then visited Moana Pacific Fisheries in Mount Wellington accompanied by Shane Jones, ambassador for Pacific Economic Development.

He is due to meet Mr Key today for talks.


Edited by Maraia Vula


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