He speaks warmly of re­la­tion­ship with his coun­ter­part John Key wel­comes Bain­i­marama, ready for con­struc­tive con­ver­sa­tion


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:

z 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.” z 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. z “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.

Photo: DEPTFO News

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 with New Zealand’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mur­ray McCully in Auck­land, New Zealand yes­ter­day.

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