HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 456 : 22 April 2009

Fiji clamp down a worry for government

The apparent sudden imposition of martial law by Fiji’s interim military led government is causing concern in this country.
In the past week the regime has removed high ranking members of the judiciary, removed the Governor of the Reserve Bank, imposed restrictions upon the media which amount to censorship and deported foreign journalists from Fiji.
The tightening of controls in Fiji appears to have taken the New Zealand and Australian governments by surprise including Pacific Forum governments.
A collective response is awaited from the Pacific Forum nations and initial statements by NZ and Australia indicate there is no wish to impose sanctions or conditions which will harm the general people of Fiji.
The Herald spoke with Hon Wilkie Rasmussen, Minister for Foreign Affairs on Wednesday morning regarding the developments in Fiji.
Rasmussen said as Minister for Foreign Affairs, he was very concerned at the new developments in Fiji. He said he would be meeting with Ministry officials at 11am and that a public statement would follow.
He was concerned because of the clamping down on the media, human rights and the sacking of the Governor of the reserve bank. He was also very concerned about the welfare of Cook Islanders in Fiji. Evidently it’s a sign of a regime governing by martial law.
Rasmussen said the Cook Islands will stand behind other Pacific Island countries including New Zealand and Australia in condemning the increase in powers and authority by Bainimarama. Rasmussen said as Minister of Foreign Affairs he was also concerned that Bainimarama has now been given a ticket for five years as Prime Minister. He said that was counter productive to all the calls for a free election in Fiji to be held.
While there is still one month to go for Fiji to name a date for an election, Rasmussen said he understands Forum countries want to bring that decision forward and also wants the banning of Fiji’s participation at the Ministerial level (includes officials) to be brought forward. He understands some Forum members are calling for suspension of Fiji from the Forum.
Rasmussen feels the Commonwealth will take a hard line. He understands from discussions with other colleagues the Commonwealth could move a lot quicker on suspension.
Rasmussen said his Ministry is in communication with the Forum and he has been in dialogue with NZ and other regional Ministers exploring the possibility of holding an urgent meeting.
The Cook Islands has a close economic relationship with Fiji with Fiji reaping most of the benefits. Each year the Cook Islands imports over $20 million worth of goods from Fiji. This is the second highest source after NZ. It is believed that around 200 Fijians working in the Cook Islands remit money weekly to relatives in Fiji. Most of our fuel is sourced via Fiji. Cook Islands scholars attending the USP and the Medical School in Fiji are pumping money into the Fijian economy. Fiji has been a source of cheap labour for Cook Islands businesses.

Herald Issue 455 15 April
- Powering the Future
- Fiji clamp down a worry for government
- Aitutaki Community Pays Tribute to Retiring Leaders!
- Cook’s to Lose Diverse Personality to United Nations!

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