Visit opens fresh chance for engagement

But the going would be as uncertain as Rugby

Venkat Raman in Suva – 

Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama made clear to his New Zealand counterpart John Key that he was prepared to open a new chapter in bilateral relations but warned that his country had the right to pursue its priorities, seek orderliness in its affairs and maintain the integrity of its sovereign.

While the country extended its traditional, warm reception to Mr Key, its leader did not lose the opportunity of telling his State Guest that New Zealand had set itself on the wrong foot with sanctions and other measures that hurt Fiji.

Points of difference

Speaking at a State Banquet that he hosted in honour of Mr Key at the Grand Pacific Hotel on July 9, he reminded him that Fiji is not New Zealand and that his country has different challenges and priorities.

“We are not the New Zealand democracy, evolved and robust. We are the Fijian democracy, finally genuine yet still in its relative infancy and with institutions that need to be strengthened. And we are not the New Zealand economy. Our economy needs to have its fundamentals protected and strengthened to empower all Fijians,” he said.

Indian Newslink will publish the full text of Mr Bainimarama’s speech in its next (July 1, 2016) issue. The speech covered a wide range of topics but contained in good measure words of anger and frustration towards the New Zealand government.

Warm Welcome

Barring those blunt words, Mr Bainimarama was at his usual fun-loving best.

He was at the Nausori Airport on June 9 as the Royal New Zealand Airforce Hercules landed with Mr Key, Foreign Minister Murry McCully and a delegation comprising officials and media. Among those present at the Tarmac to receive him were Attorney General Ayyaz Sayed Khaiyum, Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola, other ministers and senior officials of the government.

Mr Key inspected a 100-man Guard of Honour.

Soon thereafter, he was accorded a formal, ceremonial welcome, known in Fiji as ‘Sevusevu’ at the Valenibose Grounds in the Capital City of Suva.

The elaborate ceremony described Mr Key as a distinguished guest and that the people of Fiji extended their fraternal ties to the people of New Zealand.

In many ways, it was a touching and emotional ceremony.

The fact that the Bainimarama government was serious and sincere about the visit of the New Zealand Prime Minister, the first since 2006, was evident in the signage boards that said, ‘A warm welcome to Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand’ throughout the enroute from Nausori to Suva.

Closer engagement

At each Stand Up with the media travelling with him, Mr Key hoped that his visit would open a new chapter in New Zealand-Fiji relations.

“We have come with an open mind to discuss ways and means of engaging with the Bainimarama government for the betterment of the people of both countries. More than 100,000 New Zealanders visit Fiji every year as tourists, while New Zealand is home for about 50,000 Fijians. We should be able to establish better relations with Fiji,” he said.

More Reports and pictures on the visit of Prime Minister John Key to Fiji appear in this Special Section.

Photo:

Rugby was the symbol of gift exchanged- Bainimarama received a Rugby ball and presented a T Shirt to John Key with his name inscribed- at the Joint Press Statement in Suva on June 10

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