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Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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Fiji 'testing' NZ with senior coup nominee

The Government is maintaining its position of not commenting on a proposed Fijian appointment to its high commission in Wellington after the regime admitted today it was testing New Zealand by putting up a provocative candidate.The proposed appointment of

NZPA
Wed, 27 Jan 2010

The Government is maintaining its position of not commenting on a proposed Fijian appointment to its high commission in Wellington after the regime admitted today it was testing New Zealand by putting up a provocative candidate.

The proposed appointment of Permanent Secretary for Information and Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni as a counsellor at the high commission is seen as a slap in the face for New Zealand.

It is provocative given the New Zealand Government's travel ban on members of the military-led regime, which was installed following a bloodless coup in 2006 led by Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who is now prime minister.

Lt Col Leweni played a central role in the country's 2006 coup and is responsible for censoring local media, deporting journalists and curbing free speech, all moves that have met with criticism from the Australian and New Zealand governments.

Fiji's land force commander, Brigadier Pita Driti, said his government had put forward the name for counsellor at the High Commission as a "test" for the New Zealand government.

"We are just testing New Zealand's genuity you know, in having to arrange certain names to see how far they can accommodate what we want and if they accept Leweni, it's a great move," he told Auckland's Radio Tarana.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the Government's position on not commenting on diplomatic appointments while they were under consideration was still in place.

Last week when the candidate was proposed Prime Minister John Key also declined to get into a public debate about the candidate.

Relations between New Zealand and Fiji have been rocky and further deteriorated last year with the tit-for-tat expulsion of senior diplomats, which followed Cdre Bainimarama's repeated rejection of international deadlines for elections and measures against the media.

However, New Zealand and Fiji agreed earlier this month to improve diplomatic relations after Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully talked to his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Nadi about appointments in Suva and Wellington of additional counsellors.

They also agreed, in principle, to appoint deputy heads of mission in both capitals.

NZPA
Wed, 27 Jan 2010
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Fiji 'testing' NZ with senior coup nominee
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