When Prime Minister John Key visits Fiji this week, polite but firm messages need to be delivered, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer.
“Fiji has clamped down on its own media, several New Zealand journalists are banned from visiting the country and there have been issues with the functioning of its parliament.
“Just last Friday a prominent opposition MP was banned from parliament for two years by the Privileges Committee – dominated by the governing party – for simply calling a minister a ‘fool’, a disproportionate penalty.
“All of these factors point to a Fiji that still has some way to go before we can call it a healthy democracy.
“John Key has reportedly described the aftermath of the 2006 military coup as ‘ancient history’. But it was less than two years ago they finally had democratic elections. This smacks of him sweeping eight years of military rule endured by the people of Fiji under the carpet.
“New Zealand has always stood side by side with Fiji and has a warm, close friendship with its people. We sent aid flights, a supply ship and our service people to Fiji in response to Cyclone Winston. In emergencies such as these, it’s important to stand by our friends.
“That’s all the more reason to speak up when things aren’t right, rather than looking the other way.
“New Zealanders need to be assured that John Key’s trip will include meetings with human rights organisations, media representatives and opposition parties.
“If the Prime Minister visits Fiji pretending nothing’s happened and everything’s fine, he will be doing a huge disservice to all the people working to bring a free media, democracy and human rights to Fiji,” David Shearer says.