The Government is considering strengthening sanctions against Fiji but won’t impose tourism and trade restrictions, Foreign Minister Murray McCully says.
The situation in Fiji was “pretty bad”, and self-appointed prime minister Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama had effectively declared himself dictator for life, Mr McCully said today on TV One’s Q&A programme.
“Sacking the judges, clamping down on personal freedoms, media freedoms, it doesn’t get much worse than that,” he said.
“That’s a traditional mould for a military dictator and it hasn’t had a happy ending anywhere in the world.”
Fiji’s President Ratu Iloilo scrapped Fiji’s constitution and fired the judiciary earlier this month after three Appeal Court judges ruled the military takeover in 2006 was illegal.
Cdre Bainimarama was re-appointed prime minister and immediately issued decrees which included media censorship and immunity from prosecution for soldiers.
His explanation has been that he won’t hold elections until reforms have been implemented to change the system, and the timeline has been extended to 2014.
The Pacific Island Forum, the Commonwealth and the European Union are urging Cdre Bainimarama to return Fiji to democratic rule but the military leader has so far ignored them.
Mr McCully said the situation should not be seen as a contest to make Fiji hold elections.
“We can’t make them have elections and we actually can’t stop them wrecking their economy either if that’s what they’re intent on doing, and that appears to be the case,” he said.
“What we can do is make it clear that the international community is there to lend a hand. . . they’re not ready to be helped at the moment, we’re just going to have to let them work it out.”
Mr McCully said there was more New Zealand could do in terms of sanctions, which were imposed by the previous Labour government soon after the bloodless coup.
“We’ll fine tune our sanctions regime as we talk to other countries,” he said.
“There are some things we could do, perhaps toughen up on the sanctions that target members of the regime or their families.”
He said restricting the freedom of New Zealanders to travel to or trade with Fiji would make the Government no better than the Fijian regime.
Mr McCully has previously said targeting Fiji’s tourist industry would hurt ordinary Fijians.
The sanctions that are in place affect travel to New Zealand, and transit through it, by members of the regime, its officials and their families.
God bless Fiji