Bainimarama arrives in NZ
Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama has slipped into New Zealand tonight, protected from the media by New Zealand's Internal Affairs Department.
His arrival came amidst signs that Fiji's old racial divisions are re-emerging ahead of democracy restoring elections on September 17.
Bainimarama is on what the government calls a "private visit" to Auckland to campaign for the elections.
Waiting media were told by an Auckland International Airport spokesman that Internal Affairs were facilitating Bainimarama's arrival and that he was not making any public appearance tonight.
Internal Affairs also provided transport to the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.
His regime has produced a constitution and a non-racial voting system in a country where 56 percent of the 838,000 people are indigenous Fijians and 37 percent Indian, descendants of indentured labourers imported by the colonial British.
Speaking to a cadet corps passing out parade in Lautoka this morning, Bainimarama said the country was "witnessing a noticeable lack of leadership amongst many leaders in our society."
He noted that deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who is campaigning for re-election, had said he believed Fijians were above all others.
"This is a remarkably divisive statement that stinks of the politics of the past," Bainimarama says.
"Any person who truly holds democratic and liberal values would be quick to disassociate themselves from such poisonous words."
But Fiji society had met the words with "a remarkable amount of wavering and weakness.
"Too few have had the courage to stand up for their values and strongly reject this attack against the basic notion of equality and justice for all."
He said there were many who criticised his regime but said nothing about the racial statements.
"This isn't leadership. This is cowardice and political calculation at its worst."
Bainimarama says he had declared everyone was a Fijian, "giving us all a common name and a common identity for the first time, strengthening our sense of unity and belonging, while recognizing the special place of the indigenous peoples of Fiji."
Bainimarama is scheduled to address a rally in Manukau tomorrow.
- Fairfax Media
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