Bainimarama rally peppered with jeers
Around a thousand people greeted Fiji’s military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama in Auckland today, but his rally was peppered with barracking and jeers at times.
Bainimarama, who overthrew a democratic government in 2006, is in New Zealand on a tourist visa to campaign ahead of elections on September 17.
Speaking to the predominantly Indo-Fijian audience, he stressed that under his military dictatorship he had instituted a rule that was not based on race.
Unlike previous elections, voters will not be categorised by race. Instead, everybody’s vote would be equal, he said.
Around 56 per cent of the 838,000 people of Fiji are indigenous and 37 per cent Indian, descendants of indentured labourers imported by the colonial British.
Around 20 protesters marched to the Manukau Event Centre and while security kept them out of the grounds, a number of loud critics called out abuse during the meeting.
“I have been told not to worry about the devils,” Bainimarama told the audience.
He arrived in New Zealand yesterday evening and was protected from the media by the Department of Internal Affairs at the airport.
At today’s event he arrived in a limousine and was driven straight to the event with Fijian security keeping media away.
During a question time session the MC ordered that no media be allowed to ask questions.
Several journalists covering the event have been banned from Fiji by Bainimarama.
He will later today host a dinner at the Northern Club in Auckland attended by Fiji investors and supporters of his political party, Fiji First.
Tomorrow he will host a talkback session on Indian Radio Tarana and attend a church service.
He has no meetings with New Zealand officials.