Fiji launches attack on New Zealand

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 21:09 10/06/2011

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Fiji has tonight launched an unprecedented attack on New Zealand as Tongan navy boats move to occupy disputed atolls north of New Zealand.

In an unsigned statement on the Fiji Government website, their military government accuses New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully of subverting the path to democracy in the Pacific nation.

The Fiji statement also claims that Tongan navy boats have suddenly shown up in Fiji waters and occupied the disputed Minerva Reefs, between New Zealand and Tonga.

It's understood here, from Tongan sources, that two Tongan vessels are at Minerva.

The statement on the website is so completely out of kilter with previous Fiji Government statements that it raises questions over who now is in control in Suva.

The Fiji statement comes as runaway Fiji soldier Colonel Tevita Mara begins a round of public appearances in Australia.

He escaped from Fiji to Tonga three weeks ago to avoid a sedition charge linked to claims he was trying to overthrow Fiji dictator Voreqe Bainimarama.

Mara has been granted Tongan citizenship and despite his military background has been allowed into Australia. He has also applied to enter New Zealand.

"The impending arrival of Fijian fugitive Tevita Mara into Australia and the presence of the Tongan Navy boats within Fiji's EEZ at Minerva Reef demonstrates a concerted effort by the Australian Government in the form of (Australian Foreign Minister) Kevin Rudd ... followed by McCully on their coattails to subvert the path towards the holding of truly democratic elections in Fiji," the Fiji Government statement says.

It claims New Zealand and Australian policy toward Fiji had been a failure.

"The recent fleeing from Fiji of Mara as a fugitive without a Fijian passport, the subsequent issue of Tongan passport to him and the willingness of the Australian Government and now we understand the New Zealand to grant a visa; and the Tongan Government's inaction on extradition papers, all show a web of deceit, collusion and a complete lack of disregard of legal extradition processes."

The Fiji Government says Mara has been lying.

"It is apparent that Mara, a fugitive and political opportunist, has taken advantage of Rudd and McCully's myopia on Fiji and the Southern Pacific.

"Rudd and McCully, driven by their neo-colonial and personal agenda, on the other hand see Mara as someone who can give some form of credibility to their unfounded and misplaced assessment of Fiji and the rest of the Southern Pacific."

The unsigned Fiji statement says Australia and New Zealand are rolling out the red carpet for Mara who has abandoned his country.

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They accuse him of "unfounded statements and lies" which will "make Rudd and McCully feel good, important and self-satisfied."

The statement says there is no Tonga/Fiji situation.

"It is a Rudd and McCully spreading their wings to save face situation ...

"Rudd, McCully and Mara are three men with their motley crew of opportunists attempting to salvage their personal reputations which are at stake of their own doing."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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