China flag call irks Fiji leader

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 18:05 16/01/2013
Voreqe Bainimarama
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
IN CHARGE: Fiji's military dictator Voreqe Bainimarama.

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Fiji’s military leader has responded to a Catholic priest who suggested the Chinese flag might replace the Union Jack on a  new Fijian flag with an outburst of expletive laden phone calls and text messages.

Australian Father Kevin Barr, who has lived in Fiji for 32 years, was long seen as a supporter of military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama.

But after he made the Chinese crack in a letter to the Fiji Sun, he got a phone call from Bainimarama himself.

“Then in a very angry voice he said that I should apologise to the people of Fiji for my letter concerning the Fijian flag in the newspaper,” Barr said in a letter he wrote privately to the Australian High Commission but which has been leaked in blogs.

Barr confirmed to Fairfax Media it was his letter.

“(Bainimarama) then called me ‘a f***** up priest’ and said I had become anti-government,” Barr said.

He repeated the phrase again and threw in a few swear words and told him to go back to where he came from.

“His tone was angry and really over the top.”

Minutes later he got a text message from Bainimarama: “I think you owe the people of Fiji an apology for your childish comments. You give all Catholic priests a bad name.”

Barr said he replied that he was not anti-government but disappointed at some developments.

He then got a reply from Bainimarama: “F*** U a***hole. Stay well away from me.”

Shortly later he got another text telling him to “start saying your goodbyes” and pointing out his work permit expired at the end of the year: “Go and be a missionary in China”.

Barr said he was surprised by the coarse language and the angry and uncontrolled reaction.

“I have heard that he has treated others in a similar way and aims to intimidate,” he said.

“Those who heard of the above exchanges were shocked and very concerned that the prime minister could act in this way.”

Bainimarama is currently in New York where he has taken on the chairmanship of the Group of 77 nations in the United Nations.

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