4 Mar 2003

New Zealand immigration officials reject group visa application from Fiji rugby team

11:34 am on 4 March 2003

New Zealand's immigration manager in Fiji says an entire provincial rugby team had their group application for a visa turned down, not just two members of the tour party.

Government senator and vice president of the ruling SDL party, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, and former MP, Peceli Rinakama, were among those denied entry to New Zealand.

It had been reported that this was because of their alleged roles in the last coup.

The Fiji government appealed to New Zealand's foreign affairs minister over the situation and it's now known that there's been an exchange of letters between the two foreign ministers.

New Zealand's Immigration manager in Suva, Mike Christie, would not reveal what the response from Wellington was but says the two were not singled out.

"We consideredall the applicants in the group under our normal policies and we cosidered each individual on the bona fides of their trip, and then we considered the group as a whole. We consider the majority of the group members posed a risk to us that they would not return from Fiji."

Ratu Inoke was also refused visas to enter New Zealand and Australia in 2001.

He is currently facing a charge of consiparcy in the November 2000 mutiny which claimed eight lives.