16 Dec 2008

Uncertainty over Fiji threat to expel NZ top diplomat

4:13 pm on 16 December 2008

The New Zealand foreign minister, Murray McCully, has today spoken with Fiji's interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama amid speculation that the Fiji interim regime is about to expel New Zealand's top diplomat in Suva over Wellington's visa policies and travel bans.

Mr McCully has declined comment about the discussions, but the New Zealand governent has said it won't relax the restrictions.

In Suva, the Fiji prime minister's office says it will issue a statement on the matter at an appropriate time.

The interim government says through its travel bans, the New Zealand government is unfairly punishing innocent citizens who are not involved in any way in the country's political affairs.

The bans were imposed as so-called smart sanctions in response to the 2006 military coup - a move similar to the decision in 2000 to refuse entry to those linked to Fiji's previous coup fronted by George Speight.

Those banned to transit through Australia and New Zealand can leave the South Pacific mainly via South Korea and Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile, a New Zealand television journalist, Barbara Dreaver has been deported a day after arriving in Fiji.

The immigration director Viliame Naupoto has told Radio Fiji she was to have clearance from the Information Department before entering to do her reporting.

In June of last year, another New Zealand journalist, Michael Field, was deported from Fiji after being told on arrival that he was on a list of banned people.