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Cabinet Presser: The PM and Phil Goff On Fiji

Notes From The PM’s Post Cabinet Press Conference: PM - Conversation With Chaudhry – PHIL GOFF – Smart Sanctions – Conditional Sanctions – Further Sanctions under Consideration – Q &A.

Prime Minister Helen Clark On Fiji

The PM said she had spoken to Mahendra Chaudhry as had Australian PM John Howard.

Mr Chaudhry had said the situation remained very bad. There was no effective law enforcement in place and there was, Mr Chaudhry said, “no economy left” in Fiji.

It would be fair to say the conversation had been depressing.

Mr Chaudhry had wanted to thank NZ and Australia for the positions they had taken during the crisis.

Mr Chaudhry had not sought support for the reinstatement of his government.

However he had been a long term fighter for democratic rights in Fiji and “I am sure he will keep working” towards that.

Were the comments he made about reinstatement of his Government at the weekend provocative?

Quite frankly given the provocation from others… I do not think you could regard his comments as provocative.

Did you offer asylum? And will he be coming to New Zealand?

He is clearly taking things a day at a time at present. He has been offered asylum if he wants it.

What were his views on sanctions?

He didn’t express a view on that but he was appreciative of what had been done.

###

Foreign Affair’s Minister Phil Goff

Mr Goff said it seemed not sensible to apply any form of sanctions until we knew what the final lineup was.

If the new lineup ended up excluding Speight then harsh sanctions imposed today might be counter-productive.

For that reason there will be no announcement today of a package of measures.

Some measures however were appropriately taken now.

SMART SANCTIONS

Smart sanctions have been imposed already against all those who participated in the terrorist acts from May 19th on.

We have a list of 85 individuals who are prohibited migrants already. We are looking at increasing the size of the list. MFAT is looking at a list of over 300 names at present.

We will be making our new list available to other nations to use. We will also be considering the nature of how we can strengthen these sanctions against individuals.

For example the government is looking at the immediate families of people on the list and their children might not be eligible for ODA education funding.

CONDITIONAL SANCTIONS

Two other sets of measures are being imposed which may be changed if a clear timetable to a return of democratic multiracial government is established in Fiji.

Military relationships:
- Ship visits to Fiji have been suspended;
- Exercise planning has been stopped;
- Senior officer visits have been cancelled.

Overseas Development Aid:
- ODA has been halved from $5 million to $2.5 million annually.
- Existing Programmes will be frozen. No new Fijian students will be selected for study under ODA funding.
- Red Cross and Human Rights Commission funding will continue – because this is helpful for achieving the objectives the NZ government wants.

FURTHER SANCTIONS UNDER CONSIDERATION

Once it is clear what the new administration looks like we will supplement the measures announced today.

An announcement on the makeup of the new government is expected later in the week (RNZ is now reporting the new government will be sworn in tomorrow.)

Possibilities for further measures include ceasing military training in New Zealand. Diplomatic moves are being considered too, particularly working with other countries on multilateral sanctions such as sporting sanctions.

Expulsion from the Commonwealth was a sanction that was in train and which would come about if in the next two years progress was not made to the restoration of democracy.

Two forms of sanction have been ruled out:

- Unilateral economic sanctions - which could lead to violence and bloodshed and would not be a good idea?
- Withdrawing diplomatic representation - which would prevent NZ from being able to be represented in Fiji and from contributing to the debate.

Q&A

Q: Will a new government be legitimate?

A: No new administration will have legitimacy. The only legitimate government is the Chaudhry government. However that said we do not regard reinstatement of the Chaudhry government as realistic at this stage.

What we want is a timetable for new elections. Something to restore confidence.

The most encouraging news so far since the relase of the hostages is the fact that by Sunday George Speight was suggesting a second coup. That suggests that he has not got what he expected.

It looks as if the New President and interim government are trying to exclude the Speight group.

(POST SCRIPT: as this goes to press Jo Nata, spokesman for the rebels, told Radio New Zealand that the announcement of a new government tomorrow which is not acceptable to the rebels will lead to a resumption in action by supporters of the coup. Asked if this meant violence, Nata would not answer, telling the Radio New Zealand interviewer to work that out for herself.)

During the hostage crisis military were unable to constrain Mr Speight. The hostage release helps the situation, but there is no guarantee about the outcome. Speight has shown his willingness to encourage acts of violence in the past and the difficulty we face is that there is substantial support for Speight in Fiji.

Mr Goff confirmed concerns about missing weapons remaining in the hands of Speight’s supporters.

Q: What about the role of the South Pacific Forum? Will NZ attend?

A: The Pacific Forum secretariat has adopted a cautious response. Mixed views are held within the forum with some countries reluctant to become involved in the “internal” affairs of a member nation. However the PM has made it clear that she will not be attending if Mr Speight is present, New Zealand will however attend for multilateral reasons.

Q: Is this all just tough talking?

A: Right from the beginning we said the events in Fiji would be largely determined internally. They are.

Q: Are there any lessons for Foreign Policy?

A: There is a very obvious worry that the postcard version of South Pacific harmony is not what is happening. Both in the Solomon Islands and in Fiji.

Of course we need to look again at how these events have come about and about how they can be prevented in the future. Clearly simply grafting a Westminister system of government onto a chiefly system of governance has not worked.

The way to address these problems is to assist with good governance development and with development assistance. Particularly important will be training nationals from these nations to carry back to their nations the principles of the rule of law.


ENDS

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