NOTE: Reporters notes from the PM’s press conference held today at 1pm. Present were PM Helen Clark, Alliance Leader and Deputy PM Jim Anderton, Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff and Defence Minister Mark Burton. The notes that follow are a paraphrased record of the conference and are not direct quotes from the Ministers.
From left: Helen Clark, Jim Anderton, Phil Goff and Mark Burton
(Helen Clark began the Press Conference by
reading her prepared statement. See…. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0007/S00294.htm
New diplomatic, defence and sports measures on Fij.)
Helen Clark: We want to send a message that events occurring in Fiji are neither normal nor acceptable and that until normalcy is restored NZ’s relationship will be stiff, distant and formal.
Jim Anderton at the podium
(Jim Anderton: Also issued
a statement. See... http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0007/S00299.htm
Alliance supports strong Fiji measures
Jim Anderton: I have come to this press conference today to show that the Alliance fully supports the measures being announced today. The Alliance is of the view that there is a danger of becoming desensitised the longer the period of an enormity such as this continues. While the interim Fijian government announced last night was not as bad as it might have been, it is easy to forget that the legitimate Government of Fiji has had guns put to its heads by terrorists, and has now been turned out on the street. We owe Fiji nothing less than we would expect in return if events such as these were ever to take place in New Zealand.
PRESS CONFERENCE Q&A
Q: What about Fijian soldiers serving in East Timor with the NZ army?
Helen Clark - A: In terms of UNTAET we can’t dictate who we are there with. We unfortunately have no control over that.
Q: What about the Olympics?
Helen Clark - A: My understanding is that we are powerless to influence the situation in Sydney.
The PM then recalled that in 1976 several nations boycotted the 1976 Olympics in protest at NZ’s attendence?
Q: So should we boycott the Olympics?
Helen Clark - A: No. I am not saying that.
Phil Goff – A: As the host nation the Australian government has been contracted to the International Olympic Committee not to ban athletes on political grounds. New Zealand is unlikely to cut off its nose to spite its face over the issue of sporting contacts.
Q: When will the Fijian High Commissioner be summoned?
Phil Goff - A: He will be called in tomorrow. We will offer to relax and drop sanctions when there is a firm indication that a return to democracy is underway.
Q: Who is being sent home?
Mark Burton - A: 30 engineers at Linton. 3 officer cadets training at Waiouru. One officer trainer at Waiouru. Three bandsmen at Burnham, two divers and 2 junior officers training at Tamaki.
Q: What further measures are being contemplated?
Helen Clark – A: Cabinet has contemplated a wide menu of measures. One question is whether ministers in any new government will be allowed to enter New Zealand. Also under consideration is legislation to seize the assets of supporters of the coup in New Zealand.
Q: What do you want to see from the Fijians?
Helen Clark - A: We want to see a timetable for the restoration of democratic and constitutional government?
Q: Does that mean non-racially biased constitutional government?
Helen Clark - A: Yes.
Jim Anderton – A: One person one vote.
Q: Will asylum be offered to Indian Fijians in New Zealand?
Helen Clark - A: We have long established refugee criteria which would cover this.
Q: What is your reading on the failure to swear in the new Government?
Helen Clark - A: That the composition of the government is undergoing further litigation.
Q: On the assets what would be the timetable for legislation to seize assets?
Phil Goff - A: Legislation always takes time and we would want to proceed carefully with potentially draconian legislation such as this. So it will not be at breakneck speed.
Q: What assets are we talking about?
Phil Goff - A: I am aware of some personal property assets.
Q: Is George Speight the problem and what should be done about him?
Helen Clark - A: In the end it is going to require a determination by the authorities in Fiji that they do not want Fiji excluded from the family of nations. I live in hope that the people of Fiji also feel this way. Obviously there is an extremist element in Fiji that Speight has tapped into. In the end we have a hope that there will be a majority in Fiji who do not want to go down this path.
Q: What are your views on the role of the Fijian Military? Wouldn’t it be worth keeping them on side as a moderating force?
Helen Clark - A: I have never seen a hostage drama anywhere in the world dealt with like this. The Military should have put up a cordon from the beginning and not allowed Speight to hold parties in the Parliamentary compound as he was.
Q: Have you heard from Mr Chaudhry?
Helen Clark - A: Yes. I have had a response from him. He has asked however that the contents be kept private. In essence he has expressed his appreciation of what has been done so far and has expressed support for the sorts of measures we are taking.
Q: What are the ranks of the recalled NZ officers?
Mark Burton - A: A Lieutenant Colonel and a Major.
Q: Is the UN considering sending the Fijian soldiers in East Timor home?
Phil Goff - A: No.