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Consistency on Fiji Army Officers / Sevens tour

15 January 2000

New Zealand must be consistent on Fiji Army Officers / Sevens tour

Green Party MP Keith Locke has criticised New Zealand's decision to recruit four Fijian army officers and has also urged the Government to follow Australia and withold visas for the Fijian Rugby Sevens side.

"The decision to recruit these army officers is a very odd move," said Mr Locke. "We have supposedly cut military ties with Fiji, yet here we are recruiting from that same army."

Mr Locke said New Zealand was being inconsistent and was letting down those Fijians trying to restore democracy in their country.

"The Defence Minister's spokesperson justifies the recruitment with a claim that the officers 'are personally upset at what happened in Fiji'(this morning's Press).

"However, there is no record of any Fijian military officer speaking out publicly against the army's overthrow of the democratically elected government," said Mr Locke. "What they might say now in job interviews should not carry any weight."

Mr Locke said New Zealand was looked to internationally to take a strong lead in the campaign for a restoration of democracy in Fiji and said the recruitment from the Fiji military will be seen as a sign of weakness and confusion.

Mr Locke said New Zealand has also let the side down by allowing the Fiji sevens team to play here in March, when the Australian Government have denied visas for a similar tournament in protest against the military regime in Fiji.

The International Rugby Board has now allowed the Australian-hosted sevens tournament to go ahead, although with less international standing.

"New Zealand should have the moral gumption to follow Australia's lead. Our government should reverse its decision to grant visas to Fiji team," he said.

"Either we are boycotting Fijian sports teams or we're not. The situation in Fiji is still grave, with the military refusing to allow a return to the 1997 consistitution and democratic government.

"This is not the time to slacken off our support for the democratic forces in Fiji," said Mr Locke.

Keith Locke MP: 025 528 353 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 440 090

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