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Diplomat's Criticisms Over Coup Justice Stir Row

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* See this Pacific Journalism Online report for updates:

Staff Reporters USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: New Zealand High Commissioner Tia Barrett's comments criticising the delay in bringing people responsible for the coup and mutiny in Fiji to justice have reportedly stirred a "diplomatic incident" and a caution from the police.

Speaking at the annual University of the South Pacific journalism awards on Friday night, Barrett said: "Those responsible for the upheavals in Fiji are yet to face justice, and it seems incredible that this has not been done, despite the wealth of information available."

Even more disturbing, he said, was the "continued absence of democratic institutions in Fiji to express the will of the people".

He also said that it was wrong for indigenous rights campaigners to assume that their rights were more important than other fundamental human rights.

Fiji Television last night reported that Barrett's comments had caused a diplomatic incident and quoted interim Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola condemning the diplomat.

However, one of the two deposed deputy prime ministers in the elected coalition government, Dr Tupeni Baba, defended the High Commissioner by
citing several inquiries over the coup where "nothing had happened".

The regional news cooperative Pacnews had earlier reported that Barrett's comments were "believed to be the strongest criticism" by the diplomat since the Mahendra Chaudhry government was ousted in the coup on May 19.

The Sunday Times reported today that the police had "advised" Barrett over the criticism, but gave sketchy details and no names.

"A police spokesman said Mr Barrett should refrain from making such comments unless he had new information which could help the police in their investigations," the paper said.

The Sunday Times also reported that an unnamed spokesman for the military

installed interim administration had said the police should be allowed to complete their investigations.

* The Fiji Times reported yesterday that a Fiji lawyer blacklisted by the

New Zealand government but who had managed to slip into the country last month had had his medical treatment funds cut.

Suva lawyer Vodo Tuberi, who was co-counsel for the rebels when they began appearing in court, was blacklisted for his involvement with the coup perpetrators.

Barrett confirmed to the paper that the treatment funds had been terminated.


-- David Robie Senior Lecturer and Coordinator Journalism Programme University of the South Pacific PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji Tel: (679) 212685 Mobile: (679) 971 824 Fax: (679) 313238 Email: Pacific Journalism Online website: David Robie's Cafe Pacific website:

"For governments which fear newspapers there is one consolation: We have known many instances where governments have taken over newspapers, but we have not known a single incident in which a newspaper has taken over a government."

George Githii, onetime editor-in-chief of the Daily Nation, Kenya

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