THE New Zealand Government is looking at easing sporting and travel sanctions against Pacific neighbour Fiji.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully told Fairfax NZ, following a high-level diplomatic meeting with Australian and Fijian counterparts, that they would reappoint a high commissioner to Fiji and relax travel sanctions affecting members of its government.
It would also ask Cabinet to look at whether the controversial sporting sanctions should be lifted.
The island nation has committed to democratic elections in 2014 and Mr McCully said the change to travel sanctions would help ease that process.
“They have consistently pointed to the fact the travel sanctions are a major obstacle to them getting some able people to serve in the government as permanent secretaries or minister, yet those are desirable developments to take place in the context of their step toward elections. So we’ve said we will have a more flexible approach to the sanctions regime but we won’t be actually changing the sanctions themselves, just give more room for exemptions.”
The sanctions were put in place after a military coup led by Frank Bainimarama in 2006.
They prevent members of the self-appointed government and their families, as well as sports teams, from travelling to New Zealand.
The changes would bring New Zealand’s rules more in line with Australia, which are considered less-harsh.
Improvements had been made in Fiji but there were still concerns about human rights, media freedom and progress on holding democratic elections.
The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry has a team of four based in Suva but there has not been a high commissioner since Michael Green was expelled in 2007; his successor, acting high commissioner Caroline McDonald, was expelled a year later; and acting deputy high commissioner Todd Cleaver in 2009.