Fijian PM has no coup regrets

Fijian PM has no coup regrets

Talks between John Key and Frank Bainimarama scheduled for Friday could be awkward, after the Fijian Prime Minister took aim at New Zealand while addressing a state dinner on Thursday night.

Mr Bainimarama criticised New Zealand for opposing the 2006 coup and defended the way he originally took leadership of the country, saying before the coup Fiji was a much less democratic country.

"Prime Minister, history also records that New Zealand and other nations objected to the revolution, because it was achieved by undemocratic means. Yet they ignored the indisputable fact that Fiji's instructions at the time were already inherently undemocratic," he said.

This is the first time a New Zealand Prime Minister has visited since the coup, and while Mr Bainimarama originally gained power through what he calls the "revolution", he was later democratically elected in 2014.

During Fiji's tumultuous political period, a number of New Zealand journalists were banned as Mr Bainimarama deemed their reporting "twisted concoctions" -- and he still believes media treat him unfairly.

"There appears to be a substantial body of opinion in New Zealand, led by your generally hostile media that what has happened in Fiji somehow lacks legitimacy. That somehow, I lack legitimacy, and my government lacks legitimacy.

"This is simply not borne out by the facts. We have moved on, but it would appear that the New Zealand media has not," he said.

Mr Bainimarama went on to say that a lot had changed since the last visit from a New Zealand Prime Minister.

"The Fiji that you come to in 2016 is a vastly different place compared to the Fiji that the last New Zealand leader to visit us, Helen Clark, found in 2006," he says.

"Ten years ago some Fijians were more equal than others, their votes carried more weight than others. They enjoyed a range of privileges that others didn't share."

And he explained why they chose to revolt.

"In December 2006 a group of us decided that the steady marginalisation of not just one ethnic group, but many ordinary and every day Fijians, had to stop."

Mr Key responded with a soft touch.

"My reason for coming to Fiji wasn't to re-litigate any of the issues over the last 10 years... The purpose of coming is to say this relationship with New Zealand is a very important one."

But he did point out that democracy is something New Zealand is big on.

"New Zealand is one of the longest unbroken democracies in the world and our country democracy is something that's held very close by the people of New Zealand."