Frank Bainimarama 'deluding himself' with NZ snub

  • 12/09/2016

Experts claim the New Zealand Government should be worried about the political unrest in Fiji, but they can't do anything about it.

New Zealand invested a lot of political capital ensuring Fiji to return to democracy, but Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama wants to affiliate with Asian countries instead.

These revelations come after he arrested a series of opposition officials, took over his ministry's foreign portfolio and turned his back on the Pacific Island Forum.

International relations expert Stephen Hoadley says it doesn't have much of an effect on New Zealand.

"If Fiji did turn away it would not be a total disaster because New Zealand welfare is not tied up with Fiji. The trade and investment are pretty minor aspects of New Zealand's economic outreach.

"It would be a pity if New Zealand lost some political influence, but it would not be the end of the world."

He says Fiji's economic survival depends on New Zealand and Australia, and Fiji wouldn't viably be able to cut the countries off.

Mr Bainimarama is looking at alternatives with Asian countries as it will strengthen his political hand, allowing him to exert authoritarian pressure through censorship, arrest and harassment without the same repercussions.

"The Commodore is deluding himself if he thinks he can cut off entirely from Australia and New Zealand," says Dr Hoadley. "His economic future is intimately involved in these two larger economies."

He called it a backwards move for the country, saying its democracy is once again at stake.

"China has no human rights and democracy requirements for its aid, for its concessional loans, for diplomatic support of Pacific island government, and led by Fiji, several of the leaders are beginning to think it's easier to deal with China than it is with Australia and New Zealand."

He says over a period of time, New Zealand and Australia's influence will gradually decline in the Pacific Islands.