Fiji, New Zealand expel diplomats

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fiji and New Zealand are engaged in a game of diplomatic tit-fot-tat after expelling each other's High Commissioners.

This afternoon Fiji's military regime expelled acting New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Caroline McDonald. The New Zealand government retaliated by expelling Fiji's High Commissioner to Wellington, Ponsami Chetty. Both will be given a week to leave the country.

McDonald's expulsion was announced late this afternoon by Fiji's interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who said that it was "a direct result of McDonald's actions over the past year that have been contrary to the accepted international norms of diplomatic behaviour".

The Fijian government has accused New Zealand and Australia of spying on Fiji, claiming they were tapping phone lines and listening in on members of the interim regime.

The New Zealand government has denied any "misbehaviour" by McDonald.

The round of diplomatic tit-for-tat was sparked by growing tensions between New Zealand and Fiji over sanctions put in place in the wake of the 2006 coup. Members of the interim regime and their immediate families are barred from entering New Zealand. Last week the Fijian regime threatened to expel New Zealand's High Commissioner unless the New Zealand government granted a visa to George Nacewa, the son of a senior regime official.

But yesterday the interim regime apparently backed down on its threat, issuing a statement that it would not expel McDonald and announcing that it would establish a special team to improve relations between the two countries.

McDonald is the second New Zealand diplomat expelled by Fiji. In June 2007 then-New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Green was expelled after being accused of interfering in the country's domestic affairs.

Last week ONE News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver was deported as she arrived to cover the crisis.

Fiji's military overthrew the country's elected government in a military coup in December 2006.