WikiLeaks cable: NZ officials somewhat pessimistic on Fiji

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

November 30, 2006
NZ officials somewhat pessimistic on Fiji

date:2006-11-30T06:27:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:06WELLINGTON951
destination:VZCZCXRO2169 OO RUEHMJ RUEHPB DE RUEHWL #0951/01 3340627
ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 300627Z NOV 06 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3556 INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA
IMMEDIATE 4636 RUEHMJ/AMEMBASSY MAJURO IMMEDIATE 0103 RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY
PORT MORESBY IMMEDIATE 0624 RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA IMMEDIATE 0544
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
IMMEDIATE RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE RHEHAAA/NATIONAL
SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC IMMEDIATE
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:06WELLINGTON938|06WELLINGTON951
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000951

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STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, EUR/RPM, AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR V...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000951

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STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO, EUR/RPM, AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
SECDEF FOR OSD/ISD JESSICA POWERS
PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2016
TAGS: ASEC, PREL, PGOV, FJ, NZ
SUBJECT: NZ OFFICIALS SOMEWHAT PESSIMISTIC ON FIJI
REF: WELLINGTON 938

Classified By: Acting DCM Katherine B. Hadda, for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: GNZ officials remain positive about yesterday's talks in Wellington between Fiji PM Qarase and Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and say the PM now has a chance to win hearts and minds to his cause. But they say they believe a coup is more likely than a resolution, and think RFMF may act to force out the government as early as within the week. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials say that they believe widespread violence would be unlikely, but that the RFMF would instead force resignations of key government officials and that the Fijian police are unlikely to stop this. MFAT says that they would consider Qarase's resignation to be a coup even if he claims to go willingly, as he clearly would have been intimidated and coerced to make that decision. End Summary.

2. (C) On November 30, Deputy Foreign Secretary Alan Williams briefed the diplomatic corps today about the previous day's meeting between Fiji PM Qarase and Commodore Frank Bainimarama in Wellington. Williams' summary tracked largely with what he told the DCM (reftel) but he added a bit more detail. He revealed that Governor General Anand Satyanand, who is of Fijian descent, opened the meeting by welcoming the officials in Fijian and wishing them the best for the talks. Satyanand then withdrew, leaving the participants: Qarase, Bainimarama, NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters, and Williams.

3. (C) In addition to the Qoli Qoli legislation discussed reftel, Williams said the participants went over in detail all of the nine RFMF demands, including:

-- the status of the Fiji police investigations into Bainimarama and other senior Fiji military officials (whether to suspend them as the military has demanded or go through due process as is the government's position);

-- native Fijian Trust boards;

-- how to improve the quality of governance;

-- how to educate the public that the events of 2000 were illegal.

Williams praised Minister Peters' mediation skills and said that Bainimarama and Qarase had agreed on follow-up steps for all nine agenda items. GNZ offered to provide assistance as needed, including providing international mediation resources if helpful. Bainimarama had then left to pick up his wife and say good-bye to his grandchildren before departing New Zealand on a 6 pm commercial flight. Meanwhile, an RNZAF 757 transported PM Qarase back to Nadi, as the GNZ wanted to ensure he arrived back in Fiji at least two hours before Bainimarama's return.

4. (C) Williams said he had been on the phone with Fiji several times since the meeting, and believed that Qarase may soon issue more statements about the meeting and follow-up. Bainimarama has also been talking with his officers, MFAT says, so it may be possible to know as early as December 1 whether progress is being made. Williams added that calls from the EU and UNSG to Bainimarama and Qarase have been helpful. Expanding along the lines of his call with the DCM yesterday, Williams said that this was PM Qarase's chance to win Fijian hearts and minds.

5. (C) But while the GNZ continues to hope for the best, Williams said he would not be surprised if a coup nevertheless took place, and he admitted he thought this was more likely than a change of heart by Bainimarama. The GNZ remains unclear as to Bainimarama's motivation: is it to work through and get agreement on the nine demands, or use them to provide a pretext to remove the government? For this reason, Williams said GNZ officials are taking a somber view, and would not be surprised if the RFMF downplayed the Wellington meeting to their staff and the public and moved within the WELLINGTON 00000951 002 OF 002 week to force the government out. If that happens, MFAT believes there is unlikely to be widespread violence and that forced resignations would be the likely RFMF approach. It is unlikely the police would take strong action in GNZ's view, especially as Police Chief Hughes has now left the country. Williams described Hughes as a very positive, expert commissioner who has greatly raised the professional standards of his force but is an expat in a country with flawed politics.

6. (C) After Williams left to prepare for the December 1 PIF Foreign Ministers meeting in Sydney, MFAT Pacific Islands Division Director Heather Riddell took questions from the diplomats. She confirmed that the GNZ had told Bainimarama that neither Australia nor New Zealand intended to send troops to Fiji. She also confirmed that MFAT had authorized departure from Fiji for High Commission dependents, who had already been taken outside of Suva for security reasons. All High Commission staff is back in Suva. MFAT has not changed its travel advisory since November 22, but continues to review it. As they consider a coup is unlikely to be violent, the GNZ does not expect to have to arrange a widespread evacuation for NZ nationals and others but they are keeping this option open.

7. (C) Riddell also emphasized that if Qarase resigns, GNZ will consider a coup to have taken place and will respond accordingly. This would be true even if the PM said he was leaving office for the good of the country, as clearly he would not be doing this without having been coerced and intimidated.

McCormick

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