Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama uses NZ visit to downplay past tensions between countries

By Donna Miles

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is presented with a salu salu by Maraia Kauyaki at Bula Kindergarten in Mangere today.  Photo / Greg Bowker
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is presented with a salu salu by Maraia Kauyaki at Bula Kindergarten in Mangere today. Photo / Greg Bowker

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has used his first official visit to New Zealand to downplay past tensions between the countries.

But he didn't hold back in criticising New Zealand's media during a speech in Auckland today, labelling its reporting as unrelenting, negative and unbalanced.

Bainimarama said reports of his criticism of John Key during the New Zealand Prime Minister's visit to Fiji in June were a media beat-up.

He said he got on "famously" with Key despite the Kiwi PM failing to see his "vision for Fiji".

"It's true that I've had a couple of issues with him saying that I'd shot my mouth off about the Pacific Islands Forum, that he hoped we weren't going to be silly about enforcing the provisions of our public order, but it hasn't unduly affected the warmth of our relationship," he said.

Key had warned the Fiji government not to do anything "silly" following the arrest of six prominent Fijians last month. He also said Bainimarama had mouthed off about the forum.

"He knows that I'm Frank by name and frank by nature. And I know that he's a similarly plain-speaking Kiwi," Bainimarama said.

Bainimarama also expressed his gratitude to New Zealand for the assistance his country received after the damage caused by Cyclone Winston.

"Helping Fijians get back on their feet is something that we will never forget."

Key said the relationship between the two countries was "good, strong and stable".

He said he welcomed the Fijian PM's visit and was ready for "positive engagement" and "constructive conversation".

Labour foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer wants the Government to keep pushing Fijian officials for a better democracy.

Bainimarama's visit coincides with the Bledisloe Cup match this weekend.

He attended the Fiji Trade and Investment Symposium at Auckland's Stamford Plaza Hotel this morning.

Bainimarama smiled and appeared at ease as he met children at a Fijian kindergarten, Bula Kindergarten, in Mangere this morning.

He then visited Moana Pacific Fisheries in Mt Wellington accompanied by Shane Jones, ambassador for Pacific Economic Development.

- NZ Herald

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