5:30 AM Sunday Jul 10, 2011
Fiji's self-appointed prime minister Frank Bainimarama was welcomed to this weekend's world netball championships in Singapore as a VIP - but he didn't display much in the way of regal grace when the Silver Ferns marched into the stadium.
The military strongman's regime faces political and sporting boycotts throughout much of the Commonwealth. Fiji will compete at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in two months' time, but Bainimarama and those connected to his regime are not allowed to enter the country.
However, the boycott does not extend to the netball in Singapore.
Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, attending with his wife Mary, son and three daughters, has been visible and forthright in his support of Fiji, at one stage wearing an ill-fitting T-shirt that urged "Go Fiji Go".
The military leader proudly waved his team on.
But, in keeping with a longrunning standoff with the New Zealand Government over its boycott of his regime Bainimarama resolutely ignored the Silver Ferns when they marched into the stadium for the opening ceremony.
And he was unimpressed when photographers tried to pick him out in the crowd, meeting their lenses with an icy glare.
Fiji came into the tournament ranked number five in the world but two losses in group play saw them miss out on the quarter finals. They played off for 9th or 10th place yesterday against Wales.
The Silver Ferns, meanwhile, proceeded through to last night's semifinal against England without too many hiccups.
By Michael Burgess