July 27, 2012

Fiji's foreign minister to open Auckland supermarket

Last updated 13:47 27/07/2012

A leading figure in Fiji's military regime arrives in Auckland today and will fly on to Sydney to speak with Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

Since military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama's 2006 coup, New Zealand has blacklisted members of the military regime, including the unelected foreign minister Inoke Kubuabola.

His arrival today signals further thawing of relations between New Zealand and Fiji.

Invitations sent out to prominent members of the Fiji community in Auckland stated Kubuabola would open a shopping complex in Mt Roskill while he was here..

It is near a shop where, earlier this month, security officials executed a search warrant during an investigation of a plot to kill Bainimarama.

Several Fiji democracy groups say they will picket this afternoon's opening.

The new shopping centre is owned by Harish Lodhia, brother of one of Fiji's richest businessmen, Hammat Lodhia.

Kubuabola will name name Harish as Fiji's first honorary consul to Auckland.

Last week McCully was in Suva to meet with Kubuabola and granted $500,000 to help conduct democracy restoring elections in 2014.

Kubuabola said he was optimistic that relations between Fiji and New Zealand were beginning to normalise.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported this morning that both Australian foreign minister Bob Carr and McCully would meet with Kubuabola on Monday. They would discuss Fiji's progress on a return to democracy.

Carr last met Fijian officials in May of this year, when he praised the regime for its ''positive progress'' towards holding elections.

"This meeting in Sydney on Monday will enable us - New Zealand and Australia - to get an update."

Carr said there were no immediate plans to lift sanctions against Fiji.

"We remain engaged with Fiji. We don't want the people to suffer from the very targeted sanctions we applied when democracy was suspended - sanctions that applied to the travel and financial transactions of the government," he said.

Kubuabola has played a close role in all of Fiji's coups.

In the 1987 Sitiveni Rabuka coup it was Kubuabola who invented the concept of "taukei" rule which advocated the expulsion of the country's Indian population.

He later fell out with Rabuka over claims that he leaked details of Rabuka's sexual activities to the media.

During the 2000 coup, which overthrew Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, Kubuabola quickly became an adviser to coup plotter George Speight. Police opened a treason file on him but he was never charged.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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