March 12, 2013

Fiji beatings could turn off tourists

09:17 Thu Mar 7 2013 AAP

The brutal beating and torture of prisoners in Fiji, captured on video, could prove a turnoff for tourists thinking about heading to the island nation, Labour MP Phil Goff warns.

A video posted online on Tuesday shows two men screaming on the ground as they are repeatedly struck with batons by Fijian security forces.

Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Ioana Naivalura says the men are understood to be recaptured prisoners and there will be a thorough investigation.

Mr Goff - who is Labour's foreign affairs spokesman and a former Foreign Affairs Minister - likened the attack to the vicious beating of New Zealand millionaire Ballu Khan in 2007, after being accused of masterminding an assassination plot against Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Frank Banimarama.

Mr Goff wants to introduce a motion in parliament next week condemning the latest violence, and expects other politicians to help send a unanimous message to Fiji that it must hold the perpetrators to account.

"This isn't isolated, but because it's so graphic and because it's out there and everybody can see it, I think it's brought an unprecedented focus on what's happening in Fiji," he told Radio New Zealand.

He says there are "economic reasons" why Fiji should listen to condemnation from "friends and neighbours" in the Pacific region.

"New Zealand and Australia are a huge part of the tourist market to Fiji. The average New Zealander or the average Australian won't really be encouraged to continue to holiday there if elements within the police force can go around, beat you up, and there are no consequences or accountability for them doing that."

Mr Goff says Fiji should heed the condemnation if it truly wants to restore diplomatic ties with Australia and New Zealand.

The three countries agreed last year to exchange high commissioners, but both Australia and New Zealand are waiting for Fiji's agreement over their appointees.

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