Red Claire reports on Key’s failure to make any headway in Fiji

John Key won’t be pleased with the results, or lack of results from his flying visit to Fiji.

Normally he is able to play Jack the Lad and charm the other leader, not this time.

Key and Bainimarama wore special matching shirts featuring the symbols of both countries – silver ferns and coconut palms.

But the talk did not quite match the shirts.

It began propitiously enough, with rugby jokes and lots of talk about ‘friends’ and ‘relationships.” Key basked in the warm welcome he was given at the sevusevu. That sevusevu took place at the vale ni bose – the base for the Great Council of Chiefs which was disbanded by Bainimarama as part of his reforms.

The literal translation of that is ‘place of bosses.’ At a speech at the banquet after the sevusevu, Bainimarama made it clear that he was the boss on his home turf and would not budge.

He delivered such a tongue lashing of his guest that when the next day’s front page of the Fiji Sun read ‘War Cry’ it took a while to realise it referred to the Pacific Nations Cup between Tonga and Fiji rather than Bainimarama.

Key’s response was more diplomatic but gave little ground. He made it clear New Zealand did not resile from its response to the coup. Nor would New Zealand bow to the demand to withdraw from the main table of the Pacific Islands Forum. “New Zealand is not going anywhere.”

Rock, say bula to hard place.  

Key has turned his affable personality into quite an effective tool of diplomacy over his eight years as PM. In Bainimarama, Key had met his match. Bainimarama did respond to Key’s repartee in kind, and Key reported he was warm and engaging in person.

Bainimarama got what he wanted out of the visit. Clearly stung by questions about how ‘democratic’ Fiji actually was, Key’s visit was a chance to show his Government was accepted as legitimate by other leaders – and to talk tough in the process.

As for Key, he went to Suva with some flattery and requests, to drop a ban on some foreign media and for Bainimarama to return to the Pacific Islands Forum. In the end, Key could not even manage to extract an acceptance of Key’s return invitation for Bainimarama to visit New Zealand. Agree to disagree was as far as things went.

Perhaps Key should have taken some guidance a billboard on the open roads on the way of Suva, featuring Bainimarama and the words “watch your speed.”

It is a road safety advertisement, but could equally apply to diplomacy with a former dictator.

Key went up there off of the back of some rather injudicious comments prior to leaving. It’s almost as though he thought the Fijian’s, the silly natives that they are, wouldn’t have heard a peep about what he and his other ministers were saying about Fiji.

That notion was disabused by Bainimarama’s speech and should have been a wake up call to stop listening to McCully and his band of MFaT fools who have second guessed Bainimarima for the best part of a decade, and always guessing wrong.

The colonial cringe in NZ government still exists and until New Zealand starts treating Fiji with respect and stops hectoring and lecturing them in hope to run their country then tense and unproductive visits will remain.

John Key wouldn’t dream of telling Saudi Arabia or China how to run their countries, so why does he think telling Fiji how to run theirs is ever going to go down well.

This visit should be a wake up call to Key that sometimes Jack the Lad doesn’t work.


– NZ Herald

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.