Te Runanga o Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai Inc.


3 June 2000

Hon. Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament Buildings

Tena koe e Phil


"What government is the best? That which teaches us to govern ourselves". Goethe

Our hearts and minds have been turned to Fiji over the past few weeks and we are moved to write because of the New Zealand response to the hostage situation, and in particular your comments as Minister.

The New Zealand government response to the Fiji situation seems to have been deeply affected by our own media reactions, themselves founded on an obvious lack of understanding of the Fijian way, which is based on the moral and familial obligations of kinship and tribalism. Just because the media and you don't understand this system of forgiveness and reconciliation does not make it invalid or inappropriate. From our Runanga's perspective the New Zealand government response in these last two weeks has been patronising and offensive. Parachuting in your standards can only result in oppression of indigenous Fijians and more violence.

The Taranaki tribes know well the consequences of loss of control over tribal lands, loss of decision-making powers and loss of the capacity to gain economic benefits from our own resources. The so-called democratic system we now live in has only served to create a culture of grievance. Is this what you want for Fiji too?

In our view the retributive response (in the form of sanctions) serves only to hurt our Fijian cousins and demonstrate New Zealand's utter ignorance and lack of generosity. Democracy for democracy sake does not equate with wise government. We want to urge you as Minister to drop notions of sanctions and support a uniquely Fijian solution for their own constitutional freedom. Show the way through leadership and examples not inappropriate punishment. Sanctions will have little impact on Fijian villagers but will crush export industries and make the path to drafting a new constitution more difficult and protracted.

Your government's response has simply served to make the situation worse and fills us with a sense of shame. Let the Fijians develop their own solutions, their own constitution, and their own government and provide support; not sanctions.

Heoi ano, naku na

Manahi Baker, Tumuaki


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