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By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (September 22, 2001 – AFP/Fiji Times)---Even fleas have fleas and if Fijians think they’re getting picked on just a little too much, consider the case of Isma.

The striking 22-year-old is learning the arts of halal cooking and dreams of some day opening her own restaurant in Auckland.

There is the first seeming negative -- she is Muslim.

And these days everybody is against Muslims, right?

She’s a New Zealander too and kiwi bashing has become Australia’s national sport.

To complete the hat trick, her parents are from Fiji.

Isma is a kind of symbol for the way in which bullying has become ritualized in the Pacific.

Following New York some of New Zealand’s less mentally endowed types felt inclined to give Muslims the benefit of their wisdom; some complete morons got around to attacking a Hindu temple in Auckland, apparently more than a little confused about all these foreign religions. Pity the poor Sikhs too; they got it for wearing beards and turbans. They keep quiet about the way their forefathers actually founded the dairy industry in parts of New Zealand back in the 19th Century.

Plainly this is all stupidity but that is not really the problem in New Zealand. The difficulty is the tendency among New Zealand’s busybody politicians and lobby groups who seem to so freely want to direct and control, in an imperial kind of way, the life and times of small Pacific nations.

People like Foreign Minister Phil Goff who would not dream of dishing out constitutional advise to Australia, America or Britain but felt more than content to dispense his thoughts to Fiji.

Its kind of odd coming from New Zealand -- which has no constitution of its own. Like getting a bald man to advise on hair shampoo.

Mr. Goff’s desire to direct Suva in its internal affairs has a long history; indeed it goes back to 1841 when New Zealand’s first Governor, William Hobson, wrote out a legal document defining New Zealand. It not only included modern New Zealand -- but vast tracts of the Pacific, including Fiji, Tuvalu, the Marshalls and New Caledonia.

It didn’t last, but successor Sir George Grey wrote pleading letters to London, asking for permission to annex Fiji and Tonga.

In 1900 New Zealand Premier Richard John Seddon was in Suva and later, in a letter to the New Zealand Governor said that Fiji "should be allowed to federate with New Zealand, or that they should become part of New Zealand." He claimed Fiji wanted it although London, then controlling Fiji, did not seem all that convinced.

The New Zealand Herald of the time did not want Fiji either: "This colony has enough to do with its own business and troubles without meddling with what is being done by the authorities in Fiji."

Just over a century later, indeed last Sunday night, Mr. Goff in a Seddon impersonation sent out an email advising that issues related to the constitutionality of the new Fijian government need to be sorted out in Fiji before a final decision is made to lift sanctions.

It was a stunning breach of the sovereignty of one country by another -- and something well placed New Zealand diplomatic sources have expressed severe embarrassment over.

Indeed Mr. Goff was urged by his diplomatic officials not to say anything at all, but he comes from a long tradition of New Zealand busybodies in the Pacific. And so he persisted.

"A decision to lift sanctions and to re-admit Fiji to the Commonwealth has always relied on the return of Fiji to democracy and to constitutional government," Mr. Goff said.

"It is clear that, notwithstanding concerns about the electoral process, Fiji has elected a parliament that broadly reflects the will of the people. This has been acknowledged by both Commonwealth and United Nations election observer teams. We warmly welcome that the election has restored parliamentary democracy.

"Mr. Qarase leads the largest political grouping and has sufficient numbers in parliament to achieve a majority. He is therefore entitled under the Constitution to become Prime Minister and lead a Government."

Then Mr Goff plunged into the business involving the Fiji Labour Party, Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga and the business of who should join the government or not.

One can only imagine the drama if Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had advised New Zealand’s Labour Party in similar such detail after the last elections.

Mr. Goff seemed to recognize his extra-territorial status and said "clearly Fijians themselves must resolve this matter before the international community can say with confidence that the criterion of constitutionality has been met."

Such clarity did not prevent him from putting his oar into the issue. He said he had discussed it with the Commonwealth.

"We are all keen to see relations with Fiji normalized as soon as possible. However, until such time as the outstanding constitutional issue can be dealt with in Fiji politically or though the courts, it is likely that any decision on readmission to the Councils of the Commonwealth will await resolution of that issue. Likewise a final decision on sanctions will depend on this matter being resolved."

What was particularly odd was that Mr. Goff seemed to have decided that not only was he speaking for New Zealand, but that he had been blessed too with the Commonwealth imprimatur.

Attempts to reach him or his senior officials to explain just who he was speaking for were not successful.

All this happened just before Australia’s Ansett Airlines collapsed. Thousands of jobless airline workers were swept out onto Australian streets calling for death to Air New Zealand and uttering general curses on New Zealand. Worse, Prime Minister Helen Clark got trapped at Melbourne Airport by angry Ansett workers and the Australian Government -- an election looming -- did nothing about it for most of the day. Finally a Victorian state police helicopter picked her up and New Zealand sent one of its ageing Orion aircraft across the Tasman to rescue her.

Such are the joys of being a small nation. Suddenly, from being loved by the world one day, New Zealanders woke up the next to discover their big neighbor was playing at being a bully.

They did not like it.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail:  Phone: (64 21) 688438  Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website:  Website: 

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