AUSTRALIA GRANTS EXILED FIJI OFFICER ENTRY

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VISA
Mara to address democracy advocates in Sydney

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 10, 2011) – Fiji’s interim foreign minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, has expressed disappointment that Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara has been issued a visa to enter Australia.

Colonel Mara, who fled to Tonga last month to escape sedition charges, is to address a meeting of Fiji pro-democracy activists in Sydney on Saturday.

The interim government’s ministry of information reports Ratu Inoke as saying he’s disappointed that Australia swiftly issued a visa to Colonel Mara on Tongan travel documents, rather than waiting for Tonga’s response to Fiji’s push to extradite him.

He says by intervening in what was a bilateral issue Australia has shown little regard for achieving a resolution to the matter.

Ratu Inoke says Australia’s action in welcoming a fugitive from Fiji risks escalating the tensions in Fiji-Australia relations.

Tonga government officials will not confirm whether Col Mara has been given a Tongan passport.

Col Mara has told Radio New Zealand he’ll travel on a Tongan passport.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says foreign affairs and immigration officials won’t comment on the passport claim.

But he says if it’s true then many Tongans will presume the King had a role in the decision.

"Simply because the King is housing Tevita Mara but that is yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t blame if people turned their finger and say Mara got help from the Royal Family to ease the procedure of him getting a Tongan passport."

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