Editorial comment – Keen eye on developments

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters speaks to the media during a press conference at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

It is interesting to note that diplomatic ties between New Zealand and Fiji are on a good footing despite disagreements over the past years.

We’ve taken a leaf off the view of New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters as his official visit to Fiji concluded yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference in Suva, he said the visit was part of his government’s Pacific mission to Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

New Zealand, he said, had been spending time resetting their relationship with Fiji which meant a political reset and developments including last year’s general elections. The plan, he said, was to extend the relationship into the future.

There had to be an understanding though that it was not only for Fiji or New Zealand, he said, but the whole of “our neighbourhood”.

He met acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Minister for Defence Inia Seruiratu, discussing ways in which our two countries could work together to combat challenges within the Pacific region.

He made an interesting point: “What is clear is there is a greater step and much more understanding. We are not going through the motions any more, we are here for real.”

Whatever our differences, it is encouraging that Mr Peters has raised the issue of being positive of ongoing developments. He spoke about leadership and direction.

The New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministry, he said, was ready to assist skilled people. His arrival comes in the wake of the visit to our country last month by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

At the time, it was seen as a sign that we were both trying to leave our past behind, said Sandra Tarte, a University of the South Pacific academic.

Ms Tarte also claimed that Australia, over the past years, had started escalating its commitments to the region, especially Fiji and Vanuatu, because of China’s growing influence.

Interestingly back in 2014, the arrival of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a short visit to Fiji was historic as well as great news for our nation. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama stated at the time that it was one of Fiji’s highly “momentous weeks”.

While Mr Modi expressed excitement about his tour, that week in November also saw the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping

We welcomed men who remain at the helm of two of the world’s historic and economically rich nations.

As an overview, there is no doubt about the positive impact such high level talks can have on our tiny nation. How we engage in such discussions will always be keenly viewed.

There will be sceptics who will question the heavy interest in the region.

For what it’s worth though, the average man and woman on the ground will look to bread and butter issues because they tug at the heartstrings.

But they will instinctively bank on the powers that be to make commitments that are fruitful and in the national interest.

How we reciprocate via our actions, and what it means to us as a nation in the global community will be watched with great interest.

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