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Bainimarama is misunderstood, says Turia

Published: 11:01AM Sunday May 03, 2009 Source: ONE News

There's been a call for a team of prominent Maori to go to Fiji to try to sort out the troubled regime.

Under the self imposed leadership of Commodore Frank Bainimarama Fiji is becoming increasingly isolated and now it is suspended from the Pacific Island Forum.

New Zealand has been among the regime's harshest critics but one government Minister believes that approach is wrong.

The call has come from Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia during an interview on TVNZ's Q and A programme.

"We believe that there is a way forward and we should talking with Fiji rather than adopting the stance that we have," says Turia.

She believes the way forward is sending a high powered Maori delegation to Fiji.

"Dr Sharples is very keen to look at how we might be able to use New Zealand leadership and he thought of Tumu te Heuheu the King that maybe a very small delegation could go and talk with Bainimarama."
The regime has recently sacked judges, suspended the constitution, it has muzzled the media and refused to hold elections.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has labelled Commodore Bainimarama a dictator but Turia says he is been misunderstood

"He is saying he is attempting to combat racism and certain things that have been going on in Fiji for some time and we think we should find exactly what is happening there," she says.

The Maori Party co-leader says it will be up to the Prime Minister to approve the trip.

 In response, Prime Minister John Key says the delegation could only go in a private capacity.

"As long as they go in their capacity of leaders of the Maori Party and as New Zealanders but not representing the government. The government is giong to continue to negotiate for democracy in Fiji through the Pacific Forum leaders and through the Commonwealth," he says.

Key says he would be surprised if a Maori negotiating team succeeded where others have failed.

Maori seats

Co-leader Turia insists that separate Maori seats under the new Auckland super city plans could still be on the cards.

Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister John Key has been in discussions with Maori groups about the recommendation to ignore the Royal Commission's findings that three seats be set aside for Maori.

The move has angered many Maori, including Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, who has criticised the decision.

But Turia remains positive and says discussions are still underway.

"I take into account that the Act Party is leading this particular matter. We haven't had a chance to talk to Rodney but we will continue to talk to them and let's see what the outcome is, " says Turia on TVNZ Q + A programme .

The co-leader also says that the party is very interested in the bill put forward by Labour Party's Mita Ririnui, which proposes that Maori seats in Parliament become entrenched.

Turia says that if the bill came up the party "would give it serious consideration," as there are significant issues around entrenchement.

TVNZ's Guyon Espiner questioned Turia on whether the party's hands are tied over the issue under a deal with National.

Turia says there was no such deal.

"There was no agreement to not vote for entrenchement if it ever came up. We're not going to vote against investment, of course not."

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