`NZ threatened Fiji`s military chief over coup`

New Zealand threatened Bainimarama with loss of access to his grandchildren.

Wellington: Secret US diplomatic cables leaked by the whistleblower website ‘WikiLeaks’ have revealed that New Zealand had threatened Fiji`s military chief Voreqe Bainimarama and his wife with the loss of access to their grandchildren if he staged a coup to overthrow the government of Laisenia Qarase.

Stuff.co.nz quoted the cable as saying that Bainimarama and his wife Meli came to New Zealand in November 2006 to attend a granddaughter`s First Holy Communion in Wellington.

As he passed through Auckland, he told Fairfax Media that when he returned to Fiji he would stage a coup on December 04 to overthrow the government of Laisenia Qarase, the report said.

His statement prompted then New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to set up urgent meetings with Bainimarama and, later, Qarase to discuss the issue.

The surprising part of the approaches is revealed by then US Ambassador Bill McCormick who advised Washington on what was to be said to Bainimarama. He revealed that Winston Peters was "on travel in Auckland" and was too busy to see Bainimarama.

Unusually, New Zealand`s "talking points" were then put to Bainimarama by the British Defence Attaché based in Wellington, Nigel Lloyd, at a lunch.

"I gather you are down here on a private visit for your granddaughter’s first communion - a significant family occasion. I hope you enjoy your visit," the cable says Lloyd was instructed to say.

He warned Bainimarama "very strongly" against a coup, saying there would be serious consequences, including sanctions against Fiji, and UN and Commonwealth condemnation.

"You need to understand that if you do something stupid you will not be able to operate around the Pacific. Neither we, Australia, Britain nor the United States would be able to work with you, or offer any assistance," the talking points said.

Lloyd further warned that if Bainimarama did not listen, New Zealand would change its travel advisory to discourage tourism to Fiji, adding: "There would also be personal implications for you and your family. We would ban you, as well as others associated with a coup, and possibly your family, from entering New Zealand."

"To emphasise to Bainimarama’s wife that should there be a coup, the Commodore and she would no longer be able to travel to New Zealand to visit their grandchildren," the leaked cable said.

Bainimarama returned to Fiji, staged his coup and has since then expelled at various times three New Zealand diplomats. His grandchildren are reportedly back in Fiji.