Transnational crime, climate change, trade feature in NZ-Fiji talks

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shared more details of how her country plans to support Fiji in fighting transnational crime.

In a statement to media during her official visit to Fiji today, Ardern noted that both countries face “the  scourge of those who seek to profit on the misery of others through drugs like methamphetamine. None of us are alone in that battle.”

She has provided more detail of the NZ$11 million in assistance first announced last year. From May this year, $1 million will be used to enhance forensic labraotries in Fiji, which she says are critical in successful prosecuting drug traffickers once seizures are made. New Zealand will also fund four full-time police mentors to work with the Fiji police force, provide technical assistance to the ‘proceeds of crime’ unit, fund trained tracker dogs and help develop a police leadership development fund.

Ardern has acknowledged the support Fiji showed during the terrorism attacks on Christchurch mosques on March 15 last year.

“I want to thank Fiji for the.. friendship you extended to us in our darkest of hours, particularly when you yourselves lost your own in that attack. I want to express to you sadness and sorrow that that happened on our soil, but our thanks for the friendship you have extended.”

Ardern will visit the  Lautoka Jame Masjid Mosque on Thursday. Fijians Ashraf Ali Razat of Narere, Imam Hafiz Musa Patel of Lautoka and Ashraf Ali were among the fifty-one who were killed in the shooting. Patel had been the Pesh Imam, leading services at Lautoka Jame Mosque for 25 years.

Also on the agenda during today’s talks was the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations  (PACER Plus). Fiji is still to ratify that agreement; Ardern says her government believes it presents an opportunity to spread economic prosperity  in the region.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the world “badly needs more leaders like Jacinda.”

He says Fiji is proud to be on the right side of history alongside New Zealand in pressing for urgent action on climate change by passing a Climate Change Bill later this year. Last  November New Zealand’s parliament voted to commit the nation to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and meet its commitments under the Paris climate accords.

Ardern will be chief guest at a state dinner this evening.