My conversation with Tevita Mara

This morning I had a good talk with

Tevita Mara

, the Fijian colonel who split from Bainimarama, about how to speed up the return to democracy to Fiji.

Tevita Mara supports stronger action against the regime. We agreed that one effective measure would be to stop Fijian troops participating in UN peacekeeping operations. These missions only put money into the army coffers, and enlarge the military beyond what is required in the island nation. Mr Mara also favours more effective sanctions on the regime.

He is trying to get Pacific leaders to work for change, particularly in the Pacific Island Forum. Hopefully his meetings with New Zealand officials this week advance this prospect.

He didn’t overrate his individual role, and said he had no political ambitions himself – which is not something you can always take as gospel.

There is something of a division in the pro-democracy movement in New Zealand around his visit. The Coalition for Democracy in Fiji doesn’t think he should have been given a temporary visa, and now

wants the New Zealand Police

to investigate him under the Crimes of Torture Act. Mr Mara’s response to me was that he was willing to front up to the people of Fiji for whatever he has done in the past, when the time comes.