Winston rips into ‘Pacific-blind’ media

Saturday September 08, 2018 Written by Published in Local
New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston kept cool during a media barrage at the Pacifi c Forum meeting on Nauru earlier this week. 18090741 New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston kept cool during a media barrage at the Pacifi c Forum meeting on Nauru earlier this week. 18090741

Among all the frustration from talking heads and press panels over the ongoing focus by journalists on the refugee question at this week’s Forum meeting in Nauru, it was New Zealand’s deputy prime minister Winston Peters who made the most of his moment.

 

Announcing a $10 million allocation for an enhanced free-to-air Pacific TV Channel involving public broadcasters across the region during a rare visit by any high-level Forum official to the press centre, Peters kept his cool through the expected barrage of questions over the offer from New Zealand to resettle Australia's refugees on Nauru.

But after being pressed on the issue with more questions - none of them linked to the TV announcement, the New Zealand minister turned the tables.

"With the greatest respect, the greatest respect, can I just say to some of you journalists that this is a meeting of the Pacific Island countries," he responded to the prodding on whether the New Zealand offer for resettlement had been addressed in meetings with the Australian Foreign Minister.

"These people have been here for thousands and thousand of years, including some people in New Zealand who have been there a thousand years. So please do not have us, with all the issues such as climate change economic stability, security, cybersecurity-all those issues sidelined for your preference as to what the PIFS should be saying now," he said.

“These people's cultures deserve respect, and respect from New Zealand they're going to get."

Asked by a Kiwi journalist if he would prefer that the media ignore the refugee issue, Peters' said no, he wasn't saying that at all.

“All I'm saying is the Pacific Islands nations have massive problems of their own - many of them that have not been addressed for decades now, and we intend to step up and ensure that, with other countries and with other countries with wealth, we start to deal with them."

He didn't stop as journalists tried to interject, telling them it was unfair to go into a meeting of Pacific countries with respect for the island culture, "if you are going to sideline these people here in the Blue Continent, with all these isolated nations, for your chance at a headline."

“All I'm saying here is that if I was a Fijian, Samoan, Niue or for that matter Nauru, I would expect people to walk in and respect my country’s culture - and I understand that," he said

            - Lisa Williams-Lahari

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