|CONNECTIONS: Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples (right) with PM John Key. Below: King Tuheitia and Mara arriving in New Zealand. (Mara pic Pacific Scoop)|
The democracy campaigning Roko Ului Mara will have more photo opportunities today and, more importantly, the chance to get the support of Maori.
Mara (now in his his third day in New Zealand) is due to meet the co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, at Parliament this morning and later today the Maori King, Tuheitia.
The meetings with well-connected tangata whenua leaders were organised by the Wellington Fiji community in a bid to lift the controversial Mara's profile and to counter some of the negative publicity over his visit.
The planned meeting with the Maori King will help Mara but some Kingitanga supporters worry it will hurt the King movement, which has traditionally been apolitical.
Yesterday, Mara met Foreign Affairs officials and both they and the former army officer are refusing to detail their discussions, other than to acknowledge the obvious - the situation in Fiji is deteriorating. Chances are any of the sensitive information Mara had to share with the New Zealand government have already passed hands and that yesterday's meeting was a mere formality.
It has been hard to gauge the turnout for the Mara forums because of lack of information from organisers and conflicting reports although sources say there were about 40 people at the community forum in Wellington last night and that media were not allowed in. Not surprising.
It's believed Mara had been cagey about the community forum and had even thought of pulling out altogether. Organisers had to persuade him to attend, especially as it had already been advertised.
Roko Ului's reception has been markedly different to that of coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, in 1991 when he was invited to Auckland by PINA. Rabuka was confronted by protesters who broke through a cordon of tight security while about 100 others burnt a copy of the republican constitution in front of police protecting him.
Newspapers also condemned PINA for inviting him with protesters carrying slogans reading "Rabuka butchered Fijian democracy", "Rabuka army thug", "Get out of New Zealand fascist Rabuka", "Down with apartheid in Fiji" and "Coup Klux Klan".