Saturday, May 30, 2009

Corruption Charges Proceed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

From Croz Walsh's blog:

(+) Corruption Charges Proceed

A little reported event in early May was the three-day visit to Fiji of a UN delegation there to assess Fiji’s compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The team is reported to have said the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) showed promise and needs government support.

Papua New Guinea and Australia are also parties to UNCAC from the Pacific, but only Fiji has volunteered to be part of the pilot review programme.This is probably because getting rid of systematic corruption in the civil service was a major reason given for the 2006 military takeover.

Government opponents have ridiculed this motive, and made much of FICAC's lack of success in obtain convictions against those charged with corruption. As previously stated, this an incredibly
difficult task without forensic accountants, that only countries like NZ could have supplied. But last week (22 May) we reported on one case under the heading "Corruption Charges and Pitiful Waste."

Since then charges have been laid against a Cakaudrove Provincial counsellor for allegedly receiving a four-wheel drive vehicle in exchange for supporting a contractor's bid for major roadworks. And today's Fiji Sun reports an FICAC application for a retrial against former Fiji Ports Corporation Limited chairman, Sialeni Vuetaki, who allegedly approved payment of $177,000 to the Ports CEO without authority of the Board or Higher Salaries Commission.

The Government entity most charged with corruption is the Ministry of Works (the old PWD) where over $300,000 has been allegedly misappropriated. In the past two years 27 employees have been dismissed for various offences and a further 12 employees are under investigation.

The Ministry investigation team, working in cooperation with the FICAC, thinks there has been a drastic reduction in corrupt practices and believes that by the end of this year it can confidently claim to have curbed corrupt practices. Fiji Daily Post. For further information about FICAC and its website, click here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NZ Law Society limp on Fiji

Not surprisingly the NZ Law Society is limp on the Fiji government’s siezure of control of the previously independent Fiji Law Society. Our Society is mumbling about the Fiji government’s intentions [ignoring that]the NZ government in 2006 took over control of lawyer registration and discipline in New Zealand.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Corruption Charges and Pitiful Wastage

Croz Walsh's blog outlines:
The corruption and gross Government inefficiency were among the reasons given by Bainimarama for the 2006 Coup, and many in Fiji were supporters of his "Clean Up" campaign.

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According to a Fiji Sun article, additional corruption charges also have been filed against the former General Manager of Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB)Kalivati Bakani and former permanent secretary for the Infrastructure and Public Utilities Ministry, Anasa Vocea.

The excerpt of Fiji Sun article:

Bakani, Vocea charged


A hearing date for former Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) General Manager Kalivati Bakani and former permanent secretary for the Infrastructure and Public
Utilities Ministry, Anasa Vocea has been set.

Both accused appeared at the Suva Magistrate Court where a hearing date was set after they were charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) last year.

Bakani and Vocea appeared before chief magistrate Ajmal Khan. Bakani was charged by FICAC with seven counts of abuse of office. FICAC alleges that between 2002 to 2003, Bakani approved investment of extinct Mataqali funds into various financial institutions without authority.

The funds total to $3million. FICAC says rightfully the funds should go to the Fijian Affairs Board to be used for the benefit of native Fijians.

Magistrate Khan has ordered Bakani to return to court on July 27. Meanwhile, Mr Vocea who was charged with eight counts of extortion by public officer also appeared in court yesterday. Magistrate Khan then adjourned the matter to June 25, for hearing.

Earlier SiFM posts had hightlighted the corruption in N.L.T.B. The post titled "More Vice Than Virtue-NLTB's General Manager" alluded to the character of Bakani.
7 Sins of NLTB, outlined the Natadola scandal that involved a former NLTB board director.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fiji PM: Forum should exclude Aust, NZ

Australia and New Zealand would not be part of the inter-governmental Pacific Island Forum if Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had his wish.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Island Style Captivates Chicago Man.

South Chicago man just uploaded a great video of his Fiji holiday between May 9th-May 15th 2009. The captions and graphics are unique, as well as its sound track.

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Fiji’s neighbours disagree on how to deal with Fiji.

WELLINGTON - Differences among Fiji’s Pacific neighbours over how to deal with the island’s military regime emerged Tuesday following top-level talks between New Zealand and Tonga.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Rudd and Key Should Call Bainimarama's Bluff & Visit Fiji

All speakers on a Radio Australia programme agreed that Australia and New Zealand needed to change their approach to Fiji. Ati George Sokomanu, former Vanuatu President, thought PMs Rudd and Key needed to sit down with Bainimarama face-to-face over a bowl of kava.

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Australian "Authority" on Lasaro Arrest

Dr Keith Suter of Macquarie University, billed as an authority on military governments, believes that the detention of Reverend Lasaro is a sign that the Fijian military regime is panicking.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fiji lay claim to Southern Ocean.

Fiji is awaiting word from the United Nation’s Commission on Limits to Continental Shelves on the large swathe of ocean floor it’s claiming south of Kadavu.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Crouching Newspaper, Soaring Blog- The Future Of Journalism?

David Robbie's latest blog posting, is updated with developments at the UNESCO funded Pacific Media Freedom Forum, held recently at Apia Samoa.

What was interesting in that particular forum, is that most of discussions were centered on Fiji, as David Robie suggests:

The Fiji challenge kept bubbling to the surface, leading to a spirited debate on the future of PINA at one session and feisty calls for the regional news service Pacnews to get out of Suva at others. Fiji dominated all the speeches on the opening day with several of the region's media freedom heavyweights giving the regime a hard time - but they also warned that the young generation coming through into the industry should not be seduced by government freebies.

Ironically, while those journalists were enjoying their well-endorsed junket in Apia, oblivious to the fact that media freedom is not the central story.

It seems that, the diplomatic negotiations to the Pacific Free Trade Plan (PACER Plus) and the detrimental effects of this Trans-Tasman lobbied treaty; has somewhat not registered highly on their list of priorities; despite the notion that those negotiations affect all Pacific Island states.

Is the lack of coverage on those trades negotiations, a clear demonstration that most news published in the Pacific, is viewed through the prism of their Australian or New Zealand Publisher or Editor?

The funny thing about these Pacific media Forums is that these journalists, really don't focus much on Pacific trade negotiations with EU, US or Australia or New Zealand or even in-depth coverage of their own industry and the future trends of their profession based on the current global events like the changing landscape of the news paper business.
It's just that Freedom of the Media, is a story that elevates sales and elevated sales mean elevated circulations. SiFM fills in this lack of analytical and balanced coverage.

Last week, the Boston Globe almost filed for bankruptcy, according to New York Times article. Even the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announced the following Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet hearing: The Future of Journalism on Weds. May 6th 2009. Video of webcast.

St Louis Today article quoted from Senator John Kerry (D-MA.)from the hearing: "The Newspaper industry appears to be an endangered species"

Another marked absence from media discussions among Pacific journalists was the story about News Corp CEO, Rupert Murdoch claiming that the era of free content on the internet is over. According to Chicago Tribune article, News Corp took a "financial beating" in the first quarter, ending in March 2009.

Guardian journalist Mark Tomasky pointed out the perceived madness of Rupert, in his blog:

Is Rupert Murdoch losing it?

Murdoch's plan to charge for access to his newspapers on the internet is a sign he's lost his touch
Comments (110)

I guess there was more important news this morning – Pakistan, the American banks – but it was Rupert Murdoch who caught my attention. I was stunned to read Andy Clark's dispatch in the Guardian this morning about Murdoch planning on charging for access to his properties on the internet.

Look, Rupe usually knows what he's doing. But this really flies in the face of common sense. He argues that the Wall Street Journal's experience proves that one can successfully charge readers for internet access to one's newspapers.

But does it? The Journal and the Financial Times, are kind of sui generis. They're financial newspapers, read by a global financial elite. You can charge global financial elites to read a tailored product of financial news.

But can you do the same with regular readers, to get them to read general-interest news? The universal experience has been that you can't.

The New York Times tried it and got hammered. It charged for so-called "Times Select" content – most prominently the paper's famous opinion columnists like Paul Krugman and David Brooks – for a little while, hoping to crowbar $50 a year out of saps like me.

It worked in my case, but there was a general hue and cry against it (not least from the columnists themselves). The paper quit charging for this premium content, and the whole experiment was chalked up a disaster.

And now Rupert thinks general readers who refused to pay for the quality New York Times are going pay for the proletarian New York Post? And the Sun and the News of the World? And for that matter the Times (your Times). If people didn't pay for our Times (the New York one – let's face it, an immeasurably better newspaper these days, such that there's utterly no comparison anymore between the two), why will they pay for yours? I just don't see it.

Maybe he's got something up his sleeve. I'm thinking about the New York Post here, a property I know quite well. I bet Murdoch would say, of the Times' experiment, that their mistake was to put the highfalutin stuff behind the pay wall. People aren't really that interested in politics.

So his bet, instead, might be on gossip and sports.

The Post has the most famous newspaper gossip page in America, Page Six. It started as, well, a page in the newspaper, and actually used to be on page six. Now it's an industry. It runs to three or four pages in the paper most days, has been moved back to page 12 or so while retaining its brand name. There's also a weekend supplement magazine under the brand, and I think there's some kind of TV deal.

It's huge. Movers and shakers in New York and Hollywood (but Washington not so much) read it religiously.

But will they still read it if they have to pay for it? With Gawker and Perez Hilton and TMZ out there? I think some will. I'm not sure tens of thousands will.

Same with sports. The Post's sports pages are terrific. But they don't strike me as being quite so terrific that people will forego several roughly-as-good free alternatives.

As for Britain, well, the only thing I can think is that he's going to put the big knockers behind the pay wall. But of course a lot of that's free on the web these days too (at least the first look).

Maybe he knows something the rest of the world doesn't. He often has. Or maybe he's just losing his touch. I was surprised also to read in Clark's piece about the jaw-dropping decline in News Corp profits. The newspaper division collapsed, and the television profits went up in smoke.

Hey, if Murdoch's right, he might introduce the rest of the world to the model that can save the newspaper once and for all. That'd be something to celebrate. Or it could be that we're getting to the end of the Murdoch era. In that case, I wouldn't cry.

On the Media(OTM), added the combined the paid online content angle, with a story that featured Associated Press's concerns about the free news stories on the internet. The OTM story feature titled "Google Me Once".

The excerpt of the story transcript:

Google Me Once

April 10, 2009

This week, the Associated Press fired a shot across the bow of news aggregation sites like Google and the Huffington Post. Without calling any site out by name, the AP said they would take legal action against websites that use their content without paying. Business Week's media columnist Jon Fine says news companies seem ready to ask consumers to pay for content again.

This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield. And now the latest on present and future business models for monetizing the newspaper industry.

GROUP SINGING: Present and future business models for monetizing the newspaper industry.

: The past couple of weeks have been very bad for those who believe that all content wants to be free. With a glut of online advertising inventory depressing not only online ad rates but ad rates across all media, the titans who had long traded content for eyeballs were rethinking their calculus.

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch said, quote, “People are used to reading everything on the Net for free, and that’s going to have to change.” Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, unveiled a plan that would let people see cable programming free online, but only if they're cable subscribers in the first place. And the Associated Press, apparently disgusted with news sites like Google for selling ads adjacent to Google News aggregated from the AP and others, said, no more free lunch. If you want AP content, you need permission and you need to pay for it.

Jon Fine, media columnist for Business Week, says this had something to do with the freefall of media revenue and something to do with negotiating tactics.

Google and the AP have a licensing agreement. Coincidentally enough, that licensing deal is up at the end of this year. And the thing that’s starting to rankle the Associated Press, and, indeed, newspapers and content providers, broadly, is that a lot of users are perfectly happy just to go to Google News, look at the headline and the first two sentences and decide they've basically had enough; they've gotten what they need out of it.

That is not – bad word alert - monetized for the people who are making these stories.

You know, back in January, on this very show, the owner of Philadelphia Media Holdings, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News, complained that he wasn't able to monetize his Web operation and said that papers have to start charging for content. Three weeks later his company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And other voices have since come out to say, we have to charge, we have to charge, we have to charge. But - but just how? Is anyone doing that?

JON FINE: Some people are doing that. The Wall Street Journal is doing it. There are a couple of smaller examples elsewhere. There’s a website, I believe, called Packers Insider. If you’re an absolute, diehard, screaming, insane fan of the Green Bay Packers you pay five bucks a month and get every data point you could possibly want on them.

There’s a newspaper in Little Rock called The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Their site is primarily paid. The problem with that is that it’s kind of hard to extrapolate that to The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, you know, the local newspaper in Dubuque.

I think that what we're going to see a lot of is all newspapers are going to try like sort of subsites that there’s a pay wall around. It’s not like all of a sudden you won't be able to access anything on The Denver Post. It’s rather that The Denver Post or, you know, The Salt Lake City Tribune are going to try to find little areas where they can, you know, get some money out of users.

The problem is, is that it’s kind of hard to see a way where that makes a heck of a lot of money. The newspaper in Little Rock is often pointed to as kind of a success here, but I think they maybe have, gosh, you know, 5,000, 10,000 paid users. That comes to a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, and if you are a big city newspaper that’s just not going to get you anywhere, especially when they're facing ad losses and, indeed, just losses, period.

The New York Times did try at one point to wall off some of its premium content with a program it called TimesSelect, changing people extra to see certain columns and so forth, finally abandoned TimesSelect because it was depressing online traffic and they needed online traffic to generate more advertising revenue.

JON FINE: I think the problem with TimesSelect was that it was kind of a half measure. Their political columnists and their foreign policy columnists aren't necessarily content areas where advertisers were dying to get next to them. Advertisers don't love hard political content, which is a problem that someone like Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post is going to run into. But they thought by doing it in a small way it could work out for them.

I'm not sure it was as enormous a failure as it was. I mean, they did get a substantial number of subscribers. They just decided they could get more the other way.

In the meantime, people like us have been trained that everything is for free. Can we be untrained to pay subscriptions for online content or, you know, some sort of micro-payments to buy content a la carte?

JON FINE: The problem is free is very hard to beat. If you go to an awful lot of newspaper classified websites, you can click through, they're easily searchable, they look pretty decent, whereas Craigslist, as we all know, is just this kind of like online bazaar that’s like, you know, the wall at your college where you used to tack up various garish flyers – but it’s free.

It’s a great price point.

And I think, you know, the danger is if, say, someone like The Minneapolis Star Tribune, another newspaper that’s in bankruptcy, decides to put all of their site behind a pay wall, well, there happens to be a local online news start-up called, - they'd be ecstatic with that. And, you know, they have reporters and they're doing similar kinds of stories, and you’re going to have that kind of free/paid dichotomy.

It’s really tricky. If it was easy to figure out, someone would have figured it out by now. I mean, did these guys make a mistake in making it free at the very beginning? You know, maybe. Maybe. Can that genie be gotten back in the bottle? Maybe, but I wouldn't want to have to bet on it. The problem is there’s not much else for these guys to bet on right now.

BOB GARFIELD: Jon, thank you so much.

Thanks, Bob.

BOB GARFIELD: Jon Fine is contributor to CNBC and the media columnist for Business Week.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Fiji to explore trade potentials with Egypt

In the bid to strengthen its international trade links, Fiji is expected to explore trade potentials with Egypt.This has been confirmed by Egypt’s Ambassador to Fiji, His Excellency Mr Omar Metwally Mohammed who was in the country last month to present his credentials to His Excellency the President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Clenched Fist, Open Hand- The Curious Case Of A Faltering Forum In The Pacific.

In a follow up to an earlier SiFm posting (Jan 31st 2009), titled "Trans-Tasman Foie Gras Of Pacific Forum", which foreshadowed the suspension of Fiji from the Forum and the unintended consequences derived from the ultimatum.

The Pacific region free trade proposal and Fiji's participation in it, has been largely decided by the automatic suspension from the Pacific Forum. A spokesperson for the New Zealand Trade Minister has been quoted in New Zealand Herald article, stating that Fiji will not take part.

The excerpt of New Zealand Herald article:

Fiji will not take part in Pacific free trade talks

11:31AM Monday May 04, 2009

Fiji will not take part in talks to set up a Pacific free trade area while it is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum, a spokeswoman for Trade Minister Tim Groser confirmed today.

Fiji has not been invited to informal talks in Auckland this weekend called to discuss ways to progress a Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (Pacer).

Trade ministers from the forum's 15 other member states were invited to the Auckland meeting, although not all of them will be able to attend. Pacer has been on the agenda for more than a decade, with the aim of helping island nations develop their economies.

New Zealand and Australia are keen to set it up but they are looking for an arrangement which benefits the small economies rather than their own. "The general thinking is that the final product needs to be tilted in favour of the Pacific, one source said.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully spoke on Friday about the trade imbalance between New Zealand and the islands. "Our billion-dollar export trade into the Pacific has been reciprocated by imports from Pacific nations so miserly that they should be a source of national embarrassment," he said.

New Zealand research and education network Arena yesterday suggested the Pacer talks be put on ice."If Fiji is excluded, what purpose do the negotiations have when one of the two largest economies in the Pacific, alongside Papua New Guinea, is not at the table," said Arena spokeswoman Jane Kelsey. The region's major powers wanted to announce the start of a formal process of consultations leading to negotiations at the forum summit meeting in Cairns in August, she said.


What the NZ Herald article did not mention in an obscene display of omission, that many Pacific Island States were treating the free-trade proposal as if, it were infected with Swine flu virus.

Also, the decision to join the free-trade treaty is a bi-lateral treaty between willing nations and it is not a decision that Australia or New Zealand can arbitrarily force on smaller and weaker nations. The fact is, this free-trade treaty is a concept that Trans-Tasman nations want more than the Pacific island states. Not the other way around. It has become evident that since the posting highlighting the Trans-Tasman belligerence in the region, other voices have joined the chorus highlighting this sad and serious dichotomy.

A local coordinator for the regional watch dog and advocate for Fair Trade and Globalisation in the Pacific (PANG) contributed to an article published in Feb 12th issue of Fiji Times, which illustrated how Australia and New Zealand pushed the free trade agenda through the South Pacific Forum.

The excerpt of F.T article:

Australia, NZ push trade agendas

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Next week Pacific Island Country trade officials will meet with their counterparts from Australia and NZ to discuss the structure and coverage of free trade negotiations that may get underway later this year. Under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, Pacific countries must begin discussions about a possible free trade agreement (called PACER-Plus) with Australia and NZ if free trade agreements are pursued with any other party.

Both Papua New Guinea and Fiji initialled a free trade agreement (covering goods trade) with the European Union in late 2007, and Australia and NZ feel that now is the time to negotiate PACER-Plus with all of the Forum Island Countries. Australian and NZ government officials have been quick to assert that PACER-Plus would be designed to benefit the Pacific - while down-playing potential negative impacts for the Islands and benefits to their own countries. However, these assurances are starting to have a hollow ring to them, as both countries pursue aggressive strategies (mainly behind closed doors) to stack the deck in their favour even before negotiations start.

Pawns in a power game

Pacific Island Countries have had a dismal experience negotiating a free trade agreement (an 'Economic Partnership Agreement' - EPA) with the EU in recent years. In those negotiations, the Pacific, along with African and Caribbean countries simultaneously negotiating similar deals, failed to secure meaningful concessions from the EU, and few countries are interested in signing a new deal. Recognising this, Forum Island Country trade ministers decided that a new Office of the Chief Trade Advisor should be established separately from the Forum Secretariat to help the Islands in negotiations with Australia and NZ.

In March 2008, Pacific trade ministers decided the Chief Trade Advisor should be "the only point of contact between ANZ and the FIC's for PACER-Plus" and that "the CTA takes responsibility for the PACER-Plus negotiations with ANZ on the basis of mandates and negotiating instructions from the FIC Trade Ministers".

However, Australian and NZ officials are resisting attempts to have in place, well before negotiations begin, a new Chief Trade Advisor to help organise the region's negotiating positions - critical, given the diversity of Pacific countries, and national-level capacity issues.

Instead of supporting the Pacific's Chief Trade Advisor proposal, Australia announced (in April 2008) a "trade fellowship program" whereby Pacific trade officials are trained by Australians to negotiate with them. Australian officials also announced money would be provided at the national level for Forum Island Countries to undertake studies on PACER - a far cry from a regional office that can guide research and establish strong negotiating positions.

At the Forum Trade Ministers' meeting in the Cook Islands in July, 2008, Pacific trade officials reported bullying tactics, a divide and rule strategy and explicit threats to remove key Forum Secretariat staff. This behaviour was exhibited by both Australian and NZ officials, who pushed for Pacific Trade ministers to agree to begin negotiations on a wide-ranging free trade agreement during 2009. Officials from several countries put up a fierce resistance to attempts to fast-track PACER-Plus - attempts made by ANZ officials and their key Pacific allies, namely Tonga and Nauru, at that meeting.

Australian officials were so disappointed with FIC Trade ministers' refusal to fast-track the negotiations that they told Pacific media Australia would not commit funds to set up the CTA office because "it did not regard the outcome of the July 2008 Forum Trade Ministers' meeting as constituting an adequate commitment to negotiations that will lead them to fund the CTA".

Having failed to get their way with the Trade ministers, Australian and NZ officials took their battle to the annual Forum Leaders' meeting in Niue to secure favourable language. During that meeting, Pacific leaders met separately from Australia and New Zealand, and issued a press release which stressed the need for "careful preparations by Forum Island Countries (FICs), both individually and collectively, before consultations began with Australia and New Zealand" and for the early appointment of a Chief Trade Advisor to assist the FICs in realising their shared objectives.

However, such caution about entering PACER-Plus negotiations with Australia and NZ was not reflected in the outcomes document of the Niue meeting - where Australia and NZ leaders were present. This reflects the position of Australia and NZ as major donors in the region, and the importance that Pacific leaders place on maintaining good relations with Australia and NZ. It is not the 'Pacific way' to confront such partners directly.

The Niue meeting indicated that Forum leaders would direct trade officials to "formulate a detailed road map on PACER Plus, with the view to leaders agreeing at the 2009 Forum to the commencement of negotiations". This is an outcome Australian officials are happy with, especially as Canberra will host the 2009 Forum Leaders' meeting.

Rigging the game?

PACER-Plus negotiations could lead to a free trade agreement that will have radical implications for Pacific Island economies and societies. Any agreement will have a much smaller impact on Australia and NZ. A bad agreement could lead to a closing off of policy options that are used to stimulate development in the Islands, increased pressure for privatisation and an undermining of access to basic services.

Certainly, PACER-Plus will lead to business closures and thousands of job losses in Pacific countries - problems that will be exacerbated because many Pacific states will lose much needed government revenue if they cut tariffs.

One study commissioned by the Forum Secretariat found that for around half the Pacific Island Countries, liberalisation will lead to government revenue losses of 10 to 30 per cent per year. It is vitally important for Pacific governments to "get this right".

Despite this, the approach taken by Australia and NZ to PACER-Plus discussions in 2008 indicates a willingness to fast-track the process (to ensure negotiations begin at the 2009 Forum Leaders' Meeting), to derail any effective regional negotiating machinery (by refusing to support the Pacific's Chief Trade Advisor proposal and funding national-level training and research instead) and to manipulate Forum Secretariat meetings to secure their priorities.

Next week, PIC trade officials will meet with their counterparts from Australia and NZ (in Adelaide, Australia) to discuss the "road map" for PACER-Plus. Discussions will cover the structure, timing and coverage of potential negotiations. Australia and NZ are keen to begin (and conclude) negotiations as soon as possible, and both countries want to negotiate as wide a range of areas as possible.

The meeting is also likely to discuss the Pacific's latest CTA proposal (which was revised on request from Australian officials). Despite the fact that this meeting will help set the structure of the Pacific's most important trade negotiations in decades, there is unlikely to be any public oversight of the meeting.

Just as concerning is the fact that many PIC trade officials are already in Adelaide this week for the second module of a 'capacity building' program at the Institute for International Trade. This capacity building program targets "upcoming negotiators" from all 14 Pacific Forum Island Countries.

During the first module of training last year, Pacific trade officials engaged in "relevant debates" with "Australian negotiators who will be part of future PACER-Plus negotiations" as well as discussing some of the Pacific's "key negotiating priorities".

It is very concerning that Pacific officials (who may be tasked with developing Pacific negotiating positions) are sitting through carefully designed training aimed at concluding PACER-Plus and are discussing key issues for the negotiations in forums where Australian officials are present. There are many alternatives for independent capacity-building for Pacific trade officials that should be explored.

In another move that could weaken the Pacific's regional negotiating power, it appears the axe has fallen on one of the region's most respected trade advisors, Dr Roman Grynberg, whose contract with the Forum Secretariat is not being extended. Dr Grynberg is not a popular figure with trade officials from developed countries, who often see him as a key stumbling block for advancing their trade priorities.

In 2003, The Guardian newspaper highlighted a letter between the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the British Government colluding to get rid of "unsympathetic" trade officials within the Commonwealth Secretariat.

One such unsympathetic trade official was Dr Grynberg - whose work advocating on behalf of developing countries was seen as derailing free trade discussions. Reasons for his contract not being extended with the Forum Secretariat were based on a performance review that found him to 'lack leadership' and not being 'client focused'.

The question that begs to be asked is, which client(s) is unhappy with Dr Grynberg's work? Whatever the reasons for his removal, his absence means that the PIC's have lost an important critical voice prior to going into negotiations for a free trade agreement with the Islands' most important trading partners.

Pacific Way

The late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara coined the term the 'Pacific Way' to reflect a Pacific way of diplomacy based on conversation, respect and mutual consensus. In recent years Australia and NZ have moved from strength to strength in their quest to replace the Pacific way with their way. It appears their goal is to impose their ideology, their free trade agenda, their institutions and operatives, their economic interests, their political authority and their strategic influence on the islands of the Pacific.

If the approach taken by Australia and NZ to PACER-Plus in 2008 is an indication of things to come, then pressure is now on Pacific leaders to take back the initiative and demand an approach to trade that reflects Pacific concerns (alternatives to PACER-Plus could for example include improvements on the existing SPARTECA scheme).

PIC Trade ministers and their officials, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General Neroni Slade are more than ever faced with the task of stemming the tide of ANZ influence. If they are not able to, we could see the beginning of the demise of the Pacific Way and the reign of the ANZ Way.

* Maureen Penjueli is Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalisation.

The FT article alluded to the murky and unceremonious manner of sidelining the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Forum Secretariat namely, Dr. Roman Grynberg, who interestingly enough penned an outstanding article titled "Who Owns The Forum" published in the Fiji Times on March 9th 2009.

Grynberg also wrote an article titled "Negotiating With Friends: A Free Trade Deal With Australia and New Zealand", warned the Pacific Islands leaders in no uncertain terms, to be wary of this Free Trade Agreement being brokered by the Trans-Tasman duo. Grynberg's sentiments were echoed by another academic, Dr. Jane Kelsey in an article titled "Big Brothers Behaving Badly".

Another SiFm post, outlined the skirmish of opinions between Western Samoa's Prime Minister and American Samoa's Congressman; both issuing public comments on Fiji. Since the post, the Congressman has reiterated his view that Australia and New Zealand heavy handedness and insulting views on Fiji.

The Samoan PM later backpedalled from his earlier stance and ridicule, realizing his own tenure is at stake, after the SiFM post highlighted an online survey of Samoan readers that disagreed on the P.M's remarks on Fiji.

Subsequently, the American Samoan Congressman was quoted in another RNZ article, stating that the Forum's suspension of Fiji was no solution.

The excerpt of RNZ article:

American Samoan Congressman says Fiji suspension is no

Posted at 04:28 on 01 May, 2009 UTC

American Samoa’s member of the United States Congress, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, says suspending Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum will not solve anything.

Faleomavaega says it will simply add to the country’s political and
economic woes. He says New Zealand and Australia have been too punitive and should have been taking a more constructive approach such as maintaining a dialogue with Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s regime.

“I’m no more supporter of a military takeover but the fact that Fiji has
a history of three military coups and a civilian takeover with three
constitutions, that should tell anybody that they have very serious problems that you cannot just simply dismiss by saying ’let’s have an election’. That’s not going to solve the problem.”

Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin

News Content © Radio New Zealand InternationalPO Box 123, Wellington, New

All in all, the litany of bullying outlined by PANG and the documented acts of self-dealing by Trans-Tasman policy advisers as, Dr Grynberg had alluded to, finally puts a different perspective into the Forum operations, one that is well different from the flawed narratives of Australia and New Zealand.

Fijian academic, Dr. Steven Ratuva is quoted in Radio NZ web article that, Fiji's expulsion is likely to hurt other smaller island nations.

The excerpt of RNZ article:

Expulsion from Forum likely to hurt small countries rather than Fiji

Posted at 06:10 on 04 May, 2009 UTC

An academic from the University of the South Pacific says Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum could hurt its small neighbours more than Fiji itself.

Dr Steven Ratuva says he has spoken with people from the interim government who believe the suspension will have minimal impact on
Fiji. But he says its growing isolation from the rest of the Pacific will
hurt small countries in the region that depend on it.

“What’s going to happen is that regional cooperation as we knew it for a
long time since 1972 is going to go through a significant and substantial shift. And the shift is going to affect mostly the small island states like Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tonga who rely significantly on Fiji for economic survival.”

Dr Ratuva says the suspension will see Fiji fall more under the influence of China, while Australia and New Zealand will lead the other powerblock in the region.

News Content © Radio New Zealand InternationalPO Box 123, Wellington, New

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