Friday, July 31, 2009

Al Jazeera English's/101 East- Dictating [Beta] Democracy in Fiji.

Interesting footage that is generally well balanced, quite intrusive and in depth regarding Fiji's socio-political environment.

Part 1

Part 2.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fact Checking The Interpreter: The Reportage Of Fiji's Socio-Political Scene By The Australian Media.

(Above image: Rewan Chief and SDL partisan, Ro Teimumu Kepa outside a Suva Court recently. Image source-Fiji Live)

Croz Walsh's latest posting examines the circumstances regarding the detention of Rewan Paramount chief and the strange bed fellows of Fiji's ethno-nationalistic politics.

The excerpt of the posting by Croz:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
(o+) Ro Teimumu, Methodist Ministers Being Questioned

Ro Teimumu, paramount chief of the Burebasaga confederacy, former Minister in the ousted SDL-led Government and an outspoken opponent of the Bainimarama Government, and at least four Methodist clergymen, including the controversial Revs Kanailagi and Lasaro, have been taken in for questioning about their rumoured plans to proceed with the Methodist Church's August Annual Conference in Rewa, to be hosted by Ro Teimumu, despite Government's refusal to grant the assembly a permit during the Public Emergency.

Last week the Church broke the conditions of a permit, that required the non-attendance of Revs Laraso and Kanailagi, by holding a standing committee meeting in Suva. It was apparently at this meeting the decision was made to proceed with the Conference, with or without Government permission. The Government position is that Kanailagi and Lasaro (and no doubt others) will use the Conference for political purposes which, in Fiji's present political climate, could threaten public order and national security.

If it is true the church intends to proceed with the Conference -- and my inside sources indicate it is -- this is a very serious development that could bring Church and Government into a head-on collision. I sympathise with the church's position, and the loss of funding the conference cancellation would bring, but there can be no doubt that the Kanailagi/Lasaro mix of religion with extreme Fijian nationalism has been an unhealthy (and, indeed, an unChristian) element of the Church for some time. But whatever the rights and wrongs of the current situation one hopes, for the sake of Fiji, that ways will be found to avert major confrontation before it turns really ugly. Click here for the full Fiji Times article.

Interpreter's Melanesia specialist Jenny-Hayward Jones has got it wrong yet again, along with the biased media reports from ABC. Jones' latest posting, unashamedly uses the talking points of the SDL segment, highlighting the 2 pillars of society, warning of imminent danger to the general public if their dual-pronged influence is permanently removed from the landscape of Fiji politics.

Ironically both pillars were also intimately involved with Fiji's 1987 and 2000 coups and it is rather myopic and repulsively selective for Jones to obfuscate that well documented fact.

A video (posted below)by Journey Man Productions/Foreign Correspondent explores the very scene of Fiji Parliament grounds and studies the various players involved in the 2000 Fiji coup, as well questioning the various motives prompting their action. The 20 minute footage includes a segment showing Rewa Chief, Ro Teimumu Kepa and GCC members visiting George Speight in Parliament for moral support of 'the cause', while the hostages were still being held in-situ.

Watch Ro Teimumu GCC members -Fiji 2000 coup. in News | View More Free Videos Online at

Edited version of above video (posted below)

Watch Cheifs and Politics in Fiji- A Catalyst For Coup Cycles. in News | View More Free Videos Online at

The proverbial pillars of Fiji's society, which Jones raised in her latest blog posting, was an emotional appeal for incitement. It may have escaped the mind of Jones, that those dual pillars she had highlighted; are so out of touch of reality that their influence on Fiji's populace has dwindled to a such a pathetic degree that, their appeal is actually anachronistic-oblivious to the changing demographics of Fiji's modern society.

Both pillars are no longer load bearing entities in politics, as they once were. Currently both bedfellows flaunt their roles in public, but the actual process of reducing their Chiefly/Religious footprint in Fiji politics would neither dent nor damage, the structural integrity of the progressing nation.

Jones quotes from a hideous Raw Fiji News posting that warns of violence around Suva and Rewa and it is rather not surprising that Jones bases her information on such vile rumour mongering.

The excerpt of RFN post:

Attacks around Rewa-Suva territory predicted
July 22, 2009

Some Fiji based commentators our sources spoke to today have predicted civil unrest in the greater part of Capital Suva, which is within the traditional territory of the imprisoned paramount lady chief, Ro Teimumu Kepa.

They say Suva City is undoubtedly the target area for those who will retaliate towards the detaining of their high chief.

Reports this afternoon reveal that despite the peaceful and prayerful nature of Ro Teimumu Kepa’s response to her uncivilized detention, people must not rule out certain confrontational destructive elements whose patience may have been stretched beyond its elasticity after learning of their chief’s unceremonious jailing.

We can also report that certain Embassies and High Commissions in Suva have issued alert warnings to their staff in the event that unexpected things happen in the middle of the night.

Jones erronously claims that, the lack of protest post 2006 coup was solely due to the dampening influence of the Methodist Church and Chiefs:

The lack of public protest in Fiji since the 2006 coup is usually attributed to the influence of churches and chiefs, who have been reluctant to endorse any protest that might end in violence. But these arrests may prove to be the one decision Fiji society cannot accept from its military leader.

It appears that the Interpreter's Jenny-Hayward Jones is strongly adhering to the talking points of antagonism, which are key words to population stimuli, which the SiFM had highlighted in an earlier post titled "The Audacity of Change-Fiji's Beta Democracy". That post singles out a white paper from Australian Government's Defense Department that mapped out these sensitive political areas in Fiji. Could the Australian media and blogs including 'The Interpreter' be declared guilty of impartiality?

Monday, July 20, 2009

MSG, Pacific Forum, Global Trade & The American Dream.

From The Interpreter's
Jenny Hayward Jones post:

Is the MSG a threat to Pacific unity?

by Jenny Hayward-Jones - 20 July 2009 9:26AM
The decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s (MSG) leaders on 10 July to lend their support to Fiji’s interim Government, and the backpedalling by leaders since that decision, reveals some interesting insights into how diplomacy works — or does not work — in the Pacific.
The meeting was held at a useful juncture for Bainimarama – a week after he delivered his Strategic Framework for Change speech and three weeks before the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders’ Summit in Cairns, from which he has been excluded. He seized the opportunity to secure endorsement for his agenda from a group of the region’s most influential countries.

The support offered to Bainimarama by the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu was likely driven by a sense of obligation to Melanesian brotherhood, a desire to assert a Melanesian approach that differed from that of Australia, New Zealand and the Polynesian members of the Forum, and some pandering to domestic constituencies concerned about Fiji’s suspension from the Forum.
If the MSG is to prove it is an effective sub-regional grouping, its leaders should present a clear and united front to the region and demonstrate that Melanesian-style diplomacy offers a better way of dealing with Fiji. The situation in Fiji is such that the region is crying out for creative solutions. Supporting Bainimarama's Strategic Framework for Change, Fiji’s continuing engagement in the PIF and the right to participate in regional trade agreements all telegraphed a strong message to the region about Melanesian solidarity.
But in the week since that message was delivered, Prime Minister Somare has said dialogue with Fiji was 'not an issue for the MSG', confirming that the MSG would ultimately abide by the majority decision on Fiji’s status in the PIF in Cairns. And Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei has indicated the MSG didn’t necessarily support Bainimarama’s roadmap.
The softening of the MSG’s tone may have been a response to reminders from other PIF members (almost certainly delivered early last week) about the importance of Forum unity. But it does beg questions about the future role and integrity of the MSG. The MSG should be a dominant sub-regional group and should be leading discussion within the Forum on handling Fiji. The members of the MSG (excluding New Caledonia) have a combined population of 8.2 million, GDP of US$12.7 billion and land area of 521,672 sq kms. By contrast, their Polynesian and Micronesian fellow members of the Forum have a combined population of 608,000, GDP of US$1.7 billion and land area of 6,363 sq kms.
The delivery of such contradictory public messages on Fiji within the space of one week, however, is hardly a demonstration of a group capable of challenging the status quo in the region or indeed of an approach that will assist Fiji in 'building commitment and capacity for genuine dialogue consistent with Melanesian values and traditional practices.'
Photo by flickr user Jo Levine, used under a Creative Commons license.

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key is gearing up for Forum meeting in Cairns. Article originally from New Herald, about the signals being sent to Pacific states.
PM Key sending clear diplomatic signals to Pacific nations
By Online Editor
5:04 pm GMT+12, 20/07/2009, New Zealand

NZ PM John Key
Too much attention to foreign fields can result in a few tantrums back home.
In the Far North last week, Mayor Wayne Brown wrote a truculent column about the attentions Mr Key had given to the Pacific compared to the Far North. Callers to a talkback show grilled him about giving aid to Pacific countries when New Zealand itself was hardly rolling in the money.
A supporter of medicinal cannabis castigated him for "enthusiastically" swigging back "a psychoactive substance called kava" despite rejecting bids to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes at home.
They should get their pens ready again - Mr Key is off in a fortnight to Cairns in Australia for the Pacific Forum leaders' meeting. He will visit Australia again soon after, to meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to push for the furtherance of the single economic market goals.Then it is off to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. A trip to the United States follows the month after.
By choosing to take over the trip that is traditionally left to the minister of foreign affairs, Mr Key was sending a clear indication that he intends to be no less prominent in foreign affairs than Helen Clark was.
On the face of it, it was a “goodwill” mission. After a decade of Miss Clark, the leaders must have wondered what they were in for. It did not take them long to find out. He has a proclivity for what the media call “Clark would never have done that” moments.
There was a “Clark would never have done that" at the lively nature of Mr Key's delegation, complete with hip hop dancers and former All Blacks.
There was another as Mr Key camped up his dance with Miss Niue and again as he used the word “children” about Fiji and Samoa when commenting on the relative merits of their kava.
“Clark would never have done that,” they muttered after John Key hollered out a joke to them about the king's dog Poobah. It is true that Miss Clark - a polished performer on the international stage and well aware of the gravitas of her role - would never have done the things Mr Key does.
But the difference is deliberate and, for him, it works. He knows he lacks the grounding to emulate Miss Clark, of whom a foreign affairs official only half joked was better placed to brief them to be briefed by them.
His personality is also starkly different. Mr Key has never been risk averse, as long as the risk is calculated. The trip proved that.
The delegation which began looking somewhat like a circus did more than simply cement Mr Key's relationships at a leader to leader level.
The hip-hop crew proved strong ambassadors at a level Mr Key could never have done.
But the leaders of those countries will also have learned that after the dancing is over, Mr Key plays as straight a game as Miss Clark did.
Niue's Toke Talagi in particular learnt not to try to lure Mr Key into a diplomatic game by playing China off against New Zealand in a bid to have aid funding released.
Mr Key called his bluff - telling him to go ahead. Mr Key takes a pragmatic stance on China's incursions with aid money and easy loans into the Pacific.
Rather than rail King Canute-like against it, he has instead publicly said China's increasing role is an inevitable consequence of its efforts to gain wider international influence.
Instead of protesting, he has urged China to work with New Zealand.
His aim is not only to ensure the money is not spent on wasted efforts, but to allow New Zealand to see exactly where it is spent.
However, he has also sent the clear message to those island countries that they deal with China at their own risk, that New Zealand will not step in to bail them out if it goes awry.
Behind the doors, Mr Key was also trying to shore up support for centring the Pacific Forum agenda next month on them and the economic downturn - not Fiji.
The Pacific Islands Forum has often been criticised as of negligible value, a grouping that talks a lot but does little.
Such outcomes are anathema to Mr Key, and so his reconnaissance trip was more about trying to ensure something concrete emerges when the leaders meet next week.
What he wants when he flies into Cairns is allies to help staunch talk of allowing Fiji to rejoin the forum.
What he wants when he flies out of Cairns is to be carrying a communique filled with concrete proposals on measures to help the Pacific Islands in the recession.
So as soon as Mr Key returned from his trip, Murray McCully went on his own - to Kiribati and Tuvalu, as well as follow-up visits to Tonga and Samoa.
Duncan Kerr, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, was simultaneously roaming the Pacific, peddling much the same message Mr Key - tend to your own lands in a time of trial, not Fiji.
What Mr Key got out of the trip was some surety that the other leaders would largely be singing from the same song sheet.
What the Pacific leaders got out of it was some reassurance that Mr Key would not neglect their interests - and the chance to make it just that little bit more difficult for him to make decisions based solely on bottom lines.
The difference in New Zealand's relations with the Pacific and the wider world was spelled out in an uncharacteristically sentimental paragraph in a Cabinet paper on the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations.
“In every other context, trade policy starts by putting the interest of New Zealand exporters first and aggressively so. In the Pacific, it is different.
“Here, our policy approach should start by putting our political, people to people relationships first. In some cases - Tonga, Samoa, the Cooks, for example - they are part of us.”
A day in each country was not long. But it was long enough for Mr Key to learn the truth of that. John Key emerged from his trip knowing he got on famously with the King of Tonga, albeit perhaps with a slight headache after being plied with champagne at 11am and then two hours of pre-dinner drinks later in the day for a dinner that went well past the scheduled 10pm end.
Samoa also won a little of his heart, especially the village of Poutasi, where he was met by the village men proudly wearing New Zealand themed T-shirts as a tacit "thanks" for the seasonal labour scheme.
After just one hour in the village, they were offering him a chiefly title and he was waxing lyrical about the conch shell blowing at 6pm for prayers each day and 10pm bedtime rule. Miss Clark's greatest gift to Mr Key is in the area of foreign affairs where she drove home the importance of assiduously built connections and Zealand's reputation as an honest broker.
He knows he cannot out-Clark her - but nor does he plan to squander what she has bequeathed him.

Claire Trevett is a political writer for The New Zealand Herald.


Trans-Tasman leverage against MSG countries appears to be eroding like a sand castle on Bondi. As the post by Interpreter alludes to, the MSG decision to back Fiji was recognized as a constructive engagement that could undermine the very credibility of the forum.
Lately, the definition of decisions conveniently stamped with "manufactured consensus" in Forum communiques seems to be attracting clouds of doubts. Subjectively, those decision were made with Pacific Island representatives, wholly omitted from the negotiating table.

These warnings have been heard before. Some from a former and ousted Pacific Forum's Director of Economic Governance, Dr. Roman Grynberg; who dispatched an open letter to PNG Prime Minister and MSG Leaders prior to their recent meet.
Such advice. which was undoubtedly crucial and persuasive to the outcome. Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) represents a regional sub-bloc of island states in the region-with more population, mineral and fossil fuel resources.
Dr. Grynberg's letter was published in Pac News website.
The excerpt:

Open Letter from Dr Grynberg's to PNG Prime Minister and MSG Leaders
By Online Editor
1:38 pm GMT+12, 10/07/2009, Fiji

Dr Roman Grynberg is the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare

I am writing this public letter to you and the other MSG leaders in the hope that the troubling recent developments in regard to the future PACER Plus Agreement with Australia and New Zealand can be addressed at the up-coming MSG Leaders Summit.
There can be little doubt that the PACER Plus agreement, if properly negotiated, will be of enormous benefit to the people of Papua New Guinea as well as all the peoples of Melanesia and the wider Pacific islands region. However, the lead up to these negotiations has shown that the reality is likely to fall far short of the potential because of the excessive haste that has been shown by Australia and New Zealand in pushing the Pacific Island Countries into negotiations when they are simply not ready to do so given that they remain involved in highly complex negotiations with the EU.
The Pacific island nations have not had sufficient time to either consult adequately with national stakeholders or to undertake genuinely neutral and scientific analysis of what type of future trade arrangement would be in their interests. The arrangements for future negotiations that have been reported in the media following the Apia meeting of Forum Trade Ministers are very disturbing and will almost certainly leave the PNG, as well as Melanesian countries and the wider Pacific islands without sufficient capacity to negotiate.
A significant issue in all of this has been the exclusion of Fiji from the negotiations. While I am deeply supportive of the democratic process and the Forum efforts to promote democracy the current situation will mean that the entire people of Fiji will be penalized by their exclusion from PACER through events not of their own making. Moreover, once democracy returns to Fiji there can be little doubt that a future democratic government will have little choice but to accept the terms of an agreement that will have been negotiated without its participation.
The arrangements being developed require complete ownership of the negotiating process by the Pacific islands. It is for this reason that I write to you to call on you and other MSG leaders to remove the negotiating process from the Pacific Islands Forum altogether and move it to the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat. I also call upon you to assure the rights of the people of Fiji are protected and that their voice can be actively heard at the trade negotiations.
In order to assure that a neutral negotiation occurred the small island states should also be invited to participate in an MSG based negotiation. While I recognize the direct financial cost of such an action the PACER plus treaty is so important to an entire generation of young Papua New Guineans, Melanesians and Pacific Islanders that it cannot be handled by institutions which are so thoroughly dominated by Australian and New Zealand interests. Only the MSG has the neutrality to manage this process.
I know that PNG and other Melanesian countries jealously and rightly guard their sovereignty. To sacrifice this sovereignty on such an important matter as your future economic relations with your neighbors and to potentially end up with a treaty that is not in your interests would be the sacrifice of your sovereignty for which you fought.
Sir, you are the last remaining father of the Forum. Your vision in creating the Forum was grand but in certain matters such as these the Pacific Islands simply cannot leave such important negotiations to institutions dominated by the interests of Australia and New Zealand.
Yours sincerely
Dr Roman Grynberg

Dr Roman Grynberg is the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

As growth seems to be among the crucial factors for economic growth. In light of the current global economic climate, and the ripple effects to the world in general. The aspect of the American Dream was addressed and how that image of consumerism inadvertently contributed to the global financial malaise.

This discussion of trade, growth, consumerism and global trade was featured in an American Radio Works documentary and the growing doubt about the entire system of trade, banking, regulation and government.


The "American dream" has powered the hopes and aspirations of Americans for generations. It began as a plain but revolutionary notion: each person has the right to pursue happiness, and the freedom to strive for a better life through hard work and fair ambition. But over time, this dream has come to represent a set of expectations about owning things and making money. So what exactly is the American dream? How did we come to define it? And is it changing?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From Croz Walsh's blog: (o) Media RoundUp; Bloggers Rodeo

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mere McCutchan's Parrot
There's something unreal about recent reports from Fiji, as the mainstream media, limited by Government censorship, continue to publish mainly inconsequential non-news articles in protest against media restrictions, or in place of the articles they'd like to write. Take, for example, the front-page feature in yesterday's on line Fiji Times --- Mere McCutcheon's parrot. "Mere McCutchan had just awoken and was preparing breakfast yesterday when she heard something outside ......"

True, the paper did have a small feature on shops and businesses returning to normal business hours (highlighted by Fiji Village) and on a possible apology to former Methodist Church president Rev. Josateki Koroi,* but these serious items were accompanied by another non-news item, "Full House for Harry Potter."

Fiji Village had more "news" coverage with items on the business hours (the emergency regulations being lifted on businesses), swine flu, a police enquiry into sorcery, and Qarase's appeal to leave the country again, which is opposed by FICAC (the Corruption Commission, because the Qarase case is pending). The Fiji Daily Post turned media restriction into media opportunity with a fascinating story of the Taunova Bay Resort manager's plans to put 1,000 acres to agricultural use (this is well worth reading), and the Fiji Sun did likewise with a feature on $3m being pumped into ailing Labasa. On balance, with so many non-news stories, readers would think little is happening in Fiji, but in this they'd be wrong if anti-government blogs located outside the country are any guide.

Bloggers' Rodeo:Jump on for the Ride
Most of these blogs republish each other's postings but over the past week all have been publishing items of alleged unrest in the military. It is impossible to know whether the items have any substance or whether they are published (and republished) as part of a campaign to confuse and destabilise -- or both, with the blog stories feeding the unrest.

Last week CoupFourpointfive reported Bainimarama had suspended Land Force Commander Pita Driti and Commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Regiment Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara. But on Monday the story was that it was Driti and Ratu Tevita telling Bainimarama to step down, and yesterday (Wednesday) it's back to Bainimarama telling Driti and Ratu Tevita again. Yet both officers were reported taking morning tea on Monday at the barracks and neither has made a public statement. To keep the pot boiling, the blogs also reported tension "within the ranks" over Bainimarama's cancellation of the Methodist Conference, saying "inside sources" said the Conference will go ahead despite the cancellation.

If these confusing accounts were not enough, at 1:20pm on Tuesday the blog FijiCoup2006, run by Sai Lealea, formerly of the NZ Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in Wellington, published an item headed "Change in Fiji Military Leadership Underway Now." But then mysteriously the post was removed, with no explanation offered. Was someone pulling Sai's leg or did the change become unstuck?

It really is very difficult to know what's going on. There may well be some truth in the blog stories but I wish the blogs, and the generally more reasoned Coupfourpointfive in particular, would make more effort to check their sources, or a least give some indication of probable reliability. As long as the Government (in my opinion, unwisely) continues to censor the media, bloggers are too important a source of information to be ignored by readers who may find too many of their stories unreliable or unfounded. Photo Fiji Times.

*Rev. Koroi was forceably deposed for his opposition to the "pro-Fijian" 1987 Coup by Rev. Manasa Lasaro who actively supported all the Coups before the last one. It is Lasaro's and Rev. Tomasi Kanailagi's rabid ethno-nationalist politics that Bainimarama wants removed from the Church. If they had resigned, Bainimarama would have had no obvious reason to cancel the Methodist Church Conference. One presumes their failure to do so is a political statement.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Whale Oil Beef Hooked: Guilty of nothing more than being helpful to his constituents

Whale Oil Beef Hooked: Guilty of nothing more than being helpful to his constituents

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fool Me Once: Pacific Free Trade (Pacer PLUS Negotiations).

Pacific Islands Business Magazine "We Say" column echos the sentiment of the Trans-Tasman 'bait & switch' gamesmanship and diplomatic sleight of hand deals, occurring around the fringes of the Pacer-PLUS Trade negotiations. Apparently,  as the article alluded to, some of Pacific Island States, haven't heard of the idiom: "Fool Me Once".

Croz Walsh's blog July 6th posting does address the fact of the sinister removal of Dr. Roman Grynberg, employed as Economic Governance Director at the Pacific Forum.

The excerpt of "We Say":
WE SAY: [Pacific Island] Leaders hijacked by powerful nations


‘It is time Pacific leaders stop bending backwards to see the western point of view that clearly runs counter to their own interests and find their own way in matters of trade that would benefit them all as a region. The old lesson of strength in unity holds true particularly for the Pacific Islands, which as stand-alones can be so easily exploited. Pacific Islands leaders must acknowledge that the Pacific Way is all about inclusiveness and seeing the whole picture for the benefit of all’

The outcome of last month’s Pacific Islands Forum Trade Ministers meeting in Samoa and the manner in which the ANZAC nations so easily got away with so many points to their advantage once again shows the tendency for Pacific Islands leaders to aim for the low hanging fruit, then allowing their agenda to be hijacked by powerful western nations and finally showing satisfaction when crumbs are thrown their way by these nations.
It also shows the tendency of the western nations in the region to ride rough shod over Pacific Islands leaders and by extension their people while making it appear that great favours have been conferred on them.
At last month’s meeting, the Pacific Islands leaders have given too much away too soon and too easily without adequate consultation among themselves despite earlier commitments to do so.
For instance, at the previous trade ministers meeting of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) leaders, the Pacific Islands nations’ leaders had categorically stated that national consultations before any PACER-Plus negotiations could take place. More sensibly, it was also stated that a fully functional regional trade office, headed by a competent chief trade advisor, needed to be in place to head the office.
Significantly, at this ACP meeting where these statements were made, the trade ministers of Australia and New Zealand were not present. But at the Apia meeting last month which Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean and his New Zealand counterpart Tim Groser attended, the Pacific Islands leaders seemed to have made a mockery of those earlier statements and gave in so easily to the ANZAC nations’ demands.
Consequently, the Pacific Islands leaders gamely agreed to start trade negotiations immediately after this year’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Cairns and that too without the important office of the Chief Trade Advisor (CTA) being in place.

Effectively, this leaves no time for national consultations as was agreed to by the leaders at the ACP meeting since the Forum meeting is due next month. Worse, the islands are nowhere near the process of setting up the CTA office or identifying and appointing a competent official to head it.
It is no surprise that trade advisers to the Pacific Islands leaders were left disappointed at this development where the leaders gave away so much in the course of a closed door lunch meeting with the ANZAC nations’ leaders—reminiscent of the green room meetings that happened with leaders sans their advisers at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) meetings.

Not only did the Pacific Islands leaders agree to starting the negotiations after the conclusion of the Forum meet in Cairns, but they committed to finish the process within a timeframe of five years though the western nations are highly unlikely to wait that long and will fully take charge of the agenda and exploit the cracks in the Pacific Islands’ collective leadership to press for a conclusion of the negotiations far earlier.
Knowing well the disarray in the leadership and the weak stance of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in most matters when it comes to dealing with the western donor nations, they won over the Pacific Islands leadership by committing to set up the CTA office and funding it to the tune of half-a-million dollars every year—which indeed must have been seen as a huge favour by Pacific Islands trade ministers.

This seemed to be incentive enough for the islands ministers to bow reverentially and gratefully to what Australia and New Zealand wanted.
Having gamely agreed to these concessions, it is a question of time when the two economically powerful nations get the smaller and poorer Pacific Islands nations on their side to extract further concessions much to the disadvantage of the larger and far more resource rich islands nations like Papua New Guinea and Fiji, which have rightly begun voicing their concerns already.
This is a classic ‘throw a freebie, win them over and then drive wedges between them’ colonial-style policy at work. Divide and rule is a time tested colonial policy that has been used successfully by western powers over the centuries. The trouble is that some of the nations—particularly the Pacific islands countries—are none the wiser for it and still fall for it just as they did a century ago.

There is little doubt this will lead to deepening fissures between the bigger Pacific Islands nations and the smaller ones as the negotiations progress. And going by how beholden the Forum Secretariat has shown itself to be to western powers leaves little hope that it can ever play a conciliatory role.

 Its recent response on a number of issues including the handling of the Fiji situation is testimony to its increasingly weaker role in regional affairs.

This clearly raises big questions in the minds of Pacific people whether their trade ministers and their leaders have the nous to guard their interests both nationally and regionally.
Leaders and people from the more resource-rich Melanesian nations who have more recently come to value their natural wealth and also begun to realise the potential of their economies can only feel betrayed by the smaller nations that have comparatively little to lose vis a vis the niggardly favours that they can expect in return. They cannot be blamed for harbouring such feelings.

This does not bode well for regionalism, the pursuit of which has begun to look akin to chasing a chimera for some time now with such a string of non-starters in regional initiatives over the past several decades. 
It is time Pacific leaders stop bending backwards to see the western point of view that clearly runs counter to their own interests and find their own way in matters of trade that would benefit them all as a region. The old lesson of strength in unity holds true particularly for the Pacific islands, which as stand-alones can be so easily exploited.
Pacific islands leaders must acknowledge that the Pacific Way is all about inclusiveness and seeing the whole picture for the benefit of all. Indeed, that is the ethic that has helped the Pacific people thrive so well in some of the world’s remotest locations. 

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Australia had the Pacific Islands for lunch in Apia

In a follow up to an earlier SiFM posting that covered the controversial PACER Plus negotiations in the Pacific.

An interesting letter to the Editor of Matangi Tonga adds context to the debate.

04 Jul 2009, 06:36



THERE'S an old saying in trade negotiations, if you're not on the menu, you're on the table. So there's no doubt that Australian trade officials are happy with what was served up in Samoa last week, June 17/18. When trade ministers from the Pacific region met in Apia to discuss a potential free trade agreement, they concluded with a unanimous recommendation to their leaders to enter into negotiations come the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Cairns this August.

Before the meeting Australia, New Zealand and a number of other countries, including host country Samoa, were pushing for an agreement. Many expected this meeting to conclude with a recommendation to enter into negotiations, but few expected it to happen so easily.

What was scheduled for the whole second day of the meeting was in effect agreed to over a luncheon on the first. The Ministers went out to lunch without their delegation of advisors and government officials and ended up agreeing on a statement that would most likely have been pre-drafted. By the afternoon it was all stitched up, some happy, some very happy, and some quite rightly embarrassed.

Just six months ago the Pacific had presented to Australia and New Zealand a draft roadmap for dealing with a Pacific trade agreement, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, or PACER-Plus. In that draft road map, the Pacific Island nations mapped out a much longer timeframe, first starting with national consultations and research to determine whether or not to enter into negotiations. If the research suggested negotiations were a good idea, this would be followed by informal negotiations, and then finally formal negotiations beginning in 2013. In addition to this was the $11 million proposed for an Office of Chief Trade Advisor, a separate entity that would provide research and negotiation capacity and even act as a point of contact for negotiations. This would all up take 5 years. All these would have combined to place the Pacific in a much better position to assess and participate in any negotiations.

What did they end up with? Negotiations to be announced in August with the first round likely to be one week after that with timelines for the whole process yet to be decided. An Office of Chief Trade Advisor funded to the tune of $3 million over 3 years with a reduced remit that boils down to essentially facilitating meetings. In terms of funding for research and capacity building, Australia has offered $65,000 for research and will continue with its ten module training course for negotiators. That's right, the Pacific officials are learning how to negotiate their sensitive trade issues by discussing them with Australia before hand. This is a far cry from the Pacific's initial call for an independent Office of Chief Trade Advisor that would act as a collective point for research and negotiations.

You do have to hand it to the Australian and New Zealanders, they comprehensively outmanouvered and outplayed their Pacific counterparts. Critical to this was the removal of Roman Grynberg from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Dr Grynberg has long been a thorn in the side of Australia's trade ambitions with his expertise and strategy in negotiations, particularly in providing assistance to the under resourced Island Countries. So it must have been much to Australia and New Zealand's delight that his contract was not renewed last year on account of some Pacific Islands Forum members not being happy with his role in the servicing of all the clients, including Australia and New Zealand, in Pacific Islands Forum. To add even more insult to injury, it now looks like an Australian, Dr. Chakriya Bowan will fill Dr Grynberg's role as Economic Governance Director.

Not only this, Australia played the old trick of starting out with the outrageous and then 'compromising' on something more in line with what they wanted. Australia was initially demanding to have a say in the governance of the office of chief trade advisor. This is highly controversial as any negotiating party should not have a say in the structure of the capacity and negotiating support for another party. This is something that Australia would surely not stand for in negotiations with other trade partners and the Pacific should have done the same. This was one thing that should never even have been on the table, yet there it was and there were no surprises to see it cut back in the giving and taking of the final decision. However with the Office of Chief Trade Advisor initially being housed at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat the likely Australian replacement of Dr Grynberg will, as it turns out, have some involvement in its governance. How this influences the OCTA remains to be seen but as a symbol it further erodes any supposed 'taking' for the Pacific in the negotiation of this decision.

If that wasn't enough, there was the presence of Bob McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance. Throughout this year Bob McMullan and Simon Crean have been touring the Pacific talking about the benefits of free trade and handing out aid money as they go. With Pacific countries so dependent on aid money, the message was not lost: free trade and aid go together.
Fiji's absence was also apparent. Fiji has been one of the strongest voices in holding a strong Pacific position and their absence significantly weakened the stance of the Pacific. Simon Crean has maintained that the suspension of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum automatically applies to PACER-Plus talks, a very convenient position from Australia's point of view. Fiji's exclusion however, is being challenged.

A legal opinion released to the media by the Pacific Network on Globalisation claims that PACER is a separate legal framework to the Pacific Islands Forum, hence the suspension of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum doesn't automatically equal suspension from PACER-Plus talks. This means that the recommendation to launch PACER-Plus negotiations is technically not legally binding. Fiji has already issued a statement condemning their exclusion from the talks last week and stated that any outcomes from the meeting violate the terms of �consensus� and therefore doesn't apply to Fiji. How this gets taken up by the rest of the countries remains to be seen.

This was the situation that faced the Pacific. Not only were they facing pressure from Australia and New Zealand to negotiate, but they also faced the issues of diminished capacity and extreme demands. With media statements from various Ministers within the Pacific Islands buying into the idea, as well as the host of the meeting and agenda setter, the pressure on those trade ministers from still holding out was immense. Not only this, the lunch �meeting� without government officials also meant that the expertise of the officials was lost on the decisions of the Ministers. With decisions needing to be made by consensus it's hard to be the lone dissenting voices.

It was this backdrop that greeted us non-government organisations when we rocked up to the Ministers' cocktail party. Despite officials from the Australian delegation reassuring us that there was a consensus and general happiness with the outcomes one only had to talk to those who weren't 'celebrating' at the cocktail party. A number of ambassadors from the Pacific Islands expressed their anger at what Ministers had agreed upon to the non-government groups. One Pacific Minister from the Cook Islands was so upset by what was agreed to he was on the first plane home, without a cocktail.

As the Pacific enters this new era there are big questions that need answering. All the social, environmental, and labour issues associated with a proposed PACER-Plus remain, this decision to enter into negotiations does nothing to answer them. Not only that, the trade ministers from all these countries need to be called to account. It is reckless for all involved to enter into negotiations without knowing the full impacts of what is proposed. In particular, Simon Crean needs to explain why undermining the capacity and time for the Pacific to be prepared to enter into negotiations (if they found it was worthwhile) helps them enter into what he refers to as �enhancing prosperity in the Pacific�.

With PACER set to diminish $10 million in government revenue for the Pacific as well as see thousands of jobs go the Pacific has a lot of soul searching to do. Australians on the other hand shouldn't let their government get away with pushing their neighbours around like this.

Adam Wolfenden

Adam Wolfenden is the Trade Justice Campaigner for the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET).

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Audacity of Change- Fiji's Beta Democracy (Part2).

Jenny Hayward-Jones' latest blog posting on "The Interpreter" titled "New Strategic Framework", features new developments in the arena of Fiji's political cross-roads.
The article in question, began with the factual play-by-play events, then abruptly ends with a "did not convince" rhetorical device.

This particular rhetorical device was somewhat confusing, as it veered the otherwise impressive objective opening, to a myopic ending; un-intentionally or intentionally spinning ignorant readers into the cornucopia of biased projections about Fiji.

ABC Pacific Beat program July 1st 2009 , previews the expected speech by Fiji's Interim Prime Minister, in an abrupt interview (last quarter of show)with Vijay Narayan.

Also interesting was the similar vein of questions, alluding to the question: "timing of elections", in the context of the media reports, highlighting the formulation of a new constitution in Fiji, as outlined in a speech by Frank Bainimarama. Brief audio of speech.

The common thread between Lal and Hayward-Jones' comments were undeniably similar as if they were 'peas of the same pod'. Both analysis's started off with the speech's focus on the fixing the economy and morphed in the harangue about the delay about election timing, with a pinch of monologue related to the future of the military. Neither Lal & Hayward-Jones, addressed the issue of native land which was also raised in the same speech by Bainimarama.

Another misleading angle, peddled by Professor Lal, pointed out national statistics of poverty, while conveniently ignoring that those poverty rates did not rise out of a vacuum and implied all those economic woes are directly related to the activities of the Interim Government.

It seems both Lal and Hayward-Jones selectively feel that a 3 minute democracy is the best remedy for Fiji. Undoubtedly and unsurprisingly, this flawed sentiment was also echoed by the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith.

Dr. Lal, later questioned the issue about the consultation phase, regarding this new Fiji Constitution. However the ABC host did not bother to challenge Lal's remarks or even bother to compare the present and continuing consultations, to the diluted 1997 version. Neither did ABC offer any other opposing views, apart from their favorite talking heads, in their so called forum.

A surreptitious version of due diligence; that was formed during Lal's celebrated and at times, over-glorified tenure as 'architect' of the 1997 Fiji Constitution. Irregardless of the glaring failures of the 1997 legal document; in the context of racial equality- a crucial issue which Brij Lal has vacillated on repeated occasions.

Later the Radio Australia's news forum discussed the question of Fiji's 2014 Elections and the speech contents.

In an another one sided interview-a known maker's mark of Radio Australia, featured the same celebrity expert of Fiji politics, Dr. Brij Lal; a tenured Professor of History at Australia National University (ANU).

Another SDL stalwart also on the ANU tenure, Jone Baledrokadroka, is the contracted Fiji military expert; consulted by Radio Australia and underscored in the quotes featuring Baledrokadroka, in the June 26th 2009-ABC article.

Undeniably, these series of articles by ABC, does raise eyebrows about the impartiality factor. Although, those allegations may now have a ring of truth to it; such questions are usually dismissed by the proponents of media freedom and political naysayers, as simply baseless.

In the above posted ABC article, the image shown and article is misleading to say the least and was captured few months earlier, then the event reported. It is unclear, how any times the ABC web page continues to show this out-dated image of Frank Bainimarama in uniform, along side their breaking news on Fiji?

Case in point, Fiji TV video footage (posted below) actually shows Fiji's Interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama wearing a suit during the delivery of his national address.

However, these media generated 'stimuli' designed to agitate Fiji's population, a template realistically spear headed by a 2007 white paper funded by ADF's Section of Defense Science and Technology Organization.

The paper in question, with an eye-opening title "Historical Analysis of Population Reactions To Stimuli-A Case Study On Fiji", was unveiled in a thread started by 'No Sapo' on Fiji Exiles Board and does give legitimacy to the well documented and coordinated Australian media assault. Coupled with the Trans-tasman diplomatic cold shoulder and colonial mentality. Case in point, PACER Pluse negotiations.

A micro-excerpt of the paper:

1. Introduction

Previous reports [1-4] have discussed the impact that non-combatant populations can have on Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations, particularly in urban environments. Indeed, the success or failure of an operation may depend on the reactions of the civilian population, and as such, the study of population reactions becomes a matter of importance.

These reports [1-4] have demonstrated that valuable insights can be obtained by analysing the stimuli which have in the past resulted in reactions from the population (thereby creating an event). These events may range from insurgences1 through assisting/supporting one side in a conflict to popular support of a group or ideal. Hence, understanding the stimuli2 which have in the past caused (and hence might cause) the population to act in a particular way, resulting in some event, can give insights into how they might react in the future, provided there are sufficient historical trends.

This report is the fifth historical analysis of stimuli and effects of populations in the South East Asian/South West Pacific region, which was identified as of particular interest to Australia in the 2000 Defence White Paper and the 2003 National Security Update [5, 6]. Fiji falls in this region as well as having a well documented history of coups, insurgencies and violence. A timeline of these events for Fiji is in Appendix A3.

This study provides insights into how this population have reacted to past stimuli, which may have both operational and strategic applications. The resulting qualitative data could be used in war games or training exercises where the input of the reaction of a population is from a real environment. Additionally, these studies provide baseline data for futures studies, regional assessments and comparisons. They are aimed at providing contextual information and guidance on socio-cultural issues for planners in multi agency operations in the region.

2. Methodology

The methodology used in this report is similar to that used in previous reports [1-4]. Because this methodology has been explained in detail previously, only a brief description is included here. This work uses a multidisciplinary approach taken from such disciplines as operations research, political science, anthropology and qualitative historical analysis. These methods were used to extract stimuli and events from qualitative data that was obtained from a broad literature search on Fijian history. It must be stressed that this data is not 'statistically valid' in the sense that each event has only occurred once, thus rendering statistical results

1 Insurgences are defined as riots, rebellions or revolts by the Macquarie Dictionary 3rd Edition.
2 Stimuli are represented as causes and triggers throughout the report.
3 This work was undertaken prior to the coup at the end of 2006.