Monday, November 09, 2009

Island Business: Officials Make Strong Stand.


Laisa Taga,
Islands Business
Group Editor in Chief
Mon, 9
Nov 2009

Are the islands government officials now finally waking up to the fact that they have been for so long dancing to the tune of Australia and New Zealand?

That Australia particularly has been dictating the shots? That the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (ForumSec), which was set up to serve islands interests, is serving not their interests but that of Australia and New Zealand?

If last month’s Special Forum Trade Officials meeting in Brisbane and the SOPAC 38th annual session in Vanuatu are anything to go by, we can expect interesting times ahead.

Interesting times

For the first time, islands officials are making a stand and making it loud and clear. They are standing up to Australia and New Zealand.

Take for example the Brisbane Forum Trade Officials meeting. Sources at the meeting said the islanders took an unprecedented move by telling Forum Secretariat
officials that they didn’t want them in their meeting.

That meeting was to discuss their position before they met with Australia and New Zealand to talk about the appointment of the Chief Trade Adviser and the establishment of this office. Plus the framework for the regional PACER Plus trade negotiations, including timelines for negotiations, identification of issues and issues the adviser could negotiate.

One well connected regional political observer told LETTER FROM SUVA: “That move by the islanders is unprecedented and it shows the level of mistrust and suspicion they have of ForumSec.

The meeting was to have been attended by the new trade adviser who is the Director of Economic Governance, Dr Chakriya Bowman of Australia. But islands officials decided against it because they feared that if she and her ForumSec team were to be part of that meeting, their position could be compromised with the Australians getting a whiff of it and devising strategies to counter the Pacific move even before they met.

“This is not new…it has been the problem over the years that even before the islands met with Australia and New Zealand their positions were already known by them.”

LETTER FROM SUVA was also told that in the past some senior ForumSec officials were forced to keep close to their chest their trade negotiation strategies. This included not even disclosing it to fellow senior officials.

And that’s not all. In Vanuatu, late month, there were similar developments at the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC).

Heated debate

A reliable source within SOPAC told LETTER FROM SUVA that Australia and New Zealand reps at the SOPAC annual session were told in no uncertain terms: “If they don’t want to play ball with the islands, then they are not welcomed. We can find alternative funders who can take your place within SOPAC”.

The heated debate was over whether SOPAC could be able to be rationalised come January 1, 2010, as was earlier decided. The meeting was told the regional organisation needed more time before this could be done.

Under the new structure, SOPAC is to come under the Secretariat of the Pacific Commission (SPC), and this was to become effective from January 1, 2010.

During the discussions, the Australian delegate insisted the rationalisation process should proceed as planned. She threatened to pull out Australian funding totalling 4% of SOPAC’s budget, if the rationalisation process did not go ahead.

This led to one island delegate telling the Australians: “If you want to walk, walk, if you want to run, run, SOPAC will survive with or without your funding.”

This drew overwhelming support from the rest of the islands nations. It saw the status quo remaining at SOPAC for at least another year before a review is done and a report submitted before the leaders when they meet in October next year.

Need not be bullied

It is this kind of unity that has been missing from the islands for a long time. The small islands are starting to say what they mean. This is important. We are sovereign countries. We need to hold our heads high and be counted. We can’t be bulldozed and we need to break the culture of silence.

Leaders need to take heed of this. They need not be bullied and run for cover every time Australia and New Zealand open their mouths! Perhaps, other islands leaders could learn a thing or two from Fiji’s Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama. He is taking no nonsense from Canberra and Wellington and is not intimidated by them.

Maybe that’s why Australia and New Zealand are so anxious to make sure Fiji is excluded from the Pacific Islands Forum and the PACER Plus negotiations…..Article from Islands Business Magazine, November Issue, website: []

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dr. Katerina Teaiwa : Our Real Fiji.


Fiji Sun

The latest drama surrounding Fiji is starting to conjure up images for me of the Bermuda Triangle.

There is a mysterious dead zone of understanding between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand despite over a century of trade, and political and cultural exchanges.

In this abyss history begins again and again in 2006, 2000 and 1987 and the future of the island nation constantly hinges on a string of negative political and economic sound bites.

I often discuss popular perceptions of Fiji and the Pacific with many of my students.


One postgraduate made a short documentary of Australian and Pacific relations for her final research project in 2008. She interviewed several young people in Canberra about their views of the island region.

The majority had close to no opinion or were'nt sure what part of the world she was talking about.

The rest had perspectives that revolved around two sets of images: coconuts and cocktails on one side, and coups and crises on the other.

The two views of Oceania have been around since before Captain Cook and continue to be invoked by many a journalist who begins their South Pacific news story with the ominous words: “Beneath the exotic facade lies...”


The dominance of the “paradise in crisis” paradigm is a reflection of the lack of in-depth understanding of the region within the Australian public.

There is next to no Pacific content in Australian education at all levels, for example. In a recent discussion at the Australian National University (ANU) with foreign affairs cadets from across Asia and the Pacific, we compared the two regions.

The economic and political influence of many Asian countries was a clear attraction for young people wanting to further their studies and international careers. One young woman then asked me what the “gain” was in engaging the Pacific.


The popular perception is that countries such as Australia and New Zealand guide, advise, fund and support Pacific Island governments and communities but have nothing to gain or learn from them.

But the majority of people who do spend quality time in the islands, many of them government funded development volunteers, do come away with some major life changing experiences. They are often moved and inspired by the culturally vibrant communities they work with.

Clearly, if one is open to learning, an important “gain” is always cultural.

In August, at the Fiji Update held at Parliament House in Canberra, I called for a diversity of views on the current situation highlighting the wealth of activity and promise within the culture sector.

By diversity I don’t mean illuminating life and politics in Fiji from the perspectives of more “big men” whether they are of the Melanesian, Australian or New Zealand variety. I mean, find out what else is going on, what other extraordinary and meaningful things Fiji Islanders are doing.

What are women’s groups doing? What are artists doing, painting, weaving, or singing? What other creative strategies do people use to express themselves?

With all respect to ABC’s In the Loop, do such stories reach the general Australian public?

These questions probably would not result in enough sensational or scandalous answers to merit mainstream media attention but they would illuminate life on the ground and help assuage the panic that seems to rise every time Australia and Fiji’s relationship gets extra rocky.


Australians might learn, for example, about why the French funded Domo ni Karmen, “Carmen’s Voice” in Fijian, Fiji’s first Pacific opera and an adaptation of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, performed to sold-out theatres in Suva.

We might contemplate the rise of slam poetry and hip hop and its direct connection with youth empowerment.

In some parts of the world we would turn to the musicians, poets and other literary figures for social and political insight. There is no shortage of such voices in the Pacific but rarely are they called upon for such wisdom.

One of the most cherished poems of the post coup era, “My Fiji,” was written by the late Adi Kuini Vuikaba Speed, wife of the late Dr. Timoci Bavadra who was ousted from government in the first Fiji coup.

Her words are worth remembering again, and again, and again.

. . . It was the budget

That brought them down.

But my country is:

singing competitions, old clothes bazaars,

food and mat sales for the church fund.

Noisy volleyball games and the boredom of children,

too small to enjoy the events, hot and bothered

by the things bigger people do.

That same government is back again,

old faces, old games.

But my country is:

The bumpy ride on Singh’s valley bus,

and driver Pratap greeting Fijians

in fluent Sigatoka dialect.

The Hindu tobacco grower who

helps the poor Fijian family

with the adopted Chinese son

- Adi Kuini Vuikaba Speed, 1997


Savusavu-born Dr Katerina Teaiwa is from Fiji and is Pacific Studies Convener at the Australian National University’s’s College of Asia and the Pacific in Canberra, running the teaching programme.

She went to Yat-Sen Primary School and St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Suva. She has a Bachelors of Science from Santa Clara University, an MA in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai’i, and a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bad Boys?

Only bad boy we can afford to heavy

Greg Sheridan,
Foreign editor

The Australian

November 05, 2009 12:00AM

THE Rudd government has mishandled the Fiji situation from the start. This is a classic case of moral grandiloquence producing absolutely rotten outcomes.

We live in a very nasty world. The Taliban murders people by the hundreds in Afghanistan and Pakistan and boasts about how many girls' schools it blows up.

Most of the nations in our large aid budget are mired in corruption and governance crises.

A good part of Africa is struggling to avoid being failed states. In our own neighbourhood, the Melanesian world, you cannot find an unequivocal success story.

There's not much we can do about all this. But there's one thing we can do. We can beat up on Frank Bainimarama in Suva.

This is the true rule of international relations. The strong do what they will, the weak give what they must.

China can beat up on us because it's big and we're small. And we hear very little of jailed Australian executive Stern Hu these days. We can beat up on Fiji because in this case we're big and it's small.

Of course, the morality of our actions is different.

Bainimarama came to power in a coup. His political plans, which once had a touch of coherence, have totally unravelled.

This, too, is partly because of external pressure. By some accounts Bainimarama is now determined not to give up power because he fears that, out of power, he would be prosecuted, either by a future Fijian government or by some expression of that fatuous construct, the international community.

This might almost be a textbook case of how international law retards the resolution of real world problems, if in fact it's impossible now to negotiate Bainimarama out of office.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Bainimarama's rule is that he hasn't killed anybody since he came to office. That doesn't make him a good dictator. His determination not to restore democracy is wholly objectionable. But it does make him an almost unique dictator.

Undoubtedly, Australia can crush Fiji. There are not many countries about which you can say that.

If we want to we can isolate Fiji, destroy its economy, impoverish its people, radicalise its Melanesian militants, set the army on a violent path, expose the Indian population to who knows what in the chaos that might follow. We sure can do that if we want to.

Surely the Sri Lankan judges thinking of taking on Fiji government appointments could have been left to work out all for themselves that they might come under our (ill-advised) travel bans, without our telling them so before they took up their appointments.

Now we don't have a high commissioner in Fiji and they don't have one here. Congratulations, Canberra, a brilliant result.

We are in grave danger of making a very bad situation much worse. We can certainly isolate and punish Fiji with unique effectiveness, if we want to.

God knows why anyone in Canberra thinks it's a good idea.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Judging The Regional Hegemony In The Pacific & The Diplomatic Expulsions In Fiji.

The expulsion of Australia and New Zealand senior diplomats from Suva, is rather an unfortunate turn of events. Albeit, an endgame to the diplomatic stumbling blocks placed in Fiji's progressive path, by the Trans-Tasman bullies.

What exactly did bring the inter-Pacific relationship to such a teetering edge?

The expulsion itself did not occur within a vacuum, but was the culmination of protracted and unbridled interference from the neighborhood punks.

For those who suggest that the Trans-Tasman justifications are solely based on their superior understanding of Fiji's situation, are simply myopic reductionists.

It appears that these independent judges from Sri Lanka would not dance to the tune of harassment and arm twisting, played by Australia and New Zealand. The transcripts regarding the recorded "courtesy call" from Australia's High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka to the judicial incumbents, prior to their travel to Fiji were revealed in a Radio Fiji article.

The excerpt of the Radio Fiji article:
Calls not courtesy but discouragement
Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Australian Government’s courtesy call to the Sri Lankan judges and magistrates bound for Fiji is tantamount to harassment, and also an indication that their transit visa applications won’t be approved.

FBC News has obtained and authenticated a recording of a phone conversation between a staff from the Australian High Commission in Colombo and one of the Sri Lankan judicial officers bound for Fiji, and it alleges against the Australian denial that they were offered visas.

The phone conversation, which was recorded on the 29th of last month was clearly discouraging the Sri Lankans from taking up judicial appointments in Fiji, even though as the Australians allege, merely a courtesy call.

“Individuals appointed to the Fiji judiciary regardless of citizenship, become subject to these travel sanctions and that obviously include yourself and individuals affected by travel sanctions cannot be allowed to travel to or through Australia although the travel sanctions policy is applied (inaudible) and visa application is considered on a case by case basis. We also understand that New Zealand sanctions apply definitely to people (inaudible) to the Fiji judiciary. As I said this is just a courtesy call just to let you know of the Australian policy towards Fiji in terms of travel sanctions.”

According to Fiji’s chief justice Anthony Gates, applying for an Australian transit visas usually only takes 48 hours, but the Sri Lankan officers had to wait eight full days before they receive the courtesy call.

And the from the phone call, it clearly indicates the Australian government’s position against members and potential members of the Fiji judiciary.

“Australia (inaudible) is that, you know, there are (inaudible) concern in the state of the Fiji’s judiciary. (Inaudible) of accepting judicial appointments, including the International Bar Association is chance that accepting a judicial appointment would be perceived that you’re condoning and supporting the military regime’s action. As I said, this is a decision for yourself as a person but as I have said, this is an advance warning of Australia’s travel sanctions.”
The Sri Lankan judicial officers have been appalled by this treatment.

Apparently, this Fijian episode is not entirely different from the situation in nearby Solomon Islands, where similar meddling by the Australian Government, demanded the removal of its Attorney General, Julian Moti.

Micro-excerpt of the article:

Moti has been targeted both as a means of undermining the Sogavare government, and to avoid any scrutiny of the Australian-dominated Regional Assistance to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Australian forces were dispatched to the Solomons in 2003 after the Howard government declared the Solomons a “failed state” and a potential haven for terrorists. RAMSI took over the country’s key economic, judicial, and security institutions.

The present trial of Julian Moti had unfolded in a court room in Queensland, according to a Sololmon Star(SSN) news article, in which there were contradictory witness statements to the prosecution 's case.

The micro excerpt of SSN article:

THE Queensland Supreme Court resumed hearings Wednesday on the application by former Solomon Islands’ attorney general Julian Moti for a permanent stay of proceedings in the attempt by Australian prosecuting authorities to try him on charges relating to statutory rape allegations that were discharged by a Vanuatu magistrate in 1998.

Moti’s counsel is seeking to have the charges thrown out on the grounds that the investigation and prosecution represents a politically motivated abuse of judicial process.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, glaring contradictions emerged between the testimony of defence and prosecution witnesses.

These related to the events that led up to Moti’s extraction from the Solomon Islands and arrest in Australia in December 2007. At issue was the irregular nature of the deportation process, in which Australian police and officials played an important and, according to Moti’s counsel, unlawful role.

Right from the outset of Fiji's expulsion from the Pacific Islands Forum, the Trans-Tasman grandstanding policy was to stymie Fiji's progress and in every single arena as possible. Both Australia and New Zealand have incessantly lobbied to the U.N to remove Fiji's lauded and re known contributions to Peacekeeping duties in war torn areas of the world.

The juvenile antics from the Trans-Tasman colonial cousins, even infected the process of trade negotiations in the Pacific, by virtue of the much despised Pacer PLUS free trade deals; that are viewed by many smaller island states as an economic threat to their very livelihood.

Undoubtedly, the Pacer PLUS trade negotiations were being forced upon them without significant discussions and research from their own people. Fiji, was blocked from entering negotiations regarding Pacer PLUS and the Trans-Tasman bullies conveniently wined and dined the other island Trade Ministers, to acquiesce to this controversial free trade deal.

Fiji formally withdrew its participation to the Pacer PLUS negotiations, effectively placing the entire framework in an untenable situation.

This chapter of undermining the judiciary of Fiji has reached a water shed moment.

The Sri Lankan judges were given a detour in their transit arrangements, en route to Fiji. This was first denied by the Australian officials then, the redacted statement back pedaled and acknowledged that the judges were indeed warned and cajoled not to accept these judicial appointments in Fiji; as if the Australian and New Zealand Governments had sole veto authority over employment decisions within the judiciary.

Undeniably, the expulsion of the diplomats will have their own repercussions in terms of bi-lateral and multi-lateral ties. However, the decision to expel the Trans-Tasman diplomats were perhaps a last ditch effort by the Interim Government to assert their offensive realism and maintain sovereignty of the nation of Fiji.

It has become nothing short of scandalous to have these long train of abuses of international law, continuously violated by the regional hegemony; for their own gain, at the expense of the island states.

The expulsion of the Australian and New Zealand diplomats, is nothing more than a declaration of independence by Fiji and is a clear indication that the neo-colonial exploitations and interference in terms of trade, diplomatic relations will not be tolerated.

Perhaps it is high time the other Pacific island states realize that, the only way to confront the neighborhood miscreants, is to stand up and say enough is enough.

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