Friday, March 25, 2011

Crouch, Hold Or Engage- Australia's Failing Pacific Foreign Policy?

Croz Walsh's Blog -- Fiji: The Way it Was, Is and Can Be: recent post covers Jenny Hayward-Jones Director of The Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute opinion piece : Rudd Takes His Eye off Pacific Islands published in The Australian, 22 March, 2011.

This particular issue regarding the gallivanting Rudd, seemed to have been foreshadowed by SiFM post: :Cut Your Cote According to Your Cloth, with regards to Australia's foreign policy, which seems to be bursting at the seams.

It is without a doubt, the lofty foreign policy ideals, sans pragmatism of the ambitious Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd whose public remarks at times especially on the Libya issue, contradict that of the current Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

According to a news article by The Age, the divisions between Gillard and Rudd appear to be confusing to the greater international community with respect to the real intent of Australia's foreign policy.

More so, the costs of these expensive excursions lobbied by crisis seeking diplomats of Rudd's ilk, will certainly reflect in the bottom line in terms of treasury and lives, particurlarly in the wake of the recent and repeated floodings in Australia.

Gillard, Rudd at odds on Libya

Michelle Grattan and Jason Koutsoukis
March 11, 2011

A SPLIT has emerged between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, over international intervention in Libya.

Trying to play down the embarrassing rift during her visit to the United States, Ms Gillard said the United Nations Security Council should consider a ''full range'' of options to deal with dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and made it clear Australia had no intention of taking an active part if a flight-exclusion zone was imposed.

''We are a long way from Libya and what we've said is that in the first instance NATO would need to work through this question of the no-fly zone,'' said Ms Gillard, who also discussed Libya with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday.

Mr Rudd has been campaigning strongly for a flight-exclusion zone, declaring this week it was ''very much the lesser of two evils … a greater evil is to simply stand back and allow the innocent people of Libya to be strafed and bombed by Gaddafi''.

Behind the scenes, Ms Gillard's office has been in despair at Mr Rudd's public comments, saying his repeated interventions on Libya have come without the knowledge or approval of the Prime Minister.

An adviser to Ms Gillard, who asked not to be named, told The Age that Mr Rudd's freewheeling approach was also causing confusion at a diplomatic level.

''He's out of control,'' the adviser said. ''He puts out one press release after another, and none of it is run through the PM's office. A no-fly zone over Libya is not the Australian government's position. This is Rudd acting on his own."

Earlier this week, US officials in Canberra were forced to seek official clarification on what the Australian government was actually pushing for.

"They are asking us, 'Are you guys serious about a no-fly zone, and if so, what kind of resources are you going to contribute?"' the adviser said. "The answer of course is a firm no. We have serious reservations about a no-fly zone." A flight-exclusion zone means aircraft are not allowed to fly in a designated area, under threat of being shot down. But the Gaddafi regime's capacity to strike back would first need to be destroyed before such a zone could be enforced — and that would involve bombing and loss of life.

The public split comes amid growing voter dissatisfaction with Ms Gillard, with the latest Newspoll showing her trailing Mr Rudd as preferred Labor leader.

Yesterday Ms Gillard played down the differences between her stance and Mr Rudd's, stressing that he had said he was deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Libya.

But when asked on CNN on Tuesday about the growing calls for a no-fly zone, Mr Rudd said: "We in Australia have called for this now for the better part of two weeks." He has also supported a statement by foreign ministers from the Gulf Co-operation Council for a no-fly zone to protect Libyans.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said it was "confusing for Australia's allies" for Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd to have different positions on Libya.

With AAP

Unnamed Australia adviser On Rudd's Overreach

"He's out of control," the adviser said. "He puts out one press release after another, and none of it is run through the PM's office. A no-fly zone over Libya is not the Australian government's position. This is Rudd acting on his own."

Rudd recently has been actively taking pot shots, as reported by Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) article .

The excerpt of the SMH article:

Rudd takes pot shot at Gillard as he firms in polls

March 16, 2011

KEVIN RUDD has taken a poke at Julia Gillard by saying he was more likely to captain the Brisbane Broncos than become prime minister again.

One month before deposing Mr Rudd last year, Ms Gillard likened her chances of taking the leadership to playing full forward for the Western Bulldogs AFL team.

Tensions have been high between the pair since Mr Rudd's ousting.
Advertisement: Story continues below

Last week, with Mr Rudd in the Middle East and Ms Gillard in the US, they had a difference of opinion over Libya and Ms Gillard admitted they had not talked to each other while abroad.

The latest Herald poll shows Mr Rudd is more preferred than Ms Gillard as prime minster by 39 per cent to 34 per cent.

Mr Rudd said yesterday he ''absolutely'' supported Ms Gillard's leadership, he was ''absolutely satisfied'' with his role as Foreign Affairs Minister, and, as for a return to the top job, ''I'm not of the view that lightning strikes twice''.

Mr Rudd did back Ms Gillard against claims by the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, that the government was giving foreign powers information on Australians associated with the whistleblowing website.

Mr Assange confronted Ms Gillard with the allegation on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday.

He said he had intelligence about information being exchanged and he queried whether Ms Gillard should be charged with treason. Ms Gillard said she had no idea what he was talking about.

Mr Rudd said neither he nor his departmental secretary and the former ASIO boss, Dennis Richardson, were aware of any such information exchange.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, who oversees Australia's security agencies, said Mr McClelland was also unaware of what Mr Assange was alleging.

Ms Gillard was not forewarned she would receive a question from Mr Assange when she went on the live program, but her office said yesterday she was not fussed by what some were calling an ambush.

There have been calls from within the US to try Mr Assange there after WikiLeaks published thousands of confidential cables which caused the US government severe embarrassment.

Ms Gillard said the issue of Mr Assange was not raised with her while she was in the US last week. After meeting Ms Gillard on Capitol Hill last week, the senior Republican senator John McCain suggested that if Mr Assange was associated with the theft of the original cables, he would be pursued by the US.

A US military intelligence analyst, Private Bradley Manning, has been charged with stealing the information and passing it to WikiLeaks.

''As far as I know, not anyone besides Private First Class Manning has been charged with anything … and he couldn't have done all of that just by himself, other people are responsible as well,'' Senator McCain said.
Another interesting take on the shifting geo-politics in the South Pacific , with regards to the Trans-Tasman policy of isolating Fiji was published in a report by Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PIPP), recently reported by Radio New Zealand International article.

An excerpt of the PIPP report:

The trend is moving towards Frank’s Fiji, not Julia’s Australia

The continued bleating about the need for a ‘return
to democracy’ in Fiji fails to grasp an important point:
democracy never meaningfully existed in Fiji under its
previous gerrymandered systems. Four coups in 20 years
demonstrated that the system was broke and needed serious
reform. Where was Britain and Australia to help Fiji move
towards political reform and more equal representation?

That is not to condone the military takeover, and there is
good reason to be suspicious of the Commodore’s intentions
and his hijacking of the MSG is a case in point. He may
be a dictator, but he is in the ironic position of claiming to
have taken control to introduce a truly ‘one man one vote’
democratic system to replace the previous rigged system that
supported an indigenous elite. It is his only card, but a strong

Many across the Pacific have long advocated a more
constructive approach than the Australian led policy of
isolating Fiji. The horse has already bolted, so better now to
take Bainimarama at his word, to ensure that the promised
2014 elections are indeed free and fair and give him no
chance to replace one gerrymandered system with another.

It is encouraging that the recent meeting of the Pacific Islands
Forum Ministerial Contact Group2 was addressed by the Fiji
foreign minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Ministers warmly
welcomed Fiji’s invitation for the group to visit Fiji in the near
future as an important opportunity to meet stakeholders
in order to appreciate the political, social and economic
challenges currently facing the country.

Lets hope this invitation is not withdrawn, and that Canberra
shifts to a more nuanced policy vis-à-vis engagement.
Perhaps it is timely to think about appointing a special envoy and
for officials to engage in dialogue with their counterparts in Suva. Time
to think about meaningful assistance with the challenges and help Fiji
move towards political reform and more equal representation.
Time to realise others, who do not hold the same affinity for democracy,
are filling the void.

PIPP report

[Hopefully]Canberra shifts to a more nuanced policy vis-à-vis engagement.
Perhaps it is timely to think about appointing a special envoy and for officials to engage in dialogue with their counterparts in Suva. Time
to think about meaningful assistance with the challenges and help Fiji
move towards political reform and more equal representation.
Time to realise others, who do not hold the same affinity for democracy,
are filling the void.

Undoubtedly, the scandalous treatment of former Solomon Islands Attorney General, Julian Moti by the Australia Federal Police reported by Solomon Star news article; coupled with the so called "smart sanctions" levied on Fiji's sporting people by the Australia Government, as covered by Xinhua news article does little to nothing, to improve the perception of Australia's history of bullying within the Pacific region.

The excerpt of Solomon Star article:

Key witness in Moti case dies

E-mail Print
Aripaea Salmon, father of the alleged victim in the Julian Moti case died on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu on March 20 of a heart attack.

Just three days earlier on March 17, in a videoed interview, he signalled his and his family’s intentions to cease co-operating with the Australian prosecution of Moti.

Asked if he, his wife or his daughter intended to travel to Australia to testify, he replied, “no.”
Mr Salmon stated that he had been “swept along” in a case not of his choosing and over which his family had little control.

He said the child-sex tourism charges with which Moti had been charged had been presented to the family as a fait accompli and that none of his family had made any subsequent complaint after the case was settled in Vanuatu.

He said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) told them that if they did not cooperate it would “go against them.”

He also admitted that he could not be sure that the offences with which Moti was charged actually occurred.

With the family facing deportation he said his daughter could have been motivated by a misguided idea that she was saving the family from this fate.

Mr Salmon stated that when he eventually realised that the motivations for the prosecution were political, he was “disgusted’ that “the mighty Australian government” should use a small girl in such a way.

He described his family as being “crushed” and ‘broken” by the case and he laid the blame at the Australian government of the time under John Howard.

Mr Salmon said he repeatedly asked for a lawyer- preferably bi-lingual (Mr Salmon’s first language is French) when the AFP first contacted the family and was denied.

He also stated that the AFP had coached the family in what to say in their statements for the prosecution.

Mr Salmon went on to record an apology to his family, Julian Moti’s family “especially his mother” and the governments of the Pacific who had been hurt by this case.

In particular he apologised to Sir Michael Somare and the people of Papua New Guinea and to Manasseh Sogavare Solomon Islands former Prime Minister who he praised for his efforts to protect Moti.

Mr Salmon claimed he wanted the case to end and for his family to be left in peace.

“I am sick,” he said “I don’t know how much time I have left. This case has to stop.”

It’s unlikely he envisaged just how little time was left for him.

Vale, Mr Aripaea Salmon. It was a pleasure to have interviewed you.

By Susan Merrell

The excerpt of the Xinhua article of sports sanctions:

Fiji to send best team to Adelaide or none at all due to sanctions: PM 2011-03-19 15:43:23 FeedbackPrintRSS

SUVA, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said that if the island nation cannot send the best team to the Adelaide tournament due to Australia's travel sanctions, then don't send any team to it.

Bainimarama made the remarks following words that the Fiji Rugby Union is highly likely to drop top players Dale Tonawai, Nikola Matawalu and Waqabaca Kotobalavu after the Hong Kong 7s next weekend because the three are unlikely to get visas to go to the Adelaide tournament, local radio FijiVillage reported here Saturday on its website.

Tonawai is an army officer while Kotobalavu and Matawalu are navy officers.

Australia has taken a strong stance on its travel sanctions and continues to reject the visas of those Fijians in the military, the navy and the government and those connected to them.

The sanctions by Australia and New Zealand dated back to 2006 when the Bainimarama Government took on reigns through a coup.

Bainimarama has also questioned why the Fiji Rugby Union is not officially complaining to the International Rugby Board that Australia and New Zealand are not allowing Fiji to field its best team when they host the tournaments.

He said the Fiji Rugby Union should stop playing politics and fight for the right to send the best team to the IRB-sanctioned tournaments, adding this needs to be done for rugby, and no other reason.

He highlighted the fact when world's soccer governing body FIFA stepped in and cancelled a game between Fiji and New Zealand two years ago when New Zealand rejected the visa for goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau, whose father-in-law to be was in the military.

That game, after FIFA's directive, did not go ahead in New Zealand.

Why this cannot be done by FRU, Bainimarama questioned.

Fiji Rugby Union's interim chairman Rafaele Kasibulu explained that this year they have lobbied with the International Rugby Board to allow Fiji players with military ties to play in tournaments in Australia and New Zealand but the travel sanction is a government to government matter.

Kasibulu said that during the IRB CEO's visit to Fiji, they discussed the matter again with the rugby world governing body that have assisted them in showing their support through letters sent to the New Zealand and Australian High Commissions.

The Fiji 7s team cannot pull out of any IRB 7s tournaments as they have signed a participation agreement before the first competition in Dubai last year, he added.

Meanwhile navy players Kotobalavu and Matawalu were allowed to travel to the United States to represent Fiji last month and had no problems in getting their visas.

Notwithstanding the Trans-Tasman bullying and prodding, the legitimacy of such policies are now being deliberated on, by the region's leaders at the much awaited Meleanesian Sprearhead Group (MSG) summit.

Radio New Zealand International article quoted from former Fiji academic, Steven Ratuva regarding the use of MSG in geo-politics.

MSG warned against becoming political tool

Posted at 03:23 on 24 March, 2011 UTC

An academic is warning the leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group not to let the body become a tool of geopolitics.

The MSG is currently staging a series of meetings in Fiji leading up to a leaders’ summit next Thursday.

It will be chaired by the interim Fiji prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who was given the role after the controversial scrapping of a similar summit last year by the then chair, Vanuatu’s Edward Natapei.

An Auckland University Pacific studies senior lecturer, Dr Steven Ratuva, says this consolidates Commodore Bainimarama’s power in his scrap with Australia and New Zealand, and he may feel he’s now the new regional leader to be reckoned with.

“Perhaps in the long run that kind of thinking may be counter productive to the MSG which really needs to be focussed more on economics and trade rather than in terms of fighting the political battle. So if [Commodore] Bainimarama uses the MSG as a means by which it can leverage politically then it might not be in the future interests of the MSG.”

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Croz Walsh also highlighted the Ratuva's selective amnesia, in a recent posting:

But, Steve, since all politicians play politics (that's what they do), why can't Fiji join the game? Fiji did not kick itself out of the Pacific Islands Forum, or the PACER talks (it wanted to participate). Australia and NZ influenced the Pacific's Forum members to make that political decision.

Fiji did not ask the Commonwealth to be excluded from the Delhi Games. Australia and NZ urged the Commonwealth to take that political decision. Fiji did not ask the EU to suspend aid to its sugar industry.

Australia and NZ were at it again. And Fiji has not placed travel bans on Australian and NZ sportsmen and women. That's Australia and NZ again. So if Australia and NZ are playing politics, is this also not the "the future interests of the MSG — and the Forum? As the saying goes, "If it's good bad for the goose, it's good bad for the gander."

The MSG summit opened this week in Suva in a closed door session, according to reports from the Fiji Govternment website. The MSG summit was also reported on by Fiji Times and republished in Pacific Media Watch (PMW).org article.

The excerpt of the PMW article:
FIJI: Opening MSG trade meeting closed to media

Commodore Frank Voreqe Bainimarama. Fiji is the Chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which is meeting in Vale ni Bose this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Item: 7352

SUVA: The Melanesian Spearhead Group trade and economic officials meeting started at the Vale ni Bose complex in the Fiji capital behind closed doors yesterday but discussions are not expected to include PACER Plus.

The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus, which is still negotiated, is a trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand.

Instead, discussions are expected to centre around trade agreements within the MSG bloc of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia (Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste), Solomon Islands and Fiji Islands.

East Timor and Indonesia are also part of the summit as observers.

The trade and economic officials complete their discussions today before the senior officials meet tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Pacific Institute of Public Policy issued a discussion paper titled "Youth quake: Will Melanesian democracy be sunk by demography" and claimed that Australia's policy in Melanesia is adrift as the region increasingly looks north to Asia.

While the media was only allowed picture opportunities, deputy secretary of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sila Balawa, through the Information Ministry said discussions would be on matters that affect the people.

Balawa also told the ministry the meeting was also for the public and that everything was being done transparently so that it was public knowledge.

"We are doing everything transparently and it is public knowledge because the issues discussed has been coming out in the media," Balawa told the ministry.

"We are doing everything in a transparent manner because the issues involve the general public and the Melanesian people."

Balawa said climate change and encouraging more economic activities among the MSG countries would be discussed.

The trade and economic officials complete their discussions today before the senior officials meet tomorrow. - Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch

As usual, some set backs were bound to occur in Melanesia, one being the recent disciplinary action taken against Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Michael Somare, as covered by Radio NZ article. The other are snarky comments from the ex-Vanuatu Prime Minster also covered by Radio NZ article.

The excerpt of Edward Natapei's comments:

Vanuatu told it should consider pulling out of MSG now Fiji’s Bainimarama heads the body

Posted at 22:46 on 24 March, 2011 UTC

Vanuatu’s opposition leader, Edward Natapei, says the country should reconsider its membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Last year, when Mr Natapei was Vanuatu’s leader, he was involved in an acrimonious spat with the interim prime minister of Fiji, Commodore Frank Bainimarama after cancelling an MSG summit scheduled to be held in Fiji.

Mr Natapei was concerned that handing the chairmanship to an unelected leader undermined the democratic values of the MSG.

Since then Commodore Bainimarama has got the job and is set to chair a summit next week, but Mr Natapei is warning Vanuatu should distance itself from the military regime in Fiji.

“We have to make up our minds what whether or not we value democracy or not. Vanuatu should consider seriously whether or not we should be participating in the MSG now that it’s chaired by a non-democratically elected government.”

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

The excerpt of the Radio NZ article on Somare:

Lawyer for PNG’s PM welcomes sentence given to Somare

Posted at 21:41 on 25 March, 2011 UTC

The legal counsel for Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister says Sir Michael Somare is satisfied with the two week suspension handed down to him by a leadership tribunal.

The Prime Minister received the sentence after the tribunal found him guilty of 13 charges of misconduct, relating to his failure to lodge financial returns from as far back as 20 years ago.

His legal counsel Kerenga Kua says the guilty findings do not amount to proof of corruption by Sir Michael, as more serious charges that he had demeaned public office were dismissed.

He says the Prime Minister will not challenge the suspension, and is taking it in his stride.

“He’s relieved that it’s finally come to the end of the road and a final decision has been made and he’s quite satisfied with the penalty that’s been meted out by the tribunal. He thinks it’s a reasonable one, all things considered.”

Kerenga Kua says it would be difficult for everyone to agree on the severity of the penalty, but Sir Michael was only found guilty of failing to fulfil the administrative requirement of submitting forms to the Ombudsman Commission.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Another news article from Radio Australia, highlighted the perceived "spanner in the works" as outlined in Radio Australia's coverage of Terry Bukorpioper, a Vanuatu-based representative of the West Papuan National Authority and secretary of the Oceania Decolonisation Committee; blaming Fiji leader for the inclusion of Indonesia at the Melanesia Spearhead group summit.

Trans-Tasman Bullies

Notwithstanding the Trans-Tasman bullying and prodding, the legitimacy of such policies are now being deliberated on, by the region's leaders [...]

The excerpt of Radio Australia news article:

Fiji leader blamed for Indonesia attending MSG summit

Updated March 25, 2011 17:43:27

A West Papuan independence activist is blaming Fiji's interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, for inviting Indonesia to take part in next week's Melanesian Spearhead Group summit in Fiji.

Terry Bukorpioper, a Vanuatu-based representative of the West Papuan National Authority and secretary of the Oceania Decolonisation Committee, says Commodore Bainimarama has invited Indonesia to participate because Fiji and Indonesia are both military regimes.

He says the MSG should be a Melanesian organisation for Melanesian countries, and Indonesia which administers the mainly Melanesian and Christian western half of New Guinea island, should not be present at the summit.

Mr Bukorpioper tells me that Fiji's invitation to Jakarta risks angering Melanesian people who he says strongly support West Papuan independence from Indonesia.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Terry Bukorpioper, a Vanuatu-based representative of the West Papuan National Authority and secretary of the Oceania Decolonisation Committee

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