Friday, May 25, 2012

X-Post-East Asia Forum: Japan’s Pacific Islands Diplomacy At a Crossroads

Author: Sandra Tarte, USP

Japan’s decision not to invite Fiji’s prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, to the sixth Japan–Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 6), to be held in Okinawa this 25–26 May, represents a defining moment in its diplomatic relations with the Pacific Islands.
Fiji P.M -Voreqe Bainimarama (Source: Fiji Live)
Japan announced that due to the perceived ‘insufficient pace of reform toward democratisation’, it would invite Fiji’s foreign minister instead (who subsequently gave his apologies). That this announcement came just one week ahead of the meeting is an indication of what a difficult decision this was for the Japanese government. In addition to the immediate consequences for Japan–Fiji relations, this decision has broader implications.

The PALM summits have been held every three years in Japan since 1997, and are Tokyo’s signature event in its foreign relations with the Pacific Islands. They normally bring together the heads of government from Japanese and Pacific Island countries, plus ministerial-level representation from Australia and New Zealand. Although in the past they have been dubbed the Japan–Pacific Islands Forum meeting, the PALM summit is not technically a Forum event. Fiji remains suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum pending its return to democratic rule, but it is not officially excluded from the PALM process.

In October 2010 Japan hosted the first Interim PALM meeting — a mid-term gathering of Pacific Islands Forum foreign ministers in Tokyo. This was ostensibly aimed at assessing the progress in the implementation of commitments made at the previous year’s PALM summit and looking ahead to the next one. Most significantly, however, it was a first step toward normalising ties with Bainimarama’s government, and was the occasion for the first meeting between Fiji’s foreign minister and his Japanese counterpart. During the 2010 Interim PALM meeting Tokyo indicated its concerns that the policy of isolating Fiji to pressure it into more meaningful democratic reforms was failing, and this was taken as a positive sign that Prime Minister Bainimarama would receive an invitation to PALM 6.

Since then, Japan has watched events unfold in Fiji and in the region, waiting for the right moment to issue the invitation. As the head of the Fiji Military Forces, Prime Minister Bainimarama has not been allowed to travel to Japan since he came to power in the December 2006 coup. He has, however, made numerous visits to China and to other Asian powerhouses such as Indonesia and India, and to new friends in the Middle East.

Japan had compelling reasons for inviting the Fijian prime minister to Okinawa this year. First, it has been six years since Fiji was last represented at PALM at a prime ministerial level. It missed out on PALM 5 in 2009 due to the political upheaval Fiji was undergoing at the time, including the abrogation of the constitution and subsequent uncertainty over the country’s democratic future. The 2012 PALM summit is the last one before elections in Fiji, which are scheduled for 2014. Inviting Fiji’s prime minister would have signalled Japan’s support for the political process mapped out by the Bainimarama government. Despite its perceived flaws, this political process remains the only hope Fiji has of returning to some form of democratic rule.

PALM 6 also represented an opportunity for Japan both to rebuild bridges with this key actor in the region, and to acknowledge that the Pacific Islands is a region in transition. In the six years since he seized power, Prime Minister Bainimarama has redefined Fiji’s foreign policy, and these changes have led a growing number of Pacific Island countries to embrace new partnerships and alignments. A new diplomacy that is not contingent on the policy preferences of Australia, New Zealand or the US seems to be emerging across the region, indirectly prompted by Bainimarama.

If, as reported, Japan’s decision not to invite Prime Minister Bainimarama to PALM 6 was the result of international pressure, from Australia in particular, it signals a reaffirmation by Japan of the ‘old regional order’ and a rejection of the ‘new regional order’ that is gradually taking shape. As Japan’s prime minister welcomes Pacific leaders in Okinawa, including ministers from Australia and New Zealand, he may do well to reflect on the long-term significance of Fiji’s empty seat.

Sandra Tarte is Associate Professor and Director of the Politics and International Affairs Program at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

Further reading:

Mainichi- Noda (Japan PM) Eager to Deepen 'Bonds' With Pacific Leaders.

Grubsheet- Australia Engineers Japan Snub

Club Em Designs

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The typical Australian stereotype of Fiji (Photo: Tourism Fiji)

As argument rages over Japan bowing to Australian pressure to exclude Frank Bainimarama from the forthcoming PALM summit of Pacific leaders, we’re newly reminded of the striking disconnect between the attitude of the Labor Government and ordinary Australians towards Fiji. Pick up any newspaper and the tough rhetoric of its politicians in the news pages about Fiji’s “draconian” regime gives way to glowing articles in the travel pages extolling the country’s charms.

Among the locals (photo: Tourism Fiji)

It’s worth reading the latest – this offering in the Fairfax Media listing “Twenty reasons to visit Fiji”. Why is it worth reading? Well for a start, most locals wouldn’t be able to give you 20 reasons off the top of their own heads so it’s worth reminding ourselves of the attractions all around us that are sometimes taken for granted. But it also explains why Australians keep coming in large numbers even as their government imposes sanctions on the country and Australian trade unions leaders urge them to stay away.

Of the 631,000 visitor arrivals in 2010 – the latest figures available – more than half – 318,000 – were Australians. Why do they come? Well, cheaper air fares, a four hour daylight flight and the strong Aussie dollar are undoubtedly part of the answer. But the relationship goes far beyond that.

The recent floods threw up countless examples of the strong bonds forged between Australian visitors and the ordinary people they meet in Fiji. It wasn’t just the gratitude expressed by individual visitors in the media for the assistance they’d received, sometimes from people who’d lost everything in the disaster. Many people back in Australia who’d holidayed in Fiji dug deep to support the various flood appeals in ways that were sometimes deeply moving for the expatriate Fijians involved. One of the organisers of the Sydney appeal, Joweli Ravualala, tells of bursting into tears when an elderly Sydney woman gave him two weeks of her pension.
One Australian's story: Ken Lamb ( Photo: Mining "Our story" campaign)

There are countless stories of  friendships forged during Australian holidays to Fiji. Grubsheet made one of the mining ads currently screening on Australian television that features a man called Ken Lamb, a real life Crocodile Dundee who supplies heavy equipment to the mining industry in the South Australian outback. Every year, Ken and his wife, Val, like to get away from the dust and heat to unwind at a resort on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast. And over the years, they’ve formed close friendships with some of the resort workers and their families.

 A couple of years back, Ken took over a box full of those instant prescription glasses you can buy at any chemist in Australia to distribute to the surrounding villages. I’ll never forget the look of delight on his face as he told of the looks of delight on the faces of many of the elderly Fijians who’d benefited from this simple gesture. They were able to read again for the first time in years.

Still doesn't get it: Bob Carr with his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola ( Photo: Australian Govt)

This is the real glue of the Fiji-Australian relationship, not some here-today-gone-tomorrow politician like the miserable Bob Carr,  Australia’s verbose and ultra-nerdy foreign minister. Like his super-arrogant, Napoleonic predecessor, Kevin Rudd,  Carr displays a disturbing ignorance about the factors that brought about the 2006 coup in Fiji.  It’s perhaps understandable that an Australian politician who owes his very existence to the trade union movement should be so obsessed with the fate of one or two Fijian union leaders who’ve fallen foul of the regime. Yet it beggars belief that while he acknowledges that Fiji is taking “credible steps” to return to democracy, Carr wants to maintain sanctions and keep up the pressure because Fiji “hasn’t done enough”.

Blissful ignorance: The Australian way ( Photo: Tourism Fiji)

Done enough of what, Mr Carr? For the first time in more than a decade, Fiji has a government committed to multiracialism and – for the first time ever – creating a level electoral playing field for all its citizens. It is providing basic services to areas of the country sorely neglected by previous administrations. It is fighting corruption and instituting a raft of measures to ensure proper standards of governance. It is maintaining its regional obligations and providing troops to the UN to maintain order in places like Iraq. It is formulating a new constitution to provide Fiji with real democracy – one person, one vote – for the very first time. Yet it “hasn’t done enough” because it hasn’t bowed to Australian demands for an immediate election that would alter nothing because none of the reforms the country so badly needs will have been instituted.

How ironic that a nation that prides itself on its own multiracial and multicultural success can have so strongly supported the previous Qarase Government, with its corruption and blatantly racist agenda to disadvantage 40 per cent of the population. How lamentable that the Australian Labor Government does everything it can to weaken the Bainimarama regime in its quest for racial equality and good governance in Fiji. How out of step is Labor on this with the sentiments of a great many ordinary Australians, just as it is on so many other issues. Fortunately for Fiji, all the opinion polls tell us they can’t wait to turf Labor out.

FURTHER READING : Here’s a link to a devastating critique of Bob Carr’s “underwhelming” performance as foreign minister by academic commentator Peter van Onselen, writing in The Weekend Australia.

Club Em Designs


There are a few people on this site trying their best to distract and detract from the conversation and the real issues raised by this article. It is a deliberate attempt to hi-jack the conversation, and I think we know why.

The incidence of Mr Marae's arrest clearly demonstrates Australia has no regard for the rule of law and diplomatic protocol. Indeed it would use the law as a tool when it suits it, and disregard it whenever it desires. Mr Marae's prosecution is likely to fail because the Australian government clearly engaged in a kidnap of Mr Marae.

There is a very enlightening article by Patrick Oconnor in the Fiji Sun this week and the link is . In this article Mr Oconnor examines the parallels of Australia's arrest and prosecution of Julian Moti in PNG, Solomon islands and in Australia in complete disregard for the rule of law.

The South Pacific is now clearly becoming aware that Australia says one thing and does the other. It is clearly not a model democracy in the region. In fact if anything, New Zealand is a model democracy, and is way ahead by a country mile in its race relations, its observance of the rule of law, and its dealings with the Pacific Islands nations with proper respect and regard for the rue of law. New Zealand abdicated its independent voice during the reign of Helen Clark, when she became John Howards messenger girl to the Pacific, but now John Key should rescue his country and move it to a higher plane.

The AFP's expulsion from Vanuatu two weeks ago is not the first time Australian government aid workers were expelled from Vanuatu. Last year PNG will remember the spectacular expulsion of  former Australian Defence Force Lawyer, Ari Jenshel from the Attorney General's Department, for spying on the Vanuatu government. Mr Jenschel was alleged by the Vanuatu government as engaging in espionage, copying and disseminating to Canberra very sensitive Government documents whilst serving under the guise of  an Aid worker with Ausaid in the AG's Department.

Mr Marae's arrest is likely to be connected with documents that Mr Jenshel supplied.

There is a real lession in all these for PNG and other Pacific countries being recipients of Australian Aid.

Australia has used Aid to implant its spies in all government Departments of PNG to collect information and report back to Canberra. If raised, it will always deny, but the reality is quite different. We have people who have sworn an oath to serve a foreign government, whose real future and loyalties lie with that government, whose career advancement lies with ingratiating themselves with that government, who often are servants of that government, working in our government sensitive positions. They cannot serve two masters. So naturally who do you think they will serve?

That is the challenge today for PNG. Lets not make pretensions about it. We do have a public service that does not function properly because we have weakened it by politicizing it over the years. But that is not the reason why we have to sell the nation to a foreign spying agency! That should not be the reason why we should flush the national interest of PNG down the toilet.

I don't think I am expressing empty opinion because 3 years ago, an Australian Spy in the Finance & Treasury  Department was caught with many original files of very sensitive government documents in his suitcase that he had taken to Canberra. The Department was horrified. The Department sacked the ex-Australian Federal Police man who was obviously  a spy.

Today that same Ex-AFP Policeman, who was sacked by the Finance Department has been re-deployed in the Attorney General's Department in the Sir Buri Kidu Haus in Waigani. He carries on his activities in that Department in the guise of institutional strengthening.

The situation calls for a re-view and if necessary, revocation of the ECP and the Australian Aid program. The Australian Aid, if at all, should be restricted to health and education. All other areas compromises this nations security and its sovereignty. It should be shut down.

All these cases have proved that Australia has a separate agenda with its aid than that of " Helpem Pren".

Papua New Guinea with a new Government ought to be more decisive about Australian Aid, which is clearly subversive and self serving.

Mangi Gazelle

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stratfor Video Brief: Australia's Bending Foreign Policy

SiFM earlier post highlighted regional observers, who advocated such a shift.

Stratfor's video brief (posted below)on South Pacific geopolitics and describes Australia's shift in foreign policy towards Fiji.

X-Post-Island Business: New Players In The Region

The New Players in the Region
Pacific diplomacy boosts links with new friends

Nic Maclellan

Pacific nations are largely reliant on aid, trade and investment from traditional partners like Australia, New Zealand, United States, France and Japan. But in recent years, there has been increasing interest in finding new sources of development assistance, economic and political support.
Pacific governments have been diversifying their political and economic links beyond the old regional groupings—led by France, United States and Australia/New Zealand—that dominated islands politics throughout the Cold War years. 

In the mid-1980s, PNG’s then Prime Minister Paias Wingti talked of a ‘Look North’ policy for his country, to extend relations beyond the old colonial ties with Australia.  Today, Pacific Islands Forum countries are looking north-west, north-east and to other points of the compass. There is a growing interest in South–South cooperation and new countries are seeking the status of Post-Forum dialogue partner with the Pacific Islands Forum. This trend is driven by a more co-ordinated and assertive diplomacy on the international stage by island ambassadors at the United Nations such as PNG’s Robert Guba Aisi, Fiji’s Peter Thomson, Solomon Islands’ Colin Beck and former Vanuatu Prime Minister Donald Kalpokas.

Currently, Nauru’s UN Ambassador Marlene Moses is the chair of the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) while Samoa’s ambassador Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia represented Small Islands Developing States on the Transitional Committee for the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
The post-coup rift between Canberra, Wellington and Suva has accelerated these existing trends in regional policy. Under the Bainimarama administration, Fiji is broadening its international links by opening embassies in Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2010, Commodore Bainimarama stated that “this significant shift in foreign policy direction heralds the globalisation and maturity of Fiji. It demonstrates Fiji’s intention to become a good and engaged global citizen. Accordingly, over the past year, Fiji has formalised diplomatic relations with many countries with which no ties previously existed. In addition, Fiji has sought membership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)”.

Fiji was formally admitted to NAM in April 2011, becoming the second islands member alongside Vanuatu. Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, told Radio Australia last year that joining NAM would help refocus Fiji’s relationships away from its traditional partners Australia and New Zealand and allow Suva to pursue its ‘Look North’ policy, through direct engagement with ASEAN countries and strengthen ties to Beijing.
China’s increasing interest in the region is provoking a re-engagement by the United States, highlighted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2010 visit to the region and new military deployments in Guam and Australia announced last year by President Obama. Beijing is active on a range of fronts: investment in the Ramu nickel project in PNG’s Madang province; the provision of aid and soft loans worth US$206 million in 2010; increased fisheries and construction programmes around the region and support for agencies such as the South Pacific Tourism Organisation. But increasing islands ties with China are just part of the picture. Around the region, there are a range of new players that are complicating life for the ANZUS allies—from Cuba, Russia, Timor-Leste and Indonesia to unexpected actors like the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Luxembourg.

From Havana to Honiara
Cold War paranoia about the Russian threat in the Pacific lost force after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Once scorned as a Soviet proxy in the islands, Cuba has improved relations with the Forum islands nations over the last decade.
Solomon Islands and Cuba established diplomatic relations in December 2002 and Havana opened a resident mission in Kiribati in 2006. Honiara then signed a development co-operation agreement with Cuba on March 6, 2007. Other countries expanded ties after a September 2008 Cuba-Pacific summit in Havana, attended by Kiribati President Anote Tong; then Tuvalu Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia; and other Pacific foreign ministers and officials. 

In early 2009, Cuba established formal diplomatic relations with Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Since then, there has been increased diplomatic contact with Cuba on issues like development, decolonisation and climate change, through common membership of AOSIS and the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation.
This South-South link has focused on the health sector. Cuba currently supplies medical staff to Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, while students from these countries study medicine and primary healthcare in Havana. In Solomon Islands, for example, Cuba has agreed to send 40 doctors and offered scholarships for Solomon Islands students to study medicine in Cuba. Solomon Islands announced in March 2011 that it would establish an embassy in Havana—partly in reaction to complaints by Solomons’ medical students that they were not getting the financial and pastoral support they had been promised.

From Russia with love
Russia continues to have small but influential ties in the region, with proposals for investment in PNG’s Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) industry and recent provision of ‘humanitarian’ aid to Nauru. Last year, on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with a range of Pacific leaders and foreign ministers.
Then Lavrov visited the region earlier this year, with stops in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. After courtesy calls on Prime Minister Bainimarama and Foreign Minister Kubuabola, Lavrov joined regional delegates at the Sofitel Fiji Resort in Nadi on February 1 for the ‘Russian Federation and Pacific Islands Countries meeting’.
The Russian minister gained Suva’s agreement to develop a treaty for visa free travel between Russia and Fiji, and Lavrov expressed his government’s interest in co-operating with Pacific states on investment, minerals, energy, tourism, education and medicine. One unspoken element in the dialogue is Moscow’s concern about Beijing’s small but growing influence in the region.
Another of Russia’s interests is winning recognition for two breakaway regions of Georgia—the states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  In 2009, Nauru was one of only four UN member states to grant this recognition, later joined by Vanuatu and Tuvalu who recognised the Russian-backed regions.
Relations with Russia have not gone smoothly. As everyone should remember—when you’re out and about and tempted to dance with a new partner, think about the reaction of those you’ve left at home.
In February, Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Peter Shanel Agovaka and Permanent Secretary Robert Sisilo met bilaterally with the Russian Foreign Minister to discuss the formalisation of Solomons’ diplomatic relations with Russia next October. 

However, on his return to Honiara, Shanel was sacked by Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo who stated: “As a developing country, Solomon Islands should continue to strengthen our ties with traditional partners before pursuing new diplomatic groupings.”  Shanel’s foreign secretary was also reshuffled and is now the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services.
Support for Russia’s policy has also been contested in Port Vila, with attempts to reverse the initial decision on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Vanuatu’s media have raised concern about the role of Mrs Thi Tam Goiset, the country’s first Roving Ambassador to Russian and the Eastern Countries.

Luxembourg and the United Nations
According to the Vanuatu Daily Post, the Ambassador’s contract includes a 15% entitlement to any money secured in the name of the Republic of Vanuatu. For many years, islands governments often paralleled ANZUS policies on many international issues, except where there are clear issues that affected the region. Small Islands States governments like Tuvalu and Kiribati have fought hard against the US, Australian and Canadian coal lobby in international climate negotiations, while Tonga, Samoa and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) nations have consistently voted for nuclear disarmament initiatives at the United Nations, in sharp opposition to Canberra and Washington.

Although constrained by the high cost of attending international meetings and maintaining overseas embassies, Pacific governments have been willing to use their vote as a diplomatic bargaining tool. A solid (and potentially growing) bloc of islands votes is a major resource when it comes to decisions in UN agencies or the regular votes for rotating seats on the UN Security Council (UNSC).
Alongside the UNSC permanent members (USA, UK, France, China and Russia), there are 10 non-permanent seats which rotate among the regional blocs that group UN member states—and people are eager to woo islands votes. Last September, the Asia Group within the United Nations formally changed its name to the ‘Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Islands Developing States’, a reflection of the Pacific’s new diplomatic vibrancy and growing links between Forum Islands Countries and Asian powers.
One of the legacies of colonialism is that Australia and New Zealand are members of the ‘Western European and Others Group’ (WEOG), rather than the Asia-Pacific group.
For the 2013-14 UNSC term, Australia is competing with Finland and Luxembourg for the two seats as part of the WEOG group at the high table. This competition explains the entry of the latest player into Pacific politics—the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Luxembourg has a population the size of Solomon Islands, but it’s one of the richest European states, home to tax havens and extensive private banking.

Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has been actively lobbying for the rotating UNSC seat, travelling to the 2011 NAM meeting in Bali and wooing Fiji and Vanuatu. Prime Minister Bainimarama invited a representative from Luxembourg to attend the March 2011 MSG summit as a ‘special guest’, and both Luxembourg and Finland sent delegations to the 2011 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Auckland to lobby on the sidelines.

So far, this diplomacy hasn’t borne results. In Auckland, Forum leaders (minus Fiji) reaffirmed their “strong and unanimous support” for Australia’s bid for the UNSC seat in 2013-2014 and New Zealand’s bid for 2015-2016 (Stay tuned for October to see if Fiji can woo any islands state to switch their vote from Australia at the last minute!)

Beyond support for the two largest Forum members, the 2011 leaders’ communique also noted “the importance of Pacific representation on the UN Security Council (UNSC) in ensuring the UNSC remained informed on international issues of concern to the region.” This suggests that the island bids for representation on the UNSC may be in the wind in the coming years. Fiji considered a bid for one of the Asia-Pacific group’s rotating seats in 2012, but agreed to defer its candidacy in favour of Pakistan, which went on to win the seat. Suva may expect the favour returned for 2015-2016, if national elections go ahead as scheduled in 2014 and Fiji is welcomed back into the arms of the ‘international community’.

Nic Maclellan

"The post-coup rift between Canberra, Wellington and Suva has accelerated these existing trends in regional policy [...]

NAM would help refocus Fiji’s relationships away from its traditional partners Australia and New Zealand and allow Suva to pursue its ‘Look North’ policy, through direct engagement with ASEAN countries and strengthen ties to Beijing [...]

Around the region, there are a range of new players that are complicating life for the ANZUS allies—from Cuba, Russia, Timor-Leste and Indonesia to unexpected actors like the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Luxembourg."

United Arab Emirates (UAE)
In the 1980s, the Kingdom of Tonga was one of the brokers of Libya’s engagement with the islands region. Today, Nuku’alofa has opened the door for another Middle East power—the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
As part of its shift towards renewable energy, Tonga has been a key Pacific player in the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which was officially established in January 2009 to “promote the widespread and increased adoption and sustainable use of all forms or renewable energy”.
After ratifying the IRENA Statute in November 2009, Tonga became one of the first countries in the world to be a full member of the new agency. Tonga has been elected to the IRENA Council, which administers decisions of the agency’s global assembly.Through IRENA, successive Tongan governments have built links with the UAE. The then Prime Minister Feleti Sevele led a Tongan delegation to the UAE in January 2010 for the Third IRENA Preparatory Commission meeting.
On January 18, in Abu Dhabi, the MASDAR renewable energy company signed an MOU with the Government of Tonga to build a 500- kilowatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Vava’u, funded by a grant from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, an agency controlled by the UAE government.
The following month, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan toured the Pacific in a private Boeing 737 800, leading a delegation for courtesy visits to Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, and Palau (UAE is now supporting Palau’s dugong protection programme).
In Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s Crown Prince Tupouto’a-Lavaka signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE Foreign Minister on February 9, 2010 and His Royal Highness has been named as the Ambassador Designate to UAE. The UAE has now launched a US$50 million “UAE and Pacific Islands Partnership Programme” to be overseen by the UAE Foreign Ministry and managed by the government-owned Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.
Seeking AOSIS goodwill as one of the world’s highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases, UAE was also looking for support for their 2010 bid for a seat on the UN Security Council rather than Canada (Canada lost). Canada and the UAE had a long-running dispute over access for Emirates airline to Canadian airports, and the issue of airline access resonates in the Pacific. 

At a time Qantas is looking at its major shareholding in Air Pacific, improved ties to the Emirates airline could be important for Fiji, which has hundreds of nationals serving in Middle East peacekeeping operations.
These links with the UAE opened the way for a June 2010 meeting between Pacific countries and the Arab League, hosted by the UAE Foreign Minister in Abu Dhabi. The ‘Prospects of Cooperation between Arab countries and the Pacific Islands conference’ started discussions on aid and political co-operation and even proposed opening an Arab League office in the islands.

At the meeting, “the Pacific Small Islands Developing States noted the concern of Arab states regarding the conflict in the Middle East, in particular in Palestine. The Pacific Small Islands Developing States undertook to give appropriate consideration to the Arab Peace Initiative, recognising that the views of the Arab States were crucial to a just, comprehensive and permanent peace in the Middle East.”

The meeting communique agreed to support international efforts to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East (with an international conference on weapons of mass destruction in the region scheduled for late 2012). In the coming months, Pacific governments will be lobbied extensively on Iran’s nuclear programme and Israel’s arsenal, estimated at 80-200 nuclear weapons.

Middle East politics
As with the China-Taiwan dispute, the Arab-Israeli conflict will force Pacific islands to juggle allegiances. The 2010 meeting with the Arab League sparked concern amongst the ANZUS allies and Israel, as some participants started to draw away from US-Israeli positions on Palestine. The United States and Israel are lobbying Pacific states against support for Palestinian statehood and, as always, existing aid and trade relations come into play. In December last year, Vanuatu was one of only 15 countries that opposed Palestine’s application to join the United Nations Economic Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO). 
As the only Pacific country receiving US funds through its Millennium Challenge, Vanuatu’s Education Minister Marcellino Pipite told Vanuatu’s Daily Post that “prior to the UNESCO conference, I met USA officials and presented a request for the second Millennium Challenge Funds and did not want to jeopardise this with voting against Israel.”
Under their Compacts of Free Association, FSM, Marshall Islands and Palau have regularly voted with the United States and Israel against the international consensus on Palestinian rights. But solidarity with the United States comes at a cost. After the Marshall Islands opposed statehood for the Palestinians by abstaining in a 2011 UN General Assembly vote, Marshalls’ Foreign Minister Phillip Muller complained: “We were then told in a diplomatic note from the UAE that we were no longer eligible to participate in the renewable energy fund.We’ve been penalised for being friends with certain countries and no one is stepping up to fill the void.” Other countries with strong ties to Australia, like Solomon Islands, have also developed new ties with non-traditional partners in recent years. Honiara has been building diplomatic links with Iran and has joined Vanuatu to call for an end to the US embargo of Cuba.
In 2008, Solomon Islands’ then Foreign Minister William Haomae met his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in New York to discuss formalising diplomatic relations. Haomae then led a Solomon’s delegation to Tehran and the two countries signed a Cooperative Memorandum to explore development cooperation agreements. At the time, the Solomon Islands government rejected criticism from Israel over alleged Iranian influence, with an official stating: “We have no enemies, and therefore, we will be friends to all the nations, including both Israel and Iran.”
Israeli officials travelled to Honiara in 2009 to lobby the Sikua government over perceived policy shifts on Middle East affairs. In November 2009, Solomon Islands was the only Pacific islands nation to vote in the UN General Assembly in support of a resolution calling for independent investigation of allegations of war crimes documented in the Goldstone report (a study by a leading South African jurist which criticised human rights violations by Israel and Hamas during the Israeli invasion of Gaza in early 2009). Australia, Nauru and the US Compact states all voted to reject the report, with other Forum members abstaining.
In response to this increasing Pacific dialogue with the Arab world, Israel is increasing its regional lobbying.
In January 2010, FSM President Emanuel Mori and Nauru’s then President Marcus Stephen travelled to Israel, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and President Shimon Peres. In April 2011, the speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, visited Tonga to improve relations between the two countries, while last August Israel’s President Shimon Peres offered Nauru support for desalination projects.
Tel Aviv has approved new aid programmes through MASHAV (Israel’s International Development Cooperation Agency). TAG International Development will implement development assistance programmes in Solomon Islands, with visiting delegations investigating agricultural projects in Malaita. Israeli experts are also looking at a hydroelectricity project in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Timor-Leste and Indonesia
Closer to home, independent Timor-Leste gained Special Observer Status at the Pacific Islands Forum in 2002. Even though Timor-Leste is still primarily looking west to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Dili is co-operating with the Melanesian Spearhead Group on trade, climate change and other issues.
In early 2011, MSG member states agreed to allow Indonesia and Timor-Leste to attend the March 2011 MSG leaders’ summit as observers. In September 2011, Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão visited the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila (the first visit by an overseas head of government since the secretariat was opened in 2008) and Timorese officials announced a US$500,000 grant for salaries and projects.
For many years, Indonesian diplomats have lobbied the islands region from embassies in Canberra, Wellington, Beijing and Tokyo but now Jakarta is seeking more links on the ground. Indonesia’s observer status at the March 2011 MSG summit was followed the next month by the opening of its new embassy in Suva. The Kilman government in Vanuatu too is moving closer to Indonesia, with the December 2011 signing in Jakarta of a Vanuatu-Indonesia Development Co-operation Agreement. These moves have dismayed the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL), which has an information office in Port Vila (especially as the new co-operation agreement stresses Indonesian territorial integrity, sovereignty over West Papua and prohibits Vanuatu from interfering in Indonesia’s “internal affairs”).
Indonesia’s MSG observer status was a sharp blow for the West Papuan nationalist movement, which has been lobbying for that status for many years.
Indonesia is not alone as an active regional player from Asia. Malaysian corporation Naim is building roads across Fiji, Rimbunan Hijau dominates PNG’s forestry sector while Korea’s POSCO has struck a major nickel deal with the FLNKS-dominated northern province in New Caledonia.
In 2011, Korea tripled its development aid to the islands region from US$300,000 to $US1 million as part of the Lee Myung-bak government’s “New Asia Diplomacy” initiative. Last June, Korean diplomats and representatives of 14 islands nations gathered in Seoul for the first ever Korea-Pacific summit (by coincidence, Korea is bidding for one of the rotating Asia-Pacific seats at the UN Security Council in 2013-14!).

Canberra’s dilemma
Some Australian officials have expressed concern that the islands’ diversifying diplomatic links are simply a matter of chequebook diplomacy. But there are also some fundamental policy differences between Pacific states and Canberra, Washington and Paris. Some islands leaders increasingly attracted by economic models from Asia that involve capital controls, government intervention and reliance on state-run enterprises, rather than the Washington consensus of trade liberalisation and privatisation.  At a time when Canberra backs France’s ongoing colonial role in the South Pacific and maintains a paltry 5% target for greenhouse emissions cuts by 2020, it’s hardly surprising that Pacific nations are looking to new friends. The new role of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) grouping within the United Nations is causing debate in Australia. 

A 2011 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) notes: “The importance of PSIDS for Australia’s regional position is that, to some extent, the group demonstrates our alienation from the FICs.
The Pacific Islands Forum has had observer status in the General Assembly since 1994. The increased prominence of PSIDS derives from the FICs’ preference for a form of engagement that excludes Australia and New Zealand, which would be included in any discussions under the PIF banner. The PSIDS feel very satisfied with their inclusion in the UN’s Asia Group, especially under its new name.”
With former NSW Premier Bob Carr taking over from Kevin Rudd as Foreign Minister and initiating talks with New Zealand about new policies towards the Bainimarama administration, there are signs that Canberra is starting to respond to the new regional dynamic.

Sept 2012: Russian s ready to land
By Davendra Sharma

If Russians have yet to make a mark on the Pacific, just wait until September 2012 when Moscow hosts the region’s most powerful meet—the Asia Pacific Economic Community Summit. Already eyes of the regional superpowers like Australia and the United States are on Russia as it prepares to host the influential meeting of leaders from the two regions, Asia and Pacific. They will be keen to study how Moscow will enhance its regional profile and gain an opportunity to establish itself in the region.
Since the visit last January by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov to Australia, Fiji and Kiribati as part of his five-nation tour, the European country has been accused of chequebook diplomacy.
But economic deals are not only interests Moscow has in the Pacific, it also has military and political intentions as the former Soviet power embraces the Pacific region.
In a report, The phantom of the Pacific: Reconsidering Russia as a Pacific power prior to APEC–2012, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) argues that increased Russian diplomacy in key parts of Asia and Oceania is driven by “economic, political and military strategic considerations”.
It said that the economic driver to Russia’s re-engagement in the Asia Pacific region is also to expand and find markets for its burgeoning energy industry. Russia has been able to woo support at the UN for recognition of its disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia—the scene of Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia.
While the region’s biggest aid donor, Australia, accuses Russia of “exploiting” some of the world’s smallest economies like Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, Vanuatu and Fiji, Russia is marching on and forging ties with whichever countries it can in the Pacific Islands Forum region. Russia is said to have poured tens of millions of development aid to these five countries in return for their acknowledgement of the Russian puppet states. The former phosphate-rich Nauru, which now relies on foreign remittances and assistance on living expenses, was reportedly given US$50 million. 
The new ASPI report also questions Russia’s political intentions as Moscow increases its presence in Oceania which it says “provides the nation with both a challenge and an opportunity, because it allows Russia a platform to display its restored military power to potential allies and friends, including through military exercises and out-of-area deployments.

Kiribati deal
Russia it seems is taking a leaf out of China’s policy book as it pursues economic deals and assistance in the Pacific islands. China also launched a campaign in the Oceania region in the early 1990s as it competed with Taiwan over recognition by Forum members like Kiribati, which has very limited natural resources and significant lag behind other Forum countries. But to Russia’s surprise, the governments in Tarawa over the last 20 years have had a long standing patterns of creating ties with new economic powers in the Pacific—be it Australia, China, Taiwan, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany or Cuba. Russia is just another new player.
For years it was China versus Taiwan. While China helped build the main infrastructure in Kiribati as well as supply specialist and skilled workers like doctors, Taiwan built a A$8 million stadium. And now it is Russia versus Georgia—both former members of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. As one regional Auckland-based commentator puts it, “It all depends on how much the latter and its Western backers would be willing to donate to this cause.”
And so as Australia’s parliamentary secretary for the Pacific islands affairs, Richard Marles argues that while competition benefits consumers the most, the resource-poor islands countries can only win here at the expense of the regional superpowers like Australia and New Zealand watching from the sidelines.
While long-time major donors accuse Russia of pressuring the islands countries of trading their sovereignty, the deals actually end up benefitting the poor countries in Oceania. "This kind of cheque-book diplomacy undermines development assistance in the region," said Marles.

When Lavrov decided a stopover in Fiji to meet military strongman, Commodore Bainimarama, Australia and New Zealand were left wondering how much deeper could Russia penetrate into relations with Oceania.
Like Kiribati, Suva under Bainimarama has stepped up ties with China and Russia. Shunned by New Zealand and Australia, Fiji has moved swiftly in 2012 to also reaffirm closer relationship with the United States and other Asian democracies like Japan. The Australian thinking however is that Russia has more military and strategic considerations than any other agenda as it pierces through the Oceania region. “More traditional geostrategic factors are also driving the Russians to give the Pacific greater prominence in the coming decade,” noted the ASPI report.

Russia’s military potency second to none
It asserts that the Russians are concerned that on one hand Washington is talking up downsizing its military might, it is still pouring millions into its Pacific allies and territories like Guam, American Samoa, FSM and the Northern Marianas.
Russia is only second to the US in terms of being the world’s most potent military power and it also the world’s sixth largest economy. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, where Australia aspires to be in years to come.  Russian interests in the South Pacific could also extend to mining as that country has the world’s third largest gold reserves. Mining of gold is a major source of employment in PNG and Fiji, where Australian companies are predominantly engaged.
Russia also enjoys an average annual growth of over 4%, one of the highest in modern-day Europe, most of which is slowly recovering from the three-year recession. The report forewarns that renewed Russian interest in the Pacific region should not been taken lightly by existing economic powers. “Russia’s long-term economic agenda and its clear interest in cooperation rather than confrontation drive this comeback. Its intention to rebuild a credible military capability in the Pacific is driven not by threat perceptions alone, but by a pragmatic need to protect its national economic and political interests,” it said.

Further reading:

Club Em Designs

Thursday, May 10, 2012

X-Post-Blak and Black: AFP racism sparks diplomatic row between Australia and Vanuatu

Posted on May 10, 2012 by Bakchos

On 2nd May, 2012 the Vanuatu Daily Post reported that Private Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Clarence Marae had been arrested at Sydney International Airport by the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) whilst accompanying Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Meltek Sato Kilman Livtunvanu to Israel on a diplomatic mission.
Following his arrest, Mr Marae was charged with conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth, contrary to section 86 (1) and 29D of the Crimes Act 1914. The allegations underpinning the charges relate to an incident or a series of incidents which occurred more than ten years before.

What should be of paramount concern to all of the Pacific’s Indigenous people and what has clear echoes in the AFP’s now discredited treatment of Mr Julian Moti QC, the former Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands, is the high-handed manner in which the Australian Government and the AFP treat the Indigenous people of the Pacific, including their political and beaurocratic leaders.

In a statement issued from the office of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister on 1st May, 2012, the Prime Minister stated that:
…the Prime Minister’s Office was totally unaware that Marae still had an outstanding issue with the Australian Federal authorities.
Prime Minister’s Office would however like to echo the sentiments forwarded to the Australian Government via a diplomatic note protesting the manner in which the Prime Minister and his delegation were forcibly diverted from the international transit area of Sydney Airport to the Customs area under Australian Government jurisdiction so that the warrant could be served on Mr Marae.
The statement also stressed that this was a public embarrassment to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu and stressed that the Vanuatu Government is reviewing its options and has sought legal advice on the manner in which Marae’s arrest was orchestrated by the Australian Federal authorities at the Sydney International Airport, as it is suspected that in disallowing the delegation to go directly to the international transit lounge the actions may have infringed on international diplomatic protocols set out in international conventions ratified by both Australia and Vanuatu.

In fact, and typical of AFP arrogance when dealing with Indigenous people, the AFP have refused to enter into dialogue with Vanuatu over the issue, resulting in the Vanuatu Government issuing a statement on 9th May, 2012 giving the AFP 24 hours to close its liaison office, otherwise officers would face arrest for failing to ”take into account the decision of the Vanuatu government’‘.
Again, with strong resonances with the Moti affair, in 2004, Vanuatu’s then Foreign Minister, Barak Sope, wanted to throw the AFP out over allegations of spying and meddling with domestic politics. In May 2011, Australian lawyer and senior Australian Litigation Advisor to the Attorney-General of Vanuatu Ari Jenshel was expelled from Vanuatu by its government after it accused him of espionage.
Mr. Jenshel was made to leave after the Australian government was warned he faced imminent arrest over his activities as senior adviser in the office of the Attorney-General in Port Vila. Among claims being investigated by the police in Vanuatu are that sensitive government documents have been copied and sent to the Australian Government in Canberra. Mr. Jenshel, who is a former Australian Defence Force lawyer seconded to Vanuatu five years ago as part of an AusAID program, says any adverse findings against him by the Vanuatu police will be based on fabrications.

Some of the documents allegedly copied relate to talks between leaders of Pacific countries including Vanuatu, aimed at developing a closer working relationship with Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

The other documents Mr Jenshel is suspected of accessing, copying and sending to Canberra are confidential Vanuatu Government business and legal affairs, relating to taxation policy. Could these documents relate to Project Wickenby? Project Wickenby is a cooperative partnership between the ATO, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, with support from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Government Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Specifically to Project Wickenby, Mr Marae is an alleged associate of Victorian accountant Ian Henke, who was jailed in March 2011 for a multimillion-dollar tax avoidance scheme working through Vanuatu. Is this why Mr Jenshel was expelled and Mr Marae arrested?

Moti and Marae acts of neo-colonial racism?

The question goes begging – if Mr Marae were accompanying say, the Prime Minister of Britain or the President of the United States or indeed the President of Indonesia on a diplomatic mission rather than the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, would the AFP have acted in such a high-handed manner? The answer, is probably not. Similarly, if Mr Moti were the Attorney-General of one of the aforementioned countries, would he have been treated in the way he was by the AFP? Again, the answer is probably not.

The difference is that Australia sees the Pacific as being nothing more than its colonial domain, a domain which Australia governs through direct police/military intervention (known in the 19th Century as Gun Boat Diplomacy) and/or a few shekels of silver pressed into the hands of those Pacific ‘leaders’ prepared to sell out their own people to a racist and corrupt Australia in return for the crumbs from Australia’s table.
Australia has tried to justify its neo-colonial interventions in the Pacific by arguing that it was bringing stability to the so-called ‘arc of instability.’
…The so-called ‘arc of instability’, which basically goes from East Timor through to the south-west Pacific states, means that not only does Australia have a responsibility in preventing and indeed assisting with humanitarian and disaster relief, but also that we cannot allow any of these countries to become havens for transnational crime, nor indeed havens for terrorism…
There is no official list of member states in the Arc, however it has traditionally been accepted to include South-East Asian and Oceanic nations such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Indonesia and Fiji.
What Australia is really doing in the Pacific is using the tragic events which unfolded in New York on 11 September, 2001 as a pretext to economically colonize the Pacific for its own commercial ends.
In the words of former United States President Woodrow Wilson:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused[1].
Actions speak louder than words. The actions of the AFP in both the Marae and Moti affairs speak volumes about the attitude of white Australia to the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific.

Post script News:

AFP’s long memory of alleged associations from the past 
Of the many articles published this week concerning the recent arrest of Clarence Marae, private secretary to Vanuatu’s Prime Minister at Sydney International Airport, only one goes any way to explain why the Australian Federal Police may have taken the action they did.

Ilya Gridneff, writing on May 2 says: “The Herald understands that the arrest is connected to the joint operation Project Wickenby, run predominantly by the Australian Taxation Office. Mr Marae is an alleged associate of the Victorian accountant Ian Henke, who in March last year was jailed, along with two Queensland accountants, for their roles in a multimillion-dollar tax avoidance scheme”

If this is indeed the basis for Marae’s arrest it not only shows that the AFP have very long memories, but also that one can never really escape one’s past – whatever that past may be.

In May 2008, the Australian Financial Review’s Matthew Drummond and Colleen Ryan reported under the headline: “Vanuatu dragnet opens up new front”.

“Ian Henke, who once tried to put former tax commissioner Michael Carmody on trial for war crimes and claimed the Australian Taxation Office was a legal fiction, has been charged over what the Australian Federal Police has (sic) alleged to be a $10 million asset-stripping scheme involving Vanuatu. “Mr Henke, 72, of Victoria, and Robin Huston, 62, of Queensland were summonsed to appear before Brisbane Magistrates Court.

“The AFP alleges the pair promoted a scheme that resulted in the assets of 69 companies being stripped and transferred through an “intricate network” of firms in Australia and Vanuatu.
“The companies, spread across five states, then told the ATO they could not meet their liabilities.
“The alleged asset-stripping scheme is understood to resemble the famous “bottom of the harbour” tax scheme of the 1980s.

“The summons issued to Mr Henke, who has previously described himself a “former senior ministerial policy adviser” and “businessman”, alleges that between July 1999 and May 2001 he conspired with five others to defraud the commonwealth. The alleged associates include Clarence Marae, a former deputy secretary of foreign affairs in Vanuatu, and Philip Northam, whose Vanuatu investment club was closed down by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in 2004. Also named was Lance Miller, a former director of the Institute of Taxation Research.”

In August 2008 accountant Brian Francis Fox was arrested at Brisbane airport in connection with the same alleged asset-stripping scheme that occurred prior to his employment with Hawkes Law (previously KPMG) in Port Vila.

Brisbane Times reported in December 2011 that at the conclusion of a Supreme Court trial in March that year Henke, Huston and Fox were found guilty of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth of more than $4.59 million. The trio devised, promoted and implemented the scheme between July 1, 1999 and May 23, 2001. [The scheme] involved setting up offshore bank accounts and companies. Through a series of elaborate and fraudulent transactions the men shifted the assets of various companies into the names of their former directors, before closing the businesses without paying off their tax debt.

Henke was initially sentenced to four and a half years in prison to be released on parole after 12 months; Fox to three years and nine months to be released on parole after nine months and Huston to four years jail to be released on parole after 10 months. However, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions appealed their sentences on the grounds they were “manifestly inadequate”. The appeal was upheld. Henke’s sentence was increased from four and half years to six years imprisonment. He will now spend at least three years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

Fox will spend the next two years and six months in prison, after his sentence was increased to five years and Huston will be imprisoned for three years, as his head sentence was increased from four to six years. “The offending here was serious, protracted and grossly dishonest,” Justice Muir said in his written judgment.

“It was embarked upon by Henke and Huston for personal gain. “Henke pocketed about $145,000 for his part in the scheme, while Huston received $40,000 and Fox gained professional fees through promoting the schemes with his clients. “It put at risk about $4.5 million of Commonwealth revenue,” Justice Muir said.
“The effect of evading tax liability is to deprive the community of revenue needed to provide government services and to impose an unfair burden on those who act honestly.”
The amounts gained by the trio hardly seem worth the risk but maybe risk, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

In 1998, among other things “anti” – anti-tax, anti-Constitution, anti-Commonwealth – Henke’s Institute of Taxation Research (ITR) published a booklet entitled “30 Key Questions About the Australian Taxation System”. A friend in Fiji gave the writer a copy of it the same year. It is a flawed logic, but obviously Henke and his co-convicted didn’t see it that way.

Question 21 asks: “But don’t the ATO have incredible power to investigate and punish?
Henke’s answer: “In a nutshell, no! And what’s more they never have really had these powers. It didn’t matter so much when the old Taxation Department was simply an arm of the government, strict but operating very carefully and correctly. However the transition from Taxation Department to Australian Taxation Office introduced a new culture where bonuses are paid on the basis of the amount of tax collected. Not all ATO offices are on a bonus but enough are to make putting a return in no better than a lottery – but a lottery where you can’t win, you can only lose AND THEY PUT PART OF YOUR LOSS IN THEIR OWN POCKET. The problem is that letters from the ATO still bristle with threats to increase taxes, impose arbitrary penalties and quote various sections of the Income Tax (or other) Act in a way calculated to intimidate including threats to place honest citizens before the courts, a prospect most dread”.
Question 22 follows that line: “But don’t they always win in the courts?”
Henke: “Not any more. The court system may not be about truth - that disappeared long ago from the British/Australian legal system. It is about procedure and precedent and the rules of court and these can be turned against the ATO. It is a question of saying to the ATO ‘forget your rules and play according to ours where the dice aren’t loaded your way.’
“There is a simple question for the ATO. When did they win in a court against our arguments?”
Answer: March and December 2011.
Henke and his co-convicted have around 1000 long nights in jail to ponder it and the booklet’s concluding words: “The truth eventually exposes itself. Fact can’t be kept secret forever”.

Kidnap and breach of diplomatic protocol: Kilman

Prime Minister Kilman 
Prime Minister Sato kilman described the arrest of Clarence Marae by the Australian Federal Police at Sydney International Airport as “kidnap and breach of diplomatic protocol”.
PM Kilman made the remarks immediately upon his arrival in Port Vila yesterday afternoon from the visit to Israel.

“In my humble view, it was kidnap and a breach of diplomatic protocol,” Prime Minister Kilman remarked after being welcomed by the Deputy and Acting Prime Minister Ham Lini Vanuroroa, government ministers and officials and members of the diplomatic corps at Port Vila International Airport yesterday afternoon.
“It is my hope and prayers that Australia can shoulder any representation that will be made in a true spirit,” PM Kilman remarked.
“I am disappointed because Vanuatu and Australia have an agreement in place for exchange of information.

“But there was no information access to a person who should have been refused a visa to enter Australia in the first place.“They were aware, yet granted the visa which led to the arrest,” PM Kilman told government officials and reporters on his arrival yesterday afternoon.

“There is a very strong cooperation between Australia and Vanuatu but unfortunately what happened at Sydney airport is not a sign of the existing cooperation between Australia and Vanuatu. “And if Australia says she is one of the countries in the Pacific but does this to smaller nations in the Pacific then it infringed on the sovereignty of the country.

“We must realize that we are an independent country and must be prepared to accept the consequences of the decisions taken. “We are in the 21st century and must not create instability in the region which would in turn affect world peace,” a concerned Vanuatu Prime Minister remarked in relation to the AFP arrest of Mr Clarence Marae at Sydney International airport.

“Is Pacific important to Australia or not?” Prime Minister Kilman questioned. “If yes, then Australia must make her stand clear on the Pacific,” PM Kilman reiterated.

The Vanuatu Prime Minister thanked the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office for the Note of concern already communicated to the Australian Government on the issues. He said further considerations will be given on the issue.

Prime Minister Kilman told government officials and reporters that upon their arrival at Sydney International airport, they were taken to the Immigration and Customs and made to fill out forms and had to wait at one of the lounge. He said it was then that they realized that Mr Marae was not amongst them.
When questioning his whereabouts, they were told that he has been arrested by the Australian Federal Authorities.“I am disappointed in the way this was done and in my humble view, it was kidnap and breach of diplomatic protocol,” concerned Prime Minister Kilman said on his arrival in Port Vila yesterday.

Club Em Designs

Sunday, May 06, 2012

One Hand Washes The Other - Comparing Good Governance In The Pacific & Wall Street.

U.S think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently produced publication titled: "Strengthening Governance and Development in the Pacific" highlights the American pivot to the Asia Pacific region and also attempted to frame the issues of Good Governance and Developments in the South Pacific.
Strengthening Governance and Development in the Pacific
By Gregory Poling and Elke Larsen May 4, 2012
As the United States focuses its energy on engaging the Asia-Pacific region, it has a growing interest in promoting good governance practices in Oceania. More than just democratic values and respect for human rights are at stake, as important as those are. The Pacific population is set to reach 18 million by 2050 and unemployment rates are already alarmingly high. The best means of ensuring regional stability is for economic development to truly take root. But it is difficult to attract capital to a region where poor governance means there is often high risk associated with investment.
It is therefore in the interests of the United States to promote good governance as the key driver of economic development in this region. Isolation is often blamed as the primary disincentive to investment in Oceania. Isolation undeniably remains an important consideration, but investment can be attracted to even the most isolated islands if good governance is practiced.
A case in point is Mauritius, which lies in the Indian Ocean 1,242 miles off the coast of Africa. Nobel Prize laureate James Meade claimed in the 1960s that Mauritius would likely become a failed state because of its isolation. And yet by 2000 Mauritius’s economic rise was being hailed as a “miracle.” In reality, though, Mauritius’s development was not miraculous, but rather the result of calculated good governance practices that transformed the island into an attractive destination for investment. Since the 1970s, there has been a consensus in Mauritian politics to promote growth via sound economic policies, export zones, respect for property rights, and zero tolerance for corruption. Mauritius currently ranks 23rd among the 183 economies in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index. With a population of approximately 1.3 million, Mauritius in 2011 had a per capita GDP of $15,000.
In contrast, the most diversified Pacific economy, Fiji, with a population of 890,000 people, had a 2011 GDP per capita of $4,600. Recent developments underscore the negative impact that governance issues can have on development and help explain why the economies of the two most populous Pacific Island countries, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, contrast sharply with those of states like Mauritius. For example, Papua New Guinea’s Esso Highlands Ltd. liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, a joint venture project operated by Exxon Mobil, is expected to create local employment and increase Papua New Guinea’s GDP by 15–20 percent. However, land ownership issues caused serious delays in 2009 and again this year as landowners used threats of violence in attempts to extract rents.
The absence of the rule of law in the Highlands region became apparent with numerous events that stopped work in March and April on the LNG project, and violence by illegal miners near the Porgera Gold Mine prompted the government to deploy troops in January and again in late April. Former military commander Major General Jerry Singirok said of the latest deployment, “It’s important that the investors see the government is concerned about the major investments…it’s an act of deterrence.” Despite the government’s moves to protect foreign investments, however, the highly publicized difficulties faced by Exxon Mobil and other companies will serve as a cautionary tale to potential investors. Papua New Guinea is also facing political turmoil at the national level.
The judicial and legislative branches have been deadlocked over a March 28 Judicial Conduct Bill giving the parliament the power to remove judges. The bill would have lasting implications for Papua New Guinea’s separation of powers and political stability. This will affect how risky the country looks to foreign investors. Papua New Guinea is already ranked 101 out of the 183 economies in the “Ease of Doing Business” index. Tellingly, its poorest indicator on the index is the enforcement of contracts, on which it ranks 163rd. Undermining judicial independence will only make that indicator worse.
One finds further evidence of the importance of governance on investor confidence in Fiji. According to an International Monetary Fund report released in February, Fiji’s 2006 coup coincided with a severe decline in economic growth. From the 1990s until the 2006 coup, economic growth averaged 2.75 percent per year. It has dipped to less than 0.25 percent per year since, well below Fiji’s potential considering the economic boom elsewhere in the Asia Pacific.
A 2009 World Bank survey found that the greatest barrier to firms investing in Fiji was political instability. The country is presently ranked 77th in the “Ease of Doing Business” index. There are some bright spots. On March 9, Fiji began a consultation process for a new constitution, and it looks as if the country may be on track for a return to democracy. The military regime headed by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has announced that elections will be held in 2014 and will be open to all candidates. These steps toward better governance and political stability have already resulted in greater investor confidence. For instance, U.S.-based Gibson Guitars on April 20 announced plans to open a mahogany processing factory by 2013 that will create 2,000 jobs.
The geopolitics of Oceania are changing, providing the Pacific Islands with an opportunity to break out of their relative isolation. Lying as they do within the vast expanse between Asia and the United States, the Pacific Island countries offer investors largely untapped economic opportunities: mineral resources to meet Asia’s booming demand, the world’s richest tuna fisheries, and vast tourism possibilities, among others. If properly developed, these nations have the potential to link their economies to the massive Asian and North American markets. But tapping this potential depends on improving governance practices and reducing risk.
The United States has reiterated its commitment to the region’s development and has backed up that commitment with actions: sending the largest-ever U.S. delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum last September, opening a new USAID regional office in October, and supporting Vanuatu’s and Samoa’s accession to the WTO this year, among others. It therefore has a proven interest in promoting good governance as a critical part of helping the Pacific Islands maintain stability and reach their economic potential.
(This Commentary first appeared in the May 3, 2012, issue of Pacific Partners Outlook,
Gregory Poling is a research assistant, and Elke Larsen a researcher, with the Pacific Partners Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues.

It seems quite indicative of the CSIS publication to extol the virtues of the World Band and the International Monetary Fund  (IMF), as well as cite their reports and haphazardly draw conclusions from its findings.  The issue of good governance in the context of IMF is contradictory, considering the voting system within the particular institution.

A useful counter point to the sentiments raised by the CSIS publication can best be addressed  by  Non Governmental Group (NGO) Action Aid., whose 2009 report  titled "IMF Policies and Their Impact On Education, Health & Womens Rights in Kenya- The Fallacies and Pitfalls of the IMF Policies" []

The above mentioned CSIS publication stated: "According to an International Monetary Fund report released in February, Fiji’s 2006 coup coincided with a severe decline in economic growth. From the 1990s until the 2006 coup, economic growth averaged 2.75 percent per year".

The cascading effects of the 2008 Wall Street implosion, gives readers pause for thought, regarding the correlation and causality of any decline in economic growth in Fiji, let alone the world economy.
More so, it calls into questions the inability of the IMF or the World Bank to have prevented the Global Financial Crisis in the first place and dampen the damaging  ripples of  the financial Tsunami still unwinding in Europe.

The taglines "rule  of  law" and "good governance" are ostensibly used in many academic reports to point out short falls in a certain nation's state policies, in tackling corruption related problems. Or the lack of political will to reform plagued institutions.
The question that begs to be asked, is whether think tanks like CSIS are equally capable of reporting the shortcomings of governance in Pacific regions, as well as the glaring control frauds occurring in Wall Street or actively point out the revolving door between financial regulators and  K- street lobbyists.

PBS Frontline documentary "Money, Power & Wall Street" does provide yeoman's work in examining the timeline and events prior to the Global Financial Crisis.

Episode 1 (below)
Episode 2 (below)
Episode 3 (below)
Episode 4 (below)
Watch Money, Power and Wall Street: Part Four on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE
The above listed Frontline documentary is exceptionally adept in addressing the timeline of events, it rather avoids calling for prosecution occurring for criminal acts within the financial system. The perpetrators in this sense, aided and abetted by politicians, have formed a cartel that controls the levers of power.

Bill Moyers articulated this revolving door syndrome in a TV segment (posted below).
For years, high-ranking administration officials have spun through the revolving door between the White House and American big business. But how have they influenced the regulation and reform of industries from which they came, and American democracy as a result?

Dr. Bill Black,addresses those in grained flaws, in a podcast  (posted below) that is fittingly titled:"Our System is so Flawed, Fraud is Mathematically Guaranteed".

CSIS publication ends with the following sentence: "[The U.S] therefore has a proven interest in promoting good governance as a critical part of helping the Pacific Islands maintain stability and reach their economic potential".

It is increasingly obvious, that the "good governance"  and "rule of law' in the U.S is in fact crony-capitalism, thinly veiled in democratic ideals.  Given that resources are presently being exported  from the region, readers should be concerned whether the CSIS, is actually advocating the same crony capitalism model for the Pacific, as a means to reach their economic potential.

Club Em Designs