Monday, October 28, 2013

X-Post: Russia’s Pacific Destiny

Source: American Interest 


"By virtue of our unique geography”, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a 2011 Foreign Policy article, “the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power.” Russia, meanwhile, has seen itself as a Euro-Asian country, as Vladimir Putin has argued from the start of his first term in the Kremlin. The American attitude, which in Secretary Clinton’s locution is about as uncontroversial a statement as an American Secretary of State can make, reflects the country’s historic “maritime” vocation. The Russian one reflects the longstanding fascination with the country’s continental scale and reflects its traditional terrestrial focus. It is really no surprise, when you think about it, that during the “space race” Americans fetched their returning astronauts at sea, while Russians did so over land.

Despite these different conceptions of the Pacific, which is now the most dynamic region in the world, both the United States and the Russian Federation have made similar mistakes. The most striking of these has been the equation of the Pacific Rim with Asia and Asians. American and Russian policymakers and experts have commonly spoken of the Asia-Pacific or Asian-Pacific region, respectively. Both groups presuppose that the Pacific Rim cannot even be imagined without the primacy of Asian nations, tacitly agreeing that among them China appears to be a natural leader. The recent and ongoing shift of global wealth toward the Pacific is therefore widely interpreted as a harbinger of the “Asian century.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fiji & Japanese Foreign Minister's Discussion.

Source: MoI
Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola held historic talks this week with his Japan counterpart, Minister Fumio Kishida.

This is the first bilateral meeting between both Ministers since Japan’s Abe-led government came into power in 2012. The meeting between the two senior government officials is regarded as a step forward in the deepening of relations between Fiji and Japan, particularly in view of the difficulties in relations experienced by Fiji, under the previous government.

Minister Kishida expressed on behalf of the Japanese Government, his appreciation towards Fiji’s participation at the PALM 6 Interim Ministerial Review Meeting, despite the fact that Fiji did not participate in the PALM 6 Leaders Meeting. He emphasized that Fiji’s position as the hub of the South Pacific region plays a vital role in Japan’s partnership and development objectives in the region. He acknowledged Fiji’s electoral developments as a step forward towards democratic elections in 2014 and reiterated Japan’s willingness to assist in the preparatory process for election in 2014.

Minister Kubuabola in response thanked the government of Japan for the assistance provided to Fiji in the past and congratulated Japan’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. He also acknowledged the invitation extended to Fiji to attend the Interim Ministerial Meeting held this weekend.

There were several bilateral issues presented by Minister Kubuabola for Japan’s consideration. The first was the proposed visit to Japan by Fiji’s Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama as the Minister responsible for the Sugar Industry. The Minister said that as part of Fiji’s sugar reforms, the visit in 2014 would allow a delegation to observe the Okinawa Sugar Industry, as part of efforts to capture all the best practices and experience of countries with sugar industries similar to Fiji. The second was Fiji requesting the early conclusion of an investment agreement, which is critical to increasing trade and investment between the two countries. On these two issues, Minister Kishida agreed that relevant officials from both countries should coordinate closely with each other to ensure these two issues are concluded.

The Nadi River Realignment Project was again raised with Minister Kishida, to underscore its critical importance to Fiji and to further demonstrate how recent flooding in Fiji has caused havoc in the social and economic activities in that important region. Assistance towards the PIDF Secretariat was also requested and Minister Kishida agreed that his official will consider this and an appropriate response will be provided.

On bilateral projects with Fiji, Japan will send a mission to Fiji in February/March 2014 to finalize the feasibility study for the Nadi River Realignment Project before the stage will start.

Minister Kubuabola also extended an invitation to Minister Kishida to visit Fiji soon. In doing so, he noted that the last Foreign Minister of Japan that visited Fiji was Mr Shintaro ABE who accompanied Prime Minister NAKASONE to Fiji on an official visit in May 1985. He further observed that high level ministerial visits between friendly countries, should be at regular interval, as they provide a critical mechanism for maintaining goodwill and fraternal relationships between states. On this, Minister Kishida said that he would like to visit Fiji and he will look into this seriously.

The meeting concluded with mutual expression of goodwill to each other. Fiji’s resident Ambassador in Japan H.E Isikeli Mataitoga and the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Mr Pio Tikoduadua accompanied the meeting with the Foreign Minister.

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X-Post: Pacific Politics - Lamentations from the Pacific.

Kalafi Moala writes that true freedom will come when Pacific peoples start thinking for themselves.
A cry is being heard from almost every corner of the Pacific; a cry against injustice, a cry against the harsh hand that has been dealt against us in the centuries old deliberate attempt by the powerful West and their allies to shape us and our social culture, to become like them.

In this colonization of the Pacific peoples to transform them into Western thinking and ways, the overall effect have been devastating. We’ve been abused from the back when we were not looking or when we lacked knowledge, but now we are being abused from the front, when some of us knowingly chose to be subservient rather than assertive. You annexed whole island nations like Hawaii, imprisoning kings and queens, giving the leadership of that sovereign kingdom nation to your European business friends. You took our lands and destroyed our culture, and have turned our shores into bases for your powerful military.

Many of our nations, as in Kiribati and Tuvalu, face a crisis that threatens to sink the islands from the sea-level rise effect of climate change, and our ocean environment in many places have been ruined by the same effect, scientifically proven that it is caused by global warming, a condition caused by reckless Western industrialization. Oh thou Great and Almighty West, when will you understand? When will you stop to think that what you have done and are doing to our peoples have hurt us more than helped us? You’ve set yourself up to be our problem solver. Your attitude is that you know more than we do what is best for us. It’s like a drug-based health care; the medicine often produces worse effects than the disease.

Our ancestors suffered from diseases foreign to our shores, diseases introduced to our region through your intrusions, causing epidemics that wiped out whole village populations. You fought your wars on our shores, tested your nuclear weapons on our islands, and the suffering of our peoples in French Polynesia and Micronesia is still being felt with the fatal effects of exposure to radiation. You created geopolitical divisions and partitioning among all of our island nations, so that it would be easier for you to control us. You divided us among your allies: British, American, French, Australian, and even the Kiwis were given a share.

We felt like war spoils being shared around.
Kalafi Moala

" Oh thou Great and Almighty West, when will you understand? When will you stop to think that what you have done and are doing to our peoples have hurt us more than helped us? "
You would not leave us alone because now you need someone to control, which is characteristic of your imperialist nature. But even when some of our nations have been decolonized politically, you’ve continued the re-colonization process through education, media, and other social configurations. And we have become so aid dependent, we lack the knowledge of what else to do, because we have been trained by you not to think creatively but only to think what we’ve been taught.

You mined our gas and petroleum resources, and sold them to the tune of billions, yet our people in those island states remain poor. You exploited our forest resources, and now those areas are barren and our balanced eco systems have been forever altered. You signed agreements with our governments for seabed mining, fishing rights, and to abstract whatever you need from our ocean life.

For thousands of years our peoples were proud to be self-determined and had homegrown solutions to their problems. They sailed our great ocean lanes to trade, to explore, and even to make a fight or two. But thanks to you we are no longer independent as you have given us a system of civilization that makes us dependent on you, and in the process we have lost our dignity and our determination not just to survive but to live thriving meaningful lives.

In our desperate plight to survive, in a world where you control almost everything, we’ve welcomed the willing help offered us by countries like China, India, UAE, Japan, Korea, and others from the non-Western world; but you have insulted us by saying that we are just changing aid dependency from one colonial power to another. You would rather we continue the dependency on you than on others you’ve held in spite because of their success in self-determined development. Well, for whatever its worth, we don’t recall China or India ever taking over by force our sovereign nations. They did not test their nuclear weapons on us, you did. Is it no wonder we welcome their help more than we do yours?

In a world where the standard of success set by you is measured by political, economic, and social wellbeing, rather than by meaningful relationships and its effects of peace and happiness, it is no wonder why it is so hard for us to make it in your world. Some of our people are relegated to the corners of poverty, ignorance, and high crime rate, in your cities.
Kalafi Moala

" You are the same brutal imperialist power that brought suffering to our forefathers, and we have inherited their unjust plight. "
We speak your language, learn your culture, and operate in your system of things, yet you do not respect us enough to learn our language, observe our culture and values. The solutions you have given to us is that we need to be transformed to be like you – we need to learn your systems, practice your culture, in fact, think like you do, and we then can make it in your world.

Some of our leaders, in fact a lot of our people have embraced your ways and think the way you do. They have made alliance with you, and now they have acted like you, abusing us from within, and selling out on our values. For the past two decades you have increasingly ignored the islands of the Pacific partly due to your view that our worth maybe less than any meaningful investment you make.

The Western powers headed up by the USA and UK have diminished involvement in the Pacific, handing Australia and New Zealand the responsibility to “govern and manage Pacific affairs.” These two regional powers have been outsourced the running of things for the Western powers in the Pacific – from trade, fisheries, mining, forestry, transportation, finance, border security, natural disaster management, to telecommunication, energy, climate change, environment, and many other things serving your own interests.

Now that our non-Western friends like China are becoming more involved in our region, you’ve decided to come back in, but your basic mentality, attitude, policy, and practice have not changed. You are the same brutal imperialist power that brought suffering to our forefathers, and we have inherited their unjust plight.

The basis of unjust policy and practice must be replaced with that of justice. But that is not going to happen until the mighty and powerful decide to come to their senses and forego the misguided illusion that might is right, and power cannot be unchallenged.

As the steps to a long journey begin with the first one, it is time Pacific peoples start thinking and doing what needs to be done so as to start them on their journey to freedom. This is a freedom that only them know when it happens, a freedom that restores independence, self-determination, and dignity.

Source: Pacific Politics


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

X-Post: Dominion Post - Fresh Policy Needed With Fiji.

OPINION: New Zealand should be asking itself who rebuffed who in its difficult relationship with Fiji, writes Crosbie Walsh.

Our conflicting image of Fiji - popular tourist destination and unpopular military dictatorship - does little to help us unravel the extremely complex issues that confront this group of islands that are the geographic, communications and economic hub of the South Pacific.
We too easily assume that "democratically elected" is good and "military dictatorship" is bad. We seldom ask whether democracy is always the best means of governance for all cultures, in all situations, and in all countries, and we overlook the possibility that in some situations democracy - and military dictatorships, for that matter - may not be as they seem.

In recent weeks there have been calls, in Australia and New Zealand, to revisit what some, including this writer, see as our failed policy on Fiji. Others, including Victoria University Professor Jonathon Fraenkel, say it is "far better to take the longer view, watch progress carefully on the domestic front, and keep up pressure against the harassment of Fiji's opposition parties, unions and civil society activists" because our "concessions" have been "repeatedly rebuffed" (Let's continue to put the heat on Fiji's strongman, August 14). And so it might seem. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has called New Zealand's recent lifting of some sanctions "insincere, unneeded and too late". But who first rebuffed who?
Crosbie Walsh

" [T]he policy has failed us and it has failed Fiji. New Zealand needs a new policy, not a slight easement of the same "

New Zealand imposed travel bans on almost everyone connected with the Bainimarama government - even Fiji's soccer goalkeeper chosen to play against us in a qualifying round of the World Cup.
Many Fijians now have close relatives living or studying overseas. They cannot risk being unable to visit them or seek treatment in our hospitals. Unable to recruit suitably qualified civilians, more military personnel were appointed to senior government positions - and a less tolerant approach to those who opposed the government ensued.

We voted for Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum. Our efforts also led to the EU and Commonwealth withholding assistance to Fiji's vitally important sugar industry. Fiji responded by forming new international alliances, and it now chairs the UN Group of 77 and the International Sugar Organisation. It has revitalised the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the Pacific Island Development Forum. These moves must weaken the forum, and with it, our influence in the Pacific.

Fiji now has a new constitution. It is not the constitution that many government opponents would prefer, but there are sound reasons for the amnesty and transitional clauses to which they object. It is unrealistic, for example, to expect Mr Bainimarama to hand over power to an interim government that could be dominated by his opponents. To do so, would risk losing all that the government thinks it has achieved, and the coup would have been to no purpose.

Mr Bainimarama's opponents give no credit for his promotion of a common national identity. All citizens are now "Fijian" irrespective of race; all can now proudly say they "belong". And for the first time, schools have civics classes to foster inter-racial understanding. One of the old political parties wants Fiji declared a Christian state, and another wants to retain the discriminatory race-based election system. Both want to restore power to ethnic Fijian chiefs who, before the 2006 coup, appointed the president, and dominated senate and most provincial appointments.

The "old political order" that Mr Bainimarama ousted favoured the urban elite and brought few improvements for the urban or rural poor. His reforms have seen much-needed action on a neglected infrastructure, rural and regional development, fair land leases, housing, education, health, work to reduce endemic corruption, and the now improving economy. His critics accentuate the negatives and recognise not one positive.
Not all is well in Fiji. It was not well in 2006. In some human rights areas it is not well now, but it is naive to think Fiji's major problems will be resolved by a partially, or even a fully, democratic government elected in September 2014.

But from my end of the binoculars, things are improving, and they could have been much better much earlier had the Australian and New Zealand governments adopted a more informed and flexible policy towards Fiji.
It is now nearly seven years since the 2006 coup. I see no evidence that the "heat" has produced any positive changes in or for Fiji, and I doubt it will in the future. Quite frankly, the policy has failed us and it has failed Fiji. New Zealand needs a new policy, not a slight easement of the same.

Crosbie Walsh is an Adjunct Professor of Development Geography at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, where he was the founding director of the Centre of Development Studies. Before this, he was the founding director of the Institute of Development Studies at Massey University. He is now retired. 

Source: Dominion Post

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Monday, October 07, 2013

X-Post: Pacific Politics - Self-determination Thinking Crucial.

Kalafi Moala writes that maybe there is a lesson or two to be learnt from Fiji when it comes to home grown solutions.

The news that AusAID has been reconfigured as a bureaucracy and placed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the new government of Australia has shaken up the Southern Pacific states, especially Tonga and Samoa. And more particularly after the announcement there will be cuts to Australia’s overseas aid of about $4.5 billion in the next four years.

Australia is Tonga’s biggest aid donor of about $33 million a year. And the same goes to Samoa, even though New Zealand aid to Samoa is significantly much greater than to Tonga. Interestingly, Australia’s aid to Fiji has increased since 2006, despite the opposition rhetoric and sanctions against the coup regime governing Fiji.

Questions are being asked at the corridors of power in Nuku’alofa and Apia whether the cuts to Australia’s foreign aid is going to impact current aid packages to these two Polynesian countries.
It is understandable if the Fijian government is privately chuckling at the turn of events, because they have had to make do without Australian and New Zealand endorsement, and in some cases significant political and economic roadblocks in the form of sanctions.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Commodore Frank Bainimarama in reference to Australia and New Zealand said that Fiji had friends who turned their backs on them when they needed them. He said: “Regrettably, and to our great disappointment, some of these oldest friends had no faith in us. They abandoned us and sought to punish us with sanctions. We sought their assistance and understanding, but they turned their backs on us.”

Prime Minister Bainimarama pointed out that Fiji has struggled for many years “under a system that created different classes of citizens in which the votes of some Fijians counted more than others.” He has reiterated time after time again over the past few years, that the new society his government was building in Fiji is a multicultural society, and that the new Constitution and electoral system reflect that. And at the United Nations General Assembly, he again pulled no punches in reference to Australia and New Zealand. He said: “They chose to support a form of democracy, governance and justice system in Fiji that they would never have accepted for themselves.”

With reference to newer developing relations with donor countries like China, Prime Minister Bainimarama said: “Our isolation led us to seek out new relationships that have proven fruitful. Now, our standing in the world has never been stronger.”

Others from the South Pacific, who gave speeches at UNGA, included New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, and Tonga’s King Tupou VI. But Commodore Bainimarama’s speech was definitely the one to take note of, in the sense it gave clarity and rationality to what his government was trying to do in Fiji.
Other Pacific nations would do well to go over the points of Commodore Bainimarama’s speech, and especially his statement about self-determination of our own destinies as sovereign states. It is precisely this point that many of our Pacific states have fallen weak, in letting aid and funding determine what is important to the Pacific rather than determining what needs to be done because it is important to us.

Kalafi Moala

" Other Pacific nations would do well to go over the points of Commodore Bainimarama’s speech, and especially his statement about self-determination of our own destinies as sovereign states. "
One of the worse characteristics of colonialism is the assumption by the colonial powers that “we know best what’s good for you.” “The policies and practices for you small island states are best devised by us; we determine what is good and appropriate for you, and don’t worry, we will pay for it!” The problem with modern colonialism, as I see it, is not so much with the colonial powers themselves but rather with those colonized states that put themselves at the mercy of those who makes decisions to determine their future.

A common practice of development in the island states has been the search for aid funding as a means of securing employment rather than a means of implementing projects that are needed and relevant to social development.

There is an apparent lack of thinking and creating of development projects that will directly impact people and thus create wealth and eliminate poverty. What has become normal nowadays is the search to see where there is the availability of large funding, and then creating projects to be in line with the demands of these funding agencies.

An example of this is the millions of dollars available to funding of HIV-AIDS projects. In Tonga, for example, AIDS is not considered a major problem in comparison with other Pacific states such as Papua New Guinea or even Fiji. At least it is low on the listing of problems that must be dealt with in the nation. But because there is money readily available for AIDS projects, NGOs and others have come up with projects, some rather questionable, in order to qualify for AIDS money. It provides employment for those who are involved in the project without solving the problem.

The other major issue that attracts millions of assistance is to do with Climate Change and the Environment. Even though this is an issue that threatens the islands, projects and proposals for aid donors are still configured and built around what would attract the aid dollar rather than projects that really meet the needs.
Probably Tonga’s best initiative that attracts aid money has to do with alternative energy. The setting up and operation of the Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM) and all that has been achieved in the attempt to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, and to provide alternative, renewable energy, will directly contribute to one of the chief goals of Post-2015 Development Agenda, which is the elimination of poverty.

But the South Pacific states need to heed the words of Fiji’s Prime Minister, for it will help shift the thinking from others determining our future to self-determination. “A key principle that has guided Fiji’s political development and foreign policy,” he said, “soundly grounded in the Charter of the United Nations, is that we determine our own destinies as sovereign states. At the same time, we recognize the necessity of collaborating with all member states of the United Nations with the aim of sustainable world peace, substantive justice, dignity and respects for all.”

 Source: Pacific Politics

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