Thursday, January 31, 2013

X-Post : The Strategist - Why Carr Needs The Velvet Glove More Than The Iron Fist.


31 Jan 2013
By Richard Herr
 
"More velvet, eh?"

On my flight home from Fiji recently, I was struck by the continuing negativism of the arguments regarding Australian relations with Fiji. Rowan Callick’s commentary in the Weekend Australian is another example of a tough line on Fiji without any positive proposals. The one element of novelty in Callick’s piece, however, is the suggestion that Carr’s ‘soft’ approach toward the Government of Commodore Voreqe (‘Frank’) Bainimarama is the reason why Fiji has slipped the leash and gone feral recently. But this belies the evidence of the past six years. When has the Bainimarama Government ever been on an Australian leash or even responded positively to pressure from Canberra?

Having viewed the changing events in Fiji fairly closely in a variety of roles over the past six years, I find it difficult to see how the tactics that have failed to have any influence on the course of Fiji’s return to democracy since the December 2006 military coup will work in the 18 months before Fiji is due to go to elections. And this view has been bolstered by a week in Suva talking with a range of people that included participants in the constitutional process, current and former members of Government and academics. More of the same intransigence simply will not to produce a different outcome.

The Bainimarama Government has neither deviated from the roadmap’s timing for the return to democracy that it announced in July 2009 and nor has it altered this timetable since Bob Carr became Foreign Minister. Still, it’s a welcome development that Carr apparently has accepted this—albeit at a fairly low level—but it’s far too late to have the sort of influence that was on offer at the beginning of 2008.

The deepening frustration with Canberra since July 2009 comes from seeing Australian Governments refusing to set incremental steps for returning to a balanced relationship; of being obdurate even to the point of reneging on an agreement. Fiji’s lifting of censorship rules, withdrawal of the public emergency regulations, registering of voters and starting of the constitutional process have all been greeted with ‘not enough’ from Canberra.

The Bainimarama Government nevertheless expected some improvement in relations after the July 2012 tripartite agreement between Australia, Fiji and New Zealand to restore High Commissioners and relax some visa sanctions. However, to its genuine disappointment, many in Government in Suva saw little real change. They smile wryly at Australian critics who interpreted Carr’s expression of understanding over some of the complexities of the drafting of a new constitution as example of unwarranted appeasement.

Understanding scarcely constitutes undeserved compassion in a sanctions regime against Fiji which includes elements that, arguably, would be illegal if applied domestically—such as those against family members of targeted officials. Indeed, within the Fiji Government, the travel sanctions against it are claimed to be more extensive than even those against Mugabe at his worst. Yet, for all their severity, the critics can’t point to a single positive instance where these sanctions have hastened the return to democracy in Fiji by so much as a day.


Richard Herr


" Whether anyone one in Canberra wants to admit it, Australia has suffered a retreat from influence within our region and its institutions; a decline of support from our neighbours in the United Nations; and diminished respect from key allies in the South Pacific on regional affairs."
Seen from the Suva perspective, there hasn’t been a skerrick of public encouragement to mark the passing of the roadmap’s milestones to elections. The most recent disappointment was the denial of a visa to Aisake Taito, the chief executive of the Fiji National Provident Fund (a Government enterprise) and Bainimarama’s brother-in-law, who was to make a business trip to Australia at the end of December. Suva saw this as a clear breach of the July 2012 tripartite agreement. According to one commentator, it’s now highly likely that the Government’s response will be to refuse Margaret Twomey a chance to present her credentials as the first Australian High Commissioner to Fiji since James Batley was expelled in November 2009.

Whether anyone one in Canberra wants to admit it, Australia has suffered a retreat from influence within our region and its institutions; a decline of support from our neighbours in the United Nations; and diminished respect from key allies in the South Pacific on regional affairs. These foreign policy consequences for the contretemps between Australia and Fiji shouldn’t be used to excuse the weaknesses in the political processes of Fiji today but the critics, especially those so vocal in the Australian media, should be consistent in their expectations.

Even supporters of the Bainimarama Government have been disappointed that it hasn’t taken every opportunity to demonstrate the bona fides of its professed reformist goals. This includes, most recently, aspects of the constitutional process and the edict regulating political parties as well as a renewed activism by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. Nevertheless, the present Government is the only game in town at least until 2014. Canberra needs to recognise this even as its South Pacific allies have already done. Moreover, Canberra needs to recognise and address the fact that Fiji has its own complaints against Australia.

It’s impossible to prove that a gentler, more engaged approach to the Bainimarama Government would have accelerated the return to democracy or made the path to democracy smoother. What’s undeniable is that the hard line approach advocated by critics over the years hasn’t prevented any of the adverse consequences of the toxic political relationship between the two countries. Indeed, it has contributed demonstrably to these outcomes. Failing to reset policy settings with regard to Fiji until ‘after free and fair elections in 2014’ merely demonstrates this ineffectiveness. Worse, where does Canberra go when elections are held under a constitution it regards as flawed by a process it deems biased? Does Australia rail against the result as not ‘free and fair’ and so maintain the sanctions that have had no effect?

It’s far too late to expect any great Australian influence on Suva’s charted course to the 2014 elections. But there’s much to be done to assist technically with the preparations for them, if Bainimarama will accept help now. If not, it’s still essential to prepare the ground for more effective relations after the elections. Hectoring from the bunkers is not only a demonstration of impotence; it is also preparing a grave for future relations.

Richard Herr is honorary director of the Centre for International and Regional Affairs, University of Fiji. Some of these themes will be explored more fully with regards to the broader implications for Australia’s security interests in Melanesia at RUSI’s forthcoming 2nd International Defence and Security Dialogue. Image courtesy of Flickr user Asia Society.


Club Em Designs

Monday, January 28, 2013

X-Post: Strategic Culture -The Pacific Ocean: The Pentagon Next Human Terrain Battlefield

Wayne MADSEN | 27.01.2013 |

The Pentagon planners and their paid anthropologist shills are gearing up for the Pentagon’s next battle: the one for the Pacific that will ensure that the island nations that dot the vast maritime expanse will remain a part of the Anglo-American sphere of influence and not become part of a «Chinese lake».
The Pacific Ocean has been a favorite stomping ground for U.S. government-financed anthropologists ever since Margaret Mead ‘s 1928 treatise on the Samoan people, Coming of Age in Samoa, laid the groundwork for the intelligence-related anthropological study of the peoples of the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. military and intelligence services. Mead later became a researcher for the CIA-connected RAND Corporation and became a supporter of CIA funding of anthropologic surveys and studies via laundered academic research grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID / CIA/Special Operations projects with names like Phoenix, Prosyms, Sympatico, and Camelot used anthropologists and social scientists to reconnoiter targeted tribal areas in South Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Colombia, and Chile to determine how U.S. Special Forces and intelligence agents could use indigenous peoples to further American military goals. The operations in the cases of Phoenix in South Vietnam and Prosyms in Indonesia resulted in genocide on a massive scale…
Today, the military’s tribal and native peoples targeting programs fall under the nomenclature of «human terrain systems» or HTS. Brought back to life in Afghanistan and Iraq, these genocidal programs now have their eyes on the Pacific in order to gear up for what the Pentagon and Langley planners believe is an inevitable war with China.

It is fitting, therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now looking for up to 15,000 acres of land to lease on American Samoa. The U.S. military wants to establish a major training base on American Samoa for at least five years and probably longer. The base is to provide 24-hour road access that will permit 60 full days of training per year. The Army also wants the base to permit the use of pyrotechnic and blank ammunition during daytime and nighttime training. It is certain that the U.S. is looking at building a simulated rural and village tropical environment for the use of U.S. and future «coalition of the willing» armies to practice battling an enemy in the Pacific region. That «enemy» is China.

The United States obviously foresees the Pacific as a future battleground between American and its allied forces and China for control of the important trade routes that crisscross the vast maritime region. Not since the U.S. military campaign against Japan during World War II has the Pacific seen such an American military projection of power.

The decision by the Obama administration to «pivot» its military forces into Asia and the Pacific has brought about a strong response from China, which sees itself as the ultimate target for the increased U.S. military presence. China’s ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming called the stationing of 2500 U.S. Marines in Darwin an «affront» and a Cold War containment policy toward China.

The establishment of a U.S. military training base on American Samoa follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first ever attendance by a U.S. Secretary of State of a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. It was the first such visit to the Cook Islands and underscored America’s decision to maintain its stranglehold over the small Pacific island nations while at the same time beefing up its military forces in the region.

The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only. Enter the Human Terrain practitioners from the Pentagon and CIA to keep the Pacific islanders divided. Clinton’s participation in the PIF summit is aimed at not only maintaining the status quo but in promoting the rivalries between Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians among the island states. 

The United States, having virtual ownership of the quasi-independent Micronesian nations of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, as well as total control over the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas, can use its influence over Micronesians to play them off against the other two major ethnic groups,. They are the Melanesian Spearhead Group of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and the New Caledonia (Kanaky) liberation front and the Polynesian Leaders Group of Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, as well as the intelligence eyes and ears of Washington, American Samoa. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand can use their Human terrain System knowledge of ethnic rivalries in the Pacific to ensure that China is kept out of the area.

Part of the strategy relies on Taiwan’s «checkbook» diplomacy to maintain Taiwanese rather than Chinese embassies and aid missions in the small island states. There are currently Taiwanese embassies in Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Kiribati. Among these, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati switched their recognition back to Taiwan after opening up diplomatic relations with China. Kiribati came under pressure after it decided to allow China to build a missile tracking station on south Tarawa. 

Wayne Madsen


" The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only [...]

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing [...]

Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region. There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea [...]

If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’├ętat duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji."

The U.S. believed the China Space Telemetry Tracking Station was going to spy on the «Star Wars II» activity at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese on the atoll are under constant surveillance by well-armed U.S. security personnel. In 2004, Vanuatu switched its recognition back to China from Taiwan after Prime Minister Serge Vohor paid a secret visit to Taiwan and was ejected from office in a vote of no confidence. Vohor actually punched the Chinese ambassador after Vohor returned from Taiwan. Such incidents in the Pacific Islands have been known to set off riots between opposing political parties and ethnic groups. The Pentagon will use such politico-ethnic tinderboxes as a secret weapon against China.

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing. However, the Human Terrain operatives have gone further. Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region. 

There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The CIA’s Operation Prosyms in Indonesia relied on longstanding animosity between Muslim Indonesians and ethnic Chinese to stoke riots against the Chinese in the aftermath of the 1965 CIA coup against President Sukarno. The mayhem resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 ethnic Chinese and a severance of relations between the CIA-installed Suharto government and China. President Obama’s anthropologist mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, played a crucial role in Prosyms. Mrs. Dunham’s son appears prepared to reenact anti-Chinese pogroms in the islands of the Pacific.

It is clear that the U.S. military training in American Samoa will be used to train Pacific Islander mercenaries, many of whom, such as Marshall Islanders, American Samoans, and Guamanians already serve in the U.S. military, to train young men from impoverished Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa, and Fiji. Fijian and Tongan mercenaries, battle-hardened from Western campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions, are also available to supplement the U.S. Pacific Command’s training complex on American Samoa. If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’├ętat duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji. And the diplomats of the small Chinese embassy in Nuku’alofa, Tonga have witnessed how fast the fury of local Tongans can be turned on the Chinese business community. These blood-soaked scenarios all figure heavily into Pentagon HTS plans for the Pacific.

The United States will continue to keep the Pacific Islands within its vast gulag to prevent the extension of Chinese influence. Today, Pacific Islanders are faced with a virtual «Berlin Wall» that keeps Pacific Islanders confined to their own islands while outsiders, like Chinese and Russians, are kept out. The method by which Washington, Canberra, and Wellington have created airline and sea transit monopolies and transit visa requirements means that Samoans from the Independent State of Samoa cannot visit nearby American Samoa without a special permit. And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decides who will receive special permits and transit visas, including for those traveling on diplomatic passports. Any scheduled airline that connects any of the islands via American Samoa, Guam, or Hawaii requires a U.S. transit visa and that entails invasive interviews by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.


There is a reason why so many negotiations and agreement to establish the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership have been secret. As the title indicates, the TPP, as it is known, is a «strategic» trade bloc, which means it also has a military dimension. In essence, it is no different than the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere established by Imperial Japan during World War II. The United States, not wanting to be viewed as starting the bloc but wanting it to be a replacement for the Cold War military alliance, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), sat in the background while New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, and Chile signed up as charter members in 2005. 

As more nations joined, the TPP’s military profile became clearer. The countries that signed up to the TPP were all being groomed for the anti-China military bloc for the Pacific: Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru, and the United States signed on. Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Colombia, Costa Rica, Laos, and Taiwan later expressed an interest in joining the TPP. The eastward blockade of China became clear. The United States already had existing military alliances with six of the other ten TPP member nations. From Darwin, Australia and Subic Bay, Philippines to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and the U.S. built Mataveri Airport on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), the U.S. was delineating the borders of its own Asia-Pacific Sphere and a line over which China would be warned not to cross.

Mrs. Clinton may have arrived in Rarotonga last year amid waves and smiles but her sinister plans for the Pacific region have more to do with using the Pacific Islanders for cannon fodder in what Washington expects to be a coming regional war with China.


Source: Strategic Culture

Club Em Designs

Sunday, January 27, 2013

X-Post: Island Business - Reconfiguring Regionalism in the Pacific

by Nic Maclellan

Last month, Sir Mekere Morauta launched a new website, calling for public submissions into his review of the Pacific Plan. Over the next eight months, the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister will lead a team around the region to look at the plan, which is supposed to set priorities for key regional institutions—the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the other members of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP).

According to the Forum’s Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the review will be “an ambitious scope of work that will involve leaders, officials, and a range of non-state actors from across the region in assessing past performance and mapping out a path ahead.” As a framework for regional co-ordination, the Pacific Plan grew out of a 2004 Forum Eminent Persons Group, which called for a new vision for Pacific regionalism.

However, the resulting policy framework—the 2005 Pacific Plan—was one of the least visionary documents to appear in recent years. It was widely criticised for down-playing issues of culture and gender, and its recommendations often reflected the existing agenda of regional intergovernmental bodies. Morauta’s review comes at a time when there is widespread debate about regional institutions as Pacific governments and communities face a complex range of international challenges.

The regional agenda has broadened, with significant pressures on the region’s institutional architecture. Looking to the year ahead, there are a number of challenges: elections in key states; debates over Fiji’s transition to parliamentary elections in 2014; the challenge of integrating the remaining Pacific territories into Forum activities; and deadlines to review the Millennium Development Goals and regional frameworks on climate, trade and other issues. But just as the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? How can churches, women’s groups, customary leaders and young people carry their voice into the regional structures?

Reviewing the Forum 

In recent years, there has been quiet—and not so quiet—criticism of the Forum Secretariat, suggesting that it is not fully engaging with the needs of member states. A comprehensive review of the Forum Secretariat last year by Peter Winder of New Zealand;Tessie Lambourne of Kiribati; and Kolone Vaai of Samoa highlighted competition between CROP member agencies and made a series of recommendations on reforming the Secretariat’s structure, leadership and priorities.

Last August in Rarotonga, Forum leaders deferred action on the Forum Secretariat’s review, agreeing that its recommendations be rolled into the wider review of the Pacific Plan. But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). For many years, the Small Islands States have caucused before Forum leaders meetings and issued communiques on their particular concerns.

In the Northern Pacific, the Micronesian Chief Executives meetings are slowly expanding, with talk of a new secretariat. Last year also saw the first meeting of the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG). The idea of a Polynesian bloc within the Forum has been floating around for decades—as France’s Secretary of State for the Pacific in 1986-1988, Gaston Flosse, tried to create a Polynesia sub-group in an attempt to blunt the MSG’s solidarity work with the FLNKS independence movement in New Caledonia.

Now, Samoa has taken the lead, driven in part by Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s very public disdain for the Bainimarama regime in Fiji. The Polynesian nations are also seeking to develop common fisheries policies, with the New Zealand-supported Te Vaka Moana initiative, at a time when the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) nations and Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are perceived to be driving regional policy. At the PLG meeting in Apia last year, there were also invitees from Hawai’i, Rapanui and Aotearoa—the far-flung inhabitants of the Polynesian triangle. Will indigenous peoples living with constrained sovereignty form a stronger part of this new regional network?

PACP and regional trade 

Over the next year, long-running debates over regional trade policy will reach a new tempo. In a major change last November, leaders of the Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group (PACP) agreed that Fiji should re-join the fold. All countries of the PACP Group will now participate in all meetings relating to PACP. In a significant shift, Papua New Guinea has offered to host the secretariat of the PACP Leaders meeting—until now, administrative and support services for the PACP have been provided by the Forum Secretariat.

After a battle with the Forum Secretariat over trade policy, the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila already hosts the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA). Trade policy has led to extensive critiques of the Forum in recent years, amid perceptions of excessive Australian influence in Suva (not helped when the Forum’s Director of Economic Governance Roman Grynberg was replaced by AusAID’s former trade adviser Chakriya Bowman between 2007 and 2011). Just as OCTA was established to provide independent advice and support in the negotiations of PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, the new PACP Secretariat will eventually provide an alternative source of trade policy advice, especially for negotiations with the European Union (EU).

For years, the Forum has been discussing a comprehensive regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. But the EPA is in trouble, more than five years after it was supposed to be finalised. Once again in 2013, the European Union looks unlikely to seriously address key Pacific concerns in the trade negotiations such as labour mobility and market access for fresh and frozen fish. Inter-islands trade through PICTA has been slow to get off the ground, but the PACER-Plus and EPA processes have largely failed to create innovative trade and development linkages.

The European Commission has a long way to go to engage SIDS leaders, according to Niue Premier Toke Talagi: “There is a degree of frustration on our part at the fact that this agreement has not been signed. There is also suspicion on our side that they may be trying too hard to get all that they want, and there is no degree of compromise in the arrangements we need to put in place.” The revitalisation of PACP in 2013 and new sub-regional initiatives are showing more promise. This year, the MSG Trade Agreement will take on a new life after Papua New Guinea agreed to reduce duties on almost all of its protected goods. PNG’s notoriously protectionist business community now recognise the need for more regional support to enhance the LNG boom with small but growing investment from Fiji.

New spaces to talk 

There are other signs of sub-regional networking. With the signing of an MOU between Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the MSG Skills Movement Scheme is slowly getting off the ground at a time when Australia and New Zealand are focused on seasonal worker programmes. In the education sector, Fiji National University (FNU) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) are discussing extending their operations beyond existing Forum islands countries, to include Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Fiji has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation with Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. Through the Fiji Volunteer Service, the first 12 teachers headed off to the Marshall Islands last September.

Nick Maclellan

" [A]s the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? [...]
But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)[...]
Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy[...]
Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies [...] "
Former USP economist Dr Wadan Narsey has noted that Papua New Guinea and Fiji’s role in the region’s economic and political life is significant, telling Radio Australia: “The Forum Secretariat is very seriously in danger of being marginalised in the Pacific. I think to some extent when you look at the recent re-admission of Fiji to the Pacific-ACP negotiations, in a way that is a symptom of the fact that the Melanesian countries are not going to allow one of their own to be marginalised from regional and international trade negotiations.”

The Forum is deeply rooted in regional frameworks and has become a focal point for international engagement—highlighted by recent visits to the Forum leaders’ meetings from Ban Ki-Moon, Hillary Clinton, Juan Manuel Barroso and other international dignitaries. But just as islands leaders stepped out of the South Pacific Commission in 1971 to create a forum where they felt free to talk politics, Pacific islands leaders are again seeking spaces where they can address their concerns and visions, without the major powers setting the agenda.

To create a new venue for governments and civil society to meet outside the Forum, Fiji’s Voreqe Bainimarama initiated the “Engaging with the Pacific” meetings in 2010. This year, these meetings will evolve into a new Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). The PIDF will extend debates about “green growth”, the Pacific Conference of Churches’ “Rethinking Oceania” proposals and work on alternative development indicators, such as “Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia” (the 2012 pilot study produced by the Vanuatu National Statistics Office and other government and community representatives).

Over time however, it will be worth watching to see if the PIDF becomes the venue for inter-islands dialogue without Australia and New Zealand in the room (along with all the other official Forum observers like the World Bank, the ADB, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations etc). After the 2012 Rio+20 conference, there’s plenty of work to do this year on environment and development—especially as the Pacific will host the Third Global Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

Nauru’s President Sprent Arumogo Dabwido has said that “Rio infused new energy into making the islands a model for sustainable development by agreeing to convene the Third Global Conference on SIDS.” But the latest global climate negotiations in Doha have put a damper on hopes for urgent action on global warming. Before the Doha summit, President Dabwido noted: “It is revealing just how much our ambition to address this crisis has been downscaled in just three years. Copenhagen was the conference to save the world. Cancun was the conference to save the process. Durban, it seems, was the conference to save the rest for later.”

Fiji’s foreign affairs 

This year will be a major test for the Bainimarama regime as Forum member countries monitor its progress towards a new Constitution and free and fair elections in 2014. On the domestic front, Fiji faces severe problems, with the declining sugar sector, ongoing rural and urban poverty and the damaging effects of cyclones and flooding.

The Bainimarama regime is widely condemned for harassment of trade union leaders and restrictions on union rights. Relations with the independent commission to develop a new Fiji Constitution have been fraught. But on the international stage, the post-coup regime in Fiji has begun to transform the country’s foreign policy. In the last few years, Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy. The signs are everywhere.

In April 2011, Fiji joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in recent years has established diplomatic relations with a range of key developing nations—from Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, to Iran, Cuba, North Korea—and, of course, China. Passing through Beijing last year, Fiji’s foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola stated: “We appreciate China’s position on South-South co-operation and its decision to provide funding to Fiji through bilateral mechanisms and not through the Pacific Islands Forum’s Cairns Compact. “This funding option is more effective and really addresses the real needs of the people.”

Not everyone is sure these changes will last. In a December 2012 essay in the journal Security Challenges, Fiji historian Brij Lal argues that “these are short-sighted and eventually counterproductive diplomatic games Fiji is playing with no serious expectation of any far-reaching benefits.” Lal, one of the co-authors of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution, says: “Perhaps all these new initiatives will be allowed quietly to relapse once Fiji returns to parliamentary democracy,and once no benefits are seen to derive from them.” However, there is evidence that Fiji’s role in the Group of Asia and Pacific Small Islands Developing States at the United Nations is coming up with results.

Last September, Fiji was nominated by the UN’s Asia-Pacific group to chair the “Group of 77 and China” for the duration of 2013. This is the first time in nearly 50 years a Pacific country has led this developing country network (with 132 members, the G77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations.) In part, Fiji’s diplomatic tensions with Canberra and Wellington are driving its links to China and the developing world. But they are also a reflection of emerging strategic shifts on a global scale, at a time when China, India, Korea and other countries are transforming global economics and politics.

New friends 

Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies. Seeking to link Pacific states with the dynamism of Asia, many Forum member countries are looking north (indeed, last October, the Gillard government released the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper, a road map showing “how Australia can be a winner in the Asian century”.)

At the 2012 Cooks’ Forum, Premier Talagi of Niue told the Chinese news agency Xinhua: “From Niue’s perspective, we’re very happy that China’s in the Pacific. I don’t believe that China’s incursions into the Pacific should be seen as a negative thing. I see it as a very positive thing and I have also heard US President Obama say the same thing.” As we move into 2013, new leaders in Beijing and Tokyo will review their policies towards the region (though the conservative Shinzo Abe government in Japan, elected in December 2012, will likely turn back the clock on nuclear and fisheries policies).

The United States too is turning to the Asia-Pacific region, with the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot, including the Forum Islands countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won plaudits for her appearance at the 2012 Forum leaders meeting (although she will leave the post in 2013, with Senator John Kerry the front runner as her replacement). Beyond the obvious delight of Forum islands leaders that the United States is paying attention again, there are still a number of issues where there are fundamental policy differences with Washington, on climate change, decolonisation, maritime boundaries and the renewal of a key tuna deal with the islands.

The Obama administration has yet to persuade the US Congress to increase compensation for the health and environmental impacts of 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs tested at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands—an issue that will be high on the agenda when Majuro hosts the Forum leaders’ meeting later this year.

Integrating the territories 

Since its founding in 1971, Forum membership has been limited to Australia, New Zealand and the independent islands nations. In contrast, other CROP agencies like SPREP and SPC include all the countries and territories as well as colonial powers like France and the United States. In the original 2005 Pacific Plan, the status of the non-self-governing territories was largely ignored, with action plans relegated to the footnotes.

This silence on decolonisation is belied by the steady integration of the remaining French and US Pacific colonies into Forum activities. After the 1998 Noumea Accord, New Caledonia and then French Polynesia gained observer status at the Forum. Both were upgraded to associate members at the 2006 meeting in Apia, where Wallis and Futuna was also introduced as an observer. In Auckland in 2011, the Forum also gave approval for the US dependencies—the territories of Guam and American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the North Marianas—to obtain observer status. They attended the Forum meeting for the first time in Rarotonga last year. The names are different—associate member, special observer, observer—but fundamentally the US and French dependencies are all in the room (apart from the annual leaders retreat).

This trend will continue in the coming year, but the renewed engagement across colonial boundaries opens new debates about the criteria for full membership of the Forum. As the team led by PNG’s Morauta conducts its review of the Pacific Plan over next year, the long-term status of the territories remains a difficult issue.

Last year, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs Richard Marles told ISLANDS BUSINESS that Australia now supported New Caledonia becoming a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, even before the French colony makes a final decision on its political future after 2014. Marles said: “We would support New Caledonia’s full membership of the Forum now, in terms of Australia’s position.

But in saying that, we acknowledge that we’re just one member and for New Caledonia to become a full member of the Forum, it may need to win the support of the majority of Forum members. “My observation is that they’re a fair way off doing that at the moment…We see that New Caledonia is an important member of the Pacific family and that full membership of the Forum is supported by all political elements in New Caledonia, as it is supported by France itself.”

For many people, it’s timely that the US and French territories are now closer to the Forum, which remains the key inter-governmental organisation concerned with political and security issues in the region. But as barriers to participation at Forum events are lowered, does this mean that the region still supports the call for self-determination amongst indigenous communities in Guam, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and beyond? Or will improving regional ties with France and the United States re-affirm the colonial status quo?

A year for the French Pacific

The call for self-determination and independence will again be highlighted this year if Oscar Temaru, the current President of French Polynesia, is re-elected in the March 2013 elections. The MSG will also hold its annual leaders meeting in New Caledonia in mid-2013, with the FLNKS taking up the rotating chair of the Melanesian bloc at a crucial time (elections for New Caledonia’s Provincial Assemblies and Congress in 2014 will determine the balance of forces for any subsequent decision on the territory’s future political status, scheduled between 2014-2018).

Last August, at the same time Clinton was attending the Forum meeting in Rarotonga, Fiji’s Foreign Kubuabola was in Tehran, attending the 16th summit of the NAM. Recognising Fiji’s role on the UN Special Committee for Decolonisation, the summit communique stated: “The Heads of State or Government affirmed the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia—Maohi Nui to self-determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).”

A month after the Rarotonga Forum, the leaders of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu lined up at the UN General Assembly to publicly support French Polynesia’s right to self-determination, explicitly called for action on decolonisation. As Samoa celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from New Zealand, Samoa’s Tuilaepa told the UN General Assembly: “Half a century later, there still remain territories today even in our Pacific region where people have not been able to exercise their right of self-determination. “In the case of French Polynesia, we encourage the metropolitan power and the territory’s leadership together with the support of the United Nations to find an amicable way to exercise the right of the people of the territory to determine their future.”

French Polynesia’s President Temaru will continue to seek support from Pacific states for French Polynesia’s bid for re-inscription at the United Nations, even though the August 2012 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum re-affirmed the Australian and New Zealand position, calling for further dialogue between Paris and Papeete. Given the Forum’s policy, the MSG will play an increasing role on this issue. The MSG sent a mission to New Caledonia in July 2012 to monitor the progress of the implementation of the Noumea Accord, and subsequently establish an FLNKS Unit within the MSG Secretariat, to act on initiatives that in the past were undertaken by the Forum Secretariat.

The commemoration of the MSG’s 25th anniversary, to be held in New Caledonia in June, symbolises the links across colonial boundaries. The issue of nationalism and statehood across Melanesia will soon be bumped up the regional agenda by a coincidence of events. After Congressional elections in 2014, New Caledonia is scheduled to hold a referendum on its political status between 2014-2018.

At the same time Bougainville is coming to the end of its 10-year autonomy transition under an autonomous government. As well as New Caledonia, Fiji and Indonesia are scheduled to hold elections in 2014—with both countries vital for the future of Melanesian stability. By 2015, countries must decide whether to sign on to a global climate treaty, and the development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals. This year is a time for reflection and review – and after that, there’s a lot to do.


Source: Islands Business

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

X-Post: 36th Parallel - Futures Forecast: A “Guarded” Democracy in Fiji.

Source: 36th Parallel

Written by Paul Buchanan on Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Change-of-guard
Change of Guard Ceremony, Government House, Suva. Republic of Fiji Military Forces hand over guardship to Republic of Fiji Police, January 1, 2012. Photo: RAMA, Fiji Sun (www.fijisun.com.fj).


Revelations that the Fijian military-bureaucratic regime has rejected important aspects of the draft constitution submitted by a panel of international jurists led by professor Yash Ghai has made clear the intentions of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to continue to play a core role in Fijian politics after the 2014 elections.
That has led observers to question the RFMF’s commitment to democracy, and led some to wonder if the elections will even be held as scheduled. As things stand a constituent assembly selected from a variety of stake-holding groups by current Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Baimimarama, will be convened in March 2013 with a charge to deliver the constitution for ratification by September. Once ratified, that constitution will be the foundational charter under which the September 2014 elections will be held.

There appears to be a consensus amongst foreign observers that the military objections to the draft charter are a sign of its reneging on its promise to restore democratic governance in 2014. Many see this as a sign of bad faith on the part of Commodore Baimimarama and the RFMF. In truth, this view may have neglected what the RFMF had in mind all along when it proposed the 2014 elections and hand-over date. What it had in mind was not a liberal democracy akin to those of its traditional patrons. Instead, what it envisioned, and which it has been pretty honest about when speaking of its vision of Fiji’s political future, is something that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America and Southeast Asia: a “protected” or “guarded” democracy as a successor the the military-authoritarian regime. The concept is neither new or novel, and the learning curve derived from the precedent of larger countries is clear in the Fijian case. Fijian use of comparative referents is not unusual in any event.

Before detailing the specifics of “guarded” democratic regimes and the future of such in Fiji, it is worth reviewing some basic issues in constitution-drafting. Constitutions basically outline procedural and substantive guarantees. Procedural guarantees refers to the rules of the political “game:” who gets to vote, how they vote, how the votes are counted, who is eligible for office, how voting is apportioned, the duties and responsibilities of government and its respective agencies, the rights are people entitled to in and outside of the political process, etc.

Substantive guarantees refer to the privileges accorded citizens: free speech, freedom of thought, association and movement, the right to cultural autonomy and identity, and often much more. Some constitutions are drafted along “minimalist” lines in that they refer mostly to procedural rather than substantive guarantees. Others are more ambitious, detailing substantive rights to education, health, housing, welfare, caloric intake, a role in governance and redress for past injustices. It goes without saying that the latter are harder to implement. In most instances constitutions are a blend of procedural and substantive guarantees, usually with an eye to providing the basic foundations for governance in which the rule of law can apply (and in which substantive guarantees can be negotiated).

A “guarded” or “protected” democracy is one in which elected civilian authorities constitute the government, and in which the universal rule of law applies. However, unlike liberal democracies,where the military is subordinate to civilian authority,  in guarded democracies the military as an institution serves as the ultimate arbiter of policy decisions.

Unlike limited democracies, in which the franchise and collective rights are circumscribed, in guarded democracies there are no limitations on individual or collective freedoms, including the right to vote. Nor is the military directly involved in politics. Instead, in a guarded democracy the military serves as an unelected overseer of the political system precisely because it sees itself as an apolitical, autonomous and professional commonweal organization not beholden to partisan interests.

Guarded democracies are not military authoritarianism wrapped in civilian garb.

If the civilian government operates within the operational and policy parameters established by the military in the transition to electoral rule, then the military stays in the barracks and out of politics. It is only when civilian authorities are perceived by the military hierarchy to be overstepping their bounds (as defined by the military), that the armed forces as an institution intervene in the political process. This makes the military the power behind the throne and encourages self-limiting behavior on the part of civilian political elites.


36th Parallel's Paul Buchanan



" what [RFMF] envisioned, and which it has been pretty honest about when speaking of its vision of Fiji’s political future, is something that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America and Southeast Asia: a “protected” or “guarded” democracy as a successor the the military-authoritarian regime[...]

The regime’s position is strengthened because large parts of Fijian society support its views on constitutional reform, and it has the support of foreign states [...]

The trouble with the negatively absolutist view is that it offers no incentive structure for the Fijian regime to do anything other than its current course of action. Moreover, the disincentive structure that it favors, sanctions, suspensions and exclusion, simply have not and will not work. Thus those who advocate such a view, be they states or non-state actors, have no leverage in the process. "
From its statements the Fijian military regime has been clear in what it expects of the new constitution. First, it expects that the concept of one adult citizen=one vote will apply. Second, it expects that all ethnic and sectoral preferences in politics will be eliminated. Third, it expects that public service autonomy and freedom from political interference will be enshrined in law (ostensibly as an anti-corruption measure but also as a means of ensuring the positions of the numerous military and ex-military appointees hired into the public service over the last six years). Fourth, it expects that the military will be allocated the role of “guardian” of the nation, including oversight and veto power over the policy decisions of elected civilian political authorities.

The latter, which is a substantive guarantee to the RFMF, is designed as a check on the demagogic and populist instincts of civilian politicians. Coupled with the pro-military bias of the post-authoritarian public bureaucracy, this limits the effective power of civilian government when it comes to making policy or political choices inimical to the military vision of the “proper” role of civilian elected authority in the Fijian context.
Although there are many specific points of detail in its ideal version, the Baimimarama regime prefers a constitution with a broad procedural minimum and selective substantive guarantees that favor military institutional interests.

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Leaked copy of Draft Fijian Constitution. Photo: Australian Network News (www.abc.net.au)


That is why the RFMF has rejected the draft constitution. Due to the tone of the rejection and the often personalized nature of the remarks of military spokespeople with regard to the reasons for the rejection, the regime will not request revisions from the international consitution-drafting committee. Instead, the regime will use offer its own revised constitutional template as the basis for the deliberations of the constituent assembly.  This includes elimination of provisions drafted by the Constitutional Committee that give civil society actors a formal place in political decision-making and agenda-setting, and insertion of military guarantees along the lines mentioned above.

The March 2013 date for appointment of the constituent assembly will go ahead on schedule, as will the September 2013 delivery and ratification of the new constitution. Regardless of the concerns of foreign and domestic actors about the nature of the post-authoritarian regime, Commodore Baimimarama and his supporters have the dominant position in the lead-up to these milestones.

The regime’s position is strengthened because large parts of Fijian society support its views on constitutional reform, and it has the support of foreign states, China and Russia in particular, regardless of the final charter or the nature of the post-authoritarian regime. So long as that regime meets its (diplomatic, social and economic) contractual obligations to its supporters and foreign states, it will be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the majority of domestic and foreign actors. This leaves the domestic opposition as well as foreign states that support a complete transition to elected civilian rule in a quandary. Some foreign actors such as Australia and New Zealand have financially supported the constitutional panel’s draft-making, and have tacitly admitted that the previous sanctions regime imposed on the military authoritarians by a group of Western states has failed.

The domestic opposition has been vocal about its opprobrium of Commodore Baimimarama and his colleagues, seeing no role for them, either individually or institutionally, in the post-authoritarian regime. Yet neither set of actors can play a dominant role in, much less set the terms of the negotiations that will determine the final constitutional draft submitted in September 2013.

In light of these factors, it would seem that the best option for “pro-democracy”  interests to regard the constitution-drafting process and subsequent elections leading to a “guarded” democracy as a step forward towards “genuine” democracy rather than as a reneging on a promise by the Baimimarama regime. Given realities on the ground, adoption of the latter posture will be counter-productive and further alienate the Fijian civil-military coalition from foreign and domestic interlocutors.

Adoption of the former stance allows these interlocutors to stay in the game, metaphorically speaking, in order to pursue an incremental gains strategy in which the gradual evolution towards liberal democracy (which includes military subordination to civilian elected authority and institutions) is advanced. That may be a long-term game, but it could well be the only game with a chance of success if success is defined as the end of military guardianship of elected government.

Already, differences in approach are evident between key foreign states. Australia has responded with caution, agreeing with some of the Baimimarama regime’s objections to the draft charter. This appears indicative of an incremental gains approach to the issue of Fijian democratization. New Zealand and Samoa have responded more negatively, arguing that the rejection of the draft constitution is evidence of the military regime’s disinterest in real democratic promotion. The US and other external actors, to include China, India and Russia, have remained largely silent on the matter, which in diplomatic parlance equates to tacit acceptance of the regime’s position.

Foreign non-governmental organizations, including the international union movement, also take a negatively absolutist stance, decrying a dictatorial take-over of the constitution-drafting process. The trouble with the negatively absolutist view is that it offers no incentive structure for the Fijian regime to do anything other than its current course of action. Moreover, the disincentive structure that it favors, sanctions, suspensions and exclusion, simply have not and will not work. Thus those who advocate such a view, be they states or non-state actors, have no leverage in the process. That is why, even if by default or as a second-best option, the incremental gains strategy is the best option for those interested in seeing Fiji progress away from military-authoritarian rule.

Futures Forecast: The Fijian Constitutional Congress will deliver a constitutional draft in 2013 that conforms to the military-authoritarian regime’s preferred vision. This will be ratified and elections leading to the installation of a “guarded” democratic regime will be held in September 2014. The post-authoritarian regime will be recognized as legitimate by the international community. The influence of Commodore Baimimarama and RFDF command will remain pervasive in Fijian politics regardless of whether the Commodore runs for elected office or not.

Links:



Club Em Designs

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chair of G77 Group, Officially Handed to Fiji.


Fiji Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, assumed the chairmanship of the G77+China group, in a ceremony attended by UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon on Jan 15th 2013 in New York.

Remarks of UN General Secretary

Fiji Prime Minister accepts the chair of the G77+China  group. (video of address posted below)






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Friday, January 11, 2013

You Can't Please Everyone- Fiji's Draft Constitution

Jenny Hayward Jones latest post on The Interpreter on Fiji's draft constitution has some valid points, buttressed by conjecture:
This announcement was the culmination of a campaign from the Fiji regime to distance itself from the Commission it had itself established, which begs the question of why the regime bothered with the expense and effort of engaging international expertise, attracting support from donors and seeking the views of the people[...] It is difficult now to see how the Constituent Assembly, even if it has a fair representation, will have a reasonable opportunity to provide independent advice on the new constitution. It seems likely it will be hounded into rubber stamping the regime's new draft, with only a month promised for consideration.
Grubsheet post addressed some of the reservations Jones had penned:
Some, of course, will accuse the Government of disregarding the advice of the constitutional referee it appointed because what he came up with didn’t suit its purposes. Others who appeared before the Commission or lodged submissions will be aggrieved that the views they expressed are being ignored. Yet as the Bainimarama Government sees it, there are sound reasons for it to take the course it has and also to be aggrieved about many of the provisions of the document bequeathed to the nation by Professor Ghai and his fellow Commissioners.

Croz Walsh latest post, further provides salient points and reminds the astute political observer of the ineffable setbacks on Fiji's path:
The road from December 2006 to the promised elections in 2014 was never going to be an easy one. The potholes and patch-overs have proved to be far worse than those on Fiji roads.  And, as with the roads where cyclones, floods and poor workmanship, have often undone the good work, so also in the political scene.  Promising steps forward have too often been followed by too many steps back.
Jones while seemingly concerned about the democracy in Fiji, however- Jones' florid sentiments on Fiji's future democracy are incredibly disingenuous and misleading:
Fiji may end up with a flawed democracy but it wouldn't be the first flawed democracy to participate in international forums and enjoy stable diplomatic relations with the world's powers. Many flawed democracies have improved over time and even though Fiji has a way to go, there has at least been a public discussion about the future, which cannot be undone.
Croz outlined the benevolent policies :
There is far more to the credit of a government that launched the People's Charter that won the support of two-thirds of the adult population, despite opposition from these self-same critics and others in the old political establishment.  I cannot believe that a government that has placed so much emphasis on racial equality, a shared Fijian identity, national unity, and has done so much towards improving the country's physical and institutional infrastructure, not to mention its efforts to assist rural communities and the poor, is merely in power for self-serving purposes.
It is rather reprehensible of Jones, to gloss over the exceedingly greater flaws of preceding democracies in Fiji, in comparison to the existing path mapped out by the current Fiji Government.

Unfortunately, Jones has some disconcerting history of blatantly flippant analysis on Fiji's domestic politics, as highlighted by a 2009 SiFM post:
Interpreter's Melanesia specialist Jenny-Hayward Jones has got it wrong yet again, along with the biased media reports from ABC. Jones' latest posting, unashamedly uses the talking points of the SDL segment, highlighting the 2 pillars of society, warning of imminent danger to the general public if their dual-pronged influence is permanently removed from the landscape of Fiji politics.
Ironically both pillars were also intimately involved with Fiji's 1987 and 2000 coups and it is rather myopic and repulsively selective for Jones to obfuscate that well documented fact.
Radio Australia host Bruce Hill interviews Brij Lal, the academic from Australia National University on retainer, who cynically (as usual) opines on the draft constitution . Unsurprisingly, Bruce Hill's maker's mark of yellow journalism was underscored in the interview, by the routine absence of alternative perspectives in providing balance. Furthermore, Croz Walsh had highlighted in a blog post, the journalistic bias in Bruce Hill. Croz also posted the defense by Radio Australia of Bruce Hill.

 (Interview of Brij Lal /Bruce Hill posted below)


Brij Lal appears to echo his default reaction to any changes to the 1997 constitution, as addressed in a 2009 SiFM post:
Dr. Lal, later questioned the issue about the consultation phase, regarding this new Fiji Constitution. However the ABC host did not bother to challenge Lal's remarks or even bother to compare the present and continuing consultations, to the diluted 1997 version. Neither did ABC offer any other opposing views, apart from their favorite talking heads, in their so called forum.

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

Video of Fiji President and Prime Minister's joint address on the draft constitution (posted below).


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