Showing posts with label Australia and New Zealand sports sanctions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia and New Zealand sports sanctions. Show all posts

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

Club Em Designs

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

X-Post: Pacific Sccop - Two Faces Of International Power: Fiji and Egypt.

Source: Pacific Scoop: Commentary – By Dr Scott MacWilliam

Dr Scott MacWilliam (Image: Mary Walta)
The reactions after the 2006 coup in Fiji was very different from the recent coup in Egypt, even though both coups overthrew democratically elected governments. 

In July 2013, a military regime overthrew and imprisoned an elected Prime Minister and government, jailing as well as killing regime supporters. The US, Australian and New Zealand governments have done little more than warn their citizens about the possible dangers of travelling to that country as the protests against army rule escalate.

The Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr, a USA-phile and most suitable deputy sheriff has been conspicuously silent about a democratically-elected government being overthrown in a coup. Foreign aid has continued from the USA, including military aid despite ostensible bans against such assistance: a get-out clause in the relevant legislation has been invoked to permit the continuing provision of arms and other aid.

Bob Carr On Egypt- (Interview with Fran Kelly- Radio National

" I think it’s got to be considered as a military intervention whether it can be regarded as a coup I think will depend on what happens now[...]We’re not supporting it, we’re not opposing it. We’re saying all sides should show restraint."

No travel bans have been put in place against any of the coup-makers or the new regime’s top officials, even as the death toll among civilian protesters rises.  IMF officials are now more willing to advance a massive, previously delayed dollar loan to assist rebuild the country’s fragile economy.

On December 5, 2006, in another country Fiji, a military regime overthrew an elected Prime Minister and government.  For that coup the international response was and remains quite different, a difference examined here.

The responses to events in Egypt and Fiji will immediately raise the question of how to explain the actions of particular ‘western’ governments: hypocrisy, or two faces of liberal democratic power?

Military action

The first step in constructing an explanation is a rejection of the romantic idea that military action is incompatible with liberal representative democracy. A useful starting point is the recognition that in both Egypt and Fiji, the elections which preceded the coups as well as the governments which were subsequently deposed were military-supervised and backed.

Prior to the 2001 election in Fiji military commander, now PM Frank Bainimarama publicly stated that only the SDL leader Laisenia Qarase would be acceptable as PM. Qarase had himself been installed by the military before the election as the least worse option compared to the initial candidate proposed by the nationalist insurgents who had taken over parliament the previous year. There would be no return to the previously elected FLP Mahendra  Chaudhry-led Peoples Coalition government, an outcome also favoured by foreign governments.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government formed after the 2011 elections which followed the ousting of long-term dictator Hosni Mubarak also received initial military support. This was even though the party won a near-majority of seats with only slightly more than 30 per cent of the 60 per cent of the eligible electorate who voted.  That is, the government had simple majority support not absolute.

What followed the Egyptian parliamentary elections and the presidential election in the following year was a government which sought to implement a political platform that was sectarian.

The parallels with the post-election behaviour of the Qarase government deserve consideration. In Egypt, the government headed after the presidential elections by the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi took an Islamist route, whereas in Fiji the Qarase government was suffused with nationalist indigenous zeal, leavened by Methodism and intolerance to other religions.

In both cases the military withdrew its earlier hesitant support, and toppled the elected government promising fresh elections under revised rules, forms of constitutional reform.

Different reactions

However for Fiji, international condemnation of the 2006 coup was immediate: it took just one day for Liberal Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and the Department of Foreign Affairs to impose sanctions aimed at the restoration of the Qarase government and ‘returning the military to the barracks’.
These sanctions were retained by the Kevin-Rudd led ALP government which won the 2007 elections and re-confirmed by the subsequent Gillard ALP -led coalition government.  The increase in Australian aid since 2006 has been matched by deliberate attempts to ensure that the Fijian government’s support throughout the region remains limited.
Scott MacWilliam

" The responses to events in Egypt and Fiji will immediately raise the question of how to explain the actions of particular ‘western’ governments: hypocrisy, or two faces of liberal democratic power?"

It is tempting to describe the differing behaviours of the three foreign governments to mere hypocrisy, what has been described as ‘the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have’. However, there is far more at work here.

The differences between the official government responses to the two coups are so striking that it is worth asking if and what do events in Egypt suggest about the behaviour of ANZ governments to the coup and subsequent military takeover in Fiji. In other words why the appearance of hypocrisy, democracy for Fijians but not for Egyptians, and what does this appearance screen?

While the Egyptian military’s under-pinning of all governments in that country has some similarities with the military’s role in post-independence Fiji, there is at least one major difference.

Successive US governments have bolstered the Egyptian military, and thus a dictator such as Mubarak, because of that country’s crucial role in the region. Access to oil supplies provides a major component of the US and western European foreign policy position, with the fear of radical Islam of increasing importance.
For Egypt , US foreign policy has hewed to the well-established line: ‘we don’t care if there is a dictatorship as long as it is our dictator’.

Democracy and dictatorship

The only comparable role which the Fijian military has played is in providing peace-keeping support, much of it in that same ‘Middle East’ region.

However for Fiji, not strategically significant though becoming more so as the consequence of a growing Chinese influence in the South Pacific, liberal democratic governments have shown the always present other policy face, that concerned with imposing  representative democracy no matter how thin or shallow.

This face suits ANZ governments in particular because of close ties with the people and commercial concerns reduced in importance by the Bainimarama government. Re-installing these particular interests under the banner of bringing economic growth and political stability is, in the eyes of those who hold political power in ANZ, best served in Fiji by representative democracy.

Despite all the defects of the 1997 constitution, with its unelected president, upper house of parliament and Great Council of Chiefs, malapportioned electorates, institutionalised racist identification with citizenship, this remains the bedrock of what ANZ governments see as the appropriate democratic form for Fiji.

In Egypt, however, democratic form is unimportant for the USA and ANZ governments: military power which can bring order, however temporary, is preferable and the flow of international funds can occur.
Which of the two faces will be foremost after the next elections in each country will, of course, be largely irrelevant for the bulk of the people whose impoverishment has been and continues to be a major feature of life in both countries.

For the reductions in living standards have been much longer term in Egypt and in Fiji, with Ratu Mara noting in 1994 the extent of unemployment and impoverishment particularly among the young.  Indeed what is more and more apparent is that neither representative democracy nor military dictatorship has a direct causal connection with improvement in living standards.  The two faces of international power serve other objectives.

Dr Scott MacWilliam is  a Visiting Fellow, State Society and Governance in the Melanesia Programme, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, Australian National University in Canberra. He is a contributor to Pacific Scoop.

Club Em Designs

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sports An Extension of Politics 2 - NZ TV3 60 Minutes On Fiji Sports Sanctions By New Zealand Governemnt.

In a follow up on to a 2007 SiFM post: "Sports An Extension of Politics by Any Other Means", a recent video from New Zealand's TV3 60 minutes program revisits the sports sanctions levied by the New Zealand Government.
The program interviews Fiji rugby player Nikola Matawalu, nascent Fiji Rugby Union Chair Mosese Tikoitoga and New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully among others.