Showing posts with label Fiji Foreign Affairs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiji Foreign Affairs. Show all posts

Monday, January 13, 2014

X-Post: Grubsheet - A Melanesian Minefield

Source: Grubsheet

MSG Foreign Ministers with Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (front in orange shirt)
MSG Foreign Ministers with Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (front in orange shirt)

Foreign Ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group are set to tip-toe through a diplomatic minefield with news that a MSG delegation – led by Fiji’s Ratu Inoke Kubuabola – will make its long-awaited visit to the Indonesian province of West Papua this week.
The mission is fraught with potential difficulty and will require all the diplomatic skills the Ministers can muster as they walk a tightrope between the intense sensitivity of their Indonesian hosts and the equally intense expectations of their Melanesian brothers and sisters in West Papua.
Ratu Inoke is famed for his own political dexterity – a man who has been able to weather successive upheavals in Fijian politics and still be at the centre of decision-making. So arguably no one is better placed to lead this delegation to West Papua and bring it back without fracturing relationships on either side. The stakes are high and the pitfalls perilous.  It will be one of the toughest assignments Ratu Inoke has ever undertaken, arguably more so than his patient to-ing and fro-ing with the recalcitrant Australians and New Zealanders on behalf of the Bainimarama Government.  Yet, once again, Fiji has a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership, judgment and wisdom, not only in our own foreign policy but on behalf of all Melanesians, including the people of West Papua. So our best wishes go with him as he tackles one of the biggest challenges of his diplomatic career.

Put simply, the indigenous people of West Papua regard themselves – quite rightly – as being as Melanesian as their kin across the border in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji – the existing members of the MSG. Yet they now find themselves outnumbered in their own country by the Javanese and other Indonesian ethnic groups that have flooded into West Papua since what was then a Dutch colony was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1961. That invasion took place in highly controversial circumstances and amid an international outcry. It was eventually agreed that the United Nations oversee a plebiscite of the people of West Papua to finally decide their future. They were given two choices – to remain part of Indonesia or to become an independent nation. But while this vote was officially described as “An Act of Free Choice”, it was conducted not by a poll of the entire population but of about 1,000 men selected by the Indonesian military.

This group – described at the time as a consensus of elders – was allegedly coerced into unanimously voting to remain part of Indonesia. And ever since, the result has been rejected by Papuan nationalists, who established what they called the Free Papua Movement (OPM). The OPM ran a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Indonesian administration over the years in which many thousands of people were killed on both sides. And while this has since tapered off, the independence movement has continued, mainly through peaceful protest and a campaign of international lobbying.

The main pro-independence group now is the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation ( WPNCL) – an umbrella group of several bodies – with a leadership largely outside the country – in Vanuatu, the United States and Europe. This group has now made a formal application to join the MSG and in doing so, has given the regional grouping a massive headache. It can’t really say no altogether because it has already admitted the FLNKS, which is not a Melanesian country but the pro-independence movement in New Caledonia, once a French territory and still part of the French Republic, though with a degree of internal autonomy as a “Special Collectivity” of France. The people of New Caledonia are due to be given a vote on full independence from France sometime between now and 2018. But the people of West Papua are in a completely different situation.

Graham Davis

" The tenor of these meetings will be crucial. Neither side wants a showdown over West Papua and both will be working hard to ensure a successful outcome. But it is a challenging prospect indeed to expect the Indonesians to accept West Papua joining the MSG, except as part of the Indonesian Republic, which currently has observer status at the MSG. "
Indonesia regards West Papua as one of its provinces and an integral part of the nation, as integral as Java, Sumatra or anywhere else.  It says it will never countenance independence and fights the notion at every turn, regarding it as a threat to national sovereignty. Part of its sensitivity lies in the humiliating manner in which it was forced to surrender East Timor, which it invaded and took from the Portuguese in 1975, but lost in 1999 after a bloody guerrilla war and a similar United Nations vote, though one carried out properly. In the interim, Indonesia has evolved from a military dictatorship into a robust democracy. Yet the Indonesian military still sees itself as the ultimate guardian of the country’s territorial integrity and cracks down hard on any expression of dissidence or revolt over its hold on West Papua.

For Fiji and the other MSG countries, negotiating a way through this minefield is naturally going to be extremely challenging. Philosophically, they cannot exclude a substantial Melanesian population whose representatives want to join the organisation. But neither can they – nor do they want to -upset or damage the relationship of the MSG countries with Indonesia. That relationship ranges from excellent – in the case of Fiji – to somewhat strained, in the case of Vanuatu, which has close ties to the West Papuan leaders in exile, provides them with a base and has strongly argued their case in global forums such as the United Nations. So in essence, the door has to be kept open to both the Indonesian leadership in Jakarta and the leaders of the West Papuan independence movement, a considerable challenge that now rests at the feet of the MSG Foreign Ministers and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in particular.

At the MSG summit meeting in Noumea last June, the MSG leaders decided to send a delegation led by Ratu Inoke to Indonesia for talks on the membership application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation. It’s taken more than six months of delicate negotiations to organise but finally, Jakarta issued a formal invitation for the mission to proceed. On Tuesday (Jan 11th), Ratu Inoke will begin sitting down in the Indonesian capital flanked by the Foreign Ministers of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, a Special Envoy from Vanuatu and a senior representative of the FLNKS, which is the current chair of the MSG. In a clear sign of how seriously the Indonesians are taking the mission, across the table from them will be the senior leadership – including the President of the Republic, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa.

The tenor of these meetings will be crucial. Neither side wants a showdown over West Papua and both will be working hard to ensure a successful outcome. But it is a challenging prospect indeed to expect the Indonesians to accept West Papua joining the MSG, except as part of the Indonesian Republic, which currently has observer status at the MSG. Can a formula be hammered out for the Province to join as a full member, just as the Kanaks of New Caledonia have full membership but France doesn’t? Would the pro-independence exiles accept this? Can they be brought into the tent to both the satisfaction of Indonesia, themselves and the MSG? These are all imponderables at the present time yet must logically be in the mix if a successful outcome is to be achieved.

After these talks will come the most sensitive part of the visit, when Ratu Inoke and the other Foreign Ministers travel from Jakarta to West Papua itself. Their official program for the two day visit hasn’t been officially released. Yet there’s no doubt that the pro-independence lobby sees the visit as a golden opportunity to press its case. A senior West Papuan activist, Octovianus Mote, was recently in Fiji lobbying on behalf of the WPNCL. He said the Movement was “thrilled” that the MSG Foreign Ministers would be coming to the Province and pledged that thousands of Melanesians would turn out to line the road from the airport to welcome them. Just how the Indonesian security forces will respond remains to be seen. But the record shows that they give short shrift to any public manifestation of Melanesian nationalism and especially the raising of the Free West Papuan flag. Octovianus Mote said this would definitely happen at some stage during the visit.  The MSG Foreign Ministers will be dearly hoping for restraint on both sides.

In his official announcement of the visit, Ratu Inoke appeared to play down the prospects of any dramatic outcome, stressing cooperation with the Indonesian Government and ruling out any prospect of supporting independence for the Province.“We are happy to undertake this important visit at the invitation of the Indonesian Government to be able to assess the application by WPNCL to become a member of the MSG to enable us to present a recommendation to our Leaders,” Ratu Inoke said. “ (But) we fully respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we further recognise that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. The visit will provide the opportunity to learn firsthand about the situation in West Papua and understand the aspirations of our fellow Melanesian brothers and sisters in Papua with regards to their representation by WPNCL to become a member of the MSG.”

So a softly, softly, vaka malua, approach to this most sensitive of issues – the Foreign Minister and his MSG colleagues desperately hoping their visit passes off without incident and that the whole conundrum can eventually be resolved through patient negotiation and dialogue. From where Fiji sits, it is certainly not the time for rash provocations on the part of the separatist movement, nor a heavy handed, repressive response on the part of the Indonesian security forces. The leitmotif of Fiji’s foreign policy under the Bainimarama Government is to be “friends to all” and that includes both Indonesia and our Melanesian neighbours. Ratu Inoke will certainly be approaching his mission in that spirit and the whole nation will be hoping that he can succeed.

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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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fiji Bilaterals- On The Margins Of UN General Assembly 68th Session.



Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani and Fiji Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama (Source: MoI)

Source: MoI
24 September 2013, New York: Fijian Prime Minister Josaia V. Bainimarama met today with His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran currently holds the Presidency of the Non Aligned Movement with its 120 Member States, while Fiji holds the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China with its 132 Member States.

President Rouhani and Prime Minister Bainimarama discussed the challenges and opportunities of presiding over such a large group of countries, and how the two groups can fully play their part in current global peace, security, social and economic situations.

President Rouhani stressed that solutions are needed for the instability being experienced in the Middle East, including in Syria, and expressed his hope that groups like the Non Aligned Movement would be able to bring to bear some influence on lasting peaceful solutions, while recognising the large and diverse nature of such Groups.

President Rouhani wished Prime Minister Bainimarama the best for his tenure as Chair of the G77, and assured him of Iran's support in this regard.

Prime Minister Bainimarama explained that Fiji's commitment to assisting peace and security in the Middle East came from its long participation in UN Peacekeeping Missions, most recently through deploying over 500 personnel to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights.

He said this followed on from Fiji's past participation in UNIFIL in Lebanon, and current participation in UNAMI in Iraq and the MFO in the Sinai.

President Rouhani assured Iran's support to Fiji's peacekeepers as part of these UN Missions, and expressed the hope that in each of the countries where Fiji serves in the Middle East, lasting peaceful solutions can be obtained, as it has been many years since these places have had to rely on UN peacekeeping for stability.

Finally, Prime Minister Bainimarama and President Rouhani discussed bilateral ties between Iran and Fiji, which were formalised on 30 August 2012 in Tehran.

Both expressed their desire to promote and enhance bilateral ties, including in the areas of tourism and the sugar industry. They tasked their respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs to follow up on bilateral ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Fiji.


Fiji PM Voreqe Bainimarama and Vanuatu PM, Moana Kalosil

Fiji And Vanuatu MoU on Development Cooperation.

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama met in New York on Tuesday with the Prime Minister of Vanuatu Moana Carcasses Kalosil to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on development cooperation. The MOU essentially articulates the desire of both countries to strengthen their relations through co-operation on a number of key areas.

“Fiji and Vanuatu share development aspirations and challenges, and agreements such as the one we have signed today allow for collective and innovative solutions to be developed, drawing on best practices from each of our countries,” said Commodore Bainimarama.

The memorandum of understanding on cooperation which was signed today encompasses a broad range of issues including: bilateral trade and investment; education, youth and human resource development; labour mobility; immigration; commerce, retail and taxation; Fisheries Cooperation; air and sea transportation; health and pharmaceutical; climate change, environment, security and energy; and livestock development.

Fiji Foreign Affairs Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and Georgian Foreign Minister, Dr Maia Panjikidze (Source: MoI)


The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola met today with the Foreign Minister of Georgia, Dr Maia Panjikidze to discuss ways and means of intensifying relations between the two countries, given the growing developments in their relations in recent past.

Fiji and Georgia formally established diplomatic relations on 29 March 2010. Since then, Fiji has continued to receive delegations from Georgia. In November 2011, Georgia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grigol Vashadze arrived with his delegation. Early last year, a delegation from the Ministry of Education in Georgia came to donate Net Books to schools around Fiji.

The two Ministers also had the opportunity to discuss the need to formalize a Development Cooperation Agreement between the two countries. This would strengthen their relations in the various fields of mutual cooperation. At the moment, Georgia has shown its interest to assist Fiji in the areas of Policing, Civil Service and Anti-corruption.

Minister Kubuabola thanked Minister Panjikidze for the assistance extended by the Georgian Government to Fiji in the various areas of cooperation, including scholarships provided to 6 of our medical students as well as the provision of Net Books to schools around Fiji.

Georgia’s Embassy in Canberra is accredited to Fiji.

Fiji Foreign Miinister and Ukraine Foreign Minister, Leonid Kozhara (MoI)


The Republic of Fiji and the Ukraine formalised their diplomatic relations at a ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York today within the margins of the Leaders week of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Fiji’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, and his counterpart H.E Leonid Kozhara signed a joint communiqué establishing relations between the two States.

The communiqué expressed the desire of the Republic of Fiji and Ukraine to establish their relations in accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and guided by the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter and international law. The communiqué calls for the promotion and strengthening of bonds of friendship and cooperation between Ukraine and Fiji in political, economic, cultural, humanitarian and other fields.

Following the formalisation ceremony, Minister Kubuabola and Minister Kozhara held talks on areas of common interest between the two countries and assured each other of mutual support of their Missions in the furtherance of common causes in multilateral affairs.
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Monday, August 05, 2013

X-Post- Dominion Post: NZ Must Take Balanced Approach To Fiji Govt.

 Source: Dominion Post

There has been a significant change of attitude in Australia to Fiji. Last Tuesday Julie Bishop, deputy leader of the Opposition and shadow minister of foreign affairs and trade, recommended re-engagement with Fiji and the restoration of diplomatic ties with the Bainimarama Government.

In a comment that would have done justice to New Zealand's seemingly forgotten traditional relationship with the Pacific, Ms Bishop said: "We will be guided by the Fijian Government on what they seek from Australia".
She pledged Coalition support "in whatever form Fiji requires" to assist them to get to grips with the challenges involved in establishing a workable parliamentary democracy.

Ms Bishop is, of course, the Opposition representative - though that may change after Australia's election in September. The Australian Labor Government is another matter. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been the poster boy for a hardline approach to Fiji since the coup in 2006. He and predecessor Julia Gillard have focused simplistically on the need for elections. But there is more to it than that.

Since coming to power, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has cracked down on the hitherto strong Fiji trade union movement. Inevitably Australian trade unions reacted strongly to the difficulties of their Fijian colleagues, and their position has had a powerful influence on Labor Party policy. The opposition parties in Australia recognise no such trade union influence. Ms Bishop's remarks, though sensitive and well-focused, are off the official agenda. But they must be seen as a signal and an important one.

Since the coup in 2006, New Zealand and Australia have offered little to Fiji in what could be seen as the collegiality expected as characterising relationships within the Pacific community. Both governments have continued to provide some aid but Fiji needed more than that. Post coup, it wanted the sort of support and relationship now outlined by Ms Bishop, especially when she says "there are very valuable lessons to be learned if we stand in each other's shoes and we try to see issues from each other's perspective".

As I noted in a comment piece three years ago, Fiji's internal tensions since before independence have to be dealt with by Fijians and the decisions reached have to be accepted by the Pacific and wider community.
Now there are further developments. Since 2006, Fiji has not stood still.
Gerald McGhie

" I am advocating is that New Zealand take a more balanced approach to Fiji. The Australian Opposition has taken an early lead. The key for New Zealand is to again speak in the Pacific with a New Zealand voice, re-establish positive contact with Fiji "

A range of countries have been welcomed in Suva and Fiji has become an active member of the Melanesian spearhead group - which contains the potentially rich Pacific island states. Fiji has also gained the prestigious position of chair of the non-aligned meeting where it has established a high- profile among delegates.
China-Fiji relations have developed strongly, and Fiji's much-sought-after soldiers are well represented in British and United Nations operations in many of the world's hot spots.

The Australian comments are in marked contrast to those coming from New Zealand. In a speech on New Zealand's place in the world late last year, Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff made little reference to the Pacific and in later discussion emphasised his continuing view that human rights were the key to progress in Fiji.

Of course, human rights are important and coups cannot be condoned but, given Mr Goff's persistent concerns about human rights and illegal seizures of power, I might have expected a stiff comment on recent developments in Egypt where what looks very like a military coup has taken place. The New Zealand Government also appears to be remarkably quiet on Egypt.

What I am advocating is that New Zealand take a more balanced approach to Fiji. The Australian Opposition has taken an early lead. The key for New Zealand is to again speak in the Pacific with a New Zealand voice, re-establish positive contact with Fiji and, while not accepting the coup, come up with alternative policies in a context of co- operation.

Negotiations will not be easy. But if understandings can be agreed and adhered to, at least there will be some structure on which to build a better relationship.There may be a sense within the Wellington policy establishment that Suva is simply waiting for New Zealand to welcome them back to the Commonwealth, Pacific Forum and PACER trade negotiations. In fact it may not be quite that clear-cut.

Fiji now has a substantial - but not dominant - grouping that asks why they should bow to New Zealand. They point to Fiji's substantial gains since the coup in spite of Australia and New Zealand sponsored opposition and at times hostility. They consider that they should build on their new structures.

The reality is that New Zealand must undertake a similar repositioning to that of the Australian Opposition.
This means a rethink in terms of policy and, even more important, of attitude - leading to less exhortation and more patient discussion. It is now probably too late but if sufficient goodwill is generated, New Zealand might get Fiji's support in its bid for the 2014 Security Council seat. It depends on the quality of diplomacy.

Gerald McGhie is a former diplomat with many years of experience in the Pacific. He is a former director of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

X-Post: The Australian - Arrogant PNG Solution A Shock To Pacific nations, Says Fiji.

FIJI has attacked the Rudd government's asylum-seeker policy, warning it threatens the social fabric of Pacific island nations.

Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola launched a broadside against Australia's plan to send all new boatpeople to Papua New Guinea for processing and possible resettlement. He accused Australia of using its economic muscle to persuade a Melanesian country to accept thousands of people who are not Pacific Islanders into the region.

“For an Australian problem, you have proposed a Melanesian solution that threatens to destabilise the already delicate social and economic balances in our societies,” Mr Kubuabola told the 20th Australia-Fiji Business Forum in Brisbane. “This deal, and those mooted with Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, clearly threatens our interests by altering the fundamental social fabric of any member country that accepts a deal. “We are deeply troubled by the consequent threat to the stability of these countries and the wider Melanesian community by the scale of what is being envisaged.”

Mr Kubuabola said that while he respected the PNG government's sovereign right to make the deal, it was done to solve Australia's domestic political problem for short-term political gain, without proper consideration of the long-term consequences.
“This was done without any consultation, a sudden and unilateral announcement, which is not the Pacific way and has shocked a great many people in the region,” Mr Kubuabola said.

“We share the horror of many in the international community at the deaths of more than 1000 asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia. But we cannot remain silent when the current Australian government dumps this problem, which is arguably of its own making, on our doorstep. This deal continues a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Australian government that is inconsiderate, prescriptive, high-handed and arrogant.”
Source: The Australian

Fiji Foreign Minister Audio MP3 (Posted below)

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.

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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

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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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

G77 Group Executive Secretary's Press Conference on Fiji.

Press Conference at Fiji Government Building by Mr Mourad Ahmia - Executive Secretary of G77 Group, the largest group of nations within the U.N. Mr Ahmia touched on the changing leadership and the 2013 agenda of the group. Ahmia further expressed confidence in Fiji in chairing the group and pledged his support. (Video posted below)

Fiji's Permanent Representative to the U.N, Peter Thompson addressed the Press Conference and outlined some background and explained the genesis of Fiji's decision to chair the G77 group. (Video posted below)

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Russian Foreign Minister Visit To Fiji & The Bigger Picture.

relations have significantly been buoyed with the news of a proposed visit from Russia's senior diplomat: Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov. The state visit was discussed between Fiji Prime Minister and Russia's Ambassador to the region.

Fiji PM and Russia's Ambassador, Vladimir N Morozov.
Lavrov will be considerably the most highest ranking Russian official to visit Fiji, to date and is a historic occasion and as well as a unique geopolitical one as well.
While Australia stonewalls any serious engagement with Fiji, inextricably it also exiles itself to the 'endless steepe' and watches in mute frustration as the regional architecture re-calibrates to the events in flux. As a result, other meaningful diplomatic partners have reached out and cemented their relationships within the region.
Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd commented in a recent Radio Australia interview, on the non- removal of sanctions against Fiji.
Undoubtedly, it certainly appears that Australian Government are definitely quite insecure with other larger players stepping into the diplomatic sandbox and have long considered the Pacific region as their own sphere, to be influenced and exploited by any means necessary.
Last November, Australia lashed out at Russia's resourceful diplomacy in the South Pacific region and the reaction only under girds the index of insecurity within the circles of Australia's foreign policy establishment; who not only are out of touch, but out of answers.

Bloomberg article highlighted the regional aspects in Russian diplomacy.

Strategic Spotter blog post authored by Alexey Muraviev, outlines the geo-strategic abilities of Russia in the Pacific region. The macro view of Eurasian geopolitical events have been succinctly described in an opinion post by Pepe Escobar and may also have some bearing in the Pacific region and vice-versa, considering the volatile events in Syria and Iran.

X-Post: Strategic Culture Foundation :- China – USA: Struggle for Control of Pacific.

China – USA: Struggle for Control of Pacific

Vladislav GULEVICH (Ukraine) | 10.01.2012 | 00:00

 Asia - Pacific region is attracting the increasing attention of Western politicians against the backdrop of Chinese growing military and economic might. For instance the US influence had been indisputable until recently but today China’s intensifying efforts to raise its profile in the geostrategic area is something seen with the naked eye. US analysts sound the alarm saying the Chinese simply “pick up” the countries the US administration failed to build relationships with. 

No doubt the Washington’s many years old human rights rhetoric, grown to become a foreign policy dogma, failed it. By ostracizing the ruling regimes in the Asia – Pacific for their incompatibility with “democratic values” in the US perception, it has involuntarily pushed them into China’s embrace. That’s the way it happened in case of Myanmar (Burma).
Till the USA criticized the Myanmar leadership for lack of freedom the Chinese promoted their interests there while cooperating with the powers that be of this poorest country at all levels. The Myanmar’s economy and infrastructure received from China dozens of billion of US dollars, about the same amount was rendered as military aid. Myanmar President U Thein Sein’s visit to China in 2011 became an evident prove of the growing bilateral cooperation. Then the China’s leadership said very important things about Beijing and Rangoon sharing strategic vision of international problems, the fact that couldn’t go unnoticed by the White House and not put it on guard. 

The Myanmar’s geographic position has an important military strategic advantage – common border with India, China. Thailand and Laos. Myanmar is a good platform to exert pressure on China and exercise control over the strait of Malacca, passed by about 50 thousand ships yearly (one fifth or one fourth of the world commodity turnover). 11 millions barrels of oil are shipped through the strait daily. One of the oil consumers is China. Moreover Myanmar is rich in resources: oil, tin, tungsten, zinc, lead, copper, coal, precious stones, gas. It allows to easily win influential neighbors favor. Under the given circumstances Washington’s calls for the country’s international isolation will hardly produce any results. Myanmar will always find someone instead of the US.

Vladislav Gulevich:
"The United States and Australia have an agreement on US military presence on Australian soil. No new bases are envisioned but the US servicemen have a right of permanent access to the Australia’s military infrastructure and the US naval presence in adjacent seas is to grow. Having military facilities in South Korea and Japan the United States is able to boost its influence in Western and Southern Asia-Pacific, including the South China Sea considered to be sovereign territory by the Chinese. The Sea control presupposes obvious geopolitical advantages once this waterway is the shortest and the most safe one for shipping from China, Japan and Russia to the Singapore strait and back.

New Zealand watches the Chinese Asia-Pacific diplomatic expansion closely, especially after China became close to the island nation of Fiji, situated in Southern Pacific, 1170 km from it. There is an apprehension that the very pace of Chinese – Fiji cooperation development may lead to one of the Fiji island becoming a place of China’s permanent naval presence. Here – the Chinese in Fiji, there – the Chinese in Timor. "
The same story takes place in case of a small island nation called Timor-Leste. The island enjoys an advantageous geographic position. It’s situated at arm’s length from neighboring Australia and Indonesia, the bottom of the Timor Sea is rich in oil and gas. For instance, the Bayu - Undan’s oil reserves are estimated to be $ 3 billion. The vicinity of the strait of Vetar is important too. It’s a deep water strait and is ideal for submarines passage from the Pacific into the Indian ocean. In contingency submarines effective activities will require control over it, that, in its turn, requires control over Timor-Leste.
In 2002 this former Portuguese colony eyed by Indonesia became independent. Since then the Washington and Beijing have been vying for influence there, the last one doing much better. The Chinese have already received a $ 378 million contract for two power plants construction. Light arms, uniform and other military equipment are bought in China. There is a 4000 Chinese diaspora on the island. A $ 3 billion credit from China was agreed on in January 2011. Before the career open Timorese used to get education in Australia or the USA to be promoted to high positions in politics or economy. Now it’s not the case anymore, they prefer to go to China for the purpose. 
As the situation dictates, Washington strengthens its military strategic ties with Australia and New Zealand. An Australian military delegation headed by Stephen Smith, minister of defense, visited the US in July 2011 on the occasion of the 60 anniversary of the bilateral alliance. Afghanistan and growing might of India and China were among the issues topping the agenda. Australia confirmed its resolve to go on being the US “south anchor” in South-East Asia (1). US State Secretary Hillary Clinton made public the Washington’s intent to make the XXI century a century of the US Pacific policy (2). Australia is the major US ally in this part of the globe, its army strength is 51 thousand and it has over 19000 reservists. The country’s mobilization reserve is 4,9 million men. Canberra’s military expenditure is 2% of its GDP. 

There are 16 US military facilities on its territory, including a missile test site and a navy communication station for nuclear submarines. Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Papua – New Guinea are situated to the North. The distance between Papua – New Guinea and continental Australia is only 145 km, narrowing down to just 5 km in case of the Australian Boigu and Papua – New Guinea. Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands lie to the North- East of the Australian continent. New Zealand is situated to the South-East. Among the countries listed here only New Zealand is a staunch and unambiguous ally of Australia, be it economy or policy. The others are attentively (and not without results) viewed by Beijing. 

The United States and Australia have an agreement on US military presence on Australian soil. No new bases are envisioned but the US servicemen have a right of permanent access to the Australia’s military infrastructure and the US naval presence in adjacent seas is to grow. Having military facilities in South Korea and Japan the United States is able to boost its influence in Western and Southern Asia-Pacific, including the South China Sea considered to be sovereign territory by the Chinese. The Sea control presupposes obvious geopolitical advantages once this waterway is the shortest and the most safe one for shipping from China, Japan and Russia to the Singapore strait and back. 

New Zealand watches the Chinese Asia-Pacific diplomatic expansion closely, especially after China became close to the island nation of Fiji, situated in Southern Pacific, 1170 km from it. There is an apprehension that the very pace of Chinese – Fiji cooperation development may lead to one of the Fiji island becoming a place of China’s permanent naval presence. Here – the Chinese in Fiji, there – the Chinese in Timor. 

Moreover, there is a chance the Chinese would have a foothold in the Seychelles. China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said so in September 2011 in response to the Seychelles president James Michael’s proposal to host a China’s naval base on his country’s soil. Situated between Asia and Africa to the North of Madagascar in the Western part of the Indian ocean, the Seychelles is a country of great strategic importance. Control over a significant part of the Indian ocean, as well as the waters adjacent to the shore of East Africa (Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia) becomes possible once an adequate naval force is based there.

The Seychelles signed a military cooperation agreement with China in 2004 that includes 50 Seychellois servicemen getting training in China (3). Besides the Chinese rendered significant aid to the Seychellois navy. In turn the Seychelles openly declared adherence to the principle of “One China” that is refused to recognize Taiwan. The Chinese navy ships already patrol narrow waters of the Indian ocean where the pirates threat is high. They need logistics resupply and maintenance facilities. May be that’s what the Seychelles may provide them with. Once the Chinese economy depends on external trade to great extent, Beijing has vital interest in eliminating piracy in this waters. Washington fears then there will be no way to push the Chinese navy out (2). In 2004 Booz Allen Hamilton, US government consulting firm, reported the substance of the Chinese tactics is to acquire a “necklace” of naval basing facilities in the Indian ocean (3). The Chinese interest towards the Seychelles evokes apprehension on the part of Washington keeping in mind there is a US unmanned aerial vehicles facility on the islands destined to tackle mysterious Somali pirates and exercise control over the territory of Somalia. 

Still there are weak points of China’s position in the Asia-Pacific. Some experts say Beijing has no clear blue water strategy at the state’s level. Defense and promotion of economic interests is one thing, but a full-blown doctrine of strengthening its presence in the whole Pacific is something else. 

A blue water strategy is something of a larger scale than just strategy and tactics adopted by a navy. It should comprise coordinated multifunctional activities of special state institutions – from major staffs and military experts to oceanographic institutes and economists. That’s why China will avoid sea conflicts as long as it can to upgrade its naval potential and implement its strategy towards Pacific countries including those in the immediate vicinity of the two major US allies – New Zealand and Australia. Beijing needs time. China relies on diplomacy (inexpensive means of taking care of its interests) and economy. 

In case of economy China’s advancement into Africa is a good example: in 2003 the bilateral trade turnover was $10 billion, it was already $20 billion in 2004. China signed agreements on cooperation in the field of natural resources extraction with Angola, Nigeria, Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe etc. Asia-Pacific is still only third China’s aid recipient – after Australia and the USA but it strives to get a foothold in as many strategically areas as possible, so that at the moment the US becomes critically weak it could start a dialogue with it not from the position of weakness but rather the position of strength. 

1. Edi Walsh «America’s Southern Anchor?» (The Diplomat August 25, 2011)
2. “Clinton says 21st century will be US`s Pacific century” (Xinhua/Wang Fengfeng, 12.11.2011)
3. Jody Ray Bennett «Seychelles: An Open Invitation for China» (ISN Insights, 27. 12.2011)

Related SiFM posts

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brazil Approves Appointment of Fiji’s New Envoy.

13th July 2011, Suva: The Government of Brazil has communicated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation its agreement to the appointment of Mr. Cama Tuiqilaqila Tuiloma as Fiji’s first Ambassador to Brazil.
Cama Tuiloma. 
Fiji established diplomatic relations with Brazil on 16th February 2006. The joint communiqué was signed in New York by the then Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations HE Mr. Isikia Savua (deceased) and the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN HE Mr. Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg establishing full diplomatic relations between Fiji and Brazil. This was after the approval from the Fiji Cabinet at its 6th Meeting in its decision no. 141 of 28th March 2000.

Mr. Tuiloma has served Government for 37 years with his last appointment as the Permanent Secretary for Works, Transport & Public Utilities. From July to December 2008, Mr. Tuiloma was Fiji’s Acting High Commissioner to New Zealand.
Brazil is the largest national economy in Latin America, the world’s eighth largest economy at market exchange rates and the seventh largest in purchasing power parity (PPP), according to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The economy of Brazil is diverse encompassing agriculture, industry and services.
Fiji has been able to trade with Brazil in goods re-exporting items such as vehicle parts and articles of steel and ore. Fiji’s imports from Brazil include amongst others vegetable products, coffee, prepared food stuff, beverages, spirits, vinegar, tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes, chemicals, plastics, grains, footwear items, glassware, ceramic products, jewelry , iron and steel.
Fiji and Brazils interest in the multilateral negotiations in the Doha is linked with the ‘W 52 sponsor” of countries in the negotiations on trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) in particular on geographical indication and disclosure.
The opening of Fiji’s Embassy in Brazil follows the successful opening in April this year of Fiji’s Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia and the opening later this month of our new Embassy in South Africa.
The establishments of these new Missions are in line with Pillar 11 of the Peoples Charter which is, “Enhancing Global Integration and International Relations”. Under this Pillar:
“Fiji must reassert itself to regain its rightful place in the regional and international family of nations. Improved foreign and international relations are essential for achieving this. Our representations overseas will be boosted to ensure that Fiji’s vision and aspirations is well understood by our trading and development partners.
Enhanced global integration and partnerships will result in increased trade and cooperation including technical assistance and aid for trade. Bilateral and multilateral arrangements will be actively pursued with our development and trading partners. Fiji will strengthen its investment and trade facilitation through enhanced negotiation capacity and improved trade infrastructure.”
The opening of Fiji’s Embassy in Brazil is to be done later in the year.