Showing posts with label New Zealand foreign policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Zealand foreign policy. 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

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.

Club Em Designs

Thursday, July 11, 2013

X-Post: Islands Business - Foreign Policy Towards Fiji, Up For Debate

Source: Islands Business

(Audio -posted below) From RNZI

Fri 12 Jul 2013
OTAGO, New Zealand --- Foreign policy experts, students and diplomats have been mulling over how best to handle Fiji. The approaches discussed at Otago University’s annual Foreign Policy School ranged from crude horse-trading to long-term strategic planning.

As Radio New Zealand International Sally Round reports, there was no right answer, but plenty of debate.
Fiji’s first coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka used the military dictionary to describe contrasting foreign policy towards Fiji before and after the latest coup.

SITIVENI RABUKA: When you look at the actions of Australia and New Zealand and some other former friends we had and you look at what China is doing, who is being tactical,who is being strategic?
The Australian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Michael Potts, agreed Canberra, for one, has taken a tactical approach.

MICHAEL POTTS: Australian voters feel quite strongly about the events in Fiji over three decades. So our government naturally feels responsive, I think, to that view, as well. The Chinese, of course, have the advantage of not having general elections every five years. And so they can take a much longer, and in many ways, a much more sophisticated world view.
But Michael Potts says Australia has not turned its back on Fiji.

MICHAEL POTTS: It is very clear we have walked away from the Fiji military. But the notion that we’re walking away from the people of Fiji I think is misplaced. Despite the size of Chinese assistance, Australia is still the largest donor in Fiji. We run close to AUD$40 million a year.

But Sitiveni Rabuka described a strong defence relationship as essential.

SITIVENI RABUKA: Breaking the military link is the worst break because you have lost that contact between offices that you could fall back on when diplomacy fails.

Long-time Fiji-watcher Jon Fraenkel of Wellington’s Victoria University says much of the debate around foreign policy towards Fiji has centred on theories of crude tit-for-tat horse trading. He says other countries’ foreign policies are not the key driver of events in Fiji. But he suggests a foreign policy aimed at promoting democracy should be carefully calibrated. It is often the gradual and indirect approach, he says, which has more influence.

JON FRAENKEL: And often if you look at the experience in Africa, Asia and Latin America, what’s been important is not the sort of direct one-to-one diplomatic challenge, but rather a longer-term filtering upwards of ideas about the connection between legitimacy, popular control and democracy.

The Director of the Centre for Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawaii, Terence Wesley-Smith, says many assumptions are made about China’s presence in and policy towards Fiji without a lot of research. He says he has yet to find back-up for assertions that China is somehow singling out Fiji for soft loans or bankrolling the regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

TERENCE WESLEY-SMITH: If there’s a sin associated with China in Fiji, it’s a sin of omission, meaning that they’re really not doing anything differently. They have continued their relationship with Fiji where others have pulled back from that relationship.

A China foreign policy scholar from Canterbury University, Anne-Marie Brady, had this report from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its policy towards Fiji.

ANNE-MARIE BRADY: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said to me, ’China does not interfere in the politics of other countries. China’s support of the Bainimarama government is not interference. It’s up to the Fijian people to decide who leads them. If Fiji can maintain political stability it would be good for the region. China wants New Zealand and Australia to understand Fiji’s point of view’.

Anne-Marie Brady reported China does not want Australia and New Zealand to use extreme methods to criticise Fiji.

Ernest Bower of the Washington-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies says the US could be more effective in Fiji, but it doesn’t know how.

ERNEST BOWER: I think the United States wants to get it right. They will always stand on the side of democracy, where there’s a coup or where there’s a clear violation of democratic values. There’s not question where the Americans stand on that. We want to see an election, a free and fair election. I think the question is more at a practical policy level - how can you be effective in encouraging that outcome?

Ernest Bower described US policy towards Fiji as a ’work in progress’.

Club Em Designs

Monday, September 24, 2012

X-Post: PacificUS - With Panetta’s Visit, US – NZ Defense Relationship Evolving Amid Pacific Rebalancing.

Last Saturday, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta left for his third trip to the Asia-Pacific this year, scheduling stops in Japan, China and New Zealand.  Panetta’s visits to Japan and China are attempts to smooth relations between the states, and the trip to New Zealand is a follow-up from the visit earlier this year to Washington, DC by NZ Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman.  The trip will be the first time in 30 years that a US Defense Secretary has visited New Zealand, and marks a change in regional strategic dynamics.  

A critical part of the Obama Administration’s rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific includes repairing and deepening strategic relationships with New Zealand (among other smaller and medium-sized states) and to sustain opportunities for regular, high-level dialogue.  While New Zealand does not have a sizeable defense force to contribute to US-led operations, the small democracy is a valuable ally that can serve as an ‘honest broker’ and voice of legitimacy in the Asia-Pacific.

Pivoting for the Pacific’s Sake? Not Likely. 

Recently, New Zealand has received undue attention from American diplomats and cabinet secretaries because the US has much to gain politically and economically (if not militarily) from the bilateral relationship.  Whether the National or Labour Party is in government, New Zealand has a reputation both regionally and internationally as a state with a strong pacifist orientation that advocates for its values and the wellbeing of its Pacific neighbors.  As a founding member of and voice within the Pacific Islands Forum, New Zealand can be a significant agent for American interests during the leaders’ meetings.  Moreover, New Zealand’s promotion of US naval patrols, development assistance, trade relations, diplomatic connections and so forth would enable the US to exercise greater power projection in the region.

The 1984 Labour government’s nuclear-free announcement reflected in part New Zealand’s continuous desire for an independent foreign policy based on “conflict avoidance and resolution, humanitarian assistance, human rights, and environmental defense.”  The declaration prohibiting American nuclear ships from their ports was a policy move that was necessitated by public opinion and new Labour supporters and representatives.  Since its proclamation, the nuclear-free policy has been largely nonpartisan. 

While the strategic dimension of US-NZ relations faltered from the 1980’s, it never disappeared, and was supplemented by intelligence collaboration.  In addition to a strong commitment to special forces training and deployment (particularly the New Zealand Special Air Services), the intelligence-sharing between the US and New Zealand has remained significant since 1946. Despite disagreement with the US government over the invasion of Iraq, intelligence sharing remained consistent.  In fact, after 2001, New Zealand increased its intelligence budget by 30 percent while decreasing its overall defense budget.

Maritime defense, domain awareness, and disaster rescue operations are essential areas of mutual concern for New Zealand and the US in the Pacific, particularly given the Christchurch earthquake, China’s soft loans to Pacific island nations, and overfishing.  For the first time in 28 years, the New Zealand Defence Force participated in the Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in July-August, the largest international maritime exercise.  Interoperability is a key component of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy in the Pacific, and as Nathan Smith writes, the exercises served both diplomatic and more practical purposes for New Zealand and Australia.  

Security concerns for New Zealand focus on the sea lines of communication due to heavy reliance on maritime trade; the country’s small blue-water navy is primarily geared for search and rescue and maritime interdiction.  Despite not being allowed to berth ships in Pearl Harbor due to the nuclear-free policy (in contrast to former foes Japan and Russia), Kiwi sailors did not seemed fussed, and took advantage of the nightlife offered by Honolulu.

As we have seen through the signing of the Wellington and Washington Declarations, the current National Government is in agreement with the Obama Administration’s Pacific rebalancing.  Moreover, the close relationship between US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and NZ Ambassador to the US Michael Moore, and the work US Ambassador to NZ David Huebner has done in Wellington are examples of peoples and governments that seek mutual benefits and understanding.
Improving understanding rather than compromising on ideals

A question that NZ Defence Minister Coleman will face in meeting with Secretary Panetta is how much more New Zealand will be able to commit to the bilateral relationship without sacrificing its ideals.  There will almost surely be a small demonstration in Wellington during Secretary Panetta’s visit about the TPP, or anti-US policies led by local anarchists from Aro Valley, as there is during most high profile visits.  However, in most cases it seems that the New Zealand government knows when and when not to compromise on foreign policy issues, with bipartisan support for free trade agreements.

New Zealand can leverage an improved defense relationship with the US to secure better terms for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and other future trade agreements (including a potential US-NZ FTA as sought by New Zealand).  The latest negotiation terms for the TPP are not public; however controversial public issues being debated concern intellectual property rights and copyright law, both of which have been met by public protests and contestation from New Zealand and Australia.  If the US gets what it wants in terms of defense initiatives, it may soften some of the demands of the TTP and open a path to a US-NZ FTA.

Setting the nuclear-free policy aside, both National and Labour governments have been fairly amicable to US defense relations.  So what more could New Zealand gain from a “stronger and deeper bilateral defense relationship” as set out in the Washington Declaration?  With both sides facilitating the establishment of “regular, senior-level, strategic policy dialogues between the US DoD and NZ Ministry of Defence and NZDF,” New Zealand can not only legitimate the US strategic involvement in the region but can continue to bolster its own authority.  Welcoming perhaps the strongest ally with shared values and democratic ideals can serve to boost Kiwi clout and spur domestic confidence

Development assistance in the Pacific is another area of mutual interest with opportunity for growth.  Australia provides half of all official development assistance to Papua New Guinea and Pacific island countries (AUD$1.17 billion) and New Zealand spends more than half of its country programs budget on Pacific island countries. At the latest Pacific Islands Forum, the US showed that it is ready to lift a portion of the development aid load in the Pacific; US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced $32M in new aid programs 18 years after ending such programs in the Pacific.

As former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Secretary Panetta should be attuned to the value that New Zealand provides as a voice and ear in the Asia-Pacific.  One Kiwi commentator wrote that New Zealand should be weary of his arrival in the country, and that the US will ask too much from Kiwis.  However, the RIMPAC ship porting issue notwithstanding, strategic and diplomatic relations between the US and New Zealand have moved forward since 2007.  

Leadership of both states are keen to return to an era of stronger defense ties to help guarantee their security and to enhance stability in the Pacific.  Having met already this year in Washington, DC, the meeting this week between defense bosses is likely more of a touch point to ensure regular high-level dialogue occurs.  With the Washington Declaration in place and successes to build on from the past year, the additional avenues for deepening defense cooperation may be limited but may be milestones nonetheless.


Club Em Designs

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Tale of Two chiefs: Mara, the Father and Mara, the Son

From Whale Oil Beef Hooked.
Guest Post — A Tale of two chiefs: Mara, the father and Mara, the son 
by WHALEOIL on MAY 27, 2011 Thakur Ranjit Singh 
This com­men­tary, through his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tives, analy­ses the flight of Bainimarama’s for­mer right hand man, Ratu Ului Mara to Tonga and the dis­ap­point­ing role of media.

As the Air Pacific’s French built turbo prop ATR 42 glided into Apia’s Fale­olo Inter­na­tional Air­port, I was over­joyed with the prospect of vis­it­ing Nukualofa.
The year was 1988, in the after­math of Sitiveni Rabuka’s coup in Fiji which had an interim gov­ern­ment. I was an inter­nal audi­tor with the Car­pen­ter Group of Com­pa­nies which owned Mor­ris Hed­strom (MH) stores in Fiji, Apia (Molesi), and Nukualofa. I, together with my fel­low audi­tor Chat­tur Singh was sched­uled to audit MH Nukualofa after the Apia stop. 
T. R Singh On NZ Govt. Policy

"New Zealand Gov­ern­ment and John Key should take heed of this rev­e­la­tion. They have been warned not to bend rules to wel­come Ratu Ului, who still has con­nec­tions with the Mil­i­tary per­son­nel in Fiji, thus fur­ther dis­tanc­ing and pro­vok­ing Fiji."
How­ever, this dream of vis­it­ing Tonga was dashed when Tonga imposed a racially dis­crim­i­na­tory rule that Indo Fijians from Fiji were pro­hib­ited from enter­ing the King­dom. Then, Fiji’s interim Prime Min­is­ter was Ratu Ului’s father, Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara who was defeated in 1987 Fiji’s elec­tions by Dr Tim­oci Bavadra’s Fiji Labour Party. Bavadra’s gov­ern­ment was over­thrown on 14 May, 1987 in a coup exe­cuted by Rabuka just after a month in power. 
It had been widely spec­u­lated and also exposed by Rabuka that Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara was aware of the coup and had given his bless­ings for the rape of democ­racy in favour of indige­nous supe­ri­or­ity and ethno nation­al­ism. Mara Senior claimed he accepted the posi­tion of Fiji’s Interim Prime Min­is­ter because he could not stand by and watch his house burning.Ratu Sir Kamis­ese remained silent and failed to raise any objec­tion against this bla­tant racism by his cousins in Tonga against half of his sub­jects in Fiji. It there­fore should not now come as a sur­prise at accu­sa­tions that the Ton­gan gov­ern­ment aided and abet­ted the escape of Ratu Ului to Tonga by breach­ing Fiji waters, sup­pos­edly in a sea res­cue mis­sion. 
The evi­dence from the murky waters sug­gests that Ratu Ului may be less than hon­est about his escapade. His check­ing into a hotel under a false name, hid­ing his iden­tity, the cus­tom­ary pro­to­cols of fish­ing alone by a chief, and the fail­ure of respec­tive New Zealand and Fiji navies to detect any dis­tress sig­nals indi­cate that the truth is some­where out there.This case also exposed New Zealand main­stream media’s blind depen­dency on a polit­i­cal blogsite, Coup Four Point Five, which hardly resem­bles a respectable, free and inde­pen­dent media. This site has anony­mous and face­less pub­lish­ers and edi­tors whose cred­i­bil­ity has been under scrutiny by var­i­ous aca­d­e­mics and this author because of their selec­tive, unsub­stan­ti­ated and unbal­anced news-postings. 
This is Qarase’s SDL Party site tasked with get­ting the racist régime back into power under the sham of democ­racy. It is such ques­tion­able blogsite that the main­stream New Zealand media, includ­ing NZ Her­ald and TVNZ, have relied upon as a source.The Indo-Fijian bash­ing angle is used once again. With Tonga’s his­tory of racially humil­i­at­ing Indo-Fijians in 1988 with ban on entry, it is no won­der Ratu Ului had a field day in using the race card as well, where he said that Aiyaz Saiyed Khaiyum, Fiji’s Indo-Fijian Attor­ney Gen­eral was solely call­ing the shots in Fiji. 
What a gullible media fails to realise is that Fiji’s mil­i­tary is 99.95 per cent indige­nous Fijians. Of the 21 Per­ma­nent Sec­re­taries, only three are Indo-Fijians, only two min­is­ters are Indo-Fijians and other top ech­e­lons of the civil ser­vice com­prise of some 80 per cent indige­nous Fijians. Yet, Ratu Ului, sup­ported by NZ media, wishes us to believe that one Indo-Fijian had Frank Bain­i­marama in a trance. Ratu Ului is degrad­ing and sham­ing his own race by say­ing that Khaiyum single-handedly manip­u­lates Fiji’s admin­is­tra­tive, polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary machin­ery dom­i­nated by indige­nous peo­ple. This is the biggest insult hurled on indige­nous Fijians since the uncer­e­mo­ni­ous flight of Ratu Ului’s’ father from the Gov­ern­ment house.Ratu Ului’s defence of the Great Coun­cil of Chiefs (GCC) and the Methodist Church as sav­iours of democ­racy is highly laugh­able. 
These two insti­tu­tions have been the biggest threat to democ­racy, human rights and social jus­tice in Fiji. I still remem­ber, how in 1987 after Rabuka’s coup, the church­go­ers from the Methodist Church used to go and man the road­blocks which were put in place to per­se­cute non-Christians. Dur­ing 2001 Fiji elec­tions, the Assem­bly of Churches, led by the Methodist Church, took out paid adver­tise­ments, urg­ing indige­nous Fijians not to vote the hea­thens and non-believer Indo-Fijians into the lead­er­ship of the nation. Is this the Methodist Church which is now iden­ti­fied as the defender of democ­racy? The Chiefs were so immensely engrossed in pol­i­tics, sup­port­ing ethno-nationalism of George Speight that the non elected GCC lost all its cred­i­bil­ity, respectabil­ity and neu­tral advi­sory sta­tus. The GCC which had been an ini­tia­tive and legacy of the British colonists had been ban­ished by Bain­i­marama after 2006. 
Its absence had hardly been felt by the rank and file indige­nous peo­ple in the last five years.Ratu Sir Kamisese’s son, now absconded to Tonga, appears to suf­fer from mem­ory loss. In 2000, the GCC and the Methodist Church hier­ar­chy fully backed George Speight in cru­elly remov­ing his esteemed father, Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara as Pres­i­dent of Fiji. 
In a hugely undig­ni­fied man­ner, Ratu Sir Kamis­ese had to flee in the night, fear­ing for his life. He was trans­ported by navy boat to the safety of his home in the Lau Group, never to recover from this humil­i­a­tion. He died a very sad, bit­ter and lonely man.  What Mara’s son Ratu Ului for­gets is that this was the unkind­est act of betrayal by the Fijian chiefs against one of their great­est chiefs. 
Today, for con­ve­nience and expe­di­ency, Ratu Tevita Mara has heaped insult to the mem­ory of Ratu Sir Kamis­ese by embrac­ing and prais­ing those who had dis­graced, humil­i­ated and indi­rectly exter­mi­nated Fiji’s great­est polit­i­cal leader– his own father.Nowhere in the NZ media has there been any reports that other promi­nent busi­ness­men, bureau­crats, civil ser­vants and chiefs have gone through Fiji’s jus­tice sys­tem, so what was par­tic­u­lar about Ratu Ulai who absconded. There is hardly any men­tion of inves­ti­ga­tions and alleged fraud of $3 mil­lion from Fiji Pine Commission. 
New Zealand Gov­ern­ment and John Key should take heed of this rev­e­la­tion. They have been warned not to bend rules to wel­come Ratu Ului, who still has con­nec­tions with the Mil­i­tary per­son­nel in Fiji, thus fur­ther dis­tanc­ing and pro­vok­ing Fiji. Any such action less than six months before the Rugby World Cup, in which Fiji plays, and the gen­eral elec­tions, are not advis­able. With a siz­able Indo-Fijian pop­u­la­tion and Indi­ans and Asians sym­pa­thetic to Fiji’s cause of self deter­mi­na­tion, Key needs to play his cards wisely, before offi­ciously embroil­ing in a domes­tic squab­ble of Pacific relations. 
NZ needs to be reminded that despite his­tory bestow­ing him with this hon­our, Ratu Sir Kamis­ese Mara had not really been that last bas­tion of mul­tira­cial­ism and social jus­tice in Fiji. Nei­ther is his son Ratu Ului Mara. 
(Thakur Ran­jit Singh is a polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and had been through Rabuka’s and Speight’s coups. Dur­ing the lat­ter, he was the pub­lisher of Fiji’s Daily Post news­pa­per, which has since been closed because of past gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence. He was AUT/PIMA Pasi­fika post­grad­u­ate scholar in 2009/10).

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Café Pacific - David Robie | Media freedom and transparency: Freedom of the press on Fiji? You’re joking!

David Robie On NZ Media Reportage
"At long last, I thought, a factual article with opinions from people of differing views, leaving readers to form their own conclusions. My faith in the NZ media went up a notch, but it was not to last"

Café Pacific - David Robie | Media freedom and transparency: Freedom of the press on Fiji? You’re joking!: "Breathless NZ media coverage on Fiji ... Independent Fiji blogger Crosbie Walsh pens an 'editorial' on a New Zealand Herald editorial a..."

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

NZ Duplicity-Member of Fiji I.G, allowed into NZ to see sick wife.

Pramesh Chand, the military-appointed head of Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama's interim government in Fiji, is in Auckland to tend to his sick wife. None of the members of Cdre Bainimarama's interim government have been allowed to visit New Zealand since Cdre Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup last December.

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However, the most recent travel ban was also placed on a group of Scouts representing Fiji to the annual Jamboree held in New Zealand.

New Zealand Herald's Editorial published in Dec. 22nd 2007, slammed the New Zealand Government's gross inconsistency in applying these travel sanctions.

The excerpt:

Editorial: Excluding Fijian kids an affront to common sense
5:00AM Saturday December 22, 2007

Let the children come.

The group of 10 Fijian Scouts and Guides being kept from coming to New Zealand because of someone's interpretation of the sanctions applied by this country against the military regime must be allowed to attend their jamboree.

This cannot, surely, have been a Government decision, nor even a conscious one taken by senior officials. No doubt the Fijian Scouting movement did receive an indication that applications for their charges to visit here would be problematic. How formal and how definitive was that hint?

The detail does not matter. The fact that any issue has arisen over these children attending an international jamboree breaks the Government's newly minted "Law of Common Sense".

Around 50 Fijian children will be allowed here, so presumably the 10 outcasts have relatives in the military. To use children as young as 10 to score diplomatic points against their parents is beneath all standards to which New Zealand should aspire.The sanctions against members of the regime and their families have been inconsistently applied in any case.

Bizarrely, a serving Education Minister from the Bainimarama Government has visited this country for a conference, with the blessing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its minister, Winston Peters. In that case the multilateral benefits on education throughout the Pacific were held to be more important than the bilateral relationship.

A Government minister can come, but his colleagues' kids cannot? Keeping 10 children from an international camp in Christchurch - especially Scouts and Guides seeking to become, in the words of their Scouting leader, "good citizens of the planet" - is silly, not serious. It demeans the sanctions and lessens New Zealand in the eyes of our wider Pacific neighbours.

Stuff Magazine published the slanted perspective by Dominion Post's foreign correspondent, Micheal Field. The excerpt:

Bainimarama supporter allowed into NZ
By MICHAEL FIELD - The Dominion Post | Friday, 28 December 2007

A key figure in Fiji's coup regime is in New Zealand tending his sick wife, just a week after 10 Scouts were excluded on the grounds of their relationship to the military. The military-appointed head of the Prime Minister's Office, Pramesh Chand, is in Auckland, according to Fiji media, on compassionate and humanitarian grounds after his wife became ill.

Mr Chand, the former South Pacific trade commissioner based in Auckland, assumed his key role just days after military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in December 2006.

An Indo-Fijian, Mr Chand has been a strong and outspoken supporter of Commodore Bainimarama, and as recently as last week was condemning New Zealand for its sanctions. News of Mr Chand's entry represents a significant departure from the rules, as his role has been as a key aide to the military, and symbolic of the Indo-Fijian support for the coup.

[Chand] told the Fiji Times he was granted a visa on compassionate and humanitarian grounds and was happy the New Zealand Government was understanding of his situation. Mr Chand said his case was a genuine one as he had to be with his wife, who was taken to hospital as an emergency case. "She was taken in, but was not admitted, and she is now recuperating at home."

[Chand] would not divulge his wife's medical condition, but said she was recovering well. Mr Chand is due to return to Fiji tomorrow. Yesterday, the Fiji Times, one of the strongest critics of the military regime, attacked New Zealand over its "flip-flop" policy, saying it had prevented Scouts' entry, yet had allowed entry to a military-appointed cabinet minister.

"New Zealand must decide once and for all whether her borders are open or closed to the interim regime."

Field's article trivializes the inconsistency factor and also introduces Pramesh Chand as an Indo-Fijian, as if that fact was central to the storyline. Furthermore, Field fallaciously adds that Chand is a symbol of Indo-Fijian support for the 2006 coup. Field's conclusion has fallen victim to the dangerous logical trap known as "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" or coincidental correlation and further erodes his integrity as an objective writer.

The excerpt of Fiji Times Editorial of Thursday Dec. 27th 2007:

Ban all or nothing

Fiji Times Thursday, December 27, 2007

NEW Zealand's travel ban on people linked to the events of December 2006 is a joke. Last week, nine scouts mere teenagers were told not to bother applying for a visa to go to New Zealand to represent the country at a jamboree. These young people were forced to bear the brunt of our neighbour's anger over their parents' involvement in the overthrow of a legally-elected government.

This newspaper does not condone the events of 2006 nor does it support the rape of democratic processes which are designed to serve every citizen of this country. At the same time, we will not be silent over the treatment of innocent children. We know of their plight merely because it is a high-profile case and involves an international event.

There must be many children and families who have faced similar censure in the 12 months since December 2006. They are unlikely to come forward because of the shame associated with the travel ban.New Zealand's diplomatic mission here will not say how many of Fiji's citizens have been refused entry to that country on the basis of their relationship to members of the military or the interim regime.

When the smart sanctions were introduced after the military overthrew Laisenia Qarase's government, the system was seen as a tool with which to hit back at soldiers and those who intended to join the regime. Since the sanctions were introduced, New Zealand has banned a group of scouts and a soccer player. The soccer player was not related to a soldier. He was the fiance of the daughter of a soldier.

At the same time, New Zealand has flung wide her doors to a minister in the interim Government. The excuse? The meeting he attended was a regional event and would benefit and develop the education system here.These are fine sentiments. But would not the same argument work in the case of the scouts?

By mixing with their peers, would they not be enriched by the experience? Would the experience not help mould them into better individuals. Now we find out that the permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Parmesh Chand, has been allowed into New Zealand. The excuse? Medical reasons.

Again, a fine sentiment, but why Mr Chand and his family and not the boy scouts or the national team goalkeeper?

New Zealand cannot continue to play flip-flop politics with Fiji and other Pacific states. If it wants to ban people involved in the events of 2006 and the interim administration, go ahead. But there can be no grey areas in the ban. It must be all or nothing. If New Zealand decides to choose who is or is not banned on a case by case basis, the ban is an exercise in hypocrisy.New Zealand must decide once and for all whether her borders are open or closed to the interim regime.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Anatomy of Fiji's Event Horizon.

Two different opinions on Fiji diplomatic ties from the same newspaper, NZ Herald. The first article from correspondent Audrey Young.

A new era of diplomacy
Audrey Young:
Page 1 of 3

5:00AM Saturday June 23, 2007

It may be good politics for Opposition leader John Key to praise Helen Clark and Winston Peters for the way they have handled the diplomatic crisis with Fiji, as he has in today's Weekend Herald, but he has good reason to mean what he says.

It is hard to see how Clark and Peters could have handled the immediate crisis better. Having been hit with the bombshell on June 7 that Fiji intended to declare High Commissioner Michael Green persona non grata, they worked hard behind the scenes to prevent it happening.

Clark has taken the hard line the circumstances demanded of a Prime Minister. Peters has been equally as condemning but adapted a "more in sorrow than in anger" tone, reflecting the sentiment many New Zealanders feel about one of their favourite neighbours.

It is inevitable New Zealand will be accused of bullying by those who prescribe only to fair-weather diplomacy in the Pacific. There are times when the "there, there" approach just will not do.

Clark and Peters have pitched their message carefully to take account of both audiences and to try to avoid pushing ordinary Fijians further into the arms of the military commander. They have also sensibly reserved New Zealand's decision on reprisals. A sudden move would have understated the offence.

They wanted to see what response the Fiji cabinet would have to an assessment that an election is possible in March 2009, which is acknowledged to be more important than the diplomatic insult. It was agreed to in principle, the importance of which was lost in the wash of the Green affair.

Also lost in the wash was an extremely conciliatory statement issued by military head and Prime Minister Commander Frank Bainimarama on Thursday, extolling the value of the relationship with New Zealand and pleading the case for limited sanctions.

Fiji's willingness to see off Green quietly by having him not return from holiday suggests his expulsion does seem to be grounded in a personal dislike by Bainimarama. Bainimarama's failure to set out a convincing case for having ordered the expulsion reinforced the personal nature of the decision.

He has accused Green of interfering but offered as evidence only a speech delivered two months ago on the coup culture. It was a strongly critical speech. It was probably more critical than some New Zealand has endured from former US ambassadors over the nuclear policy, but no less critical than New Zealand could expect from the US if the New Zealand Army installed a puppet government.

Bainimarama's behaviour mirrors the coup itself, purported to have been conducted in the name of ousting a (newly elected) "corrupt" Fiji nationalist Government.

The firm view within the New Zealand Government is that Bainimarama was motivated by his desire to avoid probable charges arising from the deaths by beating of four Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit members after they had killed four loyal soldiers (and almost Bainimarama) in a failed mutiny in November 2000.

New Zealand's short-term response to Green's expulsion will be a package of sanctions foreshadowed by Clark to be "serious and significant". They may not sound as such when they are announced because Clark and Peters are bound to sweeten the sanctions - banning transit for Government and military leaders - with an offer to help prepare for general elections in March 2009.

A replacement for Green is likely to be sent only if and when benchmarks are set in Fiji for the general election such as dates for the electorates and rolls to be finalised.

There are also high-level back-channels of communication open with Fiji which, by their very nature, are not broadcast to the world. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they are not there. As importantly, Clark and Peters have also maintained contact with Pacific Island Forum countries.

New Zealand's short and medium term priorities for Fiji appear to be helping it back to democracy which can put it back on path to economic development and independence. How to maintain that longer term is harder in a country with a coup culture that destabilises the whole region whenever one happens.

Constitutional reform hasn't worked on its own. Perhaps the only way to get rid of military coups is to reduce the power of the military.

No serious thought has yet been given to Australia and New Zealand recruiting large numbers of Fiji soldiers, in the way the British Army does, to boost their own ranks.

But it is an emerging idea in Australian think-tanks that may get a little more traction as officials and politicians on both sides of the Tasman start grappling with the need for a serious rethink on how they handle Fiji.

Despite expressing outrage at the situation, Clark and Peters have not delved too deeply into the politics of the coup. It is an unpredictable country led by an unpredictable man and they do not want to inflame the situation.

The racial politics of Fiji makes all coups complicated, this one more complicated that the last.

Although it was led by an indigenous Fijian military leader, it is seen widely seen as an Indo-Fijian coup. As well as the possible personal motivation for the coup, Bainimarama politically objected to measures that disadvantaged Indo-Fijians.

The coup has been embraced by many Indo-Fijians - with whom the commander has close personal relations - on the basis that "my enemy's enemy is my friend".

The fact that the Fiji Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry signed up to be Bainimarama's finance minister was a bitter blow for New Zealand Labour and others who had supported him after he was deposed as Prime Minister in the 2000 coup. It may explain the disgust in Helen Clark's tone.

Her hard line has been seized upon by economic victims and apologists of the coup.

In this paper and other media, tourist operators have blamed the New Zealand Government travel warnings - which are relatively mild - for their own economic plight.

Clark expressed concerns again this week, with a hint of moral persuasion - hardly surprising from someone who comes from a tradition of taking moral stands against immoral situations in other people's countries.

Former All Black and Fiji resort owner Brad Johnstone would be familiar enough with that having toured South Africa in 1976 and captained Auckland against the Springboks in the 1981 tour.

New Zealand's style in the Pacific is changing. Kava diplomacy is gone. It may have carved out a more independent foreign policy under Clark's leadership in most parts of the world. But in the Pacific it has worked more closely with Australia, and along the way acquired some of its style.

The appointment of someone as senior as Green to Fiji in 2004 - he was a deputy secretary - was a sign New Zealand was taking the Pacific more seriously than it had.

It is a change of style and emphasis that is set to continue into the future, whether it is under John Key or Helen Clark.

The second perspective from the New Zealand Herald Editorial had a different take on the behavior of NZ Prime Minister, comparing her reactions to the expulsion of NZ High Commissioner to Clark's meeting with the Delai Lama.

Editorial: Fiji needs a diplomatic touch like the one we show to China
Page 1 of 2
View as a single page
5:00AM Sunday June 24, 2007

Zoologists call it displacement activity: an animal in a state of stress, frustration or uncertainty will perform an irrelevant action. A bird confronted by an opponent may peck at the grass. Humans respond to nervousness or confusion by scratching their heads. And that very odd creature called a politician will, when faced with an challenge she does not know how to deal with, start throwing her weight around somewhere where she counts.

How else to explain the startling contrast between the Iron Lady stance adopted by Prime Minister Helen Clark towards the military regime in Fiji and the meek and compliant nature of the snub she and her administration delivered to the Dalai Lama when he visited this week? Clark's meeting with the spiritual leader of the world's Buddhists and the Tibetan leader-in-exile since the Chinese occupation and annexation of his country in 1959, in an airport departure lounge in Brisbane, was carefully planned but intended to look serendipitous. The reason was plain: we are in the midst of negotiating a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the Chinese, who take a very dim view of any government recognising the Dalai Lama as the leader of a would-be independent Tibet. Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters did not meet His Holiness, but NZ First leader Winston Peters did.

Taken together with the Government's apparent connivance in March when New Zealand-based Chinese journalist Nick Wang was denied entry to a photo opportunity between Michael Cullen and Chinese Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, and with previous occasions when protesters have been hustled out of sight of visiting Chinese dignitaries, it adds up to a pretty craven look.

Critics of the Government's tiptoeing, such as Green MP Keith Locke, occupy an impeccable moral position when they demand that our representatives ignore the pressure - implicit and very probably explicit - brought to bear by the Chinese. But the People's Republic is the dragon of the world economy and this country would be foolhardy to ignore its sensitivities in matters of international relations.

Others have compared our position unfavourably with that of the Lange administration, which defied the nuclear hegemony in the 1980s. But the matters are not equivalent. The US in the mid-1980s had much less power over our trade fortunes than China does now. A better comparison is with the Lange Government's decision to release the Rainbow Warrior bombers, Mafart and Prieur, to what everyone knew would be brief internment on a Pacific atoll. Lange's attempt to paint the climbdown as a diplomatic victory fooled no one. And Clark's pas de deux with the Chinese is equally transparent. It would have been better for her to admit, in terms as vague and diplomatic as she chooses, that she was acting pragmatically, in this country's best interests.

Better, too, for her to practice a bit more of the diplomatic soft-shoe shuffle with the Fijians. The expulsion of our High Commissioner, Michael Green, is the sign of a Government under pressure, but no one should take comfort from that. It's hard to back down when your back is against the wall and Clark's thundering approach is the wrong one for a Pacific nation leader who needs to show leadership.

On his return, Green stopped well short of endorsing Clark's security warning to intending travellers. The PM would do well to work quietly behind the scenes to resolve the Fiji crisis, rather than coming out with guns blazing, causing collateral damage to Fiji's tourism industry. She may think she is diverting attention from the cringing attitude to China - but she is fooling nobody.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hard Talk on Fiji.

Radio New Zealand podcast interviews the N.Z Foreign Minister, Winston Peters regarding the highballed statistics of Human Rights abuses in Fiji. Similar accusations were also levied by Commonwealth Secretary General, Don McKinnon also covered by Radio NZ article. Ironically McKinnon had formerly occupied the office of New Zealand Foreign Minister and his comments could have well been 'ghost written' from Wellington, as far as Fiji's interim Attorney General is concerned.

New Zealand Television's video (featured above) analyzes the recent 'Vote of No Confidence'against the Labour Party. So it appears that Winston Peters' opinion of Fiji is not reflected by all New Zealanders.

Apparently, there is no shortage of people pissed off with the New Zealand Government and their policies; including the N.Z conventional media. This ticked off citizen journalist from New Zealand has unleashed his anger on a YouTube video

Warning: Language may be offensive.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Community Policing.

(Above image-The Peninsula of Suva, the large tracts of developed and undeveloped lands claimed by Suvavou villagers. Suva's central business district also falls into the claim).

The legal case of the Suvavou landowners, may be one of the most significant precedence in Fiji's legal system, because of the land's value, estimated to worth more than $F1 Billion and because the case is a legal wrangle between the State and an indigenous landowning unit. A Fiji Times article, covers their legal claim, now being debated in Suva's High Court.

Although the GCC Chairman is considering getting back to the habit of endless and fruitless meetings described in an article by Fiji Village. This particular Suvavou case, also reminds the indigenous landowners in Fiji of the inadequacies of the Great Council of Chiefs in solving such a major land claim, in addition to the delayed justice and due processes stonewalled by native institutions who have ignored the plight of the claimants. This case also underscores the validity of landowner's complaints against the Native Lands Trust Board.

Niu FM podcast interviews Fiji's interim Attorney General, who had requested the comments made by the Governments of New Zealand and Australia; to use the Pacific way of respectful dialogue. Not snide comments, which ridicule the sovereignty of a nation; like the idiosyncratic comments made by the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters recently.
It appears that the talking points of the New Zealand Government have entered the echo chamber of NZ talk radio, outlined in an interview of academic (WMA), Robert Patman, a seemingly unbiased and unilateral expert of Fiji politics.

Although, quoted in a International Herald Tribune article and corroborated in a Fiji Times article, Peters had inquired into the evidence to the corruption charges, levied at the SDL Government by the interim Government's newly formed Corruption Agency headed by former Police officer, Nasir Ali who was interviewed in this Fiji Times article. Fiji's interim Prime Minister has also responded to Winston Peter's inquiries of corruption evidence, with a scathing denunciation, reported by Fiji Live article.

This is the excerpt of Fiji Live article:

I don't need to show proof: Bainimarama
Wednesday January 31, 2007

Fiji's Interim Prime Minister and army commander, Voreqe Bainimarama says there is no need for him to justify the coup to New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters.

Peters had earlier asked Bainimarama to provide evidence to back up allegations he used to justify his coup.

Speaking to Fijilive this afternoon, Bainimarama hit out at Peters saying it was about time he realized that Fiji could manage its own affairs and did not rely on New Zealand as a 'big brother'.

"Who is he to interfere in our affairs, because we are a sovereign state and will not be pushed around by people who think they are too smart," said Bainimarama.

"He should stop spitting venom and leave this country alone."

Bainimarama added that Peters and New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark were being vindictive in their approach towards resolving the current impasse between the two countries.

"They should take sometime to think and try and map out a way to end the bitterness between New Zealand and Fiji," he said.

Peters also said that Bainimarama had become a judge, jury and an investigator for his country.


Fiji Live article questions why, the New Zealand Government is yet to dispatch experts in forensic accounting, to assist the interim Fiji Government in completing such investigations into the allegations of high level corruption. Such a delay, inextricably reflects on the reluctance of New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get involved, in spite of their lofty diplomatic ambitions to uphold law and order within the Pacific.

This is the excerpt of Fiji Live article:

NZ to consider Fiji request for help
Wednesday January 10, 2007

Fiji has asked for New Zealand help in investigating corruption allegations against the ousted government.

According to a report on TVNZ, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Rob Hole, says they are considering the request in light of the wider issues in Fiji and will decide how to respond by the end of the week.

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says a special military task force has begun sifting through dozens of files from various government departments and there is a pressing need for forensic accountants.

He says he will also be asking Australia and the United States for assistance.


The over-interference in the Pacific affairs by the New Zealand Government, was defended by Winston Peters in a speech to the Rotary Club reported by an article by Radio New Zealand.

In that speech, the Foreign Minister claimed that the Government is the absolute champion of democracy-a serious and noble role which they won't shirk! A role that was not consented to, by the voters of New Zealand, nor was this role approved by the citizens of the Pacific.
The egalitarian intentions by New Zealand was perceived as posturing rhetoric, by a senior officer in the Army, quoted in an article by Fiji Village.

New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peter's speech was made available with an article by Scoop.

This is the excerpt:

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Speech Notes

Putting New Zealand values to work in the Pacific

Delivered to the Orewa Rotary Club,
War Memorial Park,
Hibiscus Coast Highway
Embargoed until 7.30pm, 30 January 2007

Thank you for the invitation to address you this evening.

A New Year address at Orewa carries with it a degree of expectation.

While not being one to court controversy, it is hoped that today's address will none the less stimulate discussion. You have asked for an address on New Zealand's role in the Pacific, but before that here are a couple of observations about domestic politics in 2007.

If New Zealand has any hope of dragging itself up the OECD ladder, it must address some extraordinarily longstanding problems this year.

One is an outdated obsession with the monetary policy of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. This year is Export Year, and yet the perverseness of New Zealand's monetary policy operates disastrously against export interests and encourages New Zealanders' obsession, not with the corporate sector or our still-strong primary sector, but with consumerism and multiple house buying.

You who live in Orewa should know this most keenly, given the Rodney Council is a recipient of numerous applications for further high rise development along the beach in some mindless attempt to replicate Queensland's Gold Coast.

But it is not these well-worn, well-tried and decades-old failed policies by themselves that are causing New Zealand's present economic dilemma of a banana republic current account balance (that is nine per cent of GDP in deficit). Although they do have an effect on our woefully falling home ownership rate.

One of the principal reasons for the low home ownership rate is our now three decades old inability to obtain bipartisan political agreement for a New Zealand savings strategy -- one of the principle reasons for the huge gap in living standards between New Zealand and Australia.

The Cullen Scheme is working because at least it is an attempt at a savings strategy. But much more should have been done and needs now to be done, and I hope in 2007 that Parliament will put aside its petty arguments on this issue and agree to give New Zealand earners a chance to enter the competitive economic world with a savings strategy to back it up.

Such a strategy will have a very serious effect. It will disincline the Reserve Bank Governor to keep ramping up interest rates, further vacuuming our economy and increasing business costs, and it will be a sound addition to the saving steps that many New Zealanders have made already.

There will be a huge debate on welfare-ism in 2007 but most of it will be to disguise the failing of the New Zealand economy, and that is that we are nationally not exporting enough, and therefore not individually earning enough.

Turning now to the Pacific, on the surface it would be easy to have a pessimistic outlook in the region.

From unrest in the Solomons, Timor Leste, Tonga, and finally the December coup in Fiji, the Pacific in the last year has at times resembled a wayward ping pong ball, with crises presenting themselves at regular intervals, bouncing from one part of the region to another.

While these recent crises have generated public and media attention, they stand alongside longer and deeper economic and social trends in the Pacific.
Pacific watchers over time will know that many of the issues confronting the Pacific are not new – some are decades old.

However we can, and we should, approach this year with guarded optimism. Not because we will solve all the Pacific's problems – we won't – but because we will play a constructive part in the region, strengthening key relationships and bolstering our own national interests.

This assessment is based on several decades of close association with the Pacific and its people.

In May 1989 I gave a keynote address to CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) focussing on the challenges confronting the Pacific. This occurred in the aftermath of the assassination of Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and his deputy Yiewene Yiewene in New Caledonia -- events which sent shockwaves throughout the Pacific and beyond.

The backdrop at that time was further coloured by the first coup in Fiji and the instability that followed. It is somewhat bemusing, therefore, when hearing some commentators assessing my recent views and efforts in the Pacific as if they are a new development.

They are not – they have been shaped over the better part of three decades of informed engagement with the region. The Pacific is after all our neighbourhood and home, and its strategic relevance in global terms should have always been self-evident.

A brief perusal of nations that border the Pacific, and the fact that it accounts for nearly one quarter of the globe, highlight why countries with no direct connection with the region wish to remain actively engaged.

This has obvious implications for New Zealand. What we do in the Pacific matters more than just in the immediate sphere in which we operate, because partners such as Australia, the US, the EU, Japan, China and the UN among others, watch and value what we do.

Indeed much of our activity in the Pacific occurs in partnership with other nations and organisations. This brings us to a critical dimension of our work in the Pacific. Our partnerships and collaborative efforts are critical – particularly those with Australia and the United States.

Yet there seems to be an irrational, and growing, sense of sport among some quarters in New Zealand where it is considered a perverse badge of honour to take cheap shots at the Australians and Americans. These groups are quick to criticise what they disagree with and so so slow to acknowledge the huge effort that both nations put into the Pacific and beyond.

Let me make this as clear as possible. We need the United States, as well as Australia, to be intimately engaged in the Pacific if we are to be successful in our own endeavours. We also believe the EU has a positive role to play.

We need to work closely with the US and we need to have a positive forward-looking relationship. And there are significant efforts being made on both sides to achieve that.

All too often commentators in this country are quick to gnaw at American vulnerabilities, lashing out hardest when the United States is confronting difficulties, rather than being more understanding, as friends should be at such times.

Our areas of difference are well known. Less attention is given to the broad range of policy positions and interests that we have in common with the United States – our similar outlook is underpinned by shared values and a commitment to democratic principles.

The issues of democratisation, good governance, and stability, which the
United States is grappling with in a number of regions of the world, are similar to those we are grappling with in the Pacific. Our officials are in regular contact on these issues, sharing ideas about what has worked and what hasn't.

To this end, we are pleased that officials are currently looking at areas where we can maximize cooperation both bilaterally and in support of Pacific island states.
We work closely with Australia in the region. They are our nearest neighbours and closest friends. We have many mutually shared objectives in our combined efforts.

So while some in New Zealand are keen to see us jettison these relationships, these people need to grow up, shed their jingoistic baggage about the US and Australia, and start to address the serious reality in which we operate, rather than their fanciful fabrications.

Let's confront a simple question. How do you get a sound business relationship with someone or some nation who does not know you, or worse, does not like you? The media at times have regrettably tried to reduce these attitudes to a deep-seated form of anti-Americanism and anti-Australian sentiments.

This premise is false. New Zealanders are not by nature anti anybody. We have friendly rivalries – particularly on the sporting field – shared histories and sometimes even significant policy differences with other nations.

But we are not anti or opposed to any nation or people. From time to time we vigorously oppose particular policies, and occasionally disagree with various decisions made by governments, but it is not the New Zealand way to outright oppose a nation or its people.

This is because of who we are as New Zealanders. What we have embraced over time is a form of civic nationalism – bound by shared values and a common commitment to the institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the pursuit of a decent society.

This goes hand in hand with an underlying pragmatism, tolerance and an essential good-heartedness as the late historian Michael King put it.

Our disposition embraces the rule of law, including an inherent fairness and sense of natural justice in how we engage with others.

And it increasingly involves a respect and care for the sustainability of the environment – which all New Zealanders can commonly value as a legacy we seek for our children.

The understated character of our nationalism ensures we would rather get in and do the work than chase the limelight. We don't need to wear our nationalism on our sleeves, and we have charitable inclinations – it is in our nature to help.

We do have a sense of patriotism, often inconspicuous and less overt than other countries, but it is real none the less and it is strong. Sadly, however, we lack tangible touchstones – significant events we can point to which unite and bind us as a nation.

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi could and should have filled this role as our equivalent of Bastille Day in France, or the 4th of July in the United States.

It should be recognised and celebrated as the significant and unique document it is. Instead, the Treaty has too often been sullied as a document based on grievance and division, just as Waitangi Day has been notable for protest and sadly the broad indifference of much of the population.

There are some indications that we can move beyond this as a nation. Thankfully this lack of a touchstone has not inhibited New Zealanders from embracing the core values that bolster our sense of identity.

Unlike New Zealand however, most Pacific nations have been in a post-colonial phase of development for only a brief period. Consequently, few of the institutions and democratic foundations of our Pacific neighbours have had enough time to mature since they embarked on the pathway to independence and sovereignty.

Just two years ago our parliament celebrated its 150th anniversary – making us among the world's oldest parliamentary democracies.

By comparison, Samoa's parliament was established in 1961, the Cook Islands in 1965, Fiji in 1970, PNG in 1975, and the Solomon Islands in 1976.

New Zealand is by no means perfect. Our institutions have evolved over many decades, which have seen constitutional changes such establishing the Maori seats, embracing universal suffrage, removing our Upper House, and more recently the shift to MMP. All these changes have created a distinctive form of New Zealand democracy.

Our Pacific Island neighbours, however, have not had the luxury of time. They have also, quite legitimately, sought to meld western styles of government with traditional indigenous structures.

Taken together, these elements have at times resulted in new institutions being vulnerable to influences that can undermine the foundations of democracy, the rule of law, and security.

In contrast, there is much that we take for granted in New Zealand because of the legacy of our Westminster system of government, and this has significant implications for our sense of identity.

Our society is underpinned by robust values that are stable and strong. However there are often different forces at play in parts of the Pacific, just as there are in other regions of the world.

Violence, or the threat of violence, is too frequently employed as the means of resolving domestic matters. The value of democracy is often subverted by a misguided sense of ethnic nationalism.

Ethnic nationalism emerges when the search for identity is couched solely in a traditionalist cultural context, devoid of the core values of democracy and rule of law. But these values need not be mutually exclusive – there can be cultural expression and democratic foundations.

In places such as Tonga, that is what the average Tongan wants – to give voice to their political preferences.

They do not want to abandon their cultural traditions, but they do see the inherent value in citizens having the right to express themselves in an organised and structured way.

In some parts of the Pacific ethnic nationalism can manifest itself at an even more rudimentary level – wantok tribalism – where historical tribal and extended family loyalties have at times overridden democratic values.

But we should never confuse ethnic nationalism with outright corruption and greed.

Corruption and greed are not cultural or ethnic based conditions – they are human phenomena. As the British parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke once wrote, "Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot last".

We have heard the term corruption hypocritically bandied about in New Zealand over the past year. Those who have cried it the loudest have suffered the most, because New Zealanders know hypocrisy when they hear it.

In comparison, a lack of strong institutions of state to buttress vulnerable nations against corruption has left parts of the Pacific region in flux, and its future uncertain.

So while much of the internal struggle within Pacific nations has been cloaked in nationalistic fervour and the struggle for independence, the underlying cancer of corruption has too often been allowed to take root and spread.

New Zealand must never shirk its role as a champion of democracy in the region– it is after all what our heritage is built on.

The checks and balances of constitutional democracy are fundamental to the promotion of equitable development and respect for human rights and freedoms. Where these fail – as they have most recently in Fiji – the consequences are all too obvious.

We are seeing in Fiji a regime that has systematically suppressed freedom of speech, created a climate of fear, and abuse, and undermined confidence in key institutions of state whose role is to protect the rights of its citizens.

A detailed roadmap towards the restoration of democracy is urgently needed if further degradation is to be avoided. New Zealand's belief in the importance of constitutional democracy, strong institutions of state, and responsive government underpins our approach throughout the Pacific.

We are active supporters of democracy in Tonga, and are working as a partner within the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands to support the institutions of state in that country.

And consider the issue of the most recent Fiji coup and why New Zealand, among many other nations, has taken the stance it has. It was only mid 2006 when Fiji last held democratic elections, overseen by independent election observers.

Indeed New Zealand put significant resources into promoting democracy and ensuring the smooth running of the elections as much as was possible. On election night no one claimed the election was not fair.

We therefore cannot sit idly by as Fiji's military leader, who did not stand for election and does not have a democratic mandate, first through thinly veiled threats and then through the clear threat of violence, usurps office and then claims some perverse legitimacy.

Equally we will not be swayed by his threats of retaliation simply for voicing our outrage at his actions, and for taking the measures we warned him well in advance that we regrettably would take.

But the situation has become far graver in Fiji. We now have the dehumanising stories of those who voice concerns over the coup having bags put over their heads and being locked up with no sense of natural justice.

This is simply not acceptable at the most rudimentary level of human rights and we will continue to say so.

There was always a simple solution to any concerns that Commodore Bainimarama had over Fijian government policies. It is a solution that remains the most salient now. He should simply resign his military role and contest transparent democratic elections.

If he has the will of the people, then rather than having to appoint himself Prime Minister, he could hold the title legitimately – and be recognised by the international community as such.

As noted previously, we do not always agree with what other governments do, and sometimes we voice this publicly. However we respect their right as democratically elected governments to make independent choices.

We are also weary of those who seek to exploit the economic vulnerability of the Pacific. Organised trans-national crime, including money laundering and drug making, are already a reality in the Pacific, and require concerted international cooperation to be tackled effectively.

Fortunately the Pacific can draw on international best practice when confronting such challenges, and New Zealand plays a crucial role in this.
We will continue to rally our friends, who share our core democratic values, to help support legitimate Pacific island governments in their endeavours.

Despite its many challenges, the Pacific is not without hope. Our work is about incremental steps and long-term solutions. There is no magic wand or silver bullet that will fix the Pacific's diverse woes.

Over half New Zealand's aid budget goes to the Pacific, and our development initiatives extend across a range of government and business agencies and groups.

However we do not provide unaccountable largesse for Pacific leaders. We offer targeted aid where it can make the most difference over time.

The aid programme continues to transform to recognise new realities in the Pacific. It is focussed on addressing real poverty and hardship in the region. It is directed to the most needy and supports the region to lift its economic performance.

But many of the decisions that need to be taken for the Pacific to progress must be taken by Pacific nations themselves. We cannot and should not impose such decisions on them.

New Zealand's efforts in working in the Pacific are based on our own core values. This is why we can be optimistic that our efforts in our neighbourhood will be valued.

It is the nation in the mirror that shapes how we look in and how we look out in the Pacific.

Thank you.


Winston Peters' Rotary club speech, also came under fire from the New Zealand MP and Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Keith Locke published in an article from Scoop.

Locke rebuts Peters' accusations
Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 9:49 am
Press Release: Green Party
31 January 2007

Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson MP Keith Locke has rejected Foreign Minister Winston Peters' accusation that those who criticise the Bush administration are motivated by feelings of anti-Americanism.

"It is not 'cheap shot' anti-Americanism to criticise George Bush's war in Iraq. It is a 'cheap shot' however, for Mr Peters to accuse those who disagree with Mr Bush of wanting to 'jettison' relations with the United States," Mr Locke says.

"It is hardly 'anti-American' to side with the tens of thousands of patriotic Americans who are marching against the war, or to back American lawyers who are trying to help the people detained at Guantanamo Bay.

"New Zealand will earn a lot more American friends by telling the truth about Iraq, and by standing up for justice, than it will by keeping a cowardly silence."

"If Winston Peters was to be acting as a real friend of America he would, in our name, be cautioning the US government from proceeding further down its destructive path in Iraq, " Mr Locke says.

"Once a populist politician, Winston Peters has lost his ability to read the Kiwi mood, which is strongly opposed to the selfishness and the bullying of the Bush administration. It is sad to see our Foreign Minister choosing to go in to bat for George Bush, the most war-mongering American president in recent times.

"It is simply not acceptable for Mr Peters to say, as he did this morning, that we shouldn't 'go on' about Iraq.

"People here and around the world are alarmed that George Bush is adding fuel to the fire by sending more troops to Iraq, and by threatening Iran into the bargain. We have a responsibility to speak out, rather than just watch the death toll rise," said Mr Locke.


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