Showing posts with label Tonga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tonga. Show all posts

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The New Battle for the Pacific: How the West Is Losing The South Pacific To China, The UAE, And Just About Everyone Else.

Far from being small island states, Pacific Island countries are showing themselves as large ocean states, with vast fisheries, potential seabed resources, and increasingly important geostrategic positioning - as the range of military bases dotted throughout the region can attest.

However, just as the region is showing its importance, Western influence is waning. When the larger Western powers pulled out of the region following the end of the Cold War (the United Kingdom, for example, closed three South Pacific High Commissions in 2006), they turned to Australia and New Zealand to "manage" the area for the West. Ms. Cleo Paskal discusses how and why this happened and what are the options for the West in this new battle for the Pacific.

Ms. Cleo Paskal is an Associate Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources department at Chatham House, London, and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Geopolitics, Manipal University, India. 

Recorded at the East-West Center office in Washington, D.C., October 3, 2013

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Tonga Broadens Diplomatic Horizons.

The 44th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) opened this week, in Majuro, Marshalls Islands.

On the margins of the PIF Forum, an interesting development-Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill handed over a TOP $2.2M cheque to Tonga's Prime Minster, Lord Va'kaiano, tweeted by a Tongan official.

Tongan senior officials, meet with bil-lateral discussions with PIF observers, officials from United Arab Emirates.

 Tonga's Education Minister meets Cuban Ambassador, also on the margins of the PIF.

These diplomatic engagements by Tonga are indicative of the Kingdom's intention to broaden their outlook beyond their traditional diplomatic spheres. This may be an extension of the events, derived from Tonga's relations with New Zealand that had been mildly estranged, in the wake of a fiasco surrounding the withdrawal of Tourism Aid to Tonga, linked to the use of a Chinese donated plane.

Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister, Samiu Vaipulu retaliated with a broad side at New Zealand's meddlesome behavior, "We just don’t want anyone to interfere with our internal matters. They should not. And they have done that for years. And that’s what Fiji did and we should do the same thing."

Apprehensive DFAT officials New Zealand were quick to appease the pernicious effects to diplomatic relations. A visit by Defense Force chief, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones eventuated and gym equipment was donated, as a precursor to strengthen military ties with the Kingdom, as reported by Matangi Tonga.

The excerpt of Matangi Tonga article:  

NZ Defence Chief seeks stronger ties with Tonga
Friday, August 30, 2013 - 18:05 Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The New Zealand Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, is on a two-day counterpart visit to Tonga to ensure a stronger bond and cooperation with the Tonga Defence Services. Lt. Gen. Jones said today New Zealand and Tonga Defence have a strong close cooperation and partnership in the region over the past decade.
That long history and partnership provides a really good foundation for us to continue working strongly in the future, he said. “The objective of my visit is to ensure the relationship between our two militaries is made stronger and there is an opportunity for New Zealand Defence to engage in the right way with TDS and cemented for the future.
We have new capabilities that are available for example our patrol aircrafts are now available in greater numbers as well as our offshore patrol vessels.”

Lt. Gen. Rhys Jones and Tonga PM, Lord Tu'ivakano (Matangi Tonga)
He met with the Tonga Defence Commander Brigadier-General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu and discussed how to intergrate these capabilities into their partnership and handed over new gym equipment. “TDS has developed an infrastructure plan and we provide support where we can on each of those programs.

I also had discussions with Brigadier ‘Uta’atu over barracks and facilities development, the programs for development, and whether there is any opportunity for us to participate in,” he said. Tonga New Zealand cooperation, he said was evident in training programs where New Zealand Defence comes to Tonga and runs courses or hosts training for Tongan personnel in New Zealand. “This has gone on for decades, which has caused a deep relationship between individuals, our two defence services and formally between our two nations,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Jones said he also met Tonga's Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano and discussed the daily needs of the Tonga Defence and other wider issues including infrastructure development. “Tonga Defence is respected and has a good reputation around the world. TDS has gained a lot of experience having worked with the Americans in Iraq and the mission to Afghanistan alongside New Zealand and Australian troops as well as in Bougainville and in the Solomons in the Pacific region,” he said. Lt. Gen. Jones who visited Samoa and Tonga, returns to New Zealand on August 31.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flight Of A Fugitive? (Updated)

The saga of Tevita Uluilakeba Mara's flight from Fiji to Tonga is certainly gaining much attention on the web.

TVNZ web article highlights the diplomatic and cultural complications, derived from the events in question. TVNZ video.

The excerpt of the TVNZ web article:

Tonga harbours fleeing Fijian army officer
Military tension in the Pacific is raising fears of a conflict between Fiji and Tonga.
Tonga's navy spirited-away a high ranking Fijian army officer charged with trying to overthrow Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama. 
Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Mara, who has strong Tongan connections, is now under the kingdom's protection. Tonga's small navy is no match for its bigger Fijian military counterpart, but the kingdom's force not only rescued Mara, they are giving him sanctuary. 
"When I was rescued by the Tongan navy, I asked to be brought to Nukualofa, where the sure protection of King George's government I shall be able to tell the truth without fear of retribution about the tragic oppression that stifles my beloved land," Mara said.
Mara is the son of late president Ratu Mara. Along with Pita Driti, a high ranking commander, Mara was charged a week ago with mutiny and accused of trying to overthrow the Bainimarama regime. 
But he is now in the Tongan capital, Nukualofa, after being picked up by the Tongan navy south of Fiji's Lau islands. 
Mara is under the protection of the Tongan royal family, who he is related to. Bainimarama has said he will institute extradition proceedings tomorrow to have Mara returned to Fiji and he has asked the police to investigate who helped him to escape Fiji. 
In a press conference early this evening, Bainimarama said he takes "strong exception to the breaches of Fiji's sovereignty" and he is appealing to the Tongan royal family to "stop being in conspiracy with a self interested individual". 
Bainimarama described Mara as of a "despicable nature". Malakai Kolomatangi from Canterbury University said the move is quite surprising given the fact there will be diplomatic and military ramifications. 
"I think this needs to be settled and resolved quickly. We are perhaps looking at two major powers in terms of influence in the Pacific, going head-to-head," Kolomatangi said.
"Many observers have said in the past if you have standing armies doing nothing then you have a problem." 
The diplomatic situation between Tonga and Fiji has recently been tense, with both laying claim to the Minerva Reef which lies between the two countries. And Mara's message against Fiji's regime, believed to have been filmed in Tonga, has been posted on YouTube.
"When this hateful dictatorship has been eradicated, all of us who once served it shall answer to the Fijian people," he says on the video. 
ONE News Pacific correspondent Barabara Dreaver said this is "very much a developing situation with potentially serious implications for the region".
She said New Zealand foreign affairs official are keeping tabs on what is happening.
But Dreaver said the two countries are linked by blood ties and there is a feeling the issue will be sorted out on diplomatic terms.

Fiji Prime Minister addressed the issue in a press conference on Sunday evening. (MP3 posted below)

Fiji exiles board has a thread discussing the strange sequence of events, involving Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, the youngest son of the late Fiji President Ratu Kamisese Mara.

Post Script

The layers of expert opinions are interviewed by New Zealand media.

NewstalkZB interviews Tonga member of Parliament (M.P) Akalisi Pohiva regarding the situation. (MP3 posted below)

TVNZ interviews Associate Prof. Stephen Hoadley, a foreign affairs specialist with University of Auckland.

3 News interviews Prof. Steven Ratuva a Pacific Islands scholar from University of Auckland Centre for Pacific studies.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Seabed Mania in the South Pacific- Claims & Counter Claims.

Russia's new claim using the Doctrine of Discovery, to the seabed under the Artic polar ice cap, has a New Zealand connection. The most conspicuous link was with a NZ company, as this New Zealand Herald article explains.

The other link to Russia's extension of their continental shelf, is that the New Zealand Government has undertaken a similar extension to their own continental shelf, protruding North into the waters of the South Pacific, adjacent to Economic Exclusive Zones(EEZ) of Tonga and Fiji.

New Zealand had conducted preliminary discussions with Fiji and Tonga with respect to the area of overlapping continental shelf along the Colville and Kermadec Ridge complex that extends from the north of the North Island to Fiji and Tonga. Under the U.N Law of the Seas, to extend a zone, a state has to prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory.

What actually could limit New Zealand's territorial claim was the issue of Fiji's claim to the Minerva reef, a coral outcrop that is also claimed by the kingdom of Tonga. This territorial dispute between Fiji and Tonga had surfaced at the 2005 Commonwealth Summit held in Malta, as a Radio NZ article describes. Whether or not this contentious issue of Minerva, will be discussed at the South Pacific Forum in Tonga is any one's guess.

Tonga will host the 2007 South Pacific Forum and the question of who will attend from Fiji's Interim Government was a matter, raised by Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer in his usual Ad Nauseum style, which was reported by a Fiji Times article.

What prompted Russia to lay claim to this North pole seabed may be the fact that it is an oil-rich region. Oil is perhaps the underlying factor for New Zealand's extension to their continental shelf. New Zealand could use diplomatic avenues to favor one island nation's claim against the other; in order to cement their own seabed claims.

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