Short Briefs Wed 24.2.2010

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(o) Bainimarama considers full withdrawal 
from Commonwealth

In what can only be described as inappropriate and poorly timed diplomacy, unfortunately  too often a hallmark of the Fiji government, PM Bainimarama has said  Fiji will consider a full withdrawal from the Commonwealth if the association of countries continue to harass and meddle in attempts to move the nation forward.

This statement could usefully have been hinted at to someone like NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully. It should  not be publically mused over where those advising McCully and other foreign ministers will probably -- and wrongly --  write it off as bluff or bravado, just as 20 years ago no one thought royalist Fiji would declare itself a republic.

I have no problem with the PM's reasons, just his announcement and its timing. He's spot on in his assessment of the Commonwealth position. The organization has listened too much to Australia and New Zealand and too little to Fiji. It lumped Fiji in with Zimbabwe, and seemed unable to understand or listen to Fiji’s aspirations, posing the same questions over and over again about the "return to democracy."  In turn, Bainimarama stated over and over again what needs to be done before it conducts a democratic election. Government, said Bainimarama, will complete the reforms started, and fulfill their mandate to put in place a new Constitution before elections in 2014.

Why can't the Commonwealth and Fiji's foreign friends live with that, and help Fiji keep on track towards 2014?

(+) PNG Supports Fiji, Melanesian Spearhead Group. Papua New Guinea government has reaffirmed its support for Fiji,  will continued support during the challenging phase in Fiji's history, continue to closely engage with Fiji in dialogue about the status of reforms being undertaken. PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal acknowledged the progress so far, and will assistand reassured that PNG remained ready to assist where it could, particularly with preparations for elections. The next Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders summit will be hosted in Fiji in July when PM Bainimarama will take over its chairmanship.

(+) Nailatikau visits Naboro. Fiji President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau toured the Naboro Prison yesterday and said  he was impressed with the changes taking place within the Fiji Prisons and Corrections service, most especially the spiritual and other rehabilitation programmes. About a hundred minimum and medium prisons prisoners welcomed the President.

(+) Taiwanese experts help train prison inmates. Taiwanese technical mission experts based Sigatoka are training inmates at Naboro, Lautoka and Ba prisons "the best agriculture and aquaculture practices."Since 2009 the experts haveconducted two-week training for 15 groups of 15 inmates. Link.

(o) Australian aid has failed to develop local capacity in the Pacific overseas "experts"  are keeping Pacific Islanders out of jobs: Helen Hughes.

(-) UK Methodists recently engaged in day of prayer and fasting for Fiji. Their website claimed the Fijian (sic!) Church is under increasing pressure from the country’s government. It has been forced to cancel its annual Conference and choir festivals until 2014, and local districts and circuits are also having their activities restricted, with administrative meetings banned. Further, its Standing Committee has been charged with breaking the Emergency Regulations and some ministers have been charged with spying on government.

(+) Corruption again? The Ministry of Provincial Development has suspended several officers after an audit on its housing assistance scheme revealed that a portion of the $2.5million contributed by rural dwellers was missing. Link. A Fiji Times editorial has  applauded the suspension.


Qanibulu said…
I can understand Bainimarama's frustration.

Leading Commonwealth Countries like Britain, Australia, NZ and Canada can see it fit to compete with Fiji in sevens rugby on the world stage in HK yet vehemently protest Fiji's involvement in the Commonwealth games in Delhi.

The stigma of the first coup in 1987 has stuck and will remain so even if Bainimarama bends over backwards to appease the select elitist countries that influence policy for this organisation that has long outlived its usefulness.

Fiji's history of coups has seen it go in and out of the commonwealth more times than the town bike. What Bainimarama does or does not do will make no difference whatsoever to its standing in the Commonwealth scheme of things. It will always be frowned upon as the black sheep, not fit to share the same stage as its goody two shoes neighbours.
Qanibulu said…
I think Bainimarama's statement is well timed as it will set the tone for the meeting.

What he my be implying is this - the Big Stick diplomacy does not work. Even though you come to the meeting armed with a tiny pencil, but leaving the big dude with the massive cudgel at the door. You see the big dude with the cudgel does not scare me anymore, so please don't waste both your time and mine. We have gone past that point.
Sali said…
While I agree with the above post we must remember the positives of being part of the Commonwealth. In our next stage of development we will need all the assistance available from other member states. Seeking loans from the IMF will be much easier if we a re a member. Training of civil servants etc are all fully funded under various programs.

Frank also needs to be aware of the symbolism of the commonwealth as the majority of Fijians still see Elizabeth as their Queen. This sounds trite but losing the Queen may be a greater shock to the average citizen than the vague issue of leaving the commonwealth.
Free Fiji said…
If Bainimarama wants to leave the Commonwealth that is up to him. He has the guns and the power. But he does NOT speak for all Fijians. He was NOT elected. The only reason he is there is that at the moment he has the guns.
Real Fijians will always be welcomed into the Commonwealth of nations and the Pacific family - but NOT the military regime and coup apologists.
TheMax said…
@ Free Fiji

Just as your name implies, we must also leave the Commonwealth in order to free ourselves from forever having the stigma of being a colonized country embedded to our consciousness forever more.

There are countless countries in the world that are not part of the Commonwealth yet still survive on their own. It's obvious that the Commonwealth is only good for, yes, Britain herself only and her eyes in the Pacific - Australia and New Zealand.

Leaving the Commonwealth does not mean we cannot trade or communicate with other member countries. It's only done to free ourselves from being harassed to meet certain conditions when those conditions are not to our benefit at all.

Having early election does not solve the problem we have in Fiji. We need a fundamental change and reforms first with regards to the constitution and electoral system.
Queen's man said…
Bainimarama is a complete dolt to be canvassing this option as some kind of threat to his Commonwealth partners to lay off the regime. "Free Fiji" is absolutely right. Only an elected leader with a legitimate mandate from the people has the right to make a decision of this magnitude. So leave it till 2014 so that ordinary Fiji citizens can decide whether they want the Commonwealth link severed. I guarantee any popular vote would oppose such a madcap, juvenile exercise in foot stomping. None of us had any say at all in the removal of the Queen as our head of state, which is a scandal in itself. We want her back and we want our Commonwealth ties strengthened, not severed. Bainimarama is a tin pot dictator with no legitimacy whatsoever apart from his guns. And his latest pronouncements confirm that he's a petulant, childish goon who sees himself as Fiji's saviour but is really an emperor with no sulu. Got that Qanibulu?

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