3. What New Zealand Can Do to Help Resolve the Fiji Political Situation

Since writing the previous article in this three part series, Bainimarama's remark about the "people" wanting  him to stay on after 2014 has been taken up by his opponents as the first sign he's not serious about elections. His remark was not read in its context. He was illustrating the support he had during his provincial tours to debunk Smith and McCully's remarks that the situation in Fiji had deteriorated. There never was any suggestion that  elections would not be held in September 2014. See this FijiLive clarification.  

Photo: NZ PM John Key --- looking for an answer?

"They still cannot and do not want to understand the situation in Fiji and in doing that Australia and New Zealand have failed to understand and recognize my Government’s efforts in creating a country that is non-racial, culturally vibrant and united, well governed, fully democratic nation that seeks progress and prosperity through merit based equality, opportunity and peace. That is what we been telling these people for the last four years.” --- Bainimarama. http://www.radiofiji.com.fj/fullstory.php?id=28260


Opinion: Crosbie Walsh

There are four essentials.
  • One, Bainimarama and the Fiji Government must be treated with the respect due to a sovereign nation. It is a studded insult to refer to Bainimarama as the interim PM and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola as the interim Foreign Minister.  Bainimarama is the de facto PM and there's nothing interim about it. Nothing is achieved by insulting the man you wish to influence. 
  • Two, the first move, aimed at triggering positive responses from Fiji, must come from New Zealand or Australia.Why? Because Fiji already made its move in inviting the Ministers to Fiji. The invitation was withdrawn after the Ministers' comments.  It's our move.
  •  Three, each positive step taken by Fiji should be publicly acknowledged and welcomed, and followed by a further quid pro quo "concession" from New Zealand.  One-off negative steps by Fiji should not be exaggerated or dramatised. They are better overlooked or discussed behind the scenes. An open exchange of angry or disparaging words should be avoided. 
  • Four,  no further attempts should be made to bring the elections forward from 2014; concentrate instead on the suggested actions listed below.
Our government and Australia's should also cease their covert support for the ousted Qarase government and urge Fiji government opponents to reassess their position. No SAS paratroopers are coming to their rescue and no helicopter will swoop down on the military barracks to abduct Bainimarama.

While, ultimately, it is what governments do that decide national outcomes, our media should be encouraged to play a better informed positive role -- or at least stop playing a negative role. Its Fiji coverage  has been so partisan that it's often an embarrassment to the fair-minded. And TV could start by showing Bainimarama wearing something other than a military uniform.

Governments and politicians do not pluck foreign policies, strategies and tactics out of the air. Our Government turns for advice  and information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and NZAid.  Government should instruct these advisers to prioritise work on how to break the impasse and improve our relations with Fiji. The longer the present situation is allowed to deteriorate, the harder it will be to remedy.The Ministry needs to re-think its sources, information and advice on Fiji and start again from square one.

These are the things I think NZ (and Australia) can do to restore relations with Fiji and  help resolve the political situation. My suggestions are listed in roughly easier-to-harder order of difficulty, with a comment added where necessary.
  • Try immediately to restore the lost ground, by behind the scenes approaches
  • Amend travel advisories, indicating that visitors need only take the normal precautions
  • Make the NZ High Commission in Suva more pro-active in meeting government and trade officials
  • Restore the previous normal access to the NZ High Commission floors in the Reserve Bank Building.  I understand even applications for visas now have to come by courier post!
  • Do not discourage, and in some areas encourage, NZ trade and investment activities in Fiji
  • Ease up on the Travel bans, starting with the families of non-military officials
  • Restore full working relations with Fiji in all regional agencies other than the Forum
  • Progressively encourage more Fiji participation in Pacer and Forum affairs
  • Sustain pressure for human rights improvements by all means but give, where it is due, credit for social justice and other improvements.
  • Inform the Commonwealth, the EU and other international agencies that some social justice issues are improving, and generally give credit where credit is due.
  • Offer technical assistance on anti-corruption measures, legal draftsmanship, constitutional law, electoral reforms, and other areas where Fiji lacks, and we have, the necessary expertise
  • Progressively restore full diplomatic relations
Finally, there should be no sense of shame or back pedalling in modifying our dealings with Fiji. In the real world, policies often have to fit situations because ever-changing situations rarely fit policies. 

We will not be adopting a new approach because we approve of coups or the Bainimarama government. Our new approach will simply reflect our improved understanding of how best to deal with the realities of a de facto government. We will be making the most of a difficult situation, ever intent on the need to achieve the best outcomes for our near neighbour -- and for ourselves.

The last thing either country needs, and this is not the first time I've said it,  is a failed coup.  Some permanent traction needs to come from the roller coaster events of the last three and one-half years.

Comments

White Frangipani said…
Croz - all you have said in "What New Zealand Can Do to Help Resolve the Fiji Political Situation" is spot on and the right way to go. NZ (Murray McCully) need to apologise to PM Frank Bainimarama and his government for the arrogant and uniformed comments made after the Auckland Forum meeting. Fijians are very forgiving people and I am sure forgiveness will not be withheld! I also think that the Pacific Forum secretary needs to either step down or step up and report accurately the facts about what is really happening in Fiji. I do wonder if the Pacific Forum members have actually read through the Fiji "People's Charter". Most, if not all Pacific Forum members should agree with the sentiment and content in the charter. The NZ Government needs to WAKE UP now - but it may already be too late.
White Frangipani said…
Croz - Radio New Zealand really need to start reading your blog for balance. It is such a shame that they drop-kicked you from Bryan Crump's "Nights" programme. This is their take on Bainimarama's remark about the "people" wanting him to stay on after 2014.
Radio NZ International report:
Fiji Labour Party challenges Bainimarama rule
http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=54008
Posted at 01:52 on 07 June, 2010 UTC

The Fiji Labour Party says the interim prime minister should hold a national referendum to give legitimacy to his claims that people want elections deferred beyond 2014.

Last week, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said the people of Fiji were urging him to delay his election plans.

He said people were happy with the regime’s focus on infrastructure development, agriculture, tourism, health and education.

But the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the feedback his party is getting is quite different

“People are quite disillusioned with the ever escalating cost of living hitting them hard. They would like to return to normality. They would like elections and constitutional rule. They want to be free to speak up, they want media freedom and at the moment they feel oppressed.”
Mahendra Chaudhry says there should be inclusive political dialogue to move towards early elections, but he says this is not happening at the moment.
sara'ssista said…
the idea that other nations need to step down and capitulate and apologise?? is laughable and will be greeted as such. And apparently when this illegal regime , and they will, does backtrack, prevaricate, distort and abuse, these nations are to ignore it . The fijian nation is sovereign, this regime is not lawful and should be treated as such. They must stand down and go back to barracks, the region has little to lose by standing firm. This country and regime however needs the region, it must make or concessions or he status quo remain. This so-called 'dialogue' already takes up too much time from foreign governments ad their time is better spent. This is very much like hostage negotiation, the region can afford to wait this regime out as they are setting themselves up to intervene again and again as they see it as their 'role'. Clearly the pressure is not enough and the sanction need to be much more severe. This regime has 'form' after making a deal , claiming to have been 'pressured' and then reneging.
Whistling Dixie said…
Croz, much as I admire your persistence, aren't you tired of whistling in the wind? There's no hope whatsoever of the foreign affairs crowd in Wellington listening to you. The die has been cast for a long time. NZ needed to show it was open to engagement but it was always going to be on its terms. Any backdown would have incensed the media/human rights lobby and the SDL. And it would have had people shaking their heads and asking why we had to endure all the fuss in the first place. You're on a hiding to nothing with this one so why not write about something else? This just smacks of desperation
MJ said…
Croz, everything you list is so logical and sensible it just beggars belief why NZ and Aust have not started down this path already. What are the political influences or national strategic interests that are causing NZ and Aust to behave in the way they have? Is it just the humiliation that Frank has caused them by first staging the coup, despite their best efforts to prevent it? Or that Frank appears to be successfully progressing on his strategy for Fiji despite everything they have tried to do to stop him?
Maybe your next opinion piece should look more closely as to why NZ/Aust have taken and stuck to their hard line foreign policies in regard to Fiji. It cannot be a strictly “moral” stand, as they have (or would have) supported or turned a blind eye to other governments being removed (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwee, Pakistan, many central and south American and African countries during the cold war) and they also happily deal with other non-democratic countries (China, no travel bans with them).
FLP slams the junta said…
Croz
As you get more desperate in trying to argue (the lost cause) of the bullet over the ballot, you seem to have missed that the FLP has now turned on the junta. You have ignored the rights of ethnic Fijians under this human rights abusing military junta - are you now going to ignore the pleas of the indo Fijians, especially the poor ones who are suffering so much under this lost cause regime? Are you in denial?
There is no sense of shame or back peddling for you to admit you were wrong in supporting the bullet over the ballot - people make mistakes?
Global Citizen said…
The problem with Walsh and Mike Field is that while they are both good at both ends of the political debate they both make the same mistake - that people in New Zealand care about Fiji. They do not. For a time Fiji was a kind of fashionable destination; but is was heavily discounted after 2006 and in the minds of most New Zealanders, Fiji is the place brain dead people form Palmerston North and Hamilton go ... the politics of Fiji (ditto its rugby, its music and anything else to do with Fiji - lord people do not care who rules the place)... the problem with Walsh and Field in their relative rantings is that neither have come up with an argument over why anybody should care about Fiji. After all, Fijians dont care about their land (witness the large numbers leaving), so why should anybody else?
Gotcha said…
Global Citizen, if people in NZ don't care about Fiji, what the hell are you doing here writing about it? Qori!
Global problem said…
Global Citizen, what a strange and rather sad figure you cut here. You don't care what happens in Fiji yet can't keep away from the debate about its future. I'm not an expert on these things but it seems to me like some kind of acute psychiatric condition. Can't stand it, can't stay away from it. Perhaps obsessive-compulsive disorder couple with extreme self loathing or something equally weird? Don't worry. Dr Walsh is very patient in dealing with such people and the more you read, the more chance there is of a cure.
Anonymous said…
Croz,

The bottom line is this - Bainimarama does not give a rats ass about diplomatic relations with NZ or Australia. Whether they like it or lump it the elections will be held as promised in 2014. The line it is drawn.

There is no diplomatic or political leverage to be gained by Australia or NZ making any concessions at this point in time. Finito. Take your baskets of junkets home and eat them. The curse it is cast.

Take some time out croz, nothing you can do.
Vani said…
Mr. Walsh...as a Fijian who utterly and wholeheartedly DO NOT support this coup or any coup for that matter, I see your support of this COUP in my country to be ridiculous, stupid and downright an ABUSE OF MY HUMAN RIGHT!

Why should your government make sure that this is not a "failed coup"? What's up with that?

Bainimarama is a loose cannon, with egotistical backers and his guns boosting him from behind. It is the 21st century. We Fijians are educated and open-minded, as we travel the world and experience and understand the ideals of democracy, knowing well that democracy does have its inadequacies. But it doesn't mean we will use our GUNS (which we don't have) to make a "truly democratic Fiji," to use Voreqe's utopian idea. Duh!

Your goody-too good-shoes should only rest with you. Please, don't infect the already SICK Bainimarama with your delusional ideals of making a "coup" a good thing. It is not and it is ILLEGAL! Period.
White Frangipani said…
Hmmm, reading some of the comments it seems that some cages have been rattled once again. People from NZ do care very much about Fiji. Fiji holds a very special place in our hearts. High profile NZ broadcaster Paul Holmes (ex NewstalkZB radio host) is an award-winning Herald on Sunday columnist (N Z Herald) and also presents a political programme on TVNZ called Q&A. He has just been to Fiji staying on an island at a resort called Qamea. Last Sunday he wrote his usual Sunday column about his present holiday in Fiji. His anecdotal comment on Frank Bainimarama was interesting because he has not been that positive in the past – more neutral to negative. No doubt he learnt first hand about the changes that have been going on in Fiji – from the grass roots people. When we were over in Fiji a few weeks ago we were given exactly the same message from “mainland” Fijians, Suva to Nadi.

Perhaps Pacific Forum Secretary-General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade should go and visit this island resort too!

Paul Holmes opinion on Fiji:
Fantasies for all on these islands http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10649958&pnum=0
………AS FOR Commodore Frank Bainimarama? Well, on the odd occasion when his name has come up, and it hasn't very often, I hear nothing but good. People seem to feel that he is doing well, rooting out corruption in the army and the police.
There is consternation at the attitude of Australia and New Zealand. Bainimarama has made transport to schools free. This is particularly good for people on outer islands such as this one, where going to school involved a boat ride and then a bus, twice a day. And with us turning up our noses at Bainimarama, the Chinese money is pouring in, wouldn't you know………………
Suka ko Viti said…
Croz,

All you prat about is what NZ and Aust should do to appease the illegal Fiji regime. I'm afraid you are being dishonest and naive and one-sided. You have conveniently ignored that Fiji has an illegal regime and they should be making the greatest concessions and show they are genuine in returning Fiji to democratic rule.

All you are saying is to give in to the illegal regime and all should be well. It really is NOT a quid-pro-quo but a one sided call from an avid apologist of an illegal regime. You should stop pretending and be honest enough to admit your keen support for a dictator.
Matai said…
Croz,

Some feedback fro you from indigenous Fijians, unlike you on Matavuvale.com

"I honestly think that Mr Walsh is loosing his marbles. In his quest to be taken seriously he has crossed the line. Instead of trying to remain as a respected academic like to Dr Narsey & co he has now become the number one coup apologist. Despite his attempt, he has failed continuously to convince anyone apart from ratu suguraki's ardent supporter about the illegal PM's integrity.

Mr Walsh is now becoming a mind reader, that is if he has not consulted tarot card readers in the past. He is now trying to tell us what we should believe from the interaction between the NZ, Aust govt and his puppet master. If ratu suguraki does not mean what he said then he should have kept his big gob shut, you don't have to make excuses for his stupidity. It is well known that he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer despite his sometimes well written speeches.

There are democratic processes in place that could be followed if you want to allow for mistakes Mr Walsh, but it does not involve restricting peoples choices and freedom to express themselves. For the time being you puppet master can have another nights sleep with his bodyguard but the countdown has already begun."
Lesu ko Viti said…
Bula Croz,

Please include this feedback on your piece from Matavuvale.com

"I'm sorry but this Crosbie Walsh does not do any GOOD for me. He may have lived in Fiji for years and worked at the USP, it still doesn't make him the best "outsider's" voice out there because he simply SUPPORTS THE USE OF GUNS TO DEPOSE OF AN ELECTED GOVERNMENT.

SO, his ramblings are just fit for his bathroom, using Frank's TP...really..not worth the read."

You see Croz, you are just blowing in the winds with your one-sided analysis on Fiji.

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