More Rubbish from Tupuola Terry Tavita
Military Numbers per 1000 Population: Selected Countries
|New Zealand||Aust |
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, June 23, 2010) - The deteriorating situation in Fiji is of major concern to the region. Particularly Pacific Island countries with military and para-military services. We could imagine that several commanders in the vast military forces of Papua New Guinea – and to a lesser extent Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and even Tonga – are now eyeing developments in Fiji closely. No doubt it is giving leaders like Sir Michael Somare some sleepless nights. If it could happen in Fiji, why not other Pacific countries with armies of their own? Read more.
What's wrong with Samoa? Once it was Fiji's friendly neighbour but for many months now there have been only negative comments from Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Forum Sec.Gen. Tuiloma Slade, and the Samoa Government's acting newspaper editor Tupuola Terry Tavita. The paragraph above comprises the opening lines of Tupuola's article Deteriorating Situation in Fiji Alarms region published in Pacific Scoop, the Pacific Island Development Programme in Hawai'i and goodness knows where else.
The article is wildly speculative, harmful to dialogue and improving relations with Fiji, and factually incorrect. What is deteriorating? The Fiji situation has not substantially changed since June last year, and is certainly no worse. Who is sounding alarms that have not already been sounded? And who exactly is the region? Australia and New Zealand perhaps, but Island nations other than Samoa seem quite unfazed.
The article is factually incorrect. Check out PNG's "vast military forces" in the table above. PNG tops the table for having the smallest military relative to population. With a population a little larger than New Zealand, their military is under one-third the New Zealand size.
Solomon Islands and Vanuatu do not have a military, not one, and Tonga's 450 soldiers perform mainly ceremonial functions. It would be unseemly to have a king without an army.
I'm not prone to conspiracy theories but one cannot dismiss the possibility that Samoa has a hidden agenda in its recent pronouncements. Do they think they will finally persuade the Forum and other regional agencies to shift their headquarters from Suva to Apia? Are they wrestling with Fiji for regional leadership? Do they think that any loss for Fiji is a win for Samoa? Have they been asked to be, or do they see themselves as, the Pacific Islands mouthpiece for Australia and New Zealand, perhaps in the hope of more aid? Or did they all just get out on the wrong side of the bed?
Tupuola almost stumbled on a partial truth. It is probable that Australian and New Zealand policies towards Fiji are influenced by the idea of containing instability (something like America's old domino theory and the need to contain communism) but it is political and civic -- and not military -- instability with which they are concerned. They are not so out of touch with the Pacific that they fear military coups in PNG or Tonga. It could happen, of course, but it is highly unlikely, and coups do not necessarily need military force.
A Note to the Table
While you are checking out the table, note the size of the Fiji military. It has an army and navy of 3,500 active and 6,000 reservists, that per capita places it midway between France and Austria, and not too different from the UK and USA.
Many on the active list are engaged overseas on UN peacekeeping missions. And while Fiji's land area may be small, it consists of 320 islands and its sea area (EEZ) is 1.3 km2. Not an easy area to protect, if the need arose. Samoa relies on New Zealand for its protection; Nauru on Australia. Readers who remember Qarase's call to Australia for military help in 2006 and the presence of two Australian warships just outside Fiji's territorial waters will understand Fiji's reluctance to rely on Australia for protection. And little comfort can be taken from Australian Opposition foreign spokeswoman Julie Bishop saying the coalition supported proposed draft laws on sanctions ---- as an alternative to military force.