Aussie Modesty, Pacific Understanding, Ethnic Fijian Generosity, Public Service Outreach

  At the height of the Cold War some American referred to the Pacific as an American lake.  Now Australians seem to be doing the same.

In an otherwise informative background article on the Forum meeting to be held in Vila this week, a meeting at which both the Australian PM and Foreign Minister will be absent due to the forthcoming election, The Australian reveals as much or more about how Australia sees itself as it does about how Australia sees the Pacific. The image is certainly not suggestive of an equal relationship. Here are some examples:

Australia's bigger friends and allies, especially the US, take Canberra's lead to manage troublesome issues in the islands and to help guide them to prosperity. [Carving up the world may make for good geopolitics, but "management" and "guidance" is what parents provide to children.  Powerful as Australia may be, they are dealing with sovereign nations, not children.]

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer stressed last week that it is our natural sphere of influence. Or it could be, if we paid it more attention. [The article urged greater involvement, and knowledge of the Pacific.] other industrialised country has the Third World on its doorstep in the way the Pacific is on ours. Europe's former colonies are remote by comparison. [Actually, Paris to Algeria is only a little further than Darwin to Port Moresby and London to Lagos not much further than Sydney to Apia. And that's not to mention US proximity to Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.]

For Australia's policy aims to prevail, it will now need to rely on leadership at the forum summit to come from leaders broadly aligned with Canberra's regional perspective, chiefly New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key and Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is angling for forum institutions to be shifted to Samoa from suspended Fiji. [It is hoped they do not let big brother down.]

Fiji Live reports nothing new on what Pacific Island Leaders thought and said at last week's Natadola meeting but it provided a useful summary.  They supported the Strategic Framework for Change and Roadmap to Democracy and elections in 2014. They were apparently impressed with progress on reforms and initiatives, especially on corruption, rural development, poverty alleviation, education and governance) and noted that nation-building is not a simple process but one that requires a concerted amount of commitment and will to obtain the desired changes that will benefit all communities. They also expressed support for continued engagement, noting that they share similar problems.

INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE. Adi Elisapeci Samununu Waqanivalu of the Wellington Council of Fiji Communities  says Fiji's ethnic policy is robbing its indigenous people of their rights. She was not referring to being dispossessed of land, language, beliefs or cultural heritage but to having to share the name 'Fijian' with other citizens from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.  The one-name-for-all is an attempt by Government to give all citizens a sense of belonging and equality before the law. Indigenous Fijians, usually, but not in this case, well known for their generosity of spirit, will henceforth be officially known as i-taukei, an indigenous name (which Fijian is not)  they have often used for themselves.

The Council intends to canvas the views on ethnic identity of all Fiji people living in New Zealand before it takes a human rights action over the issue. “It’s almost like, I now live in New Zealand, can I call myself a Maori?" said Adi Elisapeci,  "And see how much I can insult a Maori by doing that? You know all of a sudden we’ve been sort of shafted and say ’Move over, I’m also called this’, without consultation.”

The Council, formed in April this year, comprises ethnic Fijians, and  is closely linked to two Wellington-based anti-government blogsites.

My guess is that Maori would be quite happy to give up or share their name for the bounties that ethnic Fijians in Fiji still possess. In fact, like Fijians, Maori had no common name before the advent of Europeans. The story goes that when asked who they were, they answered, "Maori,"  ordinary people, implying that it was the strangers who were not ordinary. Sharing a name is surely not too high a price to pay for removing the alienation felt by many Fiji citizens who are not ethnic Fijians. 

MINISTRY OF ITAUKEI. The Ministry of Fijian Affairs is now officially known as the Ministry of Itaukei.The Ministry of Itaukei will continue to ensure that the Government will develop, maintain and promote policies that will provide for the continued good governance and welfare of the iTaukei now and into the future.

The legal framework within which the Ministry operates remains the same in terms of covering the Itaukei Affairs Act and Regulations, the Native Lands & Fisheries Commission Act, and the Native Lands Act. -- based on 2010 No:1137/MOI.

.The routine monthly meetings of permanent secretaries are now being held at different "front line" venues to assist the public service "reach out and learn about work activities and issues of important State Institutions." PS of the PSA Parmesh Chand said “It helps us to understand individually and collectively what the issues are and how best we can work together to effectively address them as a Team.” The PS's heard presentations on Fiji’s Productivity Report and the Impact of the 2010 Revised Budget on operating expenditure of Government.  The July meeting was held at St. Giles Mental Health Hospital and previous ones at the Prison and Correctional Facilities at Naboro and at a Ministry of Fisheries and Forests Tree Planting exercise. -- based on 2010 No:1139/PSC.


TheMax said…

I'm just wondering why Adi Elisapeci is still using the title Adi when she has given away her birthright by migrating to a foreign country away from where that title is relevant? That is far worse because it's a betrayal to the indigenous people of Fiji.
Where's the Charter? said…
What has happened to the so called 'People's Charter'? It appears to have gone off the radar faster than the 'Natadola Communique' or Major Anna the didn't last too long Chief Registrar?
Anonymous said…

As an Australian I am very dissappointed
that PM is not attending. At least the Foreign Minister should attend.
Anything less is a insult to the region
Anonymous said…
On the Side lines in Viti Levu

It would be great if the presenation on the progress made on the "Strategic Framework for Change and Roadmap to Democracy" could be made public - slides and speach. The public could perhaps better understand exactly what progress has been made.

On the ground here there appears to have been some progress - updating a lot of laws for example but in other areas no progress - eg dialogue, constitution. The international media seem to observe no progress and they might be wrong.

If government won't make it public we should be sceptical and maybe someone should leak it.

We have to hold the PM and his Government accountable for the roadmay somehow.
Anonymous said…
No doubt that formally the Pacific countries are sovereign nations. The problem is that sovereignty is a relative term. If more than 50 % of your GDP comes from aid (as is the case in some Pacific countries such as Kiribati) it is very unlikely that you are de facto a sovereign nation. Aid receivers have to engage in political dialogue with donors since the sixties and this will not change any time soon. And what about these territories and freely associated states such as New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Niue and Cook Is? What I saw there lets me to believe that from the perspective of the citizenry, this sovereign status may not be so desirable after all. PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga have demonstrated many times over that self governance is a considerable challenge for miniature countries. So do we want to go back to colonial rule? Well even if we wanted, who wants to take Fiji?
Anonymous said…
No reasonable person is going to disagree that getting PS and their team out and about is a good idea and these small steps do help. However PM keeps talking about major reform. That's the bit people are more sceptical about.

It feels like Fiji having bathed in the great (locally precieved) victory of Natadola now has a sense of legitimacy, acceptance and respect.

Sorry guys you need to do a lot more yet. They agreed the plan was credible home grown plan. You will be judged in the longer term on your actions.

What exactly do think has happended since the meeting ?
Snoopy said…
In New Zealand all residents are called New Zealanders - that is the nationality. The indigenous are called Maori. Mrs Waqanivalu's comparison of everyone in Fiji being called Fijian to everyone in NZ being called Maori is invalid in my opinion.

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