Australia Admits Lobbying, Fiji Says Quiet Diplomacy Failed

In an earlier opinion piece posted today, this blog implicated Australia in a number of issues thought to be related to the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the MSG Plus meeting that was to be held in Fiji next week.  Now Australia admits lobbying ...

SMITH ADMITS LOBBYING MSG LEADERS; FIJI REPLIES; VANUATU SUSPECT. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said acting high commissioner Sarah Roberts would be declared persona non grata on Tuesday, after Australia lobbied for the postponement of a regional summit in protest at Fiji’s lack of democracy.

"Australia," he said,  "has been making representations that it was inappropriate for such a meeting to occur. Whether of course the Melanesian Spearhead Group meets or not is a matter for the Melanesian Spearhead Group."

Col.Pio Tikoduadua. PermSec PM's Office said, "Essentially it's not something that has just been born out of thin air. We can't take things lying down." He added that Australia has shown no commitment towards improving relations with Fiji;  Fiji was sick of Australia's interfering and bullying; and Vanuatu's support of Australia's policy was probably linked to its highest ever AusAID allocation, over $A66 million for 2010-11.

POSTSCRIPT. Several readers have asked what's wrong with lobbying? This was Smith's or his journalist's word, not mine.  I would have chosen complicity or interference.

'QUIET DIPLOMACY' FAILED. Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said Fiji had exhausted all avenues and on numerous occasions we have relayed our concerns to the Acting High Commissioner.

These actions ultimately result in undermining  the growth prospects of the Fiji economy and the good rapport between Pacific Island Countries, The practice of quiet diplomacy was given every chance to prevail by Fiji authorities in our efforts to seek understanding and co-operation. Ms Roberts was advised to stop interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs, he said.

The Minister said the Australian government has been engaged in strategies to undermine Fiji's sovereignty and weaken the economy, and this has been further highlighted by calling on MSG countries, especially Vanuatu, not to attend the MSG Leaders Summit.

The  MSG leaders summit and associated meetings is very important to Fiji and the Pacific countries given the opportunity it presents to expand ties in trade, tourism and peoples exchange. A strong MSG makes a strong Pacific Islands Forum.

According to Ratu Inoke, most of the non-MSG member countries had already accepted the invitation to attend. Ratu Inoke said Australia has no business in the MSG leaders summit but has continued to discourage MSG member States.

This is evident in the increase in aid from Australia in its 2010-2011 budget to the Pacific.  This special aid from Australia will see the Vanuatu Government  receive $66.4m, the highest ever in the country's aid from Australia.

Ratu Inoke has expressed disappointment at the continued efforts by Australia to undermine the Fiji Government's effort to boost the economy and return to Parliamentary democracy by 2014.

Fiji is being subjected to undue pressure and frustrated in its efforts by the use of economic, financial and political clout of Australia  who feel that they are the sole arbiter for what is best for us all, Ratu Inoke said.

Fiji as a Sovereign State will not be influenced by Australia on what we consider to be of benefit to our country and people. Ratu Inoke said that it is extremely important that Australia re-engages with Fiji and that continue dialogue to work  through issues. Unfortunately, this did not work in Ms Sarah Roberts's case. But he remains open and optimistic that our temporarily strained diplomatic relations are repairable. -- Based on Mininfo release.

FIJI STILL HOSTS. Fiji will still host representatives from other countries that have confirmed their arrival to next week's meeting, says the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Ministers Office Colonel Pio Tikoduadua.Tikoduadua says there are other issues to discuss with other countries apart from the cancelled MSG meet.
“We have not cancelled the arrival of the leaders who will want to come and take advantage of the opportunity to pursue other matters. We have not received word yet from Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands or the leader of the FLNKS movement. At this point in time we are still preparing for the leaders meeting with or without Natapei.”


Anonymous said…

Oh no a country lobbied. That must have never happened before in the history of nations.

Now back to reality. If Fiji has a gripe with every country that has ever lobbied for something it's going to have a lot of problems. Isn't this why Fiji is so keen to convene and chair the MSG ? So it can seriously lobby members + smaller invited countries.

Those running Fiji need to seriously grow up.
Know your enemy said…
All this glosses over the fact that Fiji did little or nothing to counter Australian lobbying or pressure on the other MSG members. The regime should have had either Ratu Inoke or its roving ambassador visiting Port Moresby, Honiara and Port Vila in the lead-up to the summit shoring up its own position. Why didn't it? Because it seems to have naively put too much trust in its special relationship with its MSG partners and underestimated the forces ranged against it. Fiji needs to get a lot tougher, especially when it comes to dealing with a Labor Government in Australia. Remember, these guys are part of the toughest and most cynical political machine the neighbourhood has ever seen. As we saw with what happened to Kevin Rudd, they are ruthless political assassins who will stop at nothing if it means winning. This is what the Bainimarama regime is up against, a political system that makes a routine tour of duty in the Middle East look like a picnic. Well, now Frank has learned his lesson the hard way. Australia will do whatever it takes to get its own way in the Pacific. It's wake up call that Ratu Mara's famous "Pacific Way" of consensus and consultation no longer applies. Fiji will have to fight fire with fire and that includes taking the battle to the Aussies at every turn. The only thing these guys respect is toughness and the will to win. Let's give it to them. Na'i valavala dina, vakadua.
Global Citizen said…
So last week Bainimarama decrees a special budget because he said it unexpectedly rained in Fiji and that cyclones came. Now he has discovered that one nation might have lobbied another. Between Bainimarama and Croz, it is hard to figure who is the more naive, who is the more stupid.
What is the United Nations, other than a place to lobby. What, Croz, is lobbying? Is it wrong. One can only imagine you lobbied in your days for a pay rise.
It is simply stunning who introverted, lost and inverted you and Fiji are. Oh, and while at it, was not VB in Sth Korea when all this happened? What was he doing there? Lobbying, I guess. Maybe even in Fiji's interests - that's what countries do.
Time for a little chat said…
If "quiet democracy" has failed, what about some pointed truths face to face? Frank needs to get back from Korea ASAP and get on another plane to Vila, Honiara and Moresby. There, he needs to tell his Melanesian brothers what he really thinks about them falling into line with the Australian bullies and humiliating him in the process. Whether or not they like his government, they owed him the courtesy of not leading him into an ambush. Frank especially needs to figuratively pin the miserable lackey Natapei to the wall for a few seconds and remind him of what once used to happen to traitors like him in Fiji. Then, he should (figuratively again ) back off, apologise for his intemperate outburst, and then pin the bastard back on the wall again. Why didn't the Vanuatu leader have the decency to at least get on the blower to Frank and say he was having second thoughts about the Natadola summit? And why didn't Derek Sakua or Michael Somare have the decency to warn Fiji of impending humiliation? Frank still has time to turn this around. But only by dropping in on these guys personally to remind them of their traditional obligations. If money is more important to these clowns than Melanesian solidarity, why do we bother with them? They're like $50 Suva streetwalkers on a Saturday night. Sling them some cash and they'll tell anyone they love them, even an ugly Australian. These guys have still got a chance to redeem themselves, but only one. Frank needs to remind them of that up close and personal.
. said…
@ OMG ... If you read my previous post "What Diplomats Can and Cannot Do," you will see that Fiji accused Sarah Roberts of breaking Article 41.1 of the Vienna Convention. In other words, on her country's behalf, she was interfering in the internal affairs of her host country. Smith called it lobbying. I think Fiji is correct in calling it interference.

I'm sure you're right in saying countries often break this rule but if they get caught they must stand the consequences.

If, however, Fiji were to use the MSG meeting to put its side (lobbying as you call it), they would not be acting illegally or breaking any convention. Indeed, similar lobbying which is not considered interference constantly occurs in the UN and other august bodies.
sara'ssista said…
@know your enemy?? what exactly are you hoping fjij can do ? except bark from the sidelines, unlees they would like to ban all aus and nz tourists, what excatly are they going to do. They are still a very small player in this game of US, EU, Aus and NZ. They will just keep suffereing, and they are , as this illegal regime keeps tyring to find firends to help the,. They don't appear to rushing to help do they??
Joe said…
Lobbying?? LOL!!!! Why dont you lobby US to bring your boys home from Afghanistan and Iraq, not in a casket of course.

Lobbying is no crime, and you are quite entitled to it. Croz calls it complicity or interference, I strongly agree with that too, but I call it "crossing the line of decency". I hope Tony Abbot and the silent majority, the ex Fijians in OZ are taking notes of the cheque book diplomacy of the ALP.
sara'ssista said…
@joe... plz don't quote Croz at me...... i think Croz is a little myopic when it comes to his favourite military regime. He sees nothing negative or ill in this whole regime but is quick to denounce anyone else who isn't being positive or positive enough. Seems to have a very short memory for the illegal acts this regime has committed and and appears quite patronising when it come to lecturing on the benefits of censorship by a military junta.
Joe said…
@sara'ssista said...
It wasnt meant for you luvena. I was commenting on the subject matter "Australia admits lobbying". Unfortunately, my post was placed directly under yours. It does not mean that I was replying to your post. Some of us do grow up you know.

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