Fiji, the Pacific Islands and Australia
Coupfourpointfive reports a "Media in the Pacific" article by Graeme Dobell.* Dobell seems to think that because Vanuatu PM Natapei deferred the MSG meeting, and I quote, "Australia can point to mounting evidence that it is closer to the rest of the South Pacific than Fiji." Dream on!
The leaders of ten PI nations, the Director of PiPP, FTUC leader Daniel Urai and even Major-General Rabuka do not think so. That leaves Dobell, Usaia Waqatairewa (see below) and presumably the publishers of Coupfourpointfive.
*Dobell is Radio Australia's Associate Editor for Asia Pacific, and a regular contributor to the Lowry Institute's The Interpreter. Radio Australia is owned by the Australian Government. The Lowry Institute calls itself an "independent international policy think tank." Its directors comprise four members of the wealthy Lowry family (Westfield shopping centres), former ambassadors, bankers and businessmen.
TEN PACIFIC COUNTRIES CONFIRMED. The President of Kiribati and the Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea, Solomon, and Tuvalu will attend as well as seven other Island states. Vanuatu has confirmed they will be attending and will be represented by either the Deputy Prime Minister or the Foreign Affairs Minister.
The attendance of PMs Sir Michael Somare and Derek Sikua deserves special mention. Sir Michael is facing a no confidence motion and Dr Sikua is in the middle of an election campaign. Ratu Inoke said this demonstrates the support that Fiji has throughout the Pacific, through our strong history of working together in our own Pacific style, like ‘Talanoa sessions”.
“This shows real strength of the Pacific Islands which is our solidarity and unity for the security, peace, progress of our Pacific People” Ratu Inoke stressed.
During the meeting the Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama will brief the Island Leaders on the progress of Fiji’s Roadmap for Democracy and Strategic Framework for Change. The meeting is for two days, next Thursday and Friday.
USAIA WANTS MURDOCH HELP. Usaia Waqatairewa, the Sydney-based president of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement is openly appealing to Pacific Islands Forum leaders not to attend the meeting "because it is the desperate action of an out of touch pariah dictatorship" and has called on Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd to help him set up an anti-government pirate station within Fiji. His appeal is reported in Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd The Australian.[More on this tomorrow.]
FTUC CALLS FOR CHANGED AUSSIE ATTITUDE. The Fiji Trades Union Congress is calling on Australia to change their political attitude against Fiji - if they are interested in seeing Fiji go back to full democracy and hold elections by 2014. FTUC national president Daniel Urai says Fiji will certainly need assistance from Australia to hold general elections, as it has in the past.
He says it is unfortunate that members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group are finding it difficult to attend the meeting in Fiji due to continued pressure by Australia and New Zealand who are using bully tactics against the smaller island nations. Urai says they don’t want Australia and New Zealand using cheque book and bullying tactics to try and push Pacific island countries to do what they want.
RABUKA SAYS RELATIONS NEVER BEEN THIS BAD. Former Fijian prime minister Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka has criticised Australia's ongoing travel bans on Fiji's military. Last month, two key Fijian rugby players were banned from entering Australia to play the Wallabies in Canberra. Rabuka said the bans are making Fijians feel as if they are under siege."We see it as a sanction against the people of Fiji and the Fiji national team and it's pushing us into a consolidated position against Australia or against those are bringing up these kind of sanctions against us," he said.
PiPP CALLS HEADS AND TAILS. Derek Brien, Exec. Director of Vanuatu-based Pacific Institute of Public Policy plays it both ways. On the one hand he says, "Ultimately Fiji's suspension from the Forum may not have helped regional efforts to engage with Fiji's regime on returning to democracy." On the other hand, he says, "But Fiji has done itself no favours by its own actions, for example by trying to arrange this MSG-PLUS, effectively an attempt to undermine the Forum or to side-step the Forum." Right.
But the suspension did come before the reaction. And if he is also right in predicting the Engaging Fiji meeting "is threatening to overshadow next month's Forum leaders summit in Vanuatu" who should we blame for this? Why doesn't he just say, "We (Australia and NZ) got it wrong. A "Public Policy" change is needed here, fellers."