MSG in Trouble, the Sarah Roberts Expulsion, and Diplomats' DOs and DON'Ts

THE END OF THE MSG? Fiji  has urged Vanuatu PM and MSG chairman Edward Natapei to urgently consider Prime Minister Bainimarama’s suggestion on 8 July to convene as early as next week a “Special Meeting of MSG Leaders” to resolve the Chairmanship issue. The government statement says this is an important issue for the MSG region and it is important that Natapei does not delay its discussion unnecessarily. Without this it seems highly unlike there will be a MSG meeting until 2014, and by then it may be redundant.

PM Bainimarama says without Fiji’s participation, the MSG will not be able to convene as a group. "Everyone should give Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei a pat in the back for destroying the MSG and bowing to Australia’s wishes. " He said Natapei’s decision to defer at the 11th hour was disappointing as preparations were at their advanced stage.Bainimarama says Fiji does not want to be part of a compromised MSG. There are, however, rumours that some sort of "MSG" may go ahead next week.

WHAT DIPLOMATS CAN AND CANNOT DO (without being sent home).Acting Australian High Commissioner Sarah Roberts was expelled today under Article 9.1 of the 1961 Vienna Convention that regulates diplomatic relations between states.  While this is a most disappointing consequence of recent MSG events (in my view an unwise reaction to these events) we need reminding what diplomatic staff can and cannot do in a foreign country. Article 3.1 of spells out the functions of a diplomatic mission. In addition to representing and protecting the interests of, and reporting (by all legal means) information to the sending state, the mission should also negotiate with the Government of the receiving state, and promote friendly relations.

Article 41.1 says it is the duty of the mission to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State, noting in particular that "They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State."

Sarah Roberts seems to have breached Article 41.1 of the Convention by seeking to  influence MSG representatives in Suva to get their countries to cancel next week's meeting, but  if  "diplomacy is the art of letting other people achieve your ends," she (and other Australian diplomats throughout the Region) have let other people, Natapei and the MSG leaders,  achieve Australia's ends.

THEY WERE WARNED
.  Over a week ago, Bainimarama called on Australia to stop interfering in its internal affairs. His remarks following a comment by an unnamed Australian Foreign Affairs official in Murdock-owned The Australian newspaper, that "the people may have no choice but to stand up to Bainimarama and his thugs." Bainimarama said, "The article was inciting the people of Fiji to rise against his government and promoting further unrest. 

SMITH RESPONDS TO EXPULSION. Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says the reasons for the expulsion of their Acting Head of Mission in Suva are linked to Vanuatu's postponement of the coming meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group due to concerns about Fiji's role as chair. He also suspects it relates to his criticism of Fiji's interim government. But he says he will not respond by removing Fiji's only official in Canberra. "If I responded in kind that would see Fiji unrepresented in Australia and would effectively see the end of our formal diplomatic contact," he said.

Comments

Anonymous said…
More bad news...

If these quotes (below) are correct Frank is either:
1) Showing his real colours and intentions
2) Demonstarting again his lack of understanding of how the free media or international relations work or
3) He is just plain pissed off and can't shut up

"In fact, I am all of a sudden thinking we might not be ready for 2014 for election if we don't get any assistance from Australia and New Zealand for instance," he told Tarana.

(I thought he didn't need or care about Australia ?)

"If we reach 2014 and we are not ready because of constant interfering, we are not going to give up our government to political parties...

(Another admission he does not want to hand his government to anyone - if a political part does not win a election who does he think will ?)

"I am seriously thinking about the date of the elections, the interference by these people, but I can tell you nothing is going to stop us from doing what needs to be done continuing on this pathway we need reforms.

(Thinking about the dates but nothing is going to stop him - thats double speak ?)

Another sad for my beloved Fiji I'm afraid.
MJ said…
Talk about selective editing. You conveniently forgot to add four words that were at the end of the Bainimarama quote

..we are not going to give up our government to a political party that is not prepared.

I know, this way it does not quite support your following conclusion and funny quip, but at least it is now the whole truth.
kumala levu said…
Crosbie Walsh, it is time for you to realize that other Pacific islanders do not have the same sick ideas that you have. You are supporting a dictator that is trying to destroy the peaceful serenity of the South Pacific.What Vanuatu is doing is right and it will not make Bainimarama popular but will make him look like the fool he already is.
Australia and New Zealand are not at fault here because as developed countries they are the biggest helper to Pacific island Nations Fiji included.Now no one wants to listen to the tinpot dictator you are supporting.
Respect ni-Vanuatu said…
Croz
It wouldn't hurt for you to show some respect for ni-Vanuatu. Bainimarama appears to personalise everything, over react and blame everyone else for his problems, but perhaps you could be a little more rational?
Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Edward Natapei is a respected leader in a democratic nation that is progressing well - he does not need you to lecture him. He is quite capable of making his own decisions which he has clearly done on this occasion.
TheMax said…
@ Respect ni-Vanuatu

Yeah, Natapei quite capable of making his own decision with A$61M dollar carrot dangled in front of him. Sell your soul to the dogs eh, and what do you get in the long term? Lost sovereignty and forever reliance on foreign AID.

Politicians are really some sick folks. They always sell themselves and their country to the dogs and this has been the biggest problem in the Pacific.

Vanuatu should learn from how Australia destroyed Nauru, manipulated East Timorese leaders to sign away rights to the minerals in their exclusive economic zone, took Bouganville's gas/oil away to be processed in Australia and leaving behind peanuts for the island people to survive on.

Fijian soldiers and policemen who came back from East Timor and Bouganville saw a totally different view of what Australia was doing in those countries. It's been the talk around grog bowls at Fijian army and police homes what they saw was happening in those countries.

Fiji is lucky to have a leader such as Bainimarama at its most difficult time trying to rebuild true and a lasting stable democracy. Standing firm in the face of extreme manipulation, economic sabotage and deceptive diplomacy working towards forging a better Fiji free of racism and terrorist activities witnessed in the turmoils of 2000. Stand fast and firm, we will survive because this cause is right and just.
Anonymous said…
@ Smith responds to expulsions

How magnanimous and how revealing to cynically afford a crumb from the 'High Table'? This Freudian Slip only reinforces the high-handed approach that crosses party and administration lines. All's fair in love and war. Well, it almost certainly is....so this is war?

Acts of terrorism took place in Fiji in 2000, Australia responded by compelling Fiji to have elections. Those elections were bought. The May 2006 elections were bought also. Did Mr Smith vote in either of those elections? No he did not. He also did not have to sit out the consequences of bought elections. So his magnanimity has no credibility whatsoever. Indeed, an apology is due to all Fijians for the insufficient manner in which Australia and, to a lesser extent New Zealand, have responded to terrorism and those colluding in it on their own doorstep. Had 9/11 taken place prior to May 19 2000, things might have been different. But that is another story. Giving sanctuary to terrorists and their supporters, assisting those who should face charges of grand corruption does not assist anyone in the Pacific. It simply muddies the waters further for all of us. Take out your corrupt nationals from within Fiji and give your diplomats a more sophisticated understanding of the societies in which they are to function. Then, and only then, things might improve for the ordinary people of the South Pacific. Money does not solve these matters: a degree of empathy and cultured performance might? Ask the Japanese and Chinese diplomats on the ground in Fiji. Ask those from Africa and Indonesia and Korea: all of whom have just this.
Anonymous said…
More bad new....

@MJ

Fair point on the editing - the quote had been edited elswhere I have now seen the whole one.

I am still worried about 2014. I'm not a fan of SDL or Labour but you can't have a credible election and strike out parties. What does prepared mean ? Does that mean they must have the same agenda as the Frank and his government. If they are serious about democracy they have to accept that post 2014 someone else will be in power and it is highly likely they will have different views to the current government.

I actually hope all this is just Frank letting of steam and he is still serious about a free and fair election in 2014.

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