MSG Plus & Underhand, Undiplomatic Aussie High Com Behaviour

Letter From Suva: Aussie Eyes on Natadola 
by Laisa Taga, Islands Business Editor-in-Chief (Link)

Concerted effort to undermine Fiji summit
The bureaucrats who advise Australia’s new prime minister Julia Gillard will be closely watching Natadola Bay in Fiji this month. They will be following what transpires at the Melanesian Spearhead Group summit as Ms Gillard prepares for the Pacific Islands Forum meeting next month. From what is being written about her Pacific Islands knowledge, she has a lot of catching up to do before she arrives in Port Vila. She and her Pacific advisers will be closely monitoring the discussions at the MSG meeting and its outcome to gauge the islands mood.

The MSG meeting is being hosted and chaired by Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on July 22-23 at Natadola, Fiji, an hour’s drive from Nadi International Airport.
Apart from the normal MSG business, Fiji is expected to use this summit to explain its position to other Forum islands member countries who have also been invited to attend. This is for what will be known as MSG Plus. When this edition went to press, Kiribati and Tuvalu had officially accepted the invitation to attend MSG Plus. Tonga is understood to have also accepted.

Overbearing presence
Leaders in the Northern Pacific have informed Fiji they won’t be able attend as they will be having their pre-Forum Micronesian meeting at the same time. But their officials, however, will be at Natadola, Fiji’s foreign ministry officials have been told.

A regional observer said, “Suspended from the Forum, and excluded from PACER and PACER Plus negotiations almost certainly due to Australian and New Zealand persuasion, Fiji has merely struck back. “MSG Plus will give islands leaders the chance to talk with—and see what it is happening in Fiji—without the overbearing presence of Australia and New Zealand. The Forum Melanesian nations were never totally happy with Australia and New Zealand’s hard line on Fiji,” the observer said.

What the direct outcome of the MSG meeting will be is anyone’s guess. But Australia will be watching it like a hawk. And it has been acting even before the meeting. Already Australia has been accused of working behind the scenes to undermine Fiji’s preparations for the MSG meeting.

Australia actively trying to undermine MSG Plus meeting
Letter from Suva has been reliably told that the Fiji foreign ministry has on two occasions summoned the acting Australian high commissioner Sarah Roberts to appear before the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. This was after the Ministry was told by several heads of missions based in Suva that the Australian envoy had been “attempting to influence them from accepting invitations to the MSG.

This was again repeated by her in the most recent meeting of the Diplomatic Corps here in Suva.
It is also been alleged that Ms Roberts had invited heads of missions in Fiji to participate in a discussion on possible evacuation scenarios of foreign nationals in the event of political instability.

A diplomatic source said: “While I understand that foreign missions as part of their consular role have contingency plans for evacuation of their nationals in times of natural disasters, evacuation in the event of political instability, I understand falls outside of the ambit of such preparatory measures and presupposes something else.”

The diplomatic source added that “Ms Roberts’ undiplomatic approach has been the subject of much consternation among foreign diplomats here in Suva and constitutes interference in the internal affairs of Fiji, in breach of the United Nations Charter and International Law.”

Australian officials right around the region, Letter from Suva has been told, have been working behind the scenes to influence senior officials of the various countries they’re represented in not to attend the MSG. “They even spoke to the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, not to attend the MSG,” the diplomatic source said.

Whatever the outcome of the MSG Plus will be, Fiji and the rest of the Pacific will be closely watching Ms Gillard. They hope Ms Gillard’s government will do a little more than her predecessor Kevin Rudd. They hope that come the Port Vila meeting next month, they will hear more positive news in relation to Fiji/Australia relations and particularly the Pacific Islands guest worker scheme which has failed to get off the ground. The hope is Australia under Ms Gillard will put more effort into real developments like this, and less into its fixation with undermining Fiji.

MSG PLUS R.S.V.P.  Fiji has  invited Australia and New Zealand to attend next week’s Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting as dialogue development partners. MSG nations attending are Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji, with New Caledonia’s Kanaks represented by the FLNKS. Non-member nations that have so far accepted are Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau. Northern Pacific countries are involved in a pre-Forum meeting but thier officials will attend. Tonga has not yet replied. Samoa has said it won’t be attendng and it looks like Niue and Cook Islands will also say no.

SAMOA OBSERVER EDITOR Savea Sano Malifa  says Bainimarama is taking no notice of what he calls Samoa PM Tuilaepa Sailele’s tricks. The PM made a number of derogatory remarks when refusing Fiji’s invitation to attend the Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting but Bainimarama did not rise to the bait. Malifa says Tuilaepa is trying to steal the limelight from Bainimarama.


Diplomatic idiocy said…
Croz, the odds are that Julia Gillard will not be at the Forum meeting in Vila next month. She's about to call an election and will be campaigning frenetically, with the latest opinion polls today indicating a close result.

I also don't understand why Fiji expects Australia to do anything other than try to persuade other Forum members not to attend the MSG Plus gathering. Ms Roberts has every right to talk to whomever she likes and say whatever she likes, just as Fiji's diplomats in Australia aren't constrained in who they meet and what they say.

It is complete nonsense for Fiji to complain that Australia is interfering in its internal affairs. This is about maintaining the integrity of the Forum against a willful attempt by Frank Bainimarama to subvert it. To hold the Forum together, Australia can take whatever action it sees fit. In any event, these are private meetings between the Australian Government and other Pacific diplomats. It's none of Fiji's business.
Anonymous said…
hehehe... grand msg cancelled
Anonymous said…
MSG not important

What is the crime in Australia trying to influence Pacific decisions? Isn't that what Frank is trying to do by inviting non memebers of MSG to play golf (oops, sorry 'meet') in Fiji this week ?

I hope Frank makes public his progress in creating a true democracy as there doesn't seem to be any evidence so far. Just a few minor economic adjustments that any normal government should be doing.

Democracy aside what progress have Government made on SUGER ? Nearly fours years at it and the answer is NONE.

LAND reform....well just getting started but it has taken nearly FOUR years ?

Tourism....most of the 'wins' have started to peg back the loss from the COUP. (Coups are very bad for tourism). was this governments board that oversaw the completion of the Natadola resort. They spent the largest amount. Why blame everyone else.

MSG is another distraction and opportunity for grandstanding.

I hear the Fiji takes offence at being called the interim PM. The AG corrects people all the time and didn't like it when the media called him that yet a quick read of the RFMF website and you will see his own soldiers refer to him as interim ?

What the, what the, what the...
Anonymous said…
It's on, it's off.

Looks like Fiji is not getting its way with the MSG. I suggest Fiji really needs to get moving on making some tangible moves to demonstrate it is serious about democracy. Dialogue ? Draft constitution ? Remove the PER ? Less posturing and more action please.

Mon, 12 Jul 2010
PORT VILA, Vanuatu (PACNEWS) --- The Chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Edward Natapei has announced the deferral of the MSG Leaders Summit scheduled to take place in Fiji later this month, until further notice. In a statement, Mr Natapei said the decision was taken in consultation with leaders of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, the FLNKS in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. This is a collective decision of the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, the FLNKS and Vanuatu in light of the current impasse within the grouping over the Chairmanship of the MSG. According to the rotation cycle of hosting of the MSG, Fiji is the next host and Chair of the Leaders Summit. Prime Minister Natapei said he has advised Fiji's leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama on the latest developments. I have also invited him to attend a Special Meeting of the MSG Leaders here in Vanuatu to resolve this matter. He added that the decision to postpone the Summit has not been easy, considering the advanced stages of preparations undertaken by Fiji to host the Summit. The deferment came after Commodore Bainimarama's chairmanship of the grouping was questioned last week after intervention from Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare for MSG leaders to accept Commodore as chair. However, the potential long term ramifications of allowing Fiji to Chair the MSG this time cannot be ignored, said PM Natapei. There are basic fundamental principles and values of democracy and good governance that our organisation is built on and we must continue to uphold them. Prime Minister Natapei said that MSG has a more critical role to play in assisting Fiji restore Parliamentary democracy through increased dialogue and interaction. And as Chairman, he said, I wish to reiterate offers of support from the membership, to assist the Government of Fiji towards building commitment and capacity for genuine dialogue and reconciliation amongst Leaders at all levels of Fiji society, consistent with Melanesian values and traditional practices, said Mr Natapei.
wheres my MSG? said…
Cancel the morning tea for the MSG will you?

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