Calls for Australia and New Zealand to Change Approach to Fiji

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 Most do not support Bainimarama but this is what they say:
All of them!
Click on diagram to enlarge.
The Pacific Forum showed major cracks in the approach to Fiji no matter how hard they were patched up for public presentation.  Most Pacific leaders think Australia and New Zealand need to re-think their approach which one Australian observer (see below) said had achieved none of its stated  aims. In the items below one Pacific Islander writes of lack of "sensitivity," another of "coercion," another of "individual engagement" with Fiji with or without Australia and New Zealand, and a former diplomat with Pacific knowledge writes that the Forum without Fiji is like  "Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark."  The diagram of the Change Model when the first analysis failed sums it all up.

Only the deaf and the dead fail to hear messages like these:

WHERE ARE OUR PACIFIC EXPERTS?  I received an email at the weekend from a Pacific Islander I've known since the 1960s and whose secondary schooling and first degree were in Auckland.

She wrote, I recently read one of your epistles in the local paper re. the Natadola  meet. I liked it as it is showed sensitivity without praising the current  regime. I just wish that the governments of Australia and NZ had the same sense and  sensitivity.  Instead, they have disappointed me very much as I know there are people in  both places who have a very good sense of what the Pacific Islands are like and  the aspirations of the people who live there. Sadly their counsel is not often sought - to the detriment of all of us.

COERCION FAILED, NEW APPROACH NEEDED. Fragmentation within the Pacific’s regional and sub-regional bodies isworsening, Auckland University Pacific Studies expert Dr Sitiveni (Steven) Ratuva. Historically, says Ratuva, the region solved differences, such as the standoff with the Fiji military regime, through talanoa, or talking through an issue, but this has been supplanted by diplomatic coercion that is clearly not working.

He thinks the Pacific could learn something from ASEAN where member countries are not punished but engaged by other nations and encouraging change. Pacific "should begin to think in terms of having a proactive mechanism for this bullying rather than just punishment otherwise ... We are going for division and fragmentation rather than unity.”

Before taking up his appointment at Auckland University Dr Ratuva taught at the University of the Pacific in Suva. He is a universally acknowledged authority on social and political issues in Fiji.

FORUM BENDS A LITTLE. It seems likely the Forum will invite Fiji to join future PACER Plus trade negotiations but the extent of the engagement is unclear. Individual Pacific countries are already engaging with Fiji, according to Tongan PM Dr Feleti Sevele, and a formal request was expected to be made to Fiji to re-engage with the the Joint Forum Group that ceased two years ago. A reader commented:  "A Forum meeting without Suva being represented is a bit like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. I see that they are letting them back into the Trade talks. Wise? Surely necessary!"

POLICY VACCUUM IN CANBERRA. This is the opinion of Dr Michael O'Keefe, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Melbourne's La Trobe University. He said that following Australia's initial response to the coup, several inflammatory escalations and signs of an emerging humanitarian crisis, Australia's policy towards Fiji had achieved none of its stated aims; democracy has not been restored, elections have been postponed and individual rights and freedoms curtailed.

The only diplomatic success has been cementing Australia's place as the dominant regional power, a Sheriff in our own right. What is needed is a fresh approach. We shouldn't reward a dictator, but Australia's "smart" sanctions have failed to punish Suva sufficiently to encourage compromise.

The maintenance of the sanctions status quo is now damaging Australia's strategic interests in the region and beyond. Sanctions are meant to target the regime and there is no sign that elites are suffering. Ordinary Fijians, however, are hurting regardless of ethnicity. Sanctions may be contributing to the very situation they were designed to avoid.

In truth, we can't disaggregate the factors. If sanctions are part of the problem, and a humanitarian crisis is
developing, and if we claim that the South Pacific is our "patch", then we must do something to end the
impasse. The stubborn maintenance of sanctions may no longer be in Australia's interests. But that is for the PM to decide.

INDONESIA AND THAILAND SUPPORT FIJI's REFORM AGENDA, would welcome more conciliatory moves from Aust and NZ, and would support Fiji's bid to become an ASEAN Observer.

These sentiments were expressed to Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola who is currently attending the Special Asian and Pacific Ministerial Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in Jakarta, Indonesia.-- Based on 2010 No:1170/MOI)


Liu Muri said…
Not only is New Zealand's media too white, so is its policy-making and advisory body at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which needs to tap into the migrant population and "experts" and qualified individuals from countries in trouble - like Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon etc who could be sensitive and understanding to the aspirations of the Pacific and with an appreciation that the concept of "Western Democracy" while good, is not an ailment for all the Pacific's problems. Please listen to an expert like Steven Ratuva. Fiji is such a case and the reaction of both Wellington and Canberra, stacked with Anglo Saxon bureaucrats as advisors, who may lack proper appreciation of the Pacific, have a case of blind bureaucrats leading their blind governments. That is what has been the cause of crisis in the Pacific. The biggest lament is that Canberra and Wellington have both failed to gauge the mood of the raging rhino of Fiji, Bainimarama, which is continuing to make dents in their superiority and leadership in the Pacific and the most recent China trip may shift the Pacific balance which Australia and NZ thought they had in their hands. They can continue to ignore all the advice from those who know, at their peril, when Fiji may be accepted as a member of the ASEAN after being treated with indignity by PIF.
Anonymous said…
Reality CHECK

Franks love the position of Australia and New Zealand as it gives him someone to deflect the blame to when he fails to make progress on any major reform in Fiji. It's also a convenient excuss for breaking promises.

I am convinced Australia and New Zealand will really help to step up with any 'reforms' that lead to a true democracy....but.....

Croz - have you actually seen the "roadmap". I'm not talking about the speech that was given in 2009 but a actual plan. If so it would be great if you could share with us all when work on a new constitution might begin ? Perhaps you could enlighten us on when the inclusive dialogue will start ?

While you are at it have a go at justifying why yet another promise (the lifting of the PER) has been broken yet again even though a decree that effectively controls the media is in place.

Yes I know these are old issues other bloggers have raised but they are still relevant. We still have no answers.

Croz - you have worked in Fiji and you know how long it takes to get things done. Can you really imagine them doing a new constitution, having consultations, putting it in place and setting up for elections in the space of just 12 months ? What about the military withdrawal from every level of government or perhaps there are no plans for that to ever happen.

For Australia and New Zealand to throw there support behind something they do need to know what the plan is. They need Fiji to take a mature approach to diplomats. They need to accept that they are not going to accepted as a legitimate government (because they are not). Fiji needs to adjust it's stance. it can't expect to be defiant on every point, inflexible, random in its decisions and then expect Australia and New Zealand to make concessions every step of the way.

Seriously Croz with the amount of spraying you continue to give Australia and New Zealand you must remember if you did the same against Fiji while living there, then it would have serious, serious personal consequences for you personally. You bang on about Australia and New Zealand but rarely speak a word about the complete silencing of a whole community.

Perhaps a bit of time back at USP would allow to get a grip on the real situation. Then again I doubt that even with you pro military, pro coup and pro death of free speech stance you get a work visa because you allow a bit of anti government stuff on your web site. Oh no no no - military won't allow that.

Now back to the topic. Get a real road map, make it public, stop looking for recognition, accept you are at best a interim government run completing by the military. Make some detailed, firm commitments and THEN Australia and New Zealand will help.
Increase sanctions now said…
It is interesting to note that the only ones bleating for sanctions to be removed are coup supporters? Seems to indicate they are having the desired effect. So now increase them.
Sense of desperation said…
Is the regime getting desperate? The bleating of the coup supporters sounds more and more like desperation every day. Leave things as they are and let's see what happens in this case study of military incompetence.
Thieving from the people said…
Dictatorships are about ensuring the elites who support the coup mongers get rewarded. That is what is happening in Fiji. It happens in all dictatorships.
Experts? What experts? said…
What Pacific experts? When it comes to Fiji, they all have the same problem. None of them have the kind of grass roots experience to make pronouncements from anything other than their own limited perspectives. Brij Lal, for instance, might be an expert on the Girmits but has no idea what happens at village level in the Vanua. And as for some of those other"experts" at the ANU, Fiji is seen through the prism of their own experience at USP or conversations with the elite on all sides. Even someone like Steven Ratuva is at a disadvantage. He may be indigenous but does he really have a finger on the pulse from a vantage point in NZ academia? You will know this yourself, Croz, and it's certainly the biggest problem for the visiting foreign media. You can go to Suva and talk to all the protagonists and return home with reams of material but precious little idea of what's really going on. You need to be there and living it. And even that's not enough if you move in narrow circles. You need daily contact across the racial and economic divide and especially, now, an ongoing discussion with people at the heart of government and on the Military Council. Who has that? Certainly none of the pundits posing as "experts" who regularly appear in the Australian and NZ media. That's why Frank and those around him get so frustrated by the chasm between reality and what he reads and hears in the overseas media. As for the Lowy Institute and other think tank "experts", forget it. They know nothing except what's fed to them by the last person they spoke to. Which is why what they then tell the rest of us is bordering on the useless. if Australia and NZ really want to know what's happening in Fiji, they need to work a lot harder to find out. And that means not so much engagement - that hackneyed buzzword - but immersion. Even their spooks have no idea what's going on, let alone their "Pacific experts". Two impediments are in their way; the "coconut radio" of rumour and disinformation based on self interest and limited perspective. Plus the age old local habit of telling people what they want to know. Throw a gullible academic into that mix and it's little wonder that what they eventually spew forth on the airwaves and in the papers is mush.
Anonymous said…
blah blah blah

Yep it's all Australia's fault. Fiji has no blame. Military taking over a country at gunpoint is all normal and we should accept and support the new military government...why exactly ?
Right on Ratuva said…
Let's hope Australian and NZ policy makers take note of what Steve Ratuva is saying here. At last, some counterbalance to the "punish Fiji harder" mob at the ANU and Lowy Institute. Yes, it hasn't worked and never will. And anyone who really knows Fiji knew it never would. But these idiots have been the dominant intellectual ballast for the policy boffins in Canberra and Wellington. Let's just look at some of the great minds at work here - an aging Indo- Fijian historian-turned-constitutionalist with a personal axe to grind, a pompous northern Englander hitched to a pro- SDL indigene, an ex DFAT diplomat- turned"- independent analyst" with a double agent's agenda to match her double- barreled name. It's no way to run a serious foreign policy and it's gotta stop. Steve Ratuva, step forward. You're talking sense and deserve to be heard. Vinaka.
"Thieving from the people....."

Well, you're an interesting one! What have you done lately to assist with the anti-corruption measures which have been put in place by this Government? You and many like you are conspicuous by your absence? And yet there is much you could do. Made any complaints or sworn any affidavits yet to ensure people are charged? How often have you been into the courts? Harboured any escaped prisoners lately..or know people who do? Have you read through the Crimes Decreee 44 of 2009: now law? If not, then you should. It is fundamental to the reforms now taking place and it is EXACTLY what is required to get things on the path to "SHIP SHAPE".
SOE said…
@ Anonymous 'Reality Check'

Are you "convinced that Australia and New Zealand will really step up to help with any reforms that lead to a real democracy"? Why are you convinced? What is the test you have applied for this 'convincing'? I can see no indicator whatsoever of any certainty that this should be the case. After all, they never did anything to assist those who were ill-served by the sham democracy that we suffered under before, did they? In fact, they supported it and encouraged it. How disgraceful this was to any group of people within the entire South Pacific region who were oppressed and virtually disenfranchised in this charade of democracy! In the ABC Interview, PM Bainimarama suggests that most leaders in the South Pacific region might be called 'dictators'. Yes, that is so. Because there is no real democracy going on in most places. How could there be when autocracy is "built in" since before independence in most island countries. Neither New Zealand nor Australia have had a problem with this previously. How is it that they suddenly appear so allergic to this in Fiji now? This smacks of double standards defined by a chronology that has suited their own purpose: not ours! When George Speight was finally 'taken in' (but not 'out' - nota bene) who would have guessed that both these democracies would have gone along with allowing this demagogue of terror to be purportedly prepared for early release by the last Qarase-led government? It is scarcely conceivable that this was contemplated in any democratic nation of any standing or worth. But this was assented to quite equably: no meddling going on then, we note? Thus terrorism was endorsed in the Islands of the South Pacific Region through the application of double standards and collusion in impunity. Neither of which would have been tolerated "At Home". No wonder there is such disaffection now with the 'Emperor has no clothes'foreign policy? It has become a canker in the body politic - to the extent that it is far better to have no politics at all.
Joe said…
There has not been a meaningful progress towards democracy to date. Blame game is what this govt is good at. Instead of decrees, why cant they make a start on the new constitution? How can you expect help when you are not prepared to help yourself? As much as I agree with the objectives of this govt, but this BS is now dragging on for too long and beyond reason.
Joe said…
"Calls for Australia and New Zealand to Change Approach to Fiji"

Effectively saying: "Legitimise this coup".
The best OZ & NZ can do is, open their doors to the Indo-Fijians, problem solved, because not too far down the track, there will be another gun trotting idiot who will turn things around again. The race card will be played over and over again.
If you think Frank is not playing the race card, think again. Is he really serious about equality? If he is, why doesnt he recruit more indos in the military for that matter?, knowing that the only threat to future democratic govts is the racially polarised RFMF. There really is no hope for Fiji.
Son of Fiji said…
Democracy is nothing but an illusion - one of the best, but an illusion none the less.
So, let's play this "Democracy Now" game. What are the rules? What system? How do we vote? You get the drift.
Australia & NZ will help us you say? Are we using their system? Ok. Why not! They rank in the top 10 in the Democracy index, after all.
So we vote. We laugh. We rejoice. We have our Government. By the people. For the... ok, let's not go there. But, we have a democratically elected government.
How is the government running? What about the economy? That 300 million we just paid back ripped up a big hole in our wallet. See what Bainimarama did! What?! This was Qarase's loan? Ok, nevermind. Australia & NZ will give us the money now that we're a democracy. Ok, they said no. Now what?
It doesn't matter, our democratically elected leaders will fix this. They blame the military for giving them a mess to deal with. Bloody Bainimarama.


The country needs reforms in every area. Bainimarama is getting them done. He's fixing the infrastructure. Fixing the Civil Service. Fixing Education. Fixing the way we work. Fiji will NEVER, EVER be the same again. He's doing things that would never have been done, let alone attempted under any of our previous "Democracies". For a modern Fiji, these have to be done. No question.

As for Democracy... well one look at the Deomocracy index shows Fiji ain't the worst of the bunch, nevermind what the anti-Bainimarama crowd say. Not only that, there are quite a few worse ranked countries which Oz, NZ and the USA regularly suck ball to. Go figure.

God Bless Fiji.
Joe said…
@Son of Fiji said...
All that "fixing" that you mention are 100% correct, but that can be done by any govt if they want to. What we want to see is a definite step towards the new constitution and election. Why leave it till 2012/2013. If this AG can come up with every imaginable decree under the sun, I am sure he can devote valuable time in drafting a new constitution, and they make it sound like it is a huge task. BS!!! It will be the same 1997 document with changes to mainly the electoral clauses including Prez and VP appointments and more defined powers of the Prez. They may also be a special "military" clause in there to legitimise future coups.
Son of Fiji said…
LOL @ Joe

If these changes could be done by any government, how come they never actually did do any of them while they were in?

Sure they talked about it - for years. All politicians know that talk is cheap, old son. At least this government is action... At times action in the wrong direction, but at least doing something is better than bullshitting about doing it and then and patting each other on the back for talking big.

Ride the wave of change. Its here.

God Bless Fiji.
Son of Fiji said…
LOL @ Joe

If these changes could be done by any government, how come they never actually did do any of them while they were in?

Sure they talked about it - for years. All politicians know that talk is cheap, old son. At least this government is action... At times action in the wrong direction, but at least doing something is better than bullshitting about doing it and then and patting each other on the back for talking big.

Ride the wave of change. Its here.

God Bless Fiji.
Radiolucas said…
@ Son of Fiji

What changes? What fixing? What action?

It is all very well that the military claim all the good results and hide all the bad - but that isn't government, it is something much more sinister.

I don't believe the military when they spin all the lovely stories about how great they are because we don't know how much is truth and how much is bull$&*%. Its hard.

Truly, I would be happier at least if the military at least had some sort of broad plan, rather than continually threatening the country with a delay to Frank's promised elections in 2013.

Frank likes to blame Aust and NZ for everything and anything, simply because it distracts everyone from the main game - like a practiced conman, he distracts us with one hand while the other is stealing from your pocket.

Issuing decrees is easy. Making quick decisions, without considered thought about the ongoing and future impact on the country, is easy.

Government is hard.

Government is not a surf camp. Government is not a Rambo movie. There is no "wave" of change. There are no bad men to shoot and damsels to save - there is just responsibility and accountability for the people and the nation.

The government is meant to be there FOR the people, not OVER the people.

Ultimately I think if they really want to do something meaningful, the military needs to stop messing about with Australia and NZ and reingage in cooperation with the people and think about our future - so that Fiji can get back off its knees and go forward.
Son of Fiji said…
Switch on the radio lucas, and get your head out of the Fiji Times ~ you'll never get anything else out of it.
The plan is simple...
Fix economy. Make constitution. Have elections. Obviously in that order.
While fixing the economy, make sure it meets the Peoples Charter. Nothing sinister... seems straight forward to me. And if you don't think this government is for the people, I'd love to hear what you thought the previous one was for.

God Bless Fiji.
Radiolucas said…
@ Son of Fiji

If the complete lack of planning, accountability, responsibility and transparency in the military regime is NOT worrying to you, well, you are either very brave or something else entirely.

In any event, why refer to the Fiji Times? They CANNOT publish anything useful - just like all the other media outlets around (radio included) - all we hear is fairy tales about how great everything is and what is the biggest rootcrop of the day. Not exactly reveting or relevant.

All I am saying is that the military needs more focus on Fiji and less focus on pointing fingers and assigning blame on everything and everyone other than themselves. Get on with the "road map", wherever it has got to, and start governing, rather than flying off the handle every month, grandstanding and making pretty speeches about nothing or about how "unfair" it is that the poor military regime is being picked on by Australia and NZ.

All that does is make Fiji look moronic, unreasonable and childish. Not exactly comforting to see in the "leaders" of our country.
sara'ssista said…
There should be a blockade and sanctions. We should compensate the airlines who fly to fiji, assist with refunds for tourists and then blockade the islands and squeeze. As i have said before, had this been done, the coup wouldn't have lasted a year and the perpetrators would have been overthrown and gaoled by now. Instead we have this long winded and pointless process over tit for tat, sabre rattling between non-equal regional hubs. We can afford to wait out this regime. But there will be nothing much left if we leave it up to their own timetable except an entrenched 'militocracy'

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