Time to Ease NZ's Sanctions Against Fiji by Michael Field
Michael Field is not my favourite journalist. In my opinion, he too often presents sensation as news and he sometimes seems lax with his facts, but this article, published on 6 April, was an unexpectedly balanced assessment of NZ's relations with Fiji. At least, that's my opinion. I thought it worth publishing here.
It is now time for New Zealand to lift smart sanctions imposed on Fiji’s military regime.
There are good moral and philosophical reasons for keeping the sanctions in place; not least because Voreqe Bainimarama is still a military dictator with no interest in democracy.
The more practical reason, call it real politic, is that the sanctions are no longer smart at all.
It is also worse than that; the sanctions are damaging New Zealand’s ability to make meaningful contributions to a more stable Fiji.
Apart from anything else, sanctions are not working. They have become counter-productive because many of the people who might otherwise serve the Fiji administration are holding back for fear of going on New Zealand’s blacklist.
I know a number of them, good people who might, if offered a degree of support, might well be able to dig Fiji out of the dreadful mess it is in.
Yes, New Zealand is a liberal democracy that wants to share its idealism with other, less blessed countries. But let’s not get all that precious; the single biggest free trade
deal Wellington has going, is with China.
No one ever accused them of being democratic.
And of course, Beijing is not going to take a blind bit of notice over what New Zealand says about governance and democracy.
Nor is Fiji.
Instead, we look like colonial bullies.
Another useful step that could be advanced in New Zealand is for Prime Minister John Key to replace Foreign Minister Murray McCully.
While he was plainly given the job in the first place as a reward for long National Party donkey work, the job needs a performer and a person interested in the region. The fact that McCully lies down and talks with Inoke Kubuabola is testimony to his ignorance of things Fiji.
Get a real foreign minister now, Mr Key.
For Wellington, there are several downsides to cutting back on sanctions.
The most painful is that Bainimarama will hail it has a victory for himself and an endorsement of his strategy.
We can live with this easily; the independent evidence is that Bainimarama is an ambitious fool whose record speaks clearly for itself.
In other words, let us stop worrying about what he says. Fiji achieved its a pariah state status all be itself; the stench does not have to stick to New Zealand as well.
A degree of sanctions should remain in place; New Zealand should ban all serving members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, and those territorial members. We should continue to ban their families, indeed even more strictly than we do now.
This is to send the clear message, that armies should stay in their barracks and not bully civilians with their weapons.
But anybody else – including all the free loaders, carpet baggers and pompous otherwise unemployed Christchurch law clerks – can come and go, and enjoy the fruits of a democratic liberal society - including, for the Fiji wealth elite heath care the people of Fiji cannot have.
Who knows, they might even return to Fiji and tell folks that free speech, tolerance and democracy seems to work well.