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.


The biggest shark of all said…
Au contraire, Croz, this is a gratuitous piece of nonsense that owes everything to realpolitik and nothing to principle. As the lamentable Field's argument goes, Bainimarama is still "an ambitious fool" and those who work for the regime are "freeloaders, carpet baggers and pompous otherwise unemployed Christchurch law clerks" ( Christopher Pryde unless there are other Christchurch law clerks lurking in the government complex we don't know about). But because the hardline NZ policy Field did more to insist on than anyone else has backfired, it's time to back off and Murray McCully should be replaced. What an effing cheek! Well how about Fairfax Media replacing its miserable so called Pacific expert as well? It was you - you imbecile - who was the principal cheerleader for this punitive policy in the first place. Innocent people were harmed by being unfairly excluded from NZ and Fiji was robbed of its best minds. We told you at the time that it was unprincipled, counterproductive and wouldn't work but what did we get in return? A sustained and vicious assault. Any commentator of any intellectual and moral stature would feel obliged to tell his readers precisely what has prompted such a Damascene conversion. But not the lamentable mouth from the south. Just a complete and shameless about face, as if he carried no responsibility whatsoever for NZ's current stance.
This guy is a complete fraud. And I'm more than surprised, Croz, that you've given him a tick, especially after the abuse he's piled on you over the months and years for advocating precisely the same stance he's now embraced. You, of anyone, ought to understand the perils of swimming with sharks.
MJ said…
All the arguments he makes are valid and well thought out, but THEY DESCRIBE THE SAME SITUATION THAT HAS BEEN IN PLACE FOR YEARS AND JUST WHAT CROZ HAS BEEN ADVOCATING. Nothing has changed in Fiji. The only thing that has changed is the realisation that the policy is hurting New Zealand interests. Oh well, we should not complain when he changes his view to the one we were advocating (even if it does show that his past position was more about self interest).

This might just signal a change in the stance of the New Zealand media, followed by Aust, and lead to the change in Gov policy we are hoping for.
White Frangipani said…
After I read Michael Field's opinion I was reminded of the poem by E.V. Rieu called "The Flattered Flying Fish". The moral of the poem is: Don’t be taken in by flattery, or ... in charm there is harm. Michael Field just cannot help himself - he has to have a nasty dig while rambling on about "the free loaders, carpet baggers and pompous otherwise unemployed Christchurch law clerks" and the so-called "Fiji wealth elite". To all the "Flattered Flying Fishes" out there - beware! Sharks might regularly lose their teeth but there are plenty more razor-sharp teeth ready waiting in line! The question I ask of Michael Field, why this sudden change of heart on the smart sanctions ... that ends with a big bite in the tail?

by E.V. Rieu

"Said the Shark to the Flying Fish over the phone:

"Will you join me tonight? I am dining alone.
Let me order a nice little dinner for two!
And come as you are, in your shimmering blue.”

Said the Flying Fish: “Fancy remembering me,
And the dress that I wore at the Porpoises’ tea!”
“How could I forget?” said the Shark in his guile:
“I expect you at eight!” and rang off with a smile.

She powdered her nose; she has put on her things;
She is off with one flap of her luminous wings.
O little one, lovely, light-hearted and vain,
The Moon will not shine on your beauty again!
Clutching at straws said…
Why remove the sanctions when they are working so well?
. said…
@ Clutching ... Please explain and detail how they are working so well. You need to back up your statement with argument/evidence.
Joe said…
I think MF is only advocating for John Key. With NZ elections due next year, the huge chunk of ex-Fijians will do to Key what they did to Helen,and in their wisdom, just blame McCully and drop him, get the cosmetic talks going to fool the voters. After winning the election, it is back to sq.1.
Anonymous said…
Of course, we have all forgotten that the Court Jester aka Michael Field rates sharks? Whereas we might swim by choice with the Giant Vai. Why? Because it will be Liberty that will shape Fiji's Future. Liberty - the kind of freedom that Kiwis like Field take for granted each and every day. So eager, however, to deny a parity of liberty to others? Who would willingly be subjected to this? Who would condescend to tolerate the fundamental inequity of this? Those of us who value liberty: the freedom to think, to write and to act in liberty as we see fit, to conceive ideas and to imagine will NEVER kowtow to this level of imposed Gulag Status. Never! No Way! Jamas! Jamais! Understood, Michael Field? For it is you who will go down in ignominy as the 'Fool' who foolishly advocated for a denial of liberty to an entire nation. And then......you changed your mind? What manner of man are you? Far from swimming with sharks, you should be thrown to the 'ogo' or the Amazonian Piranha! For, we may presume, you are not of a mind with Edmund Burke that "Liberty too must be limited in order to possess it"? Or are you? Do you know your own mind? In the end, the aspiration for liberty which is enshrined in a valid democracy, will win out. And you will not feature in this 'winning out' other than as a FOE. You will go down akin to an antipodean version of Lord Haw Haw - your very memory sullied with conspicuous contempt. The people of Fiji aspire to liberty: yes, a liberty just like yours. No less. Let us leave that jaded, loaded word democracy aside for now. Liberty is what counts. We shall have it despite you; we shall have it to spite you. Howzat?
Idiot watch said…
"Clutching at straws", the logic, I fear, of a clutz. If you want to contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way, Croz does has a point. Anyone who makes such a bold assertion ought to proffer at least a smidgin of reasoning to explain their position. Then again, we do live in troubled times and perhaps your grip on reality precludes it. That's the wonderful thing about Fiji. Even the village idiot is valued and given succor. E dua tale na bisketi?
Australia Incorporated said…
Oh dear. I'm saddened that the sanctions against coup plotters and human rights abusers are causing such anguish and bitterness. Perhaps instead of hysteria coup apologists might be more constructive trying to resurrect the collapsing sugar industry and assisting Fiji to return to democracy?
The sanctions as you suggest are certainly having significant impact on coup perpetrators and supporters.
Here is some advice: Move on, accept the sanctions, accept the Commonwealth Games ban and be happy.
Hope this helps.
Siti said…
One wonders what lies beneath MF's latest rant. He has suggested nothing new, in fact sanctions only recently have been relaxed. If you read between the lines i believe all he is after the head of McCully.
Rod said…
I suspect Michale Field and the NZ Government are really not concerned with shifting diplomatic strategies as an act of benevolence to FIji but more because if they persist with this post cold war relic of a diplomatic approach they may well find themselves responsible for speeding up the establishment of a new Pacific Regional Order where economic and political alliances will be forged with CHina and the Asian COuntries starting with East Timor to TOnga. Poverty Alleviation for Pacific countries is a huge issue and the void created by NZ and OZ will naturally be filled as there are other players in the field. Two years ago a learned colleague told me CHina is not a threat and not interested in the Pacific. Well ask Ramos Horta and the COmmodore...
Son of Fiji said…
More than likely, this fool has gotten wind of a soon to be revealed change in stance from NZ & Oz, and wants to claim some credit for it further down the road.
Anonymous said…
The sanctions have failed because their intention was to return Fiji to elections (not democracy or equality or liberty) and Fiji is even further away from elections!! sure they have caused anger and hostility but much of it is aimed not at the fiji government but at the Kiwi and aus governments!!! And the Fijians have carried on with their reforms undeterred. So failure failure failure. Even the village idiot Field can finally see that.

Popular posts from this blog

Lessons from Africa

The Ratu Tevita Saga, Coup4.5, Michael Field, the ANU Duo, and Tonga