Australia, Fiji & China? What After the Military? Tuilaepa's Tsunami Dollars?

Australia Driving Fiji into China's Arms 

Canberra should lose no time in repairing relations with Suva.

Fiji celebrated the 40th anniversary of its independence from Britain last week. Sitting under the protection of a pavilion, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, ministers and the diplomatic corps were untroubled by the teeming rain that soaked the parading troops and schoolchildren who provided the spectacle for the occasion.

But not all the storm clouds were over Suva's Albert Park that day. Australia's high commissioner was missing from the diplomatic reserved seats, a casualty of tit-for-tat expulsions in the course of the troubled relationship between Canberra and Suva since the December 2006 military coup.

Adding an edge to Australia's diplomatic absence, for those who read the commemorative program, was the logo of the embassy of the People's Republic of China. It was the only state listed as an official sponsor.

The entire planet is making some adjustment to China's emergence as a rising global power. But Australia's four-year attempt to isolate and penalise the government of Bainimarama has pushed Fiji more quickly and fully into Beijing's arms. Arms has a double meaning here; Fiji's President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has just returned from a state visit to China, where he visited a major arms manufacturing plant.The military sanctions imposed on Fiji by its traditional friends (Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the US) have left Fiji's military with few options for resupply or modernisation. Speculation is rife in Suva that Fiji will soon decide to procure Chinese sourced armaments. This would likely be a long-term commitment to the Chinese supply chain.

The Bainimarama government also has a significant military personnel training offer from China. There's every chance that a substantial commitment could soon be made to a five-year cadet officer training program that would at least equal the pre-2006 levels for Australia, New Zealand and Britain combined.

These developments are a direct result of some of the ill-advised sanctions against Fiji, rather than any efforts by China to discredit Fiji's ties with Australia. The affection that built up over the years between Australian officers and Fiji's military has been lost.

Senior Fiji officers regret that the brothers-in-arms status that they once enjoyed with their Australian counterparts isn't available and won't be offered to their junior officers.

Our closest Western allies in the region, the US and France, haven't gone as far down the military sanctions path as has Australia and have maintained routine contact with Fiji's armed forces.

Our leading Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, have undermined travel sanctions by allowing all personnel banned by Australia to travel abroad via their countries. In the process, they have reinforced Fiji's "look north" policy to cultivate new partners to offset the estrangement from its traditional friends.

At a recent meeting at the UN with Fiji's Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Hillary Clinton, recognised the 2014 date for elections in Fiji is unlikely to change.The US Secretary of State offered to assist Fiji in returning to parliamentary democracy by that date.

Despite its doubts, Australia shouldn't wait until 2014 to test the sincerity of Fiji's commitment to elections. That would only make Bainimarama's government feel it has succeeded despite Australia, and not because of Fiji's relationship with an old friend.

Last week's national day celebrations in Suva may have heralded a new focus for Fiji's independence, not from Britain but from Australia.If this trend is to be reversed, both sides should talk urgently.

* Richard Herr is the author of 'Time for a Fresh Approach: Australia and Fiji Relations Post-abrogation', Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Anthony Bergin is the research director at ASPI. These are their personal views.

What After the Military?
Scott MacWilliam's comment on the post 
"The Times They Are A Changin'":

The possibility that a military regime may be the precursor to a liberal democratic government is not as exceptional as some may think. Consider the history of England after Cromwell, France after Bonaparte, the USA after the military victory of the north over the south in the civil war, Germany after Bismarck and then again after the Allied Occupation in 1945, Japan after the Allied Occupation also at the end of WWII, South Korea during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Republics-the list goes on including more recently into Africa and Latin America.In many liberal democratic countries, the military's presence is invariably just beneath the surface, used to quell strikes, demonstrations, etc.

Nothing is predetermined in the relationship between military and civilian rule, despite what those who are romantically inclined care to think.  Fiji will be the same, which is why what steps are taken over the next few years to secure a transition to a more substantial democratic civilian government are so important.

TUILAEPA QUESTIONED. The Samoan Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister can call me what they like, they can imply Claudine Maclean and I are cynical and ignorant palagi, but shooting the messenger does not alter the fact that neither the government's own figures, nor what I saw and heard on the coast, go anywhere near towards answering the simple question we came to Samoa to ask: where has the money gone?  -- NZ journalist Campbell Live on the unaccounted for WST$100,000,000 given for tsunami relief. Samoa Observer, Oct. 6, 2010. [Which raises questions about Tuilaepa's  finger-pointing at Fiji.]

WHY THE CRIME RATE IS RISING BUT FALLING.Jone Kalouniviti comments on the changing nature of crime.  and indirectly on how statistics can be misleading if like is not compared with like.


sara'ssista said…
The point is that this regime is determined that there will be no 'after the military' as they will be there threateningly in the wings if they are ever investigated, or their dominance challenged in any way by ANY juduciary, government elected or not. This the issue that Croz and his fellow travellers fail to even discuss, but would have us all on tender hooks waiting for this 2014 election date as if the military has any intention of letting any government actually govern without its continued patronage. It is an appalling distraction and deceitful ploy. There is this presumption that if we just wait, have faith and click our heels things just get better. How is that working for you?
Not independant said…
It's a pretty sad day when Fiji has to seek a sponsor for it's Independance day celebrations.

How independant is a country that needs China's sponsorship to celebrate.

No, Fiji is not independant. It is a military regieme and one expects it plans to move to a one party system like China.

The more I read about China the more I am convinced that this is the model Frank want for Fiji. A system where the party (in this case military) sits above everything including the courts and controls everything including the media and deals harshly with any who speak out.
sormist said…
@ Scott

There is no "after the miliary". Frank has zero plans to remove the military from government nor the civil service. He honestly beleives they are better than everyone else. The military are in control and their number one aim is to remain in power. They know they would fail as politicians as a number of thier own and current supporters have.

They are going nowhere. The people acknowlege this the better.

On that basis (no elections, no fre speech and a continued military presence) are you still 100% pro coup Croz?
Another racist attack said…
Not content with your attacks on Fijians you are now making attacks on Samoans? Perhaps you and your indo Fijian friends who seem to delight on making racist attacks on Pacific islanders might like to comment on the current racism coming out of NZ - Indians making racist comments on a women winning a contest because she 'did not look indian enough'. I do not hear Samoans or Fijians making racist attacks on Indians? so back off!!
Desperate Spin said…
We have witnessed from desperate spin from coup apologists benefiting from the regime but this one takes the cake. It almost makes the FBCL and the 'new' Fiji Times rage look stupid. And one also notes that this failed academic Herr strangely does not mention he is working for the pro regime indo-Fijian focussed university of Fiji? Interesting that.
Vicious, unwarranted spin said…
Desperate Spin, Richard Herr is a highly respected specialist on Pacific affairs in Australia and the author of a major report on Fiji commissioned last year by the Australian Government. This is a very cheap shot of yours that can't go unanswered. A full time academic at the University of Tasmania, Herr's role at the University of Fiji is a part-time one and he took it by special invitation to help establish its credentials. He is far from being pro-regime, as evidenced by his academic writings and many appearances in the media. In fact, he's been very critical of regime and some of its more provocative actions. What concerns Richard Herr is the damage being done to existing regional relationships by Australia and NZ's hardline stance on Fiji. If this guy says we need to be worried about driving Fiji into the arms of China, then by God, we should be. His credentials are impeccable. Shame on you for shooting the messenger.
I wish I was said…
'I wish I was head of the Navy and Frank's brother in law' is what Saladoka Saumaibulu must be thinking today. He has already spent 8 months in remand which together with other mitigating factors reduced his sentance to 6 months jail.

Francis Kean on the other hand never went to gail, spent only a few minutes under watch at the Naval base, kept his pay and returned to his high powered job.

Both where involved in a drunken fights that killed a man but I guess it sure helps to be part of the coup team and Franks brother in law.

The new "free and fair fiji" perhaps ?

Accused killer handed six month sentence
October 12, 2010 09:20:16 PMA+ A- | | | A man who caused the death of another has been convicted of manslaughter by the Lautoka High Court and subsequently sentenced to six months imprisonment.

In passing sentence Justice Priyantha Nawana started with a two year prison term for the accused but reduced his sentence to six months due to mitigating factors.

33-year old Saladoka Saumaibulu’s mitigating factors include him being a first time offender, that he pleaded guilty to the offence at the first available opportunity and that he was in remand for eight months.

“I reduce one year for the early guilty plea and reach at a period of one year imprisonment,” he said

“I further reduce a period of three months for your remorseful conduct, for the past record free from convictions and for your family background.”

“Another period of three months is reduced against your detention on remand nearly for eight months.”

In the result, I arrive at a term of six month imprisonment.” Justice Nawana stated.

Saladoka is said to have assaulted Charlie Dunn after the two were involved in a drunken brawl outside a nightclub in Lautoka.

According to the facts of the case, Dunn had started the brawl and later hit his head on the pavement following a punch from Saladoka.

The accused then punched, stomped and kicked Dunn on the face which resulted in him loosing consciousness.

Dunn was admitted at the Lautoka Hospital but was later transferred to the Colonial War Memorial hospital in Suva where he later died.
Proud Fijian said…
This is the link to the Campbell live video of the Tsunami Aid Money
Jon said…
More spin (this time in the reverse direction) by the still factually inaccurate Fiji Times which, without checking, reproduced the misleading comment by Richard Herr in today's paper:

“…Australia's high commissioner was missing from the diplomatic reserved seats, a casualty of tit-for-tat expulsions…”

Unless I’m mistaken, Stephen Smith’s comment at the time, that Australia would not respond in kind because it was important that Fiji remained officially represented in Australia, still holds good.

There was no ‘tit for tat expulsion’ after the latest undiplomatic move by Fiji's interim government. Mr Herr should have known better and not stated that there had been.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Jon ... I suppose it depends on which came first. I'd trace the Aust HighCom's explusion to her efforts to influence MSG diplomats in Suva. Prof Herr, by the way, is by no means pro-government. He is greatly respected in Australia and the recipient of an Order of Australia. Some anti-government bloggers called him a "failed academic." Oh, to fail so gloriously!

@ Another racist attack ... If you knew anything about me you would not write such nonsense.
Hear, hear for Herr said…
Good for you, Croz, in sticking up for Richard Herr. I think it's terrible that someone of his stature has his name dragged through the mud just for expressing a personal view that has nothing to do with domestic Fiji politics. if you do an internet search on him, you'll find that he's been consistently warning of the negative effect of isolating Fiji by weakening existing regional institutions like the Forum. He's warning that Australian and NZ influence in the region is being eroded by their policies on Fiji and that driving Fiji into the arms of the Chinese may not be a good thing for any of us. That's nothing to do with supporting the regime but acting sensibly for the collective good of the region. We need more academics like Richard Herr to join the debate and with more open minds than the anti-regime clique at the ANU that always seems to dominate the agenda. People like Jon Fraenkel, Stewart Firth, Brij Lal and Jone Baledrokadroka don't seem to get it. Current policies haven't and won't dislodge Frank Bainimarama. And in the meantime, the hard-line stance they insist on is being totally unproductive in altering the entire strategic balance in the region. If you want to have the Chinese communists calling the shots in the Pacific, back them. If you want to get things back on track and drag Fiji back into the orbit of the region's democracies, back Richard Herr. He doesn't deserve to be pilloried.
Cicero said…
@ Hear, Hear for Herr!

The ANU Ugly Duckling Team, paid for by the Aussie taxpayers 'just don't get it'? But do WE get it? These are people, remunerated by foreign tapayers' money, who have supported acts of terrorism. They have been party to and fellow travellers of: terrorist, nationalist, racist-supremacist endeavours. What is more,they know full well that they have and they, apparently, intend to continue. Like corruption, terrorism is self-propagating. It spawns itself by close association with networks of the like-minded who have a vested interest which has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy or with processes which are genuinely democratic. This 'autogenesis' admits of no cross-fertilisation of ideas or of anything which might dilute or contradict its ultimate goal: racial supremacy and exclusion by no matter what means. It would be most interesting to learn how many of this elite ANU Club are also rabidly anti-semitic? Or anti-Roma, anti-homosexual? For these tendencies often coincide. A close reading of the posts on this Blog since yesterday reveal this. What does the average Australian taxpayer think of all this? Is it possible to find out?

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