Mainly on Australian NZ Policy & the US, Crime in West, Geothermal Possibilities

AUSTRALIA'S POLICY HAS BACKFIRED. This is the claim  of Sydney Morning Herald Asia-Pacific editor Hamish McDonald. He writes that Australia's campaign to isolate Fiji's military regime has resulted in the US and other powers sidestepping Canberra to build influence with the Fijians.

The tough policy of the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd - inherited from the Howard government - towards Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister installed in a coup, is failing and could damage his campaign to win a United Nations Security Council seat for Australia.

A switch in approach towards Commodore Bainimarama, to hold him to his promise of elections in 2014 and help in preparations, is likely to be discussed when Mr Rudd and the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, meet the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, in Melbourne today.

The emerging policy failure in Australia's sphere of influence will damage Canberra's diplomatic clout. ''If the people who in the past relied on Australia to lead on regional affairs feel that that lead is less reliable, then it does diminish our diplomatic influence,'' says Richard Herr, a foreign relations specialist at the University of Tasmania who has advocated a review of Fiji policy.

The US has recently intensified contact with Fiji as part of a new foreign policy of being more ''visible and effective'' in the Asia-Pacific region, partly to counter China's rising power.

Mrs Clinton included the Fijian Foreign Minister, Inoke Kubuabola, in a meeting in New York with Pacific leaders, and her Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and the Pacific, Kurt Campbell, who is also in Melbourne, recently said the US wanted talks with Fiji as long as the 2014 election date was firm.

''It [Fiji] is the centre, sort of architecturally, of transportation and the like in the Pacific,'' Dr Campbell said. ''It is high on the American priority to figure out if there's a way that we can be helpful in engaging diplomatically … We are stepping up our co-ordination and dialogue with New Zealand and Australia who we also believe have key critical interests in Fiji.''

Fiji's ambassador to the UN, Peter Thomson, said yesterday he had been assuring foreign officials that the 2014 election timetable was ''set in stone''.

A new US embassy building soon to be opened in Suva will include a regional office for an expanded US aid program in the South Pacific to compete with China's vigorous civil aid and growing military-to-military ties filling a vacuum in training and equipment created by Australian and New Zealand sanctions.

The sanctions have hit the Fijian economy hard, but not crippled the military leadership and its army. Government officials can escape travel sanctions by using air links to South Korea and Japan. India is ambivalent, seeing positives in Commodore Bainimarama's project to eliminate electoral bias towards ethnic Fijians over ethnic Indians.

Mr Rudd's plan, announced when he was prime minister, to bar Fiji's soldiers from UN peacekeeping assignments, has flopped. ''He did take it to the Security Council and it was thrown out,'' said Mr Thomson, pointing out that Fijians were the main guard at the UN compound in Iraq.

GILLARD HAS CHANGED HER TUNE. This is what OM Bainimarama claims and he does have a point. Before the Australian election she said she'd work with Fiji; now she wants early elections and she has made no moves to engage Fiji. It seems unlikely Fiji wants to re-engage with Australia either.Bainimarama said: "The US should engage Fiji directly and work with us, it will not work if they are to come through New Zealand and Australia. It will not work as these two countries do not have any high commissions here and secondly, they have failed miserably in trying to engage Fiji with their foreign policies."

US re-engagement with Fiji and the Pacific has been welcomed by Alton Shameem, President of the Fiji Club of New Zealand. He says "It is now time for our country New Zealand and Australia to take the strong, loud and clear cue from USA, other superpowers and nations and follow suit by engaging and helping Fiji, the Pacific region and internationally to move forward."

Alton thought “The setting up of the USAID Agency for the Pacific region in Fiji will further help the Fijian economy and will help our fellow Fijian brothers and sisters, the Pacific Region and internationally.

“The famous quote of President Barack Obama “Yes We Can” is possible as shown by him through engagement, dialogue, broadmindedness and being pragmatic instead of being big bullies with parochial attitudes as Australian and New Zealand governments has shown against the friendly Fijian government for the last four years.”

MURDER IN THE WEST. Four men, Seremaia Nalulu, 22, Waisake Tokamalua, 19, Kalaboso Biautubu, 20, of Matawalu Village in Lautoka and Seremaia Naulu, 21, of Wailekutu in Lami were in the Lautoka Magistrates Court on Friday charged with the murder of French national Jose Anselme, aggravated robbery and causing grievous harm at Tuvu between Ba and Lautoka on Tuesday. A fifth alleged assailant is in hospital recovering from a knife wound accidentally inflicted by one of the others.

Mr Anselme is a well known Lautoka businessman engaged in the beche-de-mer trade. It seems probable the assailants were after some $100,000 worth of beche-de-mer they knew to be stored on the premises. The assailants gained access after bashing senseless Jone Vesikula, the lone security guard who lives on his property. Mr Anselme is survived by his wife, Neita, eldest son, 16-year old Roger, and two younger siblings.

The crime could have been the work of only the alleged assailants but there are a number of disturbing reports of organized crime in the West which implicate several senior members of the police force. It is hoped this cowardly crime is unrelated, and that the new Police Commissioner will ferret out and charge the rotten wood in his force.

GEOTHERMAL POWER. Government is looking into the possibility of using geothermal energy to supply electricity to help reduce the country's use of diesel fuel. Localities with hot springs in Namosi and Serua, parts of Vanua Levu and western Viti Levu will be explored for their potential. The country's two most famous hot springs are the the Sabeto springs and mud bath between Nadi and Lautoka and the Savusavu Hot Spring Hotel in south-central Vanua Levu.


Where are they now? said…
Dead silence from the anti-regime bloggers, Croz. They've looked down and suddenly realised they haven't got a leg to stand on. Now I suppose the Sydney Morning Herald and Hamish MacDonald will cop a caning. They'll be Frank's toadies just like Richard Herr and anyone else who dares to confront them. How galling it must be to learn the truth of what the US really thinks and how Australia has been outflanked. Go back to your legless kai vata at Coup 4.5, you losers. Fiji is powering ahead without you. History is on Frank's side.
Hope said…
Frank says Australia and New Zealand have "failed miserably", fair what about Fiji and Frank. I would suggets both have failed to put forward a credible plan to restore democracy. In fact to date we have seen no plan. Well we were given a timebable and plan in 2007 but that has long since been relegated to the dust bin. We only have a promise that work will start in 2012, be finished by 2013 and have elections in 2014. Fiji's PM and his team need to look in the mirror to see some equally good examples of "not credible".

I'm grad of one thing though. Peter Thompson seems very confident the 2014 election date is set in stone. With his confidence and new found influence pehaps he could get Frank and his team to release some details on how that will all happen. Better still perhaps he could convince Frank to start work now.

We are all sick of promises. Time for some action. Too much cloud at the moment and not enough rain.
Oh Wan Tza said…
Murder in the west - Disturbing facts:

1) The Itaukei population is growing quickly (4 children/family) and Ba province is the capital of poverty in Fiji (in absolute numbers)

2) The economy is going down (-2% in average during the last 4 years)

3) Police officers and other civil servants wages are low.

4) The Itaukei lifestyle is not compatible with the capitalist economy (kerekere, etc.) and it is difficult for them to save/invest, etc.

So no wonder that "there are a number of disturbing reports of organized crime in the West which implicate several senior members of the police force. ".

How can we reform the Fijian society? I believe that the traditionnal lifestyle must be abandonned. This is what urbanisation is all about.
Dance to our tune said…
How has Gillard changed her tune? She was against coups and dictatorships before the elections - and still is? Like Hilary Clinton, she has told the junta to return Fiji to democracy and good governance. Although many of us have doubts this will occur in 2014.
However Fiji will return to freedom, history will record the coup (as it did saddam's regime), and the perpetrators will be brought to justice - there is no doubt about this.
sara'ssista said…
So if the sanctions are not working why this constant bleating about having them removed? Perhaps given this regimes track record of exempting itself from mandatory retirements age, audit, scrutiny...i have sneeking suspicion that even IF there is an election, it will go down tha path of burma and zimbabwe where the army remain in control pulling the levers of government and threatening to STEP IN when it suits. This the reform that we can all look forward to. This militray will not allow any investigation into it's dealings during the long eight years , will not feel bound by any contraty laws it feels are not in its own interest, will not be overseen by any minister and probably ignore any direction it wishes...this is the reform AFTER the election?? And of course the blanket amnesty it very quickly gave itself...the 2014 election, if it does happen is not the end is the beginning of more instability and military dictatorship by stealth.Then what??
One-sided contest said…
Yes, haven't things gone very quiet here all of a sudden? If this had been an unfavourable story for the regime, the coconut radio would have been humming. Seems those 4.5 interlopers who came out swinging a few days ago have now crawled back into their holes. What a shame. No one to argue with.
Joe said…
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Aust foreign policies. The problem is, Fiji has had illegal and unconstitutional govts since 1987. To my knowledge, we have never seen a re-distribution of boundaries before democratic elections, and as such, MC, Rabuka and LQ govts were unconstitutional. We now have a "fix it all" character who needs 8yrs of "moonlighting". All, incl Mara played the race card. Frank plays the race card differently. He wants equality and unity in diversity(so he preaches), yet the ethnic composition of his govt and his military dont reflect that. The people of Fiji have another illusionist to deal with here.
Walker Texas Ranger said…
@ Dance to our tune....

All perpetrators will be brought to justice and there is NO STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS for Crimes Against Humanity. Remember this 'Dance to our tune'. All those who were moved on in Muaniweni, who were terrorised and lost all they possessed will receive ultimate justice. One could not agree more about this. Those of us who met with them and who listened to their accounts will never forget what we learned only three days after they were obliged to cower in the jungle. Justice will be done: never fear that it will not be. All those responsible are known and will be brought to a final account.
Anonymous said…
Croz you said "there are a number of disturbing reports of organized crime in the West which implicate several senior members of the police force.",
I missed this report. Was it in the media? Or was it a rumour, which I didn't think you ever sullied yourself with?
How could it be that after four years of heavy duty clean-up, we could have such corruption?

Corruption Fighter
scandalised said…
how is it that my comment about the link between Fijians making too many babies, the bleak economy and criminality has not been published?
Red Dragon said…
@ Joe said......

THe alleged 'Illusionists' will be tested. The test will be the test of Justice. Too many have escaped the full brunt of the law. They have met only 'Partial Justice'. Some have met no justice at all: yet. That will no longer do. Crimes Against Humanity require that impunity is removed and dissolved by a full and proper application of judicial process. Then, only then, will the jobs follow. All engagement must be predicated upon full justice being applied and restitution for crimes of the past. Never again shall we willingly be witnesses or unwilling participants in a corrupt judicial process in Fiji. "DIEU ET MON DROIT".
Scandal of one's own making? said…
"Scandalised", maybe because if was too scandalous to publish. Your key words are a pretty good clue. Is it, perchance, along the lines that "Fijians" are too much like rabbits ( is that all of us or the i'Taukei? ), the economy can't sustain them, ergo that's why they turn to crime? Without knowing the precise details, it does seem you might have been engaged in a degree of racial typecasting. Furthermore, you're implying that there'd be less criminal activity if "Fijians" had fewer babies. Not exactly logical. What happens if those fewer babies grow up to have more criminal intent?

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