Tonga is Okay, Lowry Panel Mixed bag, IMF Welcome FSC Reforms, Welfare Goes Electronic

TONGA IS OKAY. On Monday I published a short piece based on a Sunday Star-Times article (republished in Stuff) in which I drew parallels between Tonga's laws prohibiting street marches, the King's power to dismiss parliament and similar legislation and the situation in Fiji.My purpose was to show that many Pacific nations cannot be compared with NZ, and that our government needs to recognize this. I now wish to distance myself from the original article and what I wrote about it.  I do not agree with Dr Sitiveni Halapua that Tonga is "still technically under military rule." Serious riots broke out in Nuku'alofa in 2006 and the emergency regulations  passed then are still in place but they refer only to a defined part of Nuku'alofa. This is hardly "military rule." Street marches do require prior permission but this is normal practice everywhere and is not the equivalent of PER or the prevention of the Methodists politicised conferences. Similarly, Clive Edward’s suggestion that the augmented military might step in if the politicians don’t do the right thing after the election is pure speculation and some could say mischievous.  I thank Prof Ian Campbell for these corrections.  Fakamolemole 'aupito.

The map.  Click to enlarge. This is a good map of Tonga because it shows the whole group from Niuafo'ou in the north to 'Ata in the south, and Tonga's overlapping proximity to the Lau Group where Tongan chief Ma'afu ruled at the time of Cakobau and Cession.

THE KERR-DOBELL-FRAENKEL-MEO PANEL.  "On 8 November, the Lowy Institute for International Policy co-hosted the Fiji and Vanuatu Update 2010 with the Crawford School of Economics and Governance, Australian National University. As part of the 2010 Update a distinguished panel was assembled to discuss these very challenges and to discuss Fiji’s international relations, politics and governance, in relation to Australia."

Panelist were the Hon Duncan Kerr (former Permanent Secretary of Pacific Afairs in the Kerr Labor Government) who advocated "Strategic Re-engagement", Graeme Dobell, (journalist and Lowry Interpreter) who spoke of his concerns about the "New Order" before and after 2014;  Dr Jon Fraenkel (ANU and formerly USP) who  said engagement has been tried before, and Rev Dr Jovili Meo *formerly Principal of the Pacific Theoloogical College in Suva and now Chairman of the the Fijian National Conference, Uniting Church Australia) who thought the military was the cause of all the coups and that the military way was not the Fijian way which was change by consensus. The moderator was Jenny Hayward-Jones, Program Director, Myer Foundation Melanesia Program, who provided a useful summary of events from 2006.   The link to the panel discussion is provided in tomorrow's Weekend Readings together with other interesting items (see bottom of post.)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. New quotes are published every weekend, usually on Sunday, in the right sidebar. Quote for the Week November 14 "Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just." -- Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).

. The International Monetary Fund supports Fiji's efforts to improve and develop its ailing sugar industry with reform framework.In a release, the IMF encouraged government to seek international and professional opinion to help in the development of the reform plan.

“The mission welcomed the efforts of the Sugar Task Force to develop a sugar industry reform framework and encourages the government to seek best professional advice available globally to help develop and implement a detailed reform plan.”

Meanwhile, the sugar task force recently enlisted the help of a consulting firm in New Zealand to undertake an independent review of its performance and capital structure.The firm will also identify an appropriate capital structure for the Fiji Sugar Corporation and reforms needed for the industry.

WELFARE GOES ELECTRONIC. Some 24,000 people receiving Family Assistance will soon be able to draw their allowance at Westpac ATM machines. PS for Social Welfare Govind Sami said Westpac Bank had won the tender and would make no transfer charges. Westpac's Senior Manager Government Business Bena Ralogaivau said the recipients will have no bank fees and the accounts would earn interest.“It’s an opportunity for them to join the banking environment and it’s also an opportunity for them to make use of the electronic banking that’s going to be spread out across Fiji and we hope that they take on this and use the functionality in it in the future because it will actually help them create savings and help them spend their dollar further and we welcome them.”

WEEKEND READING. ♦ Allen Lockington Column ♦ Fiji Waters Run Deep: the Bottled Water Affair ♦  Why Did Qarase Send Ridgway Packing? ♦ Dallas Swinstead talks about the Fiji Times and Government. ♦ The Kerr-Dobell-Fraenkel-Meo Panel.


Fijian not I Taukei said…
I suspect as usual. Croz Walsh will defer to the comments from the PS of mis-Information and lap whatever excuse she has for the current appalling events. As we have seen even when Croz feels he must criticise this regime,he takes his time and then leaves himself heaps of morality-free wiggle room. But even when she has nothing to say ,as recently, she appears to be last one to know what is happening but she is first to dispute any other version. This is how this regime works with arrogance and impunity and the idea that they have changed anything, is again laughable. I have every sense old Croz will leap to the defence of this regime. and defend to the hilt thier methods by way of saying that it is warranted due to tax dispute and how Fiji Water 'held a gun to the head of bainimarama over the tax incvrease'!!???.This IS a military regime. Fiji Water is successfull despite this regime, not because of it.They have certainly done more for the Fiji brand. Is that in dispute? Perhaps this regime is just unhappy that they were thwarted and getting revenge, not surpising, and i am sure this will be defended too.
Jabber jabber more of the same said…
The only remotely sensible person at the Lowy Institute forum is Australia's former parliamentary secretary for Pacific affairs, Duncan Kerr. The rest are at best mediocrities, as worst complete idiots. Graeme Dobell is in the ranks of the latter, totally fixated on imagined events ten years ago to justify current policies. The 2006 coup "began in 2000"? Listen up Keremi darling, what effing planet are you from? Who IS this guy apart from being a very ordinary ABC "Diplomatic Correspondent" until he retired on a fat pension and became a mouthpiece for Australia Inc? As for Jon Fraenkel, what on earth was the point of having him restate the crap he's been rabbiting on about for the past four years. And the lamentable Reverend Miaow, pussy cat of the racist Methodist Church in Fiji and its Uniting Church kai vata in Australia. Really, this whole session after Duncan Kerr stopped speaking was absolute crap. Take a look for yourself to see how far Australian attitudes are so out of kilter with the reality in Fiji. The Lowy Institute is a joke. No-one who doesn't toe the corporate line gets a look in and they all sit there in vigorous agreement with each other. Jenny Hyphen-hyphen is merely a stooge of the Australian foreign affairs establishment. And Dobell, Fraenkel and the Reverend Miaow are her stooges parroting policies that are utterly off the wall in relation to the reality on the ground. A miserable non-event on every count and yet another example of why Australia is losing the battle for hearts and minds not just in Fiji but the entire region.
Anonymous said…
Andrew Kennedy said.....
Kai Viti is what my father father calls me and if anybody knows how much change Frank Bainimarama has brought to Fiji then you simply have to see how little has gotten worse since he took charge. In other words you can always see the glass as being half empty or half full, in Fiji's case things haven't gone entirely backwards! It's clear to me and that's what's frustrating the anti-government people, they simply only see the negatives and only want their side to score points. But the reality is Frank and the great people who have gotten in behind him are working towards the good of all people of Fiji first, the media and Australian, NZ critics will come a low second and third place.
There are no prizes for arrogance and impunity when it comes to the foreign policies of certain countries are there? So to say the interim government behaves this way entirely would be one sided wouldn't it? Others play this game from what I see everyday.
Double standards are everywhere if you actually look for this. In other words, you the observer, have to find a balance amongst all this mud slinging.
Anyway, Croz you are very fair, balanced and open to others opinions. I commend you for this.
I'm a fourth generation Fiji born European, call me what you want but like I said my Dad calls me a Kai Viti!
Islands in the Stream said…
"Engagement has been tried before..." Dr Jon Fraenkel - ANU

Oh yes? When? and How? Dr Fraenkel needs to be much more specific than this. Only the metaphorically blind and deaf would believe that a strategic engagement is not essential: for the entire South Pacific Region and for the safety and security of all its inhabitants. Not just for Fiji. If you closely observe the NATO SUMMIT opening now in Lisbon, you will quickly come to this conclusion. Listen carefully to the UAE's Sheik Abdullah, for instance. Listen to his carefully measured, modulated language about the UAE role in Afghanistan since 2003. Did anyone know previously that they were there with NATO? No, of course you did not. But if you hear what he has to say and the manner in which he says it, you will come to know WHY they are there, alone almost among their Muslim brother States. This is the nuanced and carefully-managed approach that the South Pacific Region requires. We have had years of "engagement has been done before". No, Dr Fraenkel, it has not. Because it has never been attempted in the correct and careful manner required. No one has approached the people who might or could make a difference. Even Ms Hayward Jones backed off when she was told what she needed to be told. This is not diplomacy. This is not even intelligence gathering. This is the destruction of a region and the peoples who inhabit it through past indifference, incomprehension and therefore....incompetence. Now, others no longer "Wait in the Wings". They are here, on the ground and fully engaged. Why feign surprise?

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