Australia's Policy Not Working; Rule of Law, McCully's Carrot; MSG Leaders Endorse Fiji's Plans, Oppose Exclusion; McCully Leads Rudd

N0287. CALLS FOR POLICY CHANGE MOUNTING.  In the last few days we've had Australian Foreign Minister Rudd saying that Australia will not change its approach to Fiji; NZ Foreign Minister McCully wave the carrot of Rugby World Cup attendance if Fiji showed it was serious about elections in 2014; and three Melanesian countries accept Fiji's Roadmap and call for  its re-entry into the Pacific Forum and PACER discussions (see N0290, below).

Now we have Julie Bishop, the Australian Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, saying Australia's policy of exclusion is not working, and that it should follow the example of the United States and other European countries and review its policies.

'I believe it's time, she said, 'for the Australian government to review its stance on Fiji, particularly time to assess  whether the sanctions imposed on Fiji are working or whether they are potentially counter-productive. We must  consider the impact of the sanctions on the Fijian people. I am urging Foreign Minister Rudd to refocus his  efforts in the Pacific, particularly on Fiji, to see if there's a better way to restore democracy and the rule of law in Fiji.'

Last week's NSW election routing of Labour and its slender one-seat majority in the Federal parliament seem to indicate that Rudd's Labour is as much out of touch with realities in Australia as it is in the Pacific.

N0288. THE RULE OF LAW
. These snippets from a reader's email: "The new Commissioner of Police is very pro-active ...

"We are seeing a great improvement in the courts now ... the Sri Lankan judges and magistrates are helpful and professional.

"I am told we now have five High Courtrooms. Before there were only two and BOTH leaked.  We have six judges  there now. There was a time when there were only two. Imagine: two judges to serve the entire Western Division of Fiji. No wonder we were in trouble."

The reader pointed to the sort of assistance needed from overseas: "We need targeted assistance – especially with the Police Force, violent crime, serious organized crime and transnational crime.  Also with the operation of the Fiji Courts and Judicial System, such as Court recording and remote TV to allow women and children separation from their attackers in courts.

N0289. MCCULLY'S CARROT.  Another reader left this comment: "The fact that McCully even considered dangling the World Cup as a carrot indicates the low regard with which he and his government consider Fiji and the depth of their ignorance of indigenous Fijian history, values and psyche. Is NZ offering to buy the Fiji Government's integrity with the World Cup? What is the World Cup but a piece of silver? Of much greater value is that Fiji does not sell its soul."

N0290. MSG MEETING ROUNDUP.
   A TV first marked the Melanesian Spearhead Group  Leaders Summit on Thursday with two hours of live coverage beamed to thousands of viewers from around the region in English, Fijian,  Hindi, French, Pidgin and sign language.

The highlight of the meeting from Fiji's perspective was the unanimous support received from the Melanesian governments. All the leaders recognised the proposed People’s Charter for Change, the Roadmap and the Sustainable Socio-Economic Development and the accompanying reform agendas as credible for Fiji’s development. All the leaders also called for the end of Fiji's exclusion by the international community.  

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Peter Shanel  called on the Melanesian countries to lobby the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum and the Commonwealth Heads of Governments to support Fiji in its efforts to hold elections in 2014. These institutions, he said, must now recognise Fiji’s sovereign right to decide its own destiny.

PNG Foreign Minister Don Poyle called for Fiji's inclusion in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations, and said,  "What Fiji does internally is Fiji's business."

Vanuatu PM Sato Kilman supported PM Bainimarama's call for solidarity to complement efforts at the national level in individual member states. He had earlier said "the Vanuatu Government like other Melanesian Spearhead Group and Pacific countries recognises the importance of maintaining a diplomatic representation in Fiji.We cannot go alone. We need Fiji.”

Solomon Islands PM Danny Philip had to leave early due to political developments in his country overnight that saw the opposition in Honiara to try to dislodge his seven month old government with a no confidence motion. Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has sent his Foreign Minister Don Polye, as he had to step aside for two weeks on Monday in line with a leadership tribunal ruling.

Radio NZ International, reporting on the MSG meeting from Suva:

 “Melanesian leaders have endorsed a broad vision on the future MSG economic integration. It involves the possible creation of a common market through the expansion of the MSG Trade Agreement into provisions for trade in services as well as a labour mobility scheme. The Closer Economic Relations agenda also includes a strengthening of the Trade agreement by addressing inconsistencies with other regional trade agreements, while the leaders have approved a timeline to conclude the long-running negotiations with the European Union on the Economic Partnership Agreements, or EPAs, by the end of this year.The MSG leaders have also come out strongly in support of the re-inclusion of Fiji in all regional trade discussions, issuing a broad threat of pushing for a change in the location and management of the EPA negotiations if Fiji continues to be excluded.”

Fine. But there was no mention, no mention at all,  of the Melanesian leaders' political support for Fiji. Not even a whisper.

Compare this with Radio Australia reports "Melanesian Leaders Endorse Bainimarama plans".
No comment!

 N0291.
FIJI: McCully leads Rudd in treatment of pariah regime by Alex Perrottet in Pacific Media Watch


Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Item: 7368
ANALYSIS: AUCKLAND: For outside onlookers at Fiji, the 2014 deadline for democratic elections seemed like a far-off date in the future, arbitrarily picked by military leader Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama.
He argued two years ago that such time was needed to “change” Fiji and cleanse the political system from corruption and entrenched racism.
Now, the 2014 deadline is closer – a mere three-year term of government for New Zealand and Australia – and some commentators are starting to think that Bainimarama might actually hold to his word. That he actually has a plan.
The question is why have Australia, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, held back from engaging with Fiji, in order to more effectively encourage the promised return to democratic elections.
What usually holds diplomats and politicians back from visiting undemocratic countries is the danger involved. Sometimes necessity overcomes danger. In fact, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has visited plenty of undemocratic countries.
Between September 2010 and February this year, Rudd had visited Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Brazil, Chile, Bali, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Bahrain, China, South Korea, Japan, Belgium and Italy. Almost half of his tenure as foreign minister was spent overseas.
In fact, within two months of being sworn in, no less than four different ministers of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government visited China, an undemocratic country from which many more human rights abuse stories would emerge if it was not for censorship of the media.

Invitation to Fiji
Yet Rudd hasn’t been able to get to Fiji, despite an invitation from Bainimarama. In fact, the military leader has invited Rudd three times since the 2006 coup to see what the real situation was like.
Now it is not as if it is dangerous. Fiji earned $147.3 million from Australian tourism in a record-breaking third quarter of 2010.
"What's holding them back is their stubbornness and also the fact that they do not understand what the real situation in Fiji is like, which makes it difficult for them to come out of their shell," Bainimarama said at the time.
Last year Gillard did not make it to Vanuatu for the Pacific Islands Forum and sent then foreign minister Steven Smith, and only after strong encouragement from the opposition that he should go.
The Fijian media treated it with cynicism. True, Gillard stayed to fight for the last few seats that helped her cling to power, but it showed where Fiji and the greater Pacific really is in the priorities of the current Australian government.
Now, Rudd as foreign minister has gone on the attack again. While visiting Christchurch he told Guyon Espiner in a heated interview that Fiji must adhere to the standards and norms of the pif, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
When asked why the Australian and New Zealand approach thus far has not worked with Fiji, Rudd dodged the question, saying it bought “into an assumption that the problem lies with the rest of us rather than with the Bainimarama regime.”
Rudd is clearly not interested in dialogue, unless there are more important gains to be made, such as Australia’s relationship with China.
Rudd did point out some home truths for Bainimarama:
“It is not right to sack your entire judiciary, that it is not right therefore to incarcerate ministers of religion, that it is not right to interfere with religious convention on denominations of the Christian religion, that it is not right to close down the media, that it is not right to suspend elections. Bainimarama is the one who must change here.”
But that is a tantrum we had five years ago.
The Pacific Institute of Public Policy has just issued a report on democracy in the Pacific. It says:
“The horse has already bolted, so better now to take Bainimarama at his word, to ensure that the promised 2014 elections are indeed free and fair.
“The continued bleating about the need for a ‘return to democracy’ in Fiji fails to grasp an important point: democracy never meaningfully existed in Fiji.”
Rudd’s problem is that he is not helping Fiji change. In his place, others are making gains.

US involvement
Adjunct Professor at Fiji's National University, Dr Richard Herr told Radio Australia that the US investing in Fiji was a sign that other democratic countries in the region were failing, and the US is concerned that other powers are gaining influence in the region.
Even Fiji’s Chief Justice of the High Court, Anthony Gates, an Australian citizen, said that Australia and New Zealand have hindered Fiji’s efforts.
"Australia and New Zealand have hampered our progress in restoring the judiciary at all levels,” he said.
"In the world, this assault on, and interference with, a neighbouring state’s judiciary is unprecedented."
Gates had made the decision in 2001 that the military coup by George Speight was illegal and the Constitution still stood. His decision was disobeyed by the government, which chose to hold elections instead. Six years later, Bainimarama’s coup was in a great part rooted in the problems of the aftermath of the 2000 coup.
Last year, the Fiji Times reported  WikiLeaks had revealed that former Australian Parliamentary Secretary of Pacific Island affairs Duncan Kerr believed that a softer approach on Fiji was warranted, and even encouraged the US to re-engage with Fiji.
The US heeded the advice, Australia did not.
At least the Fiji Sun seems to think that New Zealand and McCully have turned a corner.
It was reported today that New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, said bans on travel for Fiji MPs would have to be lifted if the Fijian regime could show proof that their plans for democratic elections were in tow.
This year’s PIF will be held in Auckland, days before the Rugby World Cup kicks off.
It wouldn’t be the first time that rugby healed political divisions. However, the change of approach is not just a coincidence with the important forum and a football competition.

More positive approach
McCully spoke more positively today on Fiji to Radio New Zealand International.
“We are talking to people and we are making a lot of good ground with people we don’t normally talk to,” he said.
“We are committed to that. We are looking at a whole inclusive process when we are looking at Fiji’s future.”
It certainly sounds more positive than Rudd’s comments. Perhaps it was because he took the time to visit Suva in August last year. Last month he went to Vanuatu for the PIF Ministerial Contact Group (MCG), where he met with Fijian Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.
Australia sent its Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, Richard Marles. But as the Fiji Sun reported, “He continued to parrot the demands that have taken Canberra nowhere except outside looking in as Fiji builds new international relationships and friendships.”
McCully’s “carrot” for Fiji is that Bainimarama needs to give "a pretty clear indication that they are headed for the polls within an acceptable timeframe".
Now putting aside what is acceptable and who deems it such, and that Bainimarama has been giving assurances for years that the 2014 deadline is on track, it’s no coincidence that McCully’s comments are new, and more engaging. Perhaps he knows a little bit more than Kevin Rudd.
That wouldn’t be a coincidence either.
.

Comments

Seeking the map said…
Great, so it is fine to share the roadmap with other countries in the region but still we the citizens of Fiji are not able to see it.

I am sick of being treated like a idiot by this government. Please publish the roadmap. Otherwise claims of transparency are laughable. Mr PM as it stands you are no better than those you removed. Your promises empty and you will never survive in the long term without guns unless you learn to listen
more detail please said…
With two hours of coverage did they talk at all about what is in the roadmap. It would be great to finally get some concrete evidence of a roadaps existence and find out what is in it. After all thats the supposed to be the "plan" for a return to democracy in 2014 ?
Croz Walsh said…
To both of you ... I have now addressed these concerns several times. I agree the Roadmap, now in draft, should be published, but its main contents are very obvious from everything else that has been published. Your contribution would be more useful if you would focus on these.
What roadmap said…
As Fijians we all know the sad reality that we cannot vote or choose who should run our country. But can we at least see the roadmap that was shared with the leaders (sorry the one leader) in attendance at the MSG? surely that is not unreasonable?
Julie Bishop's comment said…
Croz
Julie Bishop clearly stated that different strategies were needed "to restore democracy and the rule of law" in Fiji. Although I cannot comment on her 'different strategies' as she has not stated them, I do agree with her that something needs to be done urgently to restore democracy AND the rule of law in Fiji. As the country has little future in the absence of both fundamental requirements to move forward - particularly the restoration of the rule of law - this is absolutely critical and urgent.
you can't read an invisible map said…
Croz,

I understand that you have addressed the contents of the roadmap many times and that you feel we should all know it because it is derived from the People’s Charter.

However, please give me one valid reason why it can be shared with the MSG, twice now, and not with the people of Fiji.

This issue makes it so hard to defend this Government. You can’t support its plans because you are not told what they are.

Everyone in Fiji wants to move the country forward, some with this Government and some with another Government, but we all want to move forward from where we are today. It seems simple to me for the Government to publish the roadmap and share with its own people its vision for the future and how we are going to get there.

One of the key items in the Peoples Charter, on which you say the Roadmap is based, is Government transparency. If the Government was to share the Roadmap it would demonstrate transparency and also it might make the Government claims about elections in 2014 more plausible because we will see how we get there.

This is such an obvious thing for the Government to do that by not publishing the Roadmap they are creating lots of speculation on its existence and or its content.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Invisible map .. A good analogy and I sympathise with your frustration, but I don't think the MSG leaders have been told any more than anyone else. I doubt they have been given a draft document. More likely they've been told the main points -- just as we all have. This does not mean, of course, that the map should not be published. It should, but clearly government has higher priorities. We should do the same and comment on what we know of the Roadmap and Stategic Framework for Change from what Government has said, has done, and is doing quite transparently (and is not doing what it should be doing). I've covered most of this on the blog. We can also use the Pillars of the Charter to see whether it is living up to its stated intentions. People living in Fiji could contact the PM on his 01 number and write to the media, to ask (and ask again) that the Roadmap be published.
Anonymous said…
If the MSG have not seen the roadmap then what hell are they doing 'supporting' it or this all just pro-military media complying as usual ?
Roady said…
I suspect you are right Croz and the MSG have not seen any detail on the roadmap - just a slick presentation about all the positive things they have done. becasue they have not seen a roadmap it is another reason to be frustrated and sceptical that they have really "endorsed the roadmap".

As to the constant calls for the roadmap to be published just like promise to remove the PER I don't this government really care that much. Life is more comfortable for them than ever before - why put yourself out there and let yourself be shown to be anything but 'perfect' which they think they are now.
Anonymous said…
Dear Croz,

You mention that government might have higher priorities than finishing the roadmap so it can be published. If they believe in democracy and want a fairer version then really what could be more important than this roadmap we are all asked to believe in site unseen ?
Croz Walsh said…
@ Anonymous ... Agreed, as I've repeatedly said. But I'm afraid the military, whatever its good intentions, is a top-down organization that too often sees civilian involvement as an obstruction that slows it down doing the job. My guess and hope is that the situation will improve when the Roadmap gets to the constitutional and electoral reform stage, at which point the "military mind" will have allocated "space" for civilian participation. Such an approach is fraught with dangers of derailment and I like it no more than you. There is, however, quite a lot of civilian participation now, much of it behind the scenes, but it is on infrastructural reform and development issues, not democratic-related reforms.
Hoodwinking Out! said…
@ Croz Walsh and democratic development through civilian participation......

We need to recall that some of us have participated democratically elsewhere: we have voted and assisted in the running of elections elsewhere AND in Fiji over thirty five years. So, we know what is required. The fact that past governments chose to ignore this and attempted to exclude all with relevant experience only served to show them up. We knew when we were being short-changed, hoodwinked with abuses of democracy. Tough for them! Now our experience and knowledge will assist in propelling things forward to a democracy. Because this time around, we shall never again permit hood-winking of a civilian population deserving of more than a 'Dubious Democratic Process'. It shall be full democracy, free and fair and EQUITABLE ON EVERY COUNT.
Enough already said…
I am starting to get a little tired of these constant calls to see the roadmap and repeating the lie that it has not been shared with the Fijian people. Bainimarama went through the broad outlines of the roadmap in a puplic address to the nation on TV on July 1 2009 in a speech titled "A strategic framework for change". See this link for a full transcript http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/200907/s2613470.htm

Some may argue that they would like to see more detail, but you cannot say that the roadmap has not been shared with the Fijian people.
sara'ssista said…
@ Enough....Perhaps this regime would have the confidence then given they have had five years, to have some 'independent' research done on what people understand of the the roadmap and charter? If the interest on this blog is any indication we are underwhelmed and ambivalent. All they have done, even ,'even' if there intentions are good to entrentch an indifference as people are not part of this process thay are being told what will happen and if you are not on borad you are the enemy. Croz for all his flaws, has some valid criticisms, is still ignored by this regime, and he is a collaborator!!
Commonsense on the sideline said…
'Shoot the Messenger".....

Is a common fault of all regimes and of all those who are preoccupied with their own survival. But when 'Shoot the Messenger' is married to rampant racism...then you have a toxic brew and the toxicity endures for a very long time. Ask black Americans who went through their 'war of independence' from racism in the mid-1960s? Combine rampant racism with arrogance and an inability to read history and to know the consequences of one's own history and you have a recipe for Utter Folly. Learning from mistakes - the scientific method, must be applied. Almost everyone who might benefit from an analytical approach has left. So where does that leave everyone else? Despite reforms in education, it will take years to make the difference that produces results. An inability to ask the biting, basic question of governance: Who benefits? And then to stringently apply the answer'. Is that the definition of 'collaborator'? A March of Folly is still in play. Commonsense - left on the sideline.

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