News and Comments Friday 8 March 2013
• Ambassador to the UK Solo Mara on new threats to Pacific security
• My interview with Fiji Times publisher Hank Art and editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and my comments on Fiji Times-Government relations.
TODAY IS International Women's Day.
RUSSIAN MILITARY ASSISTANCE. Fiji’s military plans to get technical help and equipment from Russia. Fiji’s interim government has announced it will enter into an agreement with Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation. The interim Minister for Defence and National Security, Joketani Cokanasiga, says the deal will help Fiji’s military forces improve their capacity and capability. The Russian agency supplies equipment, weapons, services and investment to other countries achieving more than 13 billion US dollars in sales in 2011. A former head of the agency, Mikhail Dmitriyev, has also described the service as a foreign policy tool designed to mark Russia’s presence in a region and influence a region’s balance of forces. Fiji’s interim government says the co-operation will assist Fiji’s military in acquiring appropriate technology and equipment for its peacekeeping troops. -- Radio NZInternational.
RABUKA: AUSTRALIA WILL LOSE INFLUENCE. Australia will lose its political and strategic influence in Fiji if it doesn't restore good relations as soon as possible, former PM Sitiveni Rabuka told a meeting in Sydney. Asian powers, such as China, were building new relationships with Fiji while Australia hid "behind a wall of political correctness". Rabuka urged Australia to quickly restore relationships because of the attention and influence Fiji was getting from Asia. Australia must realise that the longer the isolation, the more difficult the restoration," he told the forum.
Australia has also imposed financial and travel sanctions on Fiji until democracy is restored. But Fiji has been pursuing relationships with other countries and has upped its involvement with the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), which includes PNG, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the forum was told.
HERR: AUSTRALIA LOSING THE PLOT. Australia should pay more attention to Melanesia and allow Fiji back into the Pacific Islands Forum, says University of Fiji's Centre for International and Regional Affairs Professor Richard Herr. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute's International defence and security dialogue in Sydney last week Herr said Australia has lost its plot with regard to international security especially Fiji.
Herr said part of the problem is that the commonness in their approach has become less common, the mutual perceptions are not shared mutually and the belief in the share of infinities of interest has frayed noticeably in recent years. He said unless Australia embraces a two-region approach to the Pacific Islands, there will be some difficulty meeting its own strategic interest and those of the Pacific Islands. “Australia may well become soon simply another extra regional player in the affairs of the Pacific Islands region,” he told the group.
He also said the Melanesian group have adopted foreign policies of looking north particularly towards China and have moved towards closer relations with the non-aligned movement, weakening their traditional ties with Australia. “Australia needs to relate more effectively with the Melanesian Spearhead Group and, crucially, we need to repair our relationship with Fiji.”
FIJI's ICT AMONG THE BEST. Fiji's performance in delivering information and communications technology (ICT) services and infrastructure to its citizens has been ranked among the world's most dynamic by the International Telecommunication Union(ITU). In the ITU's annual review of more than 150 countries’ delivery of ICT infrastructure and services to their populations, Fiji was the only small island developing state to be given special recognition. Fiji tied for the third largest improvement of any country, moving up five places to 88th. And in percentage terms, Fiji ranked 4th globally, improving by 14%. The ITU's annual report attributed
Fiji's success to strong growth in mobile-broadband penetration; extension of 3G coverage; the development of Fiji's – and the Pacific’s – first national broadband plan; the Fijian Government's commitment to making Internet access affordable; and the expansion of e-Government services. New initiatives since the report was published include: Government’s Universal Access Program, network coverage - including 3G - that will continue to expand to areas that currently have poor or no coverage; the elimination of all duty on smartphones to make them more affordable for ordinary Fijians. and Government’s “Telecentre” initiative, which is expected to bring regular
Internet access to more than 60,000 Fijians – including 5,000 schoolchildren – by the end of the year. The A-G added “Currently, we are also in the process of establishing domestic Internet exchange points (IXPs) and of bringing 4G to Fiji. With 4G, high–speed Internet access and premium data services will be available to Fijians.”
Comment. A government seeking to repress public opinion does not make it easier for the public to access information and express their opinions.
WOMEN AND YOUTH MUST BE HEARD. The exclusion of women and youth voices in village meetings and in decision-making was among issues discussed during a European Union-funded project in Tawake Village in Cakaudrove. Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding (PCP) was responsible for the facilitation of the workshop which brought together 25 participants who were leaders from churches, villages, groups as well as members of community-based organisations from the four villages.
Issues discussed during the training ranged from effective communication, leadership to the principles and qualities of good governance.“Our hopes is that after this training you will heed these teachings and use it either to avoid or resolve conflicts and always working to build peace in you communities or villages,” says Tevita Tokalauvere of PCP.
As the workshop progressed, participants’ confidence grew and led participants to share issues that affect their communities – including the exclusion of women and youths voices in village meetings and in decision making. Some men have agreed that women and youths could not be excluded at all times.
“We cannot keep ignoring the fact that women and youths are part of our everyday lives,” said Reverend Kavetani of the Methodist Church in Tawake. “We should let them participate in village, church, group meetings and in decision making, especially now that we have learnt the principles of effective leadership for a peaceful community.”
THE BASHING VIDEO. See this link to Graham Davis's Grubsheet. The comments by readers are especially interesting.
MARCH CANCELLED. Tomorrow evening's Fiji Women's Crisis Centre "Reclaim the Night" march in Suva has been cancelled by police due to security threats. FWCC has been invited to re-apply at a later date.