Views on Policies Towards Fiji

Foreign policy towards Fiji up for debate

Fri 12 Jul 2013
 Zealand--- Foreign policy experts, students and diplomats have been mulling over how best to handle Fiji.
The approaches discussed at Otago University’s annual Foreign Policy School ranged from crude horse-trading to long-term strategic planning.
As Radio New Zealand International Sally Round reports, there was no right answer, but plenty of debate.
Fiji’s first coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka used the military dictionary to describe contrasting foreign policy towards Fiji before and after the latest coup.
SITIVENI RABUKA: When you look at the actions of Australia and New Zealand and some other former friends we had and you look at what China is doing, who is being tactical,who is being strategic?
The Australian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Michael Potts, agreed Canberra, for one, has taken a tactical approach.
MICHAEL POTTS: Australian voters feel quite strongly about the events in Fiji over three decades. So our government naturally feels responsive, I think, to that view, as well. The Chinese, of course, have the advantage of not having general elections every five years. And so they can take a much longer, and in many ways, a much more sophisticated world view.
But Michael Potts says Australia has not turned its back on Fiji.
MICHAEL POTTS: It is very clear we have walked away from the Fiji military. But the notion that we’re walking away from the people of Fiji I think is misplaced. Despite the size of Chinese assistance, Australia is still the largest donor in Fiji. We run close to AUD$40 million a year.
But Sitiveni Rabuka described a strong defence relationship as essential.
SITIVENI RABUKA: Breaking the military link is the worst break because you have lost that contact between offices that you could fall back on when diplomacy fails.
Long-time Fiji-watcher Jon Fraenkel of Wellington’s Victoria University says much of the debate around foreign policy towards Fiji has centred on theories of crude tit-for-tat horse trading. He says other countries’ foreign policies are not the key driver of events in Fiji. But he suggests a foreign policy aimed at promoting democracy should be carefully calibrated. It is often the gradual and indirect approach, he says, which has more influence.
JON FRAENKEL: And often if you look at the experience in Africa, Asia and Latin America, what’s been important is not the sort of direct one-to-one diplomatic challenge, but rather a longer-term filtering upwards of ideas about the connection between legitimacy, popular control and democracy.
The Director of the Centre for Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawaii, Terence Wesley-Smith, says many assumptions are made about China’s presence in and policy towards Fiji without a lot of research. He says he has yet to find back-up for assertions that China is somehow singling out Fiji for soft loans or bankrolling the regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
TERENCE WESLEY-SMITH: If there’s a sin associated with China in Fiji, it’s a sin of omission, meaning that they’re really not doing anything differently. They have continued their relationship with Fiji where others have pulled back from that relationship.
A China foreign policy scholar from Canterbury University, Anne-Marie Brady, had this report from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its policy towards Fiji.
ANNE-MARIE BRADY: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said to me, ’China does not interfere in the politics of other countries. China’s support of the Bainimarama government is not interference. It’s up to the Fijian people to decide who leads them. If Fiji can maintain political stability it would be good for the region. China wants New Zealand and Australia to understand Fiji’s point of view’.
Anne-Marie Brady reported China does not want Australia and New Zealand to use extreme methods to criticise Fiji. Ernest Bower of the Washington-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies says the US could be more effective in Fiji, but it doesn’t know how.
ERNEST BOWER: I think the United States wants to get it right. They will always stand on the side of democracy, where there’s a coup or where there’s a clear violation of democratic values. There’s not question where the Americans stand on that. We want to see an election, a free and fair election. I think the question is more at a practical policy level - how can you be effective in encouraging that outcome?
Ernest Bower described US policy towards Fiji as a ’work in progress’.


A RED ALERT for Political Parties said…
Oh come on! More effective in Fiji but doesn't know how? How about this, for starters?

Do a quick scan of whom you are talking to. That would be a good beginning. Then contemplate how and why not one so-called democratically positioned party within Fiji has even spoken about let alone confronted Transnational Crime in Fiji with its associated cronies,agents and perpetrators of terror through trafficking (sic) on the ground. They have left 'well alone' and are even ill-informed, if at all. So it takes Interpol with a Red Alert to exert the regional pressure required and ill-supported local, unremunerated and unprotected nationals and their informers to provide the muscle power required. It has however at long last worked. We have seen off a Chinese Drug Lord to a death sentence back in his own country. What more could be desired? Now, we must contend with his assorted seven year associates on the ground: all around. Are the political parties to offer any assistance in this? Doubt it. Does a leopard change his spots?

Work in Progress said…
If the 'work in progress' is to be advanced in the direction of an end-of-the-road democracy, then the powers that be had better get moving on the message delivered at the UN yesterday by Malala Youssufzai for her sixteenth birthday. A message as relevant to Fiji and the Pacific Islands as it is to Pakistan.

"A teacher, a girl, a book and a pencil".

"I want to be myself" said one of her peers in Swat. How can girls and young women 'be themselves' if they are routinely withdrawn from school or domestically beaten and at times violated by their own family members or neighbours? The crime that 'must not be spoken' in a Culture of Silence. This silence still obtains. This silence must end. How can democracy be advanced, anywhere within a a culture dominated by: 'Weakness, fear, hopelessness'? These are Malala's own words. They apply still in Fiji. We ignore them at our peril. They must be replaced by "Strength, fervour, determination". But this very same administration through multiple ministries, wearing multiple hats, permitted our own citizens - mostly young women - to be trafficked in the Iraq War Zone. No Minister, no Police Officer, only one newspaper editor offered to assist prevent this. Another newspaper editor in the Western Division had knowledge of the RakiRaki suspected trafficking situation. He did nothing useful at the time. Now, we believe that thirty eight (38) suspects are in the window with regard to Madeleine McCann's disappearance in Portugal and New Zealand has come into the picture. 2005 is a very long time to have anyone 'disappeared or suspected murdered or trafficked or both'. What has been wrong with us all this time? Something has been grievously amiss. Is our moral education " at sea"? Or are we forensically found wanting? Or both? Whichever it is, the education of girls needs to be of the highest order. Their self esteem is to be strengthened and they are all to be assured of "A Teacher, A Book and A Pencil". Women must advance into positions of leadership at all levels and especially in the Police force and in the Military. A balance of gender must be ensured on all boards and in all Institutions with regard to their leadership. If it is absent: questions must be posed with insistence. As occurred recently on the Council on one University in Fiji. Met with ....silence!

The Fiji Sun newspaper would do well to ensure that it cuts down fewer trees in future for newsprint and that it ensures the dollars paid to it for worthless publications of assets, easily made 'on line' in a neutral place, are paid to "A Girls'Education Foundation in Fiji". This to be immediately established as a bona fide commitment of the State. The Green Credentials of all organisations now to be placed under international, independent scrutiny. No party has the credentials to call itself 'Green' while colluding in such notions.

Ernest Bower: you have your answer. 2015 is almost upon us and the Millenium Development Goals are to be revisited. We are not about to be again traduced and let down by focus on 'Power for its own sake'. We want Peace and peaceful pursuits: real progress.

We above all want 'to be ourselves'.

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