Fiji and Australia Rapprochement

The Strategist - The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog      -     21 Feb 2014
Reader response: Fiji and Australia rapprochement

Richard Herr was right to say that there was ‘no massacre of hopes’ in Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s visit to Suva to meet with Fiji’s Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
As Richard noted, it proved more of a love-in than a confrontation. But there’s no doubt that Minister Bishop took on a political risk with her Fiji policy shift. It’s now clear, however, that the risk was worth taking: she was praised in Suva, in the Australian media and the think tank world after the visit.
Ever since Julie Bishop announced some time back that there would be change in our Fiji policy, there were plenty of nay-sayers on the merits of shifting from our hard line position of trying to isolate Fiji. During the Rudd years in particular, such views had over-weening influence on the Australia-Fiji relationship, to our disadvantage in the region.
Being able to restore defence cooperation was a very good outcome of Minister Bishop’s visit. We should support Fiji’s UN peacekeeping efforts (Fiji has a long history of involvement here), and immediately restore places at Duntroon and our staff colleges. We could also look to explore wider national security cooperation in areas such as maritime affairs, disaster resilience, law enforcement and cyber security. After all, Fiji’s Prime Minister has delivered on his Fiji Roadmap (PDF) to date, and the elections are on track, with Australian and New Zealander people working in the elections office.
The retirement of Fiji’s Prime Minister from the Commander RFMF post at the end of this month also presents an opportune time to lift our travel bans. As Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum recently made clear, our travel sanctions are a calculated insult and have been damaging to the formation of public Boards in Fiji:
I call [travel sanctions] an abomination, in the sense that how can you in this globalised world have that type of travel ban placed on individuals who are completely political. They have nothing to do, for example, the events of 5th of December, ’06. So it was a form of what we believe, a form of economic sabotage. Why would you want to deprive a country from not being able to access the best brains that’s available to help run the country or to help sit on various state-owned enterprises… there are still some people who are reluctant to come on board, because of the fact that there’s been no general announcement made, so people don’t want to necessarily go through the throws of we’ll deal with these matter on a case-by-case basis and they do not necessarily understand the extent of the travel ban… these are not people who are political people, these are very apolitical people who are professionals, who want to contribute to their country.
Fiji has been more independent over recent years, but there’s absolutely no reason why a cooperative bilateral relationship can’t be reinstated to the mutual benefit of both countries.

Anthony Bergin is deputy director of ASPI.

Comments

Junta watch said…
One has to laugh at the sad little junta slurpers. The same names always come up - particularly on this human rights regime supporters abusing blog. As for the so called travel sanctions that the illegal regime AG whinged about - Croz please ask the dimwit to do what he was told - PUT IT IN WRITING. Capache?? Now go and get your check book and you and your missus pay back the money you got from the illegal regime for the bludgers freebie for you and your missus. Hope that is clear?
Anonymous said…
The piece above asks a question, albeit without a question mark, as follows:

Why would you want to deprive a country from not being able to access the best brains that’s available to help run the country or to help sit on various state-owned enterprises… there are still some people who are reluctant to come on board, because of the fact that there’s been no general announcement made, so people don’t want to necessarily go through the throws of we’ll deal with these matter on a case-by-case basis and they do not necessarily understand the extent of the travel ban… these are not people who are political people, these are very apolitical people who are professionals, who want to contribute to their country.

ANSWER:

When Fiji engages overseas people it is to give semblance of normalcy and democracy. The truth is that Fiji will continue to do as it pleases without any regard for democratic principles and the rule of law. They rule by decree in a totalitarian fashion.

The abrogation and rule by decree, of any nation, is of great concern. Fiji's previous coups have been conducted on a nationalist platform. This one is vastly different. It has been conducted by a minority, with the AG as the key player.

Fiji has always been divided into camps. Each camp has waited for its turn to run the country. This time it was conducted by an ambitious AG with support from the "willing" judicial/legal hierarchy. Those with regard for the rule of law left town years ago. The AG together with Fiji's military commander, whose aim was to save himself from prison, overthrew a democratically elected government for "flimsy" reasons. The reasoning was flawed and has now been shown as a false reason. The true intent is now plain to see.

A properly constituted court of appeal ruled the coup unlawful. The constitution was then abrogated within minutes. If the current regime were not full of self seeking opportunistic persons with ulterior motives, the coup leaders could have engaged its neighbours with a view to implementing a caretaker government. It chose, instead, to rule by decree.

There is enough evidence flowing from seven long years to suggest that the motive for the events of December 2006 were anything short of corrupt. Why would or should Australia soften its stance? For its own vested interests, i.e. asylum seekers and security interests.

The people of Fiji are the biggest losers in the wake of the recent coup. The current crop of dictators, Bainimarama, Khaiyum, Gates and Shameem will be remembered as the most incompetent and self seeking group ever to usurp power in the Fiji Islands.

The USA is only concerned with South Pacific security. The Australians are only concerned for their business interests and border security. For nations that claim to be the beacon lights of democracy their recent actions show otherwise. Once again, commercial interests take precedent over good governance, the rule of law and a genuine concern for a nation's citizenry.

Will the current coup orchestrators be prepared for a new democratically elected government and run the risk of facing the courts. Highly unlikely.
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