Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fiji News Update

NZ Maori Party MPs Turia, Sharples to play by the rules on Fiji
A political bust up between the National Government and a support partner has been avoided after the Maori Party co-leaders backed down from plans to visit Fiji. Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, who both hold ministerial warrants, have accepted Prime Minister John Key's ruling that they cannot go to Fiji.Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama took power in a 2006 coup and Fiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum for not moving forwards on holding democratic elections.Dr Sharples this afternoon told reporters the party had been invited by the Fiji government and others to visit, and he was still considering participating in the delegation, despite yesterday telling Mr Key yesterday he would not go."Our talks don't end in one talk, we negotiate."Dr Sharples said the Maori Party saw people in Fiji as cousins in strife."They are our relations, for heaven's sakes we are all Pacific children, but in particular they are our blood relations and we just feel it's appropriate to go there."However, a spokesman for Mr Key said under the Cabinet Manual Dr Sharples needed Mr Key's permission to be part of the delegation and he would not be getting it."What's important is that the Government speaks with one voice on Fiji, particularly on the need for Fiji to call elections and restore democracy," he said."For that reason we will not be giving permission for any minister from any party to go to Fiji. He can't go as party leader, his position as party co-leader and minister is inseparable."Mrs Turia told NZPA that she and Dr Sharples accepted that decision."Those are the rules for ministers ... that doesn't mean the Maori Party can't go over and it doesn't mean our members can't go over."MP Hone Harawira was likely to be part of the delegation."Of course we would have much preferred that we didn't have to be given a directive ... I think that possibly the difficulty that we had was that we were not thinking of going as ministers, we were not going to represent the Government."Mrs Turia said when the idea was first raised on Sunday Mr Key did not have any difficulty with it, saying he would not stop anyone from travelling.Mrs Turia said the party would talk to Mr Key about his position.She confirmed the party would be sending a delegation.Asked if she was concerned that Cdre Bainimarama would use the visit as a propaganda tool, Mrs Turia said she did not know."I think there was a genuine desire on the part of Dr Sharples to take a very small delegation over ... to Fiji to talk through and find out what the issues were and to see if those issues were not insurmountable."Party members told her it was hypocritical the Government was taking a strong line against Fiji when it dealt with other non-democratically elected governments."I think (that position) could be seen to be a party view," Mrs Turia said.Asked if the party had any sympathy for Cdre Bainimarama's position - such as wanting to reform the race-based electoral system in Fiji - Mrs Turia said those were issues the party wanted to understand from Fiji's perspective."We're not necessarily saying that at the end of it we agree with it."Mrs Turia said while the Government spoke with one voice her party had its own voice."On this particular matter with two of us being ministers we're being asked to give consideration to the role of the prime minister and that's what we've done."In a statement party president Whatarangi Winiata said there was support from Maori and Pacific peoples for a Maori delegation to go to Fiji."We are getting a clear message that a Maori group should go and visit our Pacific cousins in this time of crisis to offer the support that our whakapapa links require of us."He said the visit had been discussed for some months."We have been approached because we are seen as the independent voice of Maori in the Parliament. We have been encouraged by the fact people of different political persuasions have pressed us to get involved and to facilitate this.
"TURIA’S SYMPATHY IS MISPLACED
OPINION from Wellington's Dominion Post Editorial 5 May 2009
The lip service done to the principles of democracy by Fiji's self-appointed leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, and his various mouthpieces, cannot be faulted. Regrettably the practice can. According to the commodore, the elections promised by March this year cannot now take place till 2014 because he wants first to reform the electoral system to make it less divisive. What that really means is the commodore and his cronies have sniffed the political winds and ascertained that, if an election is held, they will lose power and, more than likely, face criminal charges.He is not, however, without sympathy from other South Pacific leaders who chafe at notions of accountability and transparency or, it appears, the Maori Party. Co-leader Tariana Turia said at the weekend that she knew Commodore Bainimarama's intention "was good" and contrasted New Zealand's treatment of Fiji with its treatment of China, just as she once contrasted this country's treatment of Zimbabwe and China. "We've got ourselves all locked up in this notion of democracy but we don't expect it of other trading partners," she said.She has a point. China has a far worse human rights record than Fiji and little is said about it at an official level. But that is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to abuses closer to home or to imply that democracy is a Western curiosity.Lest Mrs Turia has forgotten, the "notion of democracy" to which she refers so slightingly is the notion that has allowed her party to gain a position of influence in government and her to serve as a government minister. It is the notion that ensures women an equal say in the selection of governments and offers the weak some protection from the strong. It is a notion underpinned by simple principles, nowhere better expressed than in the American Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."Yes, democracy has its faults. But its unique virtue is that democratically elected governments are answerable to the people. Those who belittle it as a form of government should say who they would deny equal rights to.The Bainimarama regime is a blot on the reputation of the Pacific. It should be judged by its actions, not its words. Those actions have been to seize power at the point of a gun, to intimidate and beat its political opponents, to suspend the rule of law, sack judges and muzzle the news media.They are not the actions of a leadership that has the best interests of its fellow citizens at heart. They are the actions of despots who, having painted themselves into a corner, prefer to take their country down a path to ruin rather than put their fate in the hands of the people. It is the same path as that taken by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Commodore Bainimarama does not deserve Mrs Turia's sympathy. The people who do are those who have been denied the right to vote, to meet and to express their views, and who are now subject to a capricious military regime.
Samoa's prime minister slams Fiji regime
Apia, 05 May 2009
--- Samoa’s outspoken prime minister has dismissed the suggestion that Australia and New Zealand bullied small Pacific nations into removing Fiji from the regional forum.Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been angered by comments this week from Fiji's military regime that the decision to suspend Fiji's membership to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) was pushed on Pacific countries by forceful big neighbours.“We weren't pushed. We supported it. Fiji needs to stop implying that this is all about Australia and New Zealand and accept we don't want them either,” Mr Tuilaepa told AAP on Tuesday.“We are sick of the arrogant bullshit they are giving out”.Fiji was suspended from the PIF on 01 May after the country's military leader Frank Bainimarama did not heed the forum's deadline to hold an election in 2009.Bainimarama, in power since a December 2006 coup, has now delayed elections until 2014 so he can overhaul the country's unfair electoral system, further frustrating the region.Discussions are now underway over whether the forum's Suva headquarters need to be relocated, with several Australian and New Zealand politicians arguing it is untenable for it to remain.Mr Tuilaepa said he believed it was commonsense to move it.“It would be wrong for an organisation that upholds democracy to continue to exist in a country that does not,” he said.“In that sense, it must be moved.”Samoa has been mooted as an alternative because of its relative political stability and status as the next largest island nation, but the prime minister was tight-lipped on the idea.“Of course we would like to help out the forum in any way we can but it's not for us to put our name forward.”Mr Tuilaepa has been vocal in his disregard for Bainimarama's leadership and in February branded the unelected prime minister a thief and a liar and urged Fijians to “wake up and reclaim your government”.He also upset Bainimarama by mocking his “ridiculous” full military garb.The Samoan leader on Tuesday said the regime's failure to go to the polls was “appalling”.“As a neighbour, it is a very big embarrassment to us,” Mr Tuilaepa said.“And it will continue to be until the regime realises it has got to go back to the barracks.”ends
Fiji suspension consistent with Forum leaders resolution
Honiara, 09 May 2009
---- Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua said the suspension of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum is a decision consistent with the Forum’s Port Moresby resolutions.“The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders made a resolution at its (Port) Moresby meeting.”“However, recent new developments in Fiji were essentially new, and did not form the body of information that was available to Forum leaders at their (Port) Moresby deliberations.”Dr Sikua said Solomon Islands Government earlier wrote to the Chair of the Forum Leaders seeking a postponement of any action on Fiji, pending further reflection by Forum leaders.“However, the Forum Chair has acted consistent with the Forum’s Moresby resolutions.”Dr Sikua said the region must now live within these realities and work to achieve a better outcome based on greater understanding.Meanwhile, Dr Sikua said that Fiji is still a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group“Any decision on (Fiji’s membership) status is a decision for the MSG leaders.”“There is currently no discussion on the issue”, Dr Sikua said in a statement ends
NZ’s Trade Minister says PACER PLUS talks will go ahead without Fiji
Wellington, 05 May 2009
---- New Zealand Trade Minister, Tim Groser, says it is important planned discussions on Pacific Islands Forum trade agreements go ahead, despite the absence of Fiji.Following its suspension at the weekend Fiji will not be represented at an informal meeting of Pacific Trade Ministers this weekend in Auckland where the expansion of the Pacific’s Closer Economic Relations agreement, known as PACER Plus, will be discussed.The NGO, Arena, which is opposed to the deal, says without one of the main trading nations in the Pacific, the talks are pointless, and should be called off.But Mr Groser said negotiations will probably take years and there are hopes that full relations with Fiji will eventually be restored, allowing it to be re-included in Forum activities.“Eventually - I don’t see the way through now - we will find, New Zealand, Australia and the other members of the Forum that have suspended Fiji, will find a way of re-establishing our relationship in the long term. So this an agreement about that very long term,” he told Radio New Zealand InternationalMr Groser said informal discussions with his Pacific Islands counterparts will focus on the economic well-being of the island nations.The New Zealand Government announced that it would be aligning its trade and aid policies with a greater emphasis on economic development.He said the policy change is a country mile from the claims it’s to further this country’s foreign policy objectives.“Actually quite the opposite. What we want to try and do is get more effectiveness behind our aid policies so they [island countries] can take advantage of the Australian and the New Zealand markets, which for these tiny economies look like very big opportunities but the reality is they have not been able to fully exploit those opportunities.”ends
Maori Party still considering delegation to Fiji
Wellington, 05 May 2009
---- Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples is still considering sending a delegation to Fiji which he may participate in.Fiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum at midnight on Friday after a deadline for progress on democratic elections was not met.Interim prime minister Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimaramara took power in a 2006 coup.Prime Minister John Key had understood the Maori Party had decided against the visit.“They (The Maori Party) understand completely that it's important New Zealand speaks with one voice," Mr Key said yesterday.New Zealand would continue dialogue via the Pacific Islands Forum, he said.Dr Sharples had understood the importance of presenting a single government voice on Fiji, Mr Key said.“He is not going to go unilaterally to Fiji.”However, Dr Sharples said he may go as party co-leader and not as a minister.As a minister Dr Sharples would need Mr Key's permission.“It would be problematic if I was to go and so the whole question of my being the leader of the Maori Party or a cabinet minister might be the issue if I go,” he told reporters.He said he would discuss the matter with Mr Key. Dr Sharples agreed he gave Mr Key the impression he was not going to Fiji “at this stage”.“Our talks don't end in one talk, we negotiate. And I am not saying I am going, but what I am saying is that we are seriously considering, following that suggestion from our people, that a high powered Maori delegation should go across,” Dr Sharples said.“They are our relations, for heaven's sakes we are all Pacific children, but in particular they are our blood relations and we just feel its appropriate to go there.”The Maori Party was facilitating the delegation and decisions were yet to be made.Dr Sharples said the delegation had had invites from within the interim government and the idea would be as cousins talking to cousins in strife.He said there was support from his caucus, the wider party and Maori for the idea. Ends
Civil Society groups worried about Fiji suspension
Suva, 05 May 2009
---Civil society groups in Fiji are concerned the Pacific Islands Forum suspension will end communication between their country, and the region. The groups feel it is still not clear how the move will impact on their own engagement with the international community, but are concerned advocacy work will become even harder, in what is already a difficult environment.
Radio Australia’s Presenter Stephanie March speaks with Chief Executive Officer of Fiji's Citizens Constitutional Forum Reverend Akuila Yabaki. and Femlink Coordinator Sharon Bagwhan Rolls.
YABAKI: We've had statements which have not been published which was advising people about laws which were still in place. You can read on the website but you can't read it in the press.
MARCH: Sharon Baghwan Rolls is the co-ordinator of the Suva based regional women's NGO, Femlink. She says her organisation has been able to continue with it's community radio programs, but the regulations do create some challenges.
ROLLS: it does limit when you are not sure what meetings you can have and what sort of activities you can do
MARCH: Now, both NGO's, believe Friday's suspension of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum could create more hurdles for civil society groups. Ms Baghwan Rolls says it's unclear how civil society will engage with the forum now Fiji is suspended.
ROLLS: As Fiji based civil society groups who have been called at different times to contribute to when ever there has been a discussion about the Fiji situation since December 2006, we need to better understand what the suspension means to us, and how do we also engage with the forum or any other organisation that is willing to help us move forward as a country.
MARCH: Those concerns are shared by Reverend Yabaki.
YABAKI: They have to explain to people what that means. What is the Forum? How relevant is the PIF to what we are talking about? My question for the international community is how do you want to work with civil societies to take things forward. That is the question that preoccupies groups like CCF and it does call for keeping lines of communication open
MARCH: The Forum, and a number of member nation governments, including Australia and New Zealand have said the suspension does not mean the door is closed on engaging with Fiji. However Sharon Baghwan Rolls from Femlink, says civil society groups are concerned the move will cut off a vital channel of communication for Fiji with the regional community.
ROLLS: But I'm really hoping that this doesn't put Fiji into a situation political isolation, particularly in our own region. I think now more than ever there needs to be a way in which hopefully what started with the working group on Fiji can possibly continue but with the partnership of Fiji and Fiji officials that is really crucial.
MARCH: Ms Bagwhan Rolls says while the suspension is largely a political move, it could have an impact at the community level, as Fiji's disengagement with the international community might threaten economic security.
ROLLS: It's a real issue of human survival and the need to get some of th the micro level issues into the macro agenda in Fiji right now and that is where we rely on the partnership with other external organisations like the forum, the commonwealth, like the UN because these are the agencies that can help move these developments along.
MARCH: While those in Fiji wait to understand what the suspension exactly means, Reverend Yabaki from the Citizen's Constitutional Forum, says it's now up to civil society groups to be pro-active about keeping communication channels between each other, and the international community open, to help move the country forward.
YABAKI: We should be talking internally. I should be talking to the in administration I should be talking to people and I want to maintain that and I want to as I have done in my visits abroad is to ask people, as the Commonwealth, what more can be done?ends
Fiji's suspension from the Forum will impact other nations
Suva, 05 May 2009
--While the interim regime is confident it will not be to badly affected there are concerns the suspension will affect other nations, in particular other Forum member nations.
Radio Australia Presenter Jemima Garrett speaks with Graham Hassall, Professor of Governance at the University of the South Pacific
GARRETT: Fiji is the second largest Island member of the Forum and is the geographic and economic hub of the region. Graham Hassall, Professor of Governance at the University of the South Pacific says it is hard to tell just how much impact the decision will have on the region because the Forum is now in unchartered waters.
HASSALL: We would hope that the impacts are minimum, but, of course, there are so many multilateral negotiations going on and that Fiji has been part of, so there will in reality be quite a number of ways in which the region is affected and Fiji is affected. There are discussions for example on statistics, there are discussions on bulk buying of fuel, there is the progress of the Pacific Plan, there is measures in accountability, strengthening Ombudsman and auditor-general in the Pacific, there is discussions of energy in a broader sense, there is discussions of quality of water around the region and these are all projects that are all Pacific states had worked on together and jointly. And with a suspension for the first time from the Forum, nobody would be really sure how this is going to affect all those types of proceedings and exact impact on Fiji, as to whether there is a detrimental affect or whether Fiji will compensate in some other way.
GARRETT: Professor Graham Hassall. The Forum suspension of Fiji is aimed at the military regime and, subject to further meetings of Pacific leaders and foreign ministers, is set to remain in force until democratically elected government is restored - That says Commodore Bainimarama will not be before September 2014.
While it is clear Fijian Ministers and officials will not participate in Forum meetings, its citizens can continue to work for the Forum Secretariat, and barring retaliation against it, the Secretariat will stay in Suva. Fiji will be excluded from free trade talks with Australia and New Zealand but when it comes to the European Union the situation is less clear.
Regional solidarity in trade sis important and until now Fiji has been a key player in the African, Caribbean and Pacific group.
HASSALL: There could be some finessing of this decision to suggest that programs that are not specifically sponsored by the forum, but which the forum has been a facilitator may in fact render Fiji still a party to those types of initiatives and the ACP process may be of that nature. The Forum has provided the support, the expertise and technical support to the Pacific nations in those talks, but that is an example of as you say a grey area that has never been looked at before and I am sure that specialists in those fields will be looking in detail to see the full impact of the suspension. It's something that is new, it's happened relatively quickly, even though the threat was there for some time, but I think that a lot of homework will be done over the next couple of weeks.
GARRETT: What would it mean for the region if Fiji was no longer a member of the Pacific ACP group for those important trade talks with Europe?
HASSALL: Well, regional coordination is essential, well beneficial, may be not essential, but beneficial in such areas of discussion of opening up borders for freer movement of goods and services and because Fiji is such an economic centre for the Pacific, it would be very hard to imagine that a free trade area was established for the smaller states around Fiji, but not for Fiji itself. It would complicate transport and facilitation within the region. It would be quite a headache. So I think it is something that nobody has really wanted to contemplate up to this stage. ends
Maori delegation to Fiji on hold after Key's intervention
Wellington, 05 May 2009
---- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has put the brakes on the Maori Party's idea of sending a Maori delegation to Fiji to try to mediate with Commodore Frank Bainimarama.Mr Key said he had spoken to Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples yesterday and expressed his preference that New Zealand spoke with “one voice” on Fiji, “and that's the Government's.”Mr Key said the Maori Party had been “well intentioned” and he had not demanded they drop the idea, although he had said it was his preference that it not go ahead and believed Dr Sharples understood his point.“I don't think you'll see them travelling to Fiji.”It followed Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia's revelation that the party was considering sending a delegation to Fiji, which has just been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum.Mrs Turia had also criticised the Government's approach, saying she believed Commodore Bainimarama had good intentions and should be heard.New Zealand and Australia have faced criticism for using “megaphone diplomacy” on their approach to Fiji, demanding it commit to elections.Mr Key said New Zealand's approach was in tune with that of the other 14 countries in the forum who unanimously backed the proposal for suspension if Fiji did not commit to elections this year.He ruled out the prospect of face-to-face talks with Commodore Bainimarama, saying New Zealand preferred to continue its dialogue with Fiji through the Pacific Forum.However, he said if there was a “direct request” from Bainimarama and the Government believed he was committed to elections before 2014, “of course we would have discussions as I'm sure other Pacific leaders would.”He said the Commodore had repeatedly been given the chance to explain his position face to face with other Pacific leaders but had refused to do so, pulling out of meetings in Niue last year and Papua New Guinea in January, where the suspension was decided.Successive New Zealand governments have invested time and resources to try to help Fiji back to democracy and this country continues to promise financial and technical help once it commits to elections.New Zealand has done most its work as part of wider regional efforts through the forum, taking part in a group of foreign ministers which has twice visited Fiji.Senior officials are on another group set up to engage with the interim government to find ways to return to democracy and looking at the “long-term issues in Fiji”.Prime ministers had also attended three forum meetings where Fiji was a dominating issue. On a country-to-country level, in 2006 New Zealand was involved in trying to avert the coup by organising a meeting in New Zealand between Commodore Bainimarama and now ousted Prime Minister Qarase.It gave $5.3 million in aid towards building Fiji's electoral system to help it hold its 2006 elections. While much of the aid going directly to the government had halted after the coup, money was still being given to allow Land Information Systems to map new electoral boundaries.Australia had also provided practical help, including funding the Supervisor of Elections appointed last year, New Zealander Felicity Heffernan.The position is understood to have been disestablished in the aftermath of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo abrogating the Constitution and saying elections would not be held until 2014.At a political level, former foreign affairs minister Winston Peters and current minister Murray McCully have held bilateral meetings with the Commodore.Both Mr McCully and Mr Key were also in contact with the Commodore to try to persuade him to attend the forum meeting in Papua New Guinea in January after he pulled out to deal with the aftermath of floods in Fiji. Ends
Fiji believes Forum Secretariat will remain in Suva
Suva, 05 May 2009
--- Fiji’s interim acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum believes the secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum will continue to be located in Suva despite Fiji’s suspension from the Forum.“I think they will continue to be in Fiji. Fiji is very keen to host anybody that is a multinational agency or a bilateral agency and they have been in Fiji since its (Forum’s) inception. So are other international organisations who have headquarters in Fiji. So we obviously will continue to host the Forum,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.There has been no indication from the Forum so far, on whether the suspension will affect the status of the secretariat.He said Fiji still has other arrangements within the region such as with the Melanesian Spearhead Group.The coming weekend will see trade ministers from the region convene to have talks on the PACER Plus agreements. While calls have been made from around the region to clarify whether Fiji will participate, Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji had not been notified of their exclusion from the meeting. “We obviously need to be notified of that formally and once we have been, then we can comment on it.” He said Fiji will continue on the path towards electoral reforms.“We want to be treated with dignity.” ends
UN team to assess Fiji’s compliance
Suva, 05 May 2009
---Fiji’s compliance to the articles of the UN Convention Against Corruption will be assessed by the visiting team of UN officials, says interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, according to Fiji Live.“We have a team that is here today, obviously we welcome them and are quite keen that they visit us and they are here for the next two days and they will be assessing us in terms of compliance to the articles,” Sayed-Khaiyum welcoming the team into the country.Fiji volunteered to be the subject of this pilot project.Head of the mission John Sandage said the team would analyse and make recommendations on Fiji via a report to the United Nations.Mr Sandage said: “Fiji is party to the UN Convention on Corruption and they volunteered very kindly to participate in this process. My friends here from France (Mr Valery Turcey) and Serbia (Ms Milica Djunic) are here to view state of Fiji’s compliance”.Mr Turcey said: “Fiji is participating in a pilot project aimed at defining the terms of reference of the future of UNCOC. We are trying to rejuvenate that. We will make a report, which will be used by the United Nations, in deciding on the future conventions”.Earlier today, the team met with officials of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) who handed to them a report on Fiji.The high-powered delegation’s three-day assessment on Fiji’s performance and efforts in combating corruption will see them hold consultation with Sayed Khaiyum as acting Prime Minister and AG, Solicitor General Christopher Pryde, Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, Deputy Supervisor of Elections Soro Toutou, Chief Magistrate, Chief Registrar, Finance Department, Public Service Commission and the Financial Intelligence Unit.The UN team consists of two officials from Serbia, one from France and two from the UNCAC Secretariat in Vienna (Sandage and Ms Elsa Gopala-Krishnan)ends
Fiji politician urges tougher action on regime by regional countries
Suva, 05 May 2009
---Pacific leaders are being urged to be tough on Fiji in the wake of its suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum.Peceli Kinivuwai, the director of Laisenia Qarase’s SDL Party, told Radio New Zealand International Fiji’s suspension is no surprise given the failure of the interim regime to restore democracy.He said Forum leaders should also introduce trade sanctions against Fiji and continue to take a strong stance against the interim government.“Only then will the interim regime know of the consequences of their actions because as it is the apologists and the sympathisers are the ones that are making it worse for us. If people would all oppose us then we would have seen radical changes for Fiji happening.”Mr Kinivuwai said the interim government has only itself to blame for the suspension and it should stop blaming Australia and New ZealandInterim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said the two countries have used their economic and political power to influence the position of other Pacific leaders.But Mr Kinivuwai rejects that accusation.“The members of the forum are leaders in their own right, they have made decisions on their own volition, and they have decided to exclude Fiji and that’s it. We should not be pushing blame to New Zealand and Australia. Fiji at this point in time have become victims of their own doings and as such we should not be complaining.” Meanwhile, an opposition politician in Fiji said the Pacific Islands Forum had to send the interim government a symbolic message that it wouldn’t tolerate its deviant behaviour.The general secretary of the National Federation Party, Pramod Rae has been speaking in reaction to the forum’s decision to suspend Fiji after it failed to meet a deadline to set an election date.Mr Rae said the forum has taken a lenient line with Fiji until now, but he would not be surprised if it went further by introducing economic sanctions.He said the current measures are targetted at the government but the people of Fiji would understand if the Forum took tougher action.“You can’t have a halfway house in this. You can’t say we will do this but we won’t do something else because it might hurt the people. The people in the country are already hurting, they are hurting by a brutal and illegitimate regime that is governing us without any moral authority to do so. The people of this country will not mind a little bit more hurt if it helps them get rid of this mob.” ends
Expulsion from Forum likely to hurt small countries rather than Fiji
Suva, 05 May 2009
---- An academic from the University of the South Pacific (USP) says Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum could hurt its small neighbours more than Fiji itself.Dr Steven Ratuva said he has spoken with people from the interim government who believe the suspension will have minimal impact on Fiji.But he said its growing isolation from the rest of the Pacific would hurt small countries in the region that depend on it.“What’s going to happen is that regional cooperation as we knew it for a long time since 1972 is going to go through a significant and substantial shift. And the shift is going to affect mostly the small island states like Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tonga who rely significantly on Fiji for economic survival,” he told Radio New Zealand InternationalDr Ratuva said the suspension will see Fiji fall more under the influence of China, while Australia and New Zealand will lead the other powerblock in the region.
NZ billionaire happy to step in and help Fiji
Wellington, 05 MAY 2009
--- New Zealand billionaire Owen Glenn says he would be happy to assist in mediating between New Zealand and Fiji, but New Zealand first needs to change its “holier than thou” attitude.Mr Glenn - who owns a villa on the island of Malolo Lailai - told the New Zealand Herald it would be up to the Government if he took any part, and would depend on the mandate he had.“It's pointless wasting the commodore's time. My opinion, if I have one, is to talk to him, find out what he's trying to achieve and why, and put aside the fact it is not a democratically elected Government.“Neither is China, but you don't see New Zealand breaking off its relationships with China. Holier than thou on Fiji, but it's quite happy to trade when it makes sense.”Prime Minister John Key said he had not heard Mr Glenn's name mentioned regarding Fiji and the Government had not considered using him.Mr Glenn said some in Fiji had mentioned his name as a broker, which had surprised him. He has gained some profile for his philanthropy in Fiji, including being awarded the chiefly title of Ratu by the village of Solevu.Mr Glenn said he had never met Commodore Frank Bainimarama and had no direct involvement in politics. But he said it was probably time to try a different approach. ends
Fiji says suspension will have little impact
Suva, 05 May 2009
---- On Friday May the first, midnight Suva time, Fiji became the first member nation of the Pacific Islands' Forum to be suspended. The suspension was triggered by the country's military backed government's refusal to meet a Forum deadline to set an election date this year. And it went ahead, despite a last minute plea from Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainamarama to re-open dialogue on the issue. The suspension means Fiji will not be eligible for funding or technical assistance and its leader, ministers and government officials will not be allowed to attend Forum meetings. But at the moment the Forum's Secretariat remains in Suva, and Fiji's interim government says it will continue play an important role in the Pacific, claiming it has the support of many of their Pacific Island neighbours. The Pacific Islands Forum secretariat has refused to comment on the suspension, and despite repeated attempts by Pacific Beat to contact the Forum chairman Niue Premier Toke Talagi he was not reachable.
Radio Australia’s Presenter: Helene Hofman speaks with Fiji’s interim Attorney General and Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khiayum KHAIYUM: We believe that the suspension is quite regrettable, but the point is that the Fiji is very much part of the Pacific and part of the forum, so is the Pacific and the forum part of Fiji. The question of course arises where to from here for the forum? This is an unprecedented rule. This has never happened in the forum before. Fiji, for example, did not have elections following the Rabuka coup in 1987 for five years and there was no suspension then. The Australian and New Zealand governments position of foreign policy in '87 and in 2000 was completely different. This time it is different, and therefore it would appear that the forum decision were different also.
We have at the same time extremely wonderful bilateral relationships with our forum brothers and sisters. We for example, talk to the other Pacific Island countries and they talk to us. What they also tell us on a one-on-one basis is completely different. They obviously are quite supportive of Fiji. We are very much a part of the Pacific like I said and will continue to be part of the Pacific. We've still got our other arrangements, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the Melanesian group of countries we have got special arrangements with them.
HOFMAN: What about the Secretariat which is based in Suva? From Fiji's end, what is likely to happen there?
KHAIYUM: Well, I think they will continue to be in Fiji. Fiji is very keen to host anybody that a multinational agency or a bilateral agency that exists and they have been in Fiji since its exception. So are other organisations, other international organisations who have headquarters in Fiji, logistically make sense. So we obviously will continue to host the forum. There is no question about that.
HOFMAN: And also, the New Zealand Trade Minister has pointed out that Fiji won't be invited to this weekend's talks on Pacer and Pacer Plus. What is your reaction to that?
KHAIYUM: Well, that's the first I am hearing from you. We obviously need to be notified of that formally and once we have been, then we can comment on it. Like I said, I have just heard from you just now.
HOFMAN: As you've said, you don't agree with what's happened? What are you planning to do?
KHAIYUM: We will continue to do what we said that we will continue to do, which is that we have got a reform agenda in Fiji, we have got various ...... respected and we want to be treated with dignity. ends
Fiji needs help, not hindrance:
Opinion from Stuff NZ
Wellington, 05 May 2009
---- Bougainville was once the intractable problem of the South Pacific. Former National foreign affairs minister Don McKinnon pulled off a solution there, against all the odds, by dispatching one of his Pacific experts to bang heads together. With a brief that enabled him to cut across boundaries between foreign affairs, defence and other bureaucracies, big, straight- talking Foreign Affairs Ministry staffer John Hayes achieved something of a miracle - although he was lucky to escape with his life when his helicopter was shot down at one stage.Mr Hayes is now the National MP for Wairarapa and his constituents would no doubt take a dim view of his being dispatched to Fiji for winter to share a kava bowl with the island nation's strongman, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, to try to cajole him into earlier elections.But failing this, or some other refreshingly novel approach at dialogue, such as the Maori Party delegation concept floated by co- leader Tariana Turia at the weekend, we are back to the same old megaphone diplomacy, threatening Suva with the same tired agenda of economic penalties.These sanctions continued at the weekend with Fiji's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum. That will no doubt be followed by suspension from the Commonwealth. This enables governments in Australia and New Zealand to claim to their voters that they are doing something to combat the bad guy.The problem is that it does not bring us one step closer to a solution; it increases economic hardships on poor Fijians, and will eventually turn the Pacific's great success story into a basket case. And that is not in our interest, or Fiji's.There is a ritual formula about this. There is a call for an immediate return to democracy, failing which there will be sanctions and expulsions.This megaphone diplomacy shorthand skirts around the fact that democracy as we would understand it has never existed under Fiji's discriminatory system.Indeed, in an uncanny echo of the foreshore debate here, the allegedly corrupt ultra-nationalist government that Commodore Bainimarama ousted in 2006 was developing plans to seize the foreshore for ethnic Fijians. Do we want Fiji to go back to that?None of this is to excuse the erratic commodore for his excesses, such as sacking judges, media censorship - now extended further as a thumbing of the nose to the forum expulsion - and the imposition of a state of emergency.His actions demonstrate poor advice. He should be urged to back away from the political fisticuffs drama and to concentrate on explaining his "people's charter" - ambitious plans for a constitution aimed at true power- sharing between Fijians and Fiji Indians - ostensibly to be introduced at an election in 2014.In theory, such a constitution would be a remarkable development, holding the best hope of uniting Fiji after four separate coups. The trouble is, New Zealand's sanctions are hindering the process, not helping it.We penalise officials assisting the military government in Suva, making it difficult for them or their families to visit New Zealand. That frightens off key figures who could be giving the commodore sound alternative advice.The New Zealand Law Society advises our lawyers not to work in Fiji, which the Kiwi solicitor- general in Suva points out weakens the legal system there at a time when it should be strengthened.If the Government switched tack on this approach and also swamped the Bainimarama administration with offers of assistance from constitutional experts, it would then speed the redraft of the constitution and make a stronger case for bringing forward the date of that 2014 election.While we are about it, we could also abandon efforts to wreck the Fijian economy, which are forcing more and more people into those appalling shantytowns of the unemployed around Suva.Even some backers of the ousted Fijian government agree that our ban on employing Fijian seasonal workers is a retrograde step.endsAnd former prime minister Helen Clark's diktat that it was "immoral" to travel to Fiji on holiday is viewed in Fiji as economic sabotage. The staff at Fijian hotels, while paid a pittance, are in many cases the sole breadwinners for their families.Failing all this, Prime Minister John Key could always instruct Mr Hayes to pack his lava-lava and kava bowl and have another crack at sorting things out. ends

1 comment:

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