Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Reaction to Fiji's Expulsion Policy Flow in

posted on rawfijinews

US deplores Fiji expulsion

November 4, 2009

The United States government has condemned Fiji’s explusion of the Australian high commissioner and the New Zealand acting head of mission.

The US State Department says it is unjust.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly began the daily briefing to journalists with a statement condemning the explusion.

“The United States deplores the decision by Fiji’s de facto government to expel New Zealand’s acting head of mission, as well as Australia’s high commissioner.”

Mr Kelly says the act was unprecedented, because Australia holds the chair of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The statement said of Fiji: “These actions have undermined any opportunity for progress towards re-engagement and constructive dialogue with its neighbours.”

Australia and New Zealand have expelled Fiji’s top diplomats in response.

In Australia, opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop says the government should urge the United Nations to stop using Fijian troops in peacekeeping operations.

That is the major source of funding for the military regime.

About 280 Fijian troops and police are involved in peacekeeping efforts.

- Radio Australi

Aiyaz Khaiyum is Frank’s kingpin when it comes to scheming.

But his scheming mind has been challeged by another conniving schemer, Koila Nailatikau, who will be Fiji’s next illegal first lady after her shallow hubbie, Epeli Nailatikau is sworn in by Anthony Gates this morning.

Sources reveal that Koila is Aiyaz’s worst enemy and that Koila will find all ways to oust Aiyaz from his sit of power.

Now with his brother Ului stepping in as acting Landforce Commander of Frank’s Military Forces, Koila has the gun-power backing behind her while Aiyaz can only depend on Frank’s bully-boy tactics to protect him.

Is Aiyaz and Frank’s days coming to an end soon?

Some say the Mara/Ganilau/Nailatikau triad is etching in slowly but surely into the twosome’s power-grabbing turf. They say Aiyaz will be the first to go followed by his master Frank.

How and when?

Only time will tell!

Fiji Labour Party very much regrets the diplomatic row that has developed between Fiji and its neighbours Australia/New Zealand culminating in the expulsion of their Heads of Mission by Fiji.

Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has called on all parties to show diplomatic restraint and to enter into dialogue on the matter to prevent any further deterioration of this sensitive situation.

In the meantime, FLP feels the interim government should consider a review of the Judicial Decree to remove the restricted jurisdiction of the Courts in order to make the judiciary fully effective.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has warned New Zealanders travelling to Fiji they might not be able to obtain consular help if they get into trouble, after the expulsion of the third consecutive head of mission in Suva.

The high commission is closed while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assesses how it will manage its duties on reduced staff numbers and deals with the departure of Acting High Commission Todd Cleaver.

Mr Cleaver was told on Tuesday to leave as a reaction to the inclusion of judges in the travel ban New Zealand has against members of Fiji’s interim Government and their families.

Australian High Commissioner James Bartley was also ordered out of Fiji and yesterday, both countries retaliated by ordering Fiji’s Acting High Commissioners to return to Suva.

Mr McCully said staff numbers at the Suva high commission were now seriously depleted following the expulsion of three heads of mission since the December 2006 coup.

Asked what travellers should do if they got into trouble, he said they should try to contact the high commission, “but they need to know as things unfold at the moment, we are not able to offer the support we would normally be able to provide”.

He advised New Zealanders going on holiday to check the Foreign Affairs travel advisory, which could change at any time.

Asked if the change meant Fiji was more dangerous than it had been to visit, Mr McCully said Foreign Affairs had to warn people the situation was “a little volatile” at the moment.

After Mr Cleaver’s departure, Foreign Affairs will have only one diplomatic officer in Fiji – down from three a year ago – and two administrative workers. Two NZAid workers in Fiji could be asked to help out.

Fiji had also refused to let New Zealand replace its police and defence attaches and staff numbers at the high commission had shrunk from 12 a year ago to seven.

Reports from Fiji say Mr Cleaver was given 24 hours to leave, but Mr McCully said the Geneva Convention required a reasonable time to be given. He did not known when Mr Cleaver would leave.

Fiji’s Acting High Commissioner to New Zealand, Kuliniasi Seru Savou, and the Acting High Commissioner to Australia, Kamlesh Kumar Arya, will be sent home as soon as practicable.

The travel ban was extended to cover judges in April, after Fiji’s judges were sacked and then some were reappointed following the abrogation of the Constitution.

The sackings came the day after Fiji’s Court of Appeal ruled that the regime installed by the December 2006 coup was illegal.

Mr McCully said the ousting of Mr Cleaver showed the travel ban was affecting the Fijian interim regime.

Australia and New Zealand have resisted applying wider sanctions – such as measures affecting trade and aid – preferring instead to target the interim government.

* High commission

Now: Total 7

3 Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff: a policy officer and two administration staff.

2 NZ Aid managers (one for Fiji/NZ projects, one regional).

2 Immigration managers.

Until December 2008: Total 12

5 Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff: High Commissioner, Deputy High Commissioner and as above.

2 NZ Aid managers.

2 Immigration managers.

1 Defence Force attache.

1 Police attache.

1 NZ Trade Commissioner.

An Australian academic has been taken into custody in Fiji and is being questioned by the military after giving several media interviews on the current political situation.

Professor Brij Lal, a long-time academic at Canberra’s Australian National University and an expert in Fiji politics, was reportedly taken from his Suva residence on Wednesday.

The Australian government has yet to formally confirm Prof Lal’s detention, but consular officials said they were urgently seeking access to him.

It is not known where or why he has been taken for questioning, but a university spokeswoman said colleagues were deeply concerned at the news.

She believed Prof Lal, who is based in Canberra but was believed to be on posting in Fiji, was taken by military authorities after giving several media interviews on the current political situation.

The rift between Australia and Fiji has deepened following tit-for-tat expulsions of top diplomats from both countries.Both have given 24-hour deadlines to have their respective High Commissioners out of Australia and Fiji.Consular officials are in contact with Prof Lal’s wife, as were university staff.

Prof Lal, who was believed to have been born in Fiji, but is an Australian citizen, has published numerous books on Fiji and is also an expert on Indian-Fijian issues.

He was part of the Fiji Constitution Review Commission, which formed the basis on which Fiji’s constitution was written.The university said it continued to stand by its academics for speaking out on their areas of expertise.


Will the sanctions imposed by Australia and New Zealand succeed in bringing Fiji’s military dictator to heel?

If you consider that the US has imposed sanctions on Cuba for half a century with zero results, the answer quickly becomes clear.

We also know from our own historical experience with Fiji the futility of sanctions.

Australia and New Zealand cut off aid to Fiji when Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka seized power in a coup. Yet Rabuka, untroubled, held power by brute force for a leisurely five years before deciding that it suited him to hold an election, which he proceeded to win.

Indeed, a US study of 32 post-Cold War cases where countries have imposed sanctions in pursuit of regime change found that the odds were not good. The success rate was 39 per cent, according to the Petersen Institute for International Economics in Washington.

So what’s the point?

The Australian sanctions against Fiji this time are targetted to punish the military ruler, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, for his refusal to hold an election.

The sanctions are designed to spare Fiji’s people pain. Aid for Fiji’s military and public sector has been cut off, but $32 million in aid for health and education continues.

Australia has not implemented any trade sanctions. It doesn’t really need to – Fiji is suffering serious economic pain already.

Terrible floods in January cost the equivalent of 5 per cent of the national GDP, according to the World Bank.

Inflation is rising, and so is the national deficit. It’s only IMF loans that are keeping the country solvent. Bainimarama and his officials are banned from travelling to Australia. And that’s what started the latest convulsion in relations.

He wants to create the impression that Fiji has an independent judiciary. Why? Because the president is courting foreign investors, and they like the idea of a judiciary.

But having gutted the courts, Bainimarama sought judges from Sri Lanka. The Australian Government told the candidates that they would be considered part of the Fijian military regime and banned from Australia.

That provoked Bainimarama into severing diplomatic relations. The regime’s options for courting investment have narrowed. In years past, Fiji would have looked to China for more aid.

But China’s contest against Taiwan for influence in the Pacific has ended as their rapprochement unfolds. Fiji’s leverage is now nil.

The Lowy Institute’s Pacific expert, Jenny Hayward-Jones, says she ”used to be more optimistic” that sanctions could change Bainimarama’s behaviour. ”But I don’t think the sanctions touch him. As long as he can afford to pay the police and the army, they will remain loyal, and that’s all he needs.”

Sensibly, Kevin Rudd is not making extravagant claims for the effectiveness of sanctions. They seek to ‘’stop the spread of coup culture in the Pacific”. They seem to have no chance of stopping Bainimarama.

- Sydney Morning Herald

SOUTH PACIFIC experts at a recent annual conference on the region were unable to see an end to the deteriorating political situation in Fiji.

At the Pacific Islands Update organised by the Australian National University last month, no amount of hand wringing and creative visualisation could project a path back to democracy within five years, if at all.

Mark Hayes, a media lecturer at the University of Queensland who lived in Suva for three years, says the military dictatorship’s espoused five-year plan for a one-man, one-vote democracy cannot be married with its claims that it would not allow the return of nationalist parties such as the SDL, which was ousted in the 2006 coup.

He says the steady flight of Indo-Fijians has restored the majority to ethnic Fijians, meaning that even without SDL’s involvement in future elections, ‘’somebody like them” would almost certainly win, creating the conditions for yet another coup.

”The regime has a profound and cyclically escalating case of group-think,” Dr Hayes says.

”What are the legal heads from which the regime draws its legitimacy? There aren’t any. The only thing that’s finally keeping them in power is that they can whistle up the military to come and beat the shit out of you.”

But some say Fiji’s deterioration should not be held up as an example of the entire region.

The view that the ”Pacific Way” is incompatible with Western-style democracy has lost traction as a result of the ”arc of instability” from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.

The regional body, the Pacific Islands Forum, has made some progress by getting its 16 members to agree to regional involvement in the political affairs of their neighbours, say Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts from Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand.

”There is much less readiness to accept the validity of a separate ‘way’ whose route deviates from a well-trodden path in the direction of values common to all peoples … [of] democracy, good government and human rights.”

In Tonga, where pro-democracy riots erupted in 2006, a year-long commission into constitutional change is due to report to parliament tomorrow, with elections planned for late next year.

It will recommend a majority-elected parliament, which will appoint the prime minister, who will appoint the cabinet. The king’s once near-absolute power will be reduced to appointing four out of 30 MPs and he may even relinquish that.

King George V of Tonga, who has supported the changes, said in May: ”The objectives of these reforms are the welfare of the people and protection of their rights … it is critically important that the reforms are clearly understood and peacefully arrived at.”

”Aside from the security issues … for the living standards of people in the Pacific it’s better to have democratic regimes, to make the state accountable,” says ANU expert, Jon Fraenkel.

”Samoa’s Human Rights Protection Party is the only political party across the region which has remained in office for close to a quarter of a century, consolidating its control by expanding cabinet size, increasing the parliamentary term to five years, outlawing party switching and creating new sub-ministerial positions for pro-government backbenchers.

”Solomon Islands and Tuvalu have sought to increase cabinet size, so as to render the executive more resilient to parliamentary challenge.

”Whether those efforts prove successful … remains to be seen,” he said.

- Sydney Morning Herald

There are fresh revelations today that Landforce Commander, Peter Driti, was demoted by Frank for a number of reasons.

Topping the list is Driti’s letter to Frank warning him of the controversially biased advice he’s getting from Aiyaz Khaiyum and Colonel Aziz Mohammed.

Sources in the know say that Driti had warned Frank that the military council was concerned with the way Frank was leading that troubled state Fiji.

They say the military council is also concerned with Fiji’s weakening economy and strained foreign relations with the international community.

The letter suggested to Frank to remove Aiyaz from cabinet and to launch an investigation on Colonel Aziz for his part in the failed FHL/BP Oil deal.

Instead, Frank sided with Aiyaz and Aziz and demoted Driti to lead a 200 men platoon to Iraq stripping away his 2,000 men landforce commander responsibility.

But will Driti really be given the greenlight by the UN to serve as a UN peacekeeper in Iraq?

According to our well placed sources, the latest falling out between Fiji and ANZ will seal Driti’s fate with the UN unlikely to give him the ok to serve as a peacekeeper.

We can confirm that Colonel Qilio is the man behind Professor Brij Lal’s detainment and torture on Tuesday.

Professor Brij Lal, who is originally from Fiji but now an Australian citizen was hauled to the military barracks on Tuesday afternoon.

Sources say he was screamed at and spat at by Qilio.

Qilio went as far as breaking Professor Brij Lal’s spectacles and was warned not to return to Fiji nor make comments about Fiji’s junta status.

THE row between Australia and New Zealand and Fiji intensified rapidly yesterday, with tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and Fiji’s military-installed Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, warning all other foreign representatives in Suva: “You work with me or leave.”

The deteriorating relationship appears to have contributed to Fiji’s arrest and expulsion yesterday of one of Australia’s leading experts on the nation, the Australian National University professor Brij Lal, hours after he gave interviews about the dispute.

Today, the besieged Fiji regime will close ranks as one of Commodore Bainimarama’s predecessors as military commander, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau – also a senior Fijian chief – is sworn in as the new president, The Australian reports.

The underlying cause of the current diplomatic flurry appears to be that travel bans applied by Australia and New Zealand to senior officials working for the military regime, as well as to their spouses and children, are beginning to bite.

Related Coverage

But the Rudd Government’s attempt to pressure the UN into withdrawing Fiji from peacekeeping missions – a crucial morale and income booster for the army, Commodore Bainimarama’s core source of support – has failed so far, with fresh troops still being assigned, including to Iraq.

Following the expulsion with 24 hours’ notice of Australian high commissioner to Fiji James Batley – the country’s leading diplomatic expert on the Pacific islands – and of the acting New Zealand high commissioner, Kevin Rudd yesterday warned: “We’re not about to simply allow a coup culture to spread (in the South Pacific).

“We’ll maintain a hard line in relation to this regime.”

Commodore Bainimarama seized power three years ago, and in April this year his government abrogated the country’s constitution. Defying international pressure, it insists elections will not be held for another five years.

Commodore Bainimarama, who accuses Australia and New Zealand of meddling in his country’s affairs, has now expelled from Suva three successive heads of New Zealand’s mission, its trade commissioner, and its police attache.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said yesterday: “The level of assistance the high commission can provide to New Zealand citizens may be affected due to the depleted staff numbers.” The office has been closed until further notice.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday announced the expulsion of Fiji’s acting high commissioner, Kamlesh Kumar Arya – a former Fiji Labour Party politician, appointed to Canberra 15 months ago – just as he was planning to upgrade his status.

He had been declared persona non grata, and as a consequence was required to leave within 24 hours, Mr Smith said. “This is deeply regrettable, and Australia is deeply disappointed at Fiji’s conduct in this matter.”

Suva had pre-empted Australian and New Zealand moves by recalling its representatives to Canberra and Wellington a day earlier. The government-friendly Fiji Sun yesterday led its front page with a warning issued to all remaining foreign diplomats from Commodore Bainimarama via the newspaper that they too would be expelled if they “work against the state”.

Commodore Bainimarama said yesterday he had no regrets about triggering the latest downturn in relations in the region.

“We are suspended from the Commonwealth, Australia and New Zealand suspended us from the (Pacific Islands) Forum, so really it doesn’t make any difference,” he said.

Read more at The Australian

The New Zealand Government is defending its decision to expel Fiji’s acting High Commissioner from the country.

The decision to declare Kuliniasi Seru Savou persona non grata and order him to leave is in retaliation to the expulsion of New Zealand and Australian senior diplomatic staff from Fiji.

Fiji interim leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama issued the 24-hour expulsion order on Tuesday evening, citing interference with the functioning of Fiji’s judiciary as the reason.

Problems issuing a visa for a Fiji judge whose child needed medical treatment in New Zealand and Australia’s refusal to allow Sri Lankan judges working in Fiji to visit Australia, were cited as examples of this interference.

New Zealand acting Head of Mission Todd Cleaver and Australian High Commissioner James Batley have been ordered to leave Suva. Fiji’s High Commissioner to Australia has also been ordered to return to Fiji immediately.

At 3pm on Wednesday, Mr Savou was declared a persona non grata by New Zealand.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the response is following diplomatic protocol and the Government’s action draws attention to the fact Fiji’s basis for expelling New Zealand’s diplomat was quite unfounded.

The situation deepens already soured relations between the nations following Commodore Bainimarama’s refusal to hold democratic elections in Fiji.

Coup leader Commodore Bainimarama was reappointed as Prime Minister earlier this year, less than two days after a court ruled that the 2006 coup and subsequent government was illegal. He sacked the entire judiciary in April and has been trying to replace it with Sri Lankan judges.

New Zealand and Australia have called for the elections to be held by next year, but Commodore Bainimarama has ruled this out until 2014.

In response, Fiji has been suspended from the Pacific Forum and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Labour supports decision

The Labour Party says it supports the decision. Leader Phil Goff says he thinks it is bizarre that three New Zealand diplomats have been expelled from Fiji in such a short period of time.

Mr Goff says Commodore Bainimarama’s behaviour is not rational and will ultimately make dialogue between New Zealand and Fiji even more difficult.

“This is not rational behaviour and it’s certainly not the way in which we can get back to rebuilding dialogue and finding a way forward whereby Fiji can meet the requirements of re-entry to the Pacific Forum and to the Commonwealth of Nations.”

Mr Goff says it is a bit rich of Fiji to accuse New Zealand and Australia of judicial interference, when the military dictatorship in Fiji has totally undermined the concept of an independent judiciary in that country.

Call for diplomatic approach

New Zealand-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji says the latest row between the countries shows a different diplomatic approach is needed.

Spokesperson Nick Naidu says Fiji has made mistakes and he would like to see New Zealand and Australia change their approach from sanctions and isolation. He says people in Fiji are tired of coups.

However, Fiji Club of New Zealand president Alton Shameem says the New Zealand Government must adopt a foreign policy approach like that of United States President Barack Obama and start engaging.

- Radio NewZealand

Fiji’s top representative in Australia is due to return home as relations between the two countries sour further.

Fiji’s acting high commissioner in Canberra has until Thursday morning to leave Australia.

His expulsion follows a decision by Fiji to order Australia’s high commissioner to leave Fiji.

Tensions between the two countries were further strained on Wednesday night when Fiji briefly detained – and then expelled – an outspoken Australian academic, the Fijian born professor, Brij Lal.

The Australian opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, says the government should urge the United Nations to stop using Fijian troops in peacekeeping operations because she says it’s a ‘major source of funding for the military regime’.

About 280 Fijian troops and police are involved in peacekeeping efforts.

- Radio Australia

A Fijian born Australian academic Professor Brij Lal, has been expelled from Fiji for commenting on the current diplomatic stoush between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

Professor Lal, from the Australian National University, was detained by Fiji’s military on Tuesday afternoon in relation to public comments made by him about Fiji’s expulsion of Australia and New Zealand’s head of diplomatic missions.

He says he was interrogated by the military for three hours, and told that his views were uninformed and unwelcome by Fiji’s military backed regime.

Professor Lal was then told he was unwelcome in Fiji and had 24 hours to leave the country.

He is expected to leave Fiji on Wednesday.

Professor Lal is an Australian citizen, and a leading academic and researcher, on Fiji’s political history.

In 1997, he was involved in drafting the country’s new constitution.

- Radio Australia

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