Friday, July 23, 2010

Fiji moves to embrace a Pacific brotherhood leaving Australia and New Zealand estranged

Editorial – By Selwyn Manning

23 July 2010

Events this week in Fiji have seen a new pact forming where leaders of the Pacific’s island states have engaged with the military government of Fiji with Australia and New Zealand absent and outside the fold.

This week in Fiji, Pacific Islands leaders who gathered at the invitation of Fiji’s military government were urged to look outside the cabal of old traditional friends and seek new trade agreements and associations with economies further afield. 
That was a key message delivered by Fiji’s military leader and Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to Pacific leaders who had gathered at a summit meeting titled Engaging with the Pacific and held at Natadola Intercontinental Hotel Thursday morning.

Commodore Bainimarama’s message was clearly designed to drive a wedge between Australia and New Zealand while creating a sense of brotherhood, a pact, among the leaders of Pacific Islands states.

The Commodore’s statement read: “… some matters and challenges cannot be resolved by simply relying of traditional spheres of influence which Pacific states belong to that is dictated by our colonial past.”

He called for “better cooperation amongst Pacific leaders” and committed Fiji to assisting its neighbours on a “bi-lateral basis”.

The Fiji Military Government has clearly identified a perceived weakness in the once dominant Australia and New Zealand camp. New Zealand’s National-led Government is seen as weak and inexperienced on Pacific affairs. Australia’s Labor Government has internal strains and its new Prime Minister Julia Gillard is focussed more on domestic politics, and on winning the 2010 Federal Election, rather than on Pacific regional geopolitics.

As such, the Pacific is experiencing a power vacuum

The command that Australia once asserted under the leadership of former prime minister John Howard and his foreign minister Alexander Downer, has been eroded. And the respect Pacific politicians displayed when engaging with New Zealand’s former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark has been replaced with an air of indifference toward her successor John Key.

Fiji has sensed this and has made its move. Earlier this month Bainimarama issued an invitation to all Pacific leaders to gather in Fiji to witness first hand the progress he said his Regime had achieved since taking power in December 2006 by military coup.

The invitation followed a decision by Bainimarama to refuse a request from the Pacific Island Forum to send representatives to observe progress, or otherwise, in Fiji.

This is significant. In that event, Bainimarama’s strategy was interpreted by New Zealand and Australia as a move to undermine the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit to be held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in August.

Certainly Vanuatu’s decision to boycott a Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting in Fiji was interpreted by Bainimarama as a symptom of Australia and New Zealand meddling in Fiji’s domestic and multinational affairs.

What Fiji’s military regime has long wanted is for other Pacific Island states to acknowledge the progress it has achieved since taking power.

This week, Bainimarama noted that Pacific Island leaders had gathered in Fiji “in full support of the Fiji Government’s Strategic Framework for Change (SFC) and Roadmap to Democracy (RDSSED) after a crucial presentation by the Strategic Framework for Change Coordinating Office (SFCCO) on Fiji’s way forward to elections come 2014”.

He said the Pacific leaders showed “interest in a number of Government initiatives such as the anti-corruption laws, rural development programmes, poverty alleviation and good governance policies as well as Government’s education-for-all initiative”.

In effect Bainimarama has pulled off a second coup. This month, he solicited interest, support, and brotherhood from his Pacific neighbours while positioning so Australia and New Zealand would fall back into retrenchment. While political, it is almost strategically militaristic.

A Parched Olive Branch

In December 2009, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key attempted to engage with Fiji’s military regime via a letter intended to ease tensions and open opportunities to re-establish dialogue with Fiji. The letter appeared to be received well. But little outward progress was notable in the months that followed, with relations between Fiji and the western-leaning economic powerhouses soon returned to a stressed condition.

The problem for Australia and New Zealand is estrangement leads to a political void that science assures will be filled. In Fiji’s case, as the tide ebbs and its former friends are dragged out to sea, and their economic and political cooperation is virtually exhausted, China and other ‘outside powers’ are geopolitically eager to occupy the space that Australia and New Zealand once enjoyed. The United States of America’s want to see stability, as it defines it, reestablished in the Pacific, has not come to pass. This in itself applies considerable stress to Australia and New Zealanders broader foreign policy.

Even though many Pacific Island states would acknowledge that when disaster strikes, Australia and New Zealand have provided a helping hand. But Bainimarama’s message to these leaders is to think outside the square. This talk speaks of a logic that they understand. He suggests they accept there are other powerful nations that can be called on. And the Commodore has urged his Pacific friends to realise that Fiji is there for them in a way Australia and New Zealand are not. He detailed real challenges that face island states such as transport, energy, education, people and labour movement, regional tourism, ship repairing, manufacturing and retailing. And in turn, he detailed how solutions can be achieved when Pacific Island states pull together for a common good.

In 2006, Commodore Bainimarama was effective in driving a wedge into the heart of Fiji’s multi-party government. This time the wedge is being driven deep into the heart of the regional block, the Pacific Islands Forum. Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, and conservative Pacific Island Forum states would be wise to take note.

Delicate diplomacy is now required.

In 2009, Pacific Forum leaders voted to kick Fiji out of their fold until its military returned to its barracks and allowed democracy to return. At the Forum’s 2010 leaders summit some Pacific member states are likely to push for Fiji’s return. Should consensus not be achieved, the August 2010 summit may see the formation of a new splinter South Pacific group, constructed with Fiji at its core, a brotherhood of sorts, that renders Australia and New Zealand as irrelevant.

Commodore Bainimarama said this week: “Our focus must be based on collaboration, co-operation and a vision.” The key for Australia and New Zealand is realising what that vision is and finding common ground fast.

Selwyn Manning is co-editor of Scoop Media ( and acting editor of Pacific Scoop.

Egg on whose face? Leaders shun Fiji

July 23, 2010

MOST Pacific nations have sent ambassadors or ministers, not leaders, to controversial talks in Fiji designed to snub Australia.

A list of delegates shows that only Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati have sent heads of government. Vanuatu, East Timor, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Micronesia have sent ambassadors or ministers.

Fiji's interim leader, Frank Bainimarama, said the Australian government had ''egg on its face'' as Pacific nations gathered in defiance of Australian lobbying.

A spokesman for East Timor's ambassador to Australia, Abel Guterres, said his nation's Foreign Minister, Zacarias Albano da Costa, had instructed him to attend because no one in Dili was able to accept Fiji's invitation.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, said he ''rejects absolutely'' accusations by Fiji that Australia had interfered with its affairs by lobbying Pacific nations. Australia's top diplomat was expelled over the issue. ''Our rationale … which we made clear throughout the region was that we believe this was an attempt by Commodore Bainimarama to undermine the standing, authority and unanimity of the Pacific Island Forum,'' he said.

New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, said the fact many Pacific leaders were not attending showed they still endorsed the Pacific Islands Forum position to exclude Fiji. "Unless we're going to see a group of those leaders come to Vanuatu in a few weeks' time and argue the case that the Pacific Forum should reverse its decision [to exclude Fiji] then he really hasn't gained much," Mr Key told New Zealand radio.

Comments posted on
  • This is one editorial or one posting that is untrue that I think S Manning have no idea of what he or she is talking about here. Bainimarama's attempt to show up Aust and NZ in the Engage Fiji meeting is very unsuccessful because in Fiji no country was saying anything but were mere listeners to Bainimarama's ditrades.If this meeting was to tell the Pacific Nations that China and India are waiting on the wings it is indeed true because both countries (China and India)want free trades with both Australia amd NZ. Where does that put the Pacific Nations SM?
      • Next is the PIF meeting in Vanuatuy next week.What will happen to the brotherhood that was or is being formed in Fiji this week? except for Fiji all other Pacific Nations will be at the PIF and all will have a say on Fiji's status. This will be a shame for Bainimarama because on one hand he is saying stay away from Australia and NZ and on the very next move the PIF meeting allows all Pacific Island Nations to attend except Fiji who is suspended from it.Where then is the brotherhood S Manning?Certainly not with Fiji.NZ and Australia are established countries in the Pacific Fiji is not yet and Bainimarama as the illegal PM Fiji never will.
  • So Selwyn Manning please research your facts first before you come and sing praise to a murderer,a torturer,a lier,a seditionist,an abuser and a rapist here on this sacred blog site.

  • It would be interesting to see these thieves try and survive on the proceeds of their ill gotten gains. I wonder how long it would last before all of Fiji is in the hands of the Chinese Government under their incompetent guidance .
  • Frank and his co hoots don't don't give a f about everyday people of Fiji,...its only me, me, & me .....idiot.
    When your attitude is like that, how can you do what is better for the people???..mate you know the answer for that.
    I just being praying & hope that the people realize and quickly how this di.....d is running the country and its people to the ground.....needs to be stop asap...
  • The regime reminds us of a castrated animal. Someone being deprive of virility or spirit; emasculate. Vague and meaningless.
  • All along before and during this meeting he's been talking about defiance of Australia and New Zealand. to him its a game of hide and seek. A game who wins what and not neccessary who achieve what in term of improving any standards. What sort of attitude and personaility is that. A trademark of all dictators I suppose. And went ahead and build his own monument and statues. Where self agenda first and nation later. Typical dump hypocrisy. So lets see who will have the last laugh when time comes to review whos gained what at the end of the day. Good on you Autrallia and New Zealand to standing your ground.

No comments: