Showing posts with label Islanders with a dragon tattoo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Islanders with a dragon tattoo. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

X-Post: Australia’s Regional Foreign Policy Left Standing In The Shadows Of The Anglosphere

Upon taking government, Australia’s conservative coalition parties, led by Tony Abbott, had a simple foreign policy refrain: more Jakarta, less Geneva.

The previous Labor government had a more ambitious suite of policies on positioning Australia in the Asian century, yet regionalism was still order of the day. Despite the supposed predilection for regionalism and Australia’s unique geopolitical interests, leaked NSA documents on intelligence operations in Indonesia suggest the country is struggling to reconcile historical alliances to the Five Eyes network and the rising ASEAN heavyweights. In short, Australia may still be standing in the shadows of the Anglosphere.

Material leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicates the Australian Defence Signals Directorate attempted to tap the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president’s wife and high-level Indonesian ministers in 2009. Claims have also aired that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service placed listening devices in the Timorese cabinet room in 2004 during deliberations on a proposed oil and gas treaty with the Australian government.

The theatrical diplomatic confrontation that has followed these leaks coincides with a critical juncture in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Indonesian cooperation with the Abbott government’s border protection strategy is operationally essential. Operation Sovereign Borders requires high-level Indonesian cooperation as most asylum seekers transit through Indonesia before making a seaward journey to Australia.

Many of the NSA revelations about Australian intelligence activities are not surprising, nor unexpected to the political elite of Asian Pacific countries. However, the revelations are likely to reinforce the worst stereotypes and popular regional (mis)conceptions of Australian foreign policy. More than ever Australian diplomatic activity will be seen through an unflattering prism of US patronage.

For the Pacific Islands, the Australian government is cast as a meddling neo-colonialist, pursing its economic and security agendas under the guise of aid effectiveness demands, unfair trade deals and conditional loans. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill can now become even more publicly sceptical about Australian security narratives on Melanesian state stability and efforts to counter Chinese state investment.

For the current Indonesian parliament, political class and press, historical suspicions about Australia’s position on West Papuan independence, disappointment over live cattle embargos and residual political angst at Australian intervention in East Timor have raised to the surface of Indonesian political discourse.

The parties were primed for this exact type of diplomatic conflict after the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referenced the 1962-66 Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation, known as Konfrontasi (in which Australian troops fought as part of British forces in Borneo and West Malaysia against Indonesian-supported forces ), when discussing the Liberal Party’s border protection policy and its contravention of Indonesian sovereignty. Those that see the diplomatic spat as nothing more than theatre would argue these elevated suspicions are not that far from the latent, regional perceptions of Australia security and foreign policy.

Scott Hickie

" For the Pacific Islands, the Australian government is cast as a meddling neo-colonialist, pursing its economic and security agendas under the guise of aid effectiveness demands, unfair trade deals and conditional loans. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill can now become even more publicly sceptical about Australian security narratives on Melanesian state stability and efforts to counter Chinese state investment. "
Considering the status quo perceptions, the NSA revelations could be dismissed as having little substantive consequence – the inevitable price to be paid for a ‘regional sheriff’ keeping frail states and economically weak authoritarian regimes in check and supporting the Anglosphere.

However, the relative power balance across Southeast Asia and the Pacific has changed over the last 10 to 15 years. A notable proportion of fragile and developing states have emerged from negative growth and post conflict environments to improved security situations and increased political stability and have posted almost decade-long continued GDP growth alongside institutional reform.

These unfolding regional economic developments translate to growing political confidence and diplomatic clout for the rising ASEAN powers. The dynamic also underscores greater interdependency between Australia’s future trade interests and security posture – particularly critical on- and off-shore infrastructure in North West Australia.

This point is sometimes lost on Australia’s political class and public who harbour a decade old regional security understanding preoccupied with Australian proximity to fragile states and developing countries beset with political instability. A recent Lowy Institute poll on Australian perceptions of Indonesia shows an almost collective amnesia about any economic or political transformation post-Suharto.

Notwithstanding Australia’s considerable intelligence investment in Indonesia and the large-scale Bali terrorist attack in 2002, the security threats anticipated by the United States and Australia in early post-9/11 have not materialised to the magnitude anticipated and feared. Transboundary Islamic militancy and violent jihadist groups spreading a unified arc of insecurity across southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, primarily threatening Western interests, has not unfolded.

Provincial insurgencies, though in existence, have not toppled governments, triggered systemic, wide-scale human rights abuses demanding a regional/international Responsibility to Protect response or disrupted trade. Over the last decade, and in terms of wide-scale human devastation and insecurity, no event has surpassed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that took the lives of 230,000 and left 1.69 million displaced. Yet, the call of the Anglosphere remains strong.

If the degree to which Australia plays the United States’ proxy regional security underwriter can be scaled back, diplomatic space may open for Australia to carve out a more independent regional international relations agenda. While there is significant consistency and similarity between US and Australian foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific, there remains nuanced but critical points of divergence around trade agreements, regional counter-terrorism initiatives, resolution of maritime boundary disputes, aid and human rights agendas in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, it is the emerging security interdependency at a regional scale that requires prioritisation.

One of the challenges for Australia tempering or better calibrating its regional interdependency with historical and so-called ‘civilisational’ allegiances is the optics and perception of Australia repositioning itself within some sort of Asian sphere of influence.

A US Asia-Pacific pivot and China’s increasing economic dominance and military modernisation lures existing and rising regional middle powers to the bipolar corners of the two global hegemons. Stronger Australian links with Indonesia and Malaysia could be miscalculated as Australia being one step away from falling into the Sino fold. Such a miscalculation fails to appreciate the nature of Indonesian/Malaysian and Chinese relations.

Furthermore, evolving security reconfigurations are resulting from some Southeast Asian countries establishing or augmenting security arrangements with the United States to counterbalance Chinese assertiveness around maritime claims. US efforts to build defence cooperation with Vietnam is a case in point. In one sense this may lead to a dilution of the perceived uniqueness of Australian and US defence ties within the region.

It is evident, now more than ever that Australian foreign policy needs to step out of the shadow of the Anglosphere and develop a deeper network of relations in Southeast Asia. This does not mean compromising US defence ties or being co-opted into a Sino sphere of influence. It means Australia can have greater flexibility to address critical regional trade, security and political imperatives with important neighbours.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

X-Post: Inside Story- Stopping The Cheques.

Nauru’s president Baron Waqa with prime minister Tony Abbott at this month’s CHOGM meeting in Colombo.
Robert Schmidt/ AFP

Source: Inside Story

STANDING on the podium in Warsaw this week, president Baron Waqa of Nauru wasn’t mincing his words. “Many of the countries most responsible for climate change are retreating from their moral responsibility and obligation to act,” he said. “Consequently, we are lacking the urgent ambition required to lower emissions in the short time we have to avert catastrophe.”

This year’s global climate negotiations haven’t gone well. The Alliance of Small Island States, or AOSIS, is angry that many developed nations are abandoning pledges to provide financial support for the most vulnerable islands affected by global warming. Speaking on behalf of this forty-three-member bloc, Waqa stressed the vital role of climate finance in responding to the climate emergency. “We are missing the all-embracing idea of human solidarity that underpins the concept of ‘loss and damage,’” he said, referring to the devastation to land, water supply, agriculture and infrastructure caused by delays in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the failure to fund the necessary adaptation.

Leading the retreat at Warsaw is the Australian government. In December last year, the Coalition’s shadow climate minister, Greg Hunt, said that an Abbott government would not give a “blank cheque” to cover loss and damage. Now, as federal environment minister (“climate” having been removed from the title), Hunt has refused to attend the Warsaw negotiations and is making good on his pledge to stop the cheques.
At this month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the Abbott government ditched Australia’s pledge to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, an innovative new funding mechanism for dealing with the effects of climate change.

In their final communique, the CHOGM leaders “recognised the importance attached to both the operationalisation and the capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund.” But a footnote recorded that “Australia and Canada had reservations about the language of paragraphs 18, 19, 20 and 21 and indicated that they could not support a Green Capital [sic] Fund at this time.”
Hunt made clear in December last year that the Coalition wouldn’t support this multilateral body. “This is not a fund which we support. We have no control over where the money goes, no control over how it’s used, no control over how much we pay and this is something which we clearly, simply, categorically reject.” At the time, international observers were astounded by the chutzpah of this statement. Australia had played a central role in the creation of the fund, with AusAID’s deputy director-general, Ewen McDonald, appointed co-chair of the Fund’s board for its first year of operation. Australian officials have played a crucial role in determining the Fund’s mandate, operations and policies.

In Warsaw, Australian negotiators also disrupted talks on the “loss and damage” agenda, leading to a walkout by the “G77 plus China” delegates, the 132-member bloc currently chaired by Fiji. As noted climate researcher Saleemul Huq told the Guardian, “Discussions were going well in a spirit of cooperation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste.”
At a time of diplomatic turmoil with Indonesia, these attacks on climate finance, coupled with recent cuts in the aid program, will have long-term strategic implications for Australia’s relationship with Pacific island neighbours. Although Australia remains the major provider of aid, trade and military cooperation in the Pacific islands region, the days when it could use aid to call the shots are long gone. The old relationship is no longer the only game in town: in the same month that Canberra overturned Australia’s policy on climate finance, China announced US$1 billion in concessional loans for the Pacific islands.

Alongside China’s increasing diplomatic influence in the Pacific, a range of other players – from Cuba, Russia and Indonesia to unexpected actors like the United Arab Emirates – are complicating policy in the islands for the ANZUS allies. With larger countries like Papua New Guinea and Fiji taking more assertive regional and international roles, many Australians underestimate the rapidity of change in our region. The latest cuts in aid and climate finance can only accelerate that process.

SINCE Copenhagen in 2009, OECD nations have pledged funds for adaptation and mitigation initiatives in the developing world. Thirty billion dollars was committed for fast-start financing in 2010–13, and the agreed target for 2020 is an annual US$100 billion of public and private funds.
But many obstacles already stand between these funds and the most vulnerable communities, including the inadequacy of funding pledges, the balance between money allocated for adaptation or mitigation, a lack of donor coordination, the complexity of funding mechanisms and the special vulnerability of small island developing states and least-developed countries – countries that barely contribute to global greenhouse emissions.

“Approved [climate] finance for projects in the region’s most vulnerable countries, particularly the small Pacific island states, has been modest,” reports the Overseas Development Institute. “Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu cumulatively receive only 4 per cent (USD $83 million) of the total amount approved in the Asia-Pacific region, mostly for adaptation activities.” Funding cuts will just make the shortfall more serious for countries like these.

The cuts can’t be justified by arguing that small island states have a limited capacity to manage aid flows. Australian officials and non-government organisations have been working with the Pacific Islands Forum to establish systems to manage resources effectively and avoid corruption and mismanagement. The Forum secretariat has completed a major study on climate funds in Nauru and published reports on better practice in the region, and last year Oxfam published a report (on which I was the lead researcher) examining regional efforts to strengthen governance of climate adaptation finance.

Beyond this, many of the problems in accessing climate finance lie with the practices of key donors and multilateral organisations. Acknowledging this problem, a June 2012 World Bank report pointed out that “the institutional rigidity of donor organisations makes cooperation and partnership more difficult… Joint programming of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction activities by donors and implementing agencies is not widespread.”

Nic Maclellan

" Alongside China’s increasing diplomatic influence in the Pacific, a range of other players – from Cuba, Russia and Indonesia to unexpected actors like the United Arab Emirates – are complicating policy in the islands for the ANZUS allies. With larger countries like Papua New Guinea and Fiji taking more assertive regional and international roles, many Australians underestimate the rapidity of change in our region. "

Since 2010, Australia’s fast-start funding for climate adaptation and mitigation has been drawn from the aid budget. With the aid program expanding in those years, and a bipartisan commitment to increase official development assistance to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2015, Pacific governments have been reluctant to criticise Australian policy. (Island officials believe, for example, that climate financing was supposed to be “new and additional” to resources allocated for addressing poverty, health, education and women’s empowerment, but they haven’t chosen to make an issue of the fact.)

The decision to abandon the 2015 aid target began under the Gillard government. Labor foreign minister Bob Carr diverted $375 million of aid funds in 2012–13 – funds for humanitarian and emergency responses, women’s programs, agriculture and rural development – to pay for asylum seeker processing. But the Abbott government is going further and faster. Since coming to office, the Coalition has made three key changes to the aid program: cutting $4.5 billion over four years by reversing planned increases in the aid budget; abolishing the aid agency AusAID as a statutory agency and merging its functions into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and proposing cuts in the number of experienced staff charged with making sure taxpayer funds are well spent.

Under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, Labor met its target of A$599 million of fast-start climate finance in 2010–13. But our fair share of the global target of US$100 billion by 2020 is estimated at $2.4 billion a year, an amount that would require a dramatic shift of attitude within the Coalition.

RECENT announcements about aid and climate finance come at a time when Pacific regionalism is being transformed. Australia’s long-held influence in the Pacific Islands Forum is being eroded by new trends in aid, trade and investment. Pacific governments are diversifying their political and economic links beyond the regional groupings that dominated islands politics throughout the cold war years.

Today, Forum countries are showing growing interest in South–South cooperation and engagement with new partners. Fiji’s coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama has been a key player in this regional realignment. Bainimarama has argued that Pacific nations need an independent grouping outside the Pacific Islands Forum. “We must insist that our voice be heard and heeded,” he has said. “We will dine at the table; we will not be content to pick at the crumbs that remain on the table cloth after the decisions are made and dinner is over.”

With Fiji suspended from Forum and Commonwealth activities since 2009, Bainimarama initiated the “Engaging with the Pacific” meetings in 2010 as a counterpoint to the Forum. In August 2013, these meetings morphed into the Pacific Islands Development Forum, a new regional summit which provides both a mechanism for debate about sustainable development and an alternative meeting place for governments, business and civil society. Over time, the new grouping may evolve into a venue for inter-island dialogue without Forum members Australia and New Zealand in the room.

These trends are also evident globally, reflecting the growing links between the Forum’s island countries and Asian powers. As relations with Canberra and Wellington have soured since the 2006 coup, Fiji has joined the Non-Aligned Movement, established diplomatic relations with a range of key developing nations, and opened new embassies in Brazil, South Africa, Korea and Abu Dhabi.

In 2011, the Asia Group within the United Nations formally changed its name to the Group of Asia and the Pacific Small Islands Developing States. (With Tony Abbott stressing Australia’s links with Anglosphere partners in Washington, Wellington and Ottawa, it’s worth remembering that Australia is part of the UN Western European and Others Group, rather than the Asia-Pacific group.)

The Bainimarama regime’s repression of trade unions, limits on political parties and delays in constitutional and electoral reform have not hampered Fiji’s regional and international influence. This year, Fiji has served as chair of the G77 plus China grouping in the United Nations, an unprecedented role for an islands nation. As Fiji’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Peter Thomson, said in May, “The G77 is the most appropriate international grouping for countries such as Fiji, Kiribati and other PSIDS” – Pacific Small Island Developing States – “to advance the development of their economic agendas in the global context.”

Papua New Guinea is also playing a more independent role in regional politics, reflecting its size as a dynamic, populous nation near the borders of Asia. It is the only Pacific island nation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping, or APEC, and is seeking full membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. With major reserves of timber, fisheries and minerals and new projects to export oil and liquefied natural gas, Papua New Guinea has the potential to influence neighbouring atoll nations.

Attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro last September, PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill said his country will embark on a program of regional assistance with various countries in the Pacific. From next year, the PNG government will introduce a special budget allocation to fund a regional development assistance program. In Majuro, O’Neill increased climate funds to the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati, and pledged funds for Fiji’s 2014 elections.

Seizing the moment, China is using loans and investment to expand its diplomatic influence in the region, erode longstanding island ties to Taiwan and blunt US regional influence. According to China’s foreign ministry, “developing friendly cooperation with the Pacific island countries is part of the long-term strategy guideline of China’s diplomacy” and “a role model for South–South cooperation.”

Meeting Pacific leaders in Guangzhou on 8 November, the Chinese government announced a range of loans, grants and scholarships for island nations. Vice-premier Wang Yang announced that China will provide US$1 billion in concessional loans for Pacific island nations to support construction projects. (A loans facility will especially benefit Papua New Guinea and Fiji, where major oil, gas and seabed mining projects are proposed.) A further $1 billion in non-concessional financing would be made available by the China Development Bank.

At a time when Australia is abandoning increases in overseas development aid, the Chinese government is stressing its diplomatic commitment to the region: “China is a reliable and sincere friend and a dependable cooperative partner of the Pacific island countries.” It will build medical facilities and send medical teams to island nations, as well as investing in green energy projects. Beijing will also provide 2000 scholarships over four years to add to the 3600 Pacific officials and technicians who have already received training in China in recent years.

Canberra’s fixation on the carbon tax and domestic climate policies, meanwhile, is overshadowing these regional and international developments. Although Australia remains the largest aid donor in the islands region, the Coalition government is fundamentally transforming our capacity to deliver development assistance in ways that address core regional concerns over poverty, infrastructure, water and food security. And as we move towards a global climate treaty and a summit to replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, there are plenty of other players who are stepping up to engage with our island neighbours. •

Nic Maclellan works as a journalist and researcher in the Pacific islands, and is a correspondent for Islands Business magazine.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fiji Defense Officials In China Visit.

Fiji's Minister for Defense,National Security and Immigration, Joketani Cokanasiga is currently on an official visit to China , along with the RFMF Chief of Staff, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz and the Navy Commander, John Fox, in addition to other Government officials, as reported by Fiji TV One news segment (video posted below) and corroborated by Fiji Sun article.

The visit to China, is a follow up to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Defense Closer Cooperation and Technical Assistance, jointly signed by People's Republic of China and Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) in late August 2013.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The New Battle for the Pacific: How the West Is Losing The South Pacific To China, The UAE, And Just About Everyone Else.

Far from being small island states, Pacific Island countries are showing themselves as large ocean states, with vast fisheries, potential seabed resources, and increasingly important geostrategic positioning - as the range of military bases dotted throughout the region can attest.

However, just as the region is showing its importance, Western influence is waning. When the larger Western powers pulled out of the region following the end of the Cold War (the United Kingdom, for example, closed three South Pacific High Commissions in 2006), they turned to Australia and New Zealand to "manage" the area for the West. Ms. Cleo Paskal discusses how and why this happened and what are the options for the West in this new battle for the Pacific.

Ms. Cleo Paskal is an Associate Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources department at Chatham House, London, and Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Geopolitics, Manipal University, India. 

Recorded at the East-West Center office in Washington, D.C., October 3, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fiji and China Ink M.o.U On Defense Cooperation & Technical Assistance.

Source: MoI

Fiji's Minister for Defence, Jonetani Cokanasiga and PLA Ltd, General  Wang (MoI)
The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) today achieved another milestone following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for closer cooperation and technical assistance.

The MOU was signed this morning by Lieutenant General Wang of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and Fijian Minister for Defence Joketani Cokanasiga at Sofitel Resort and Spa in Nadi. In inking the milestone breakthrough between the two countries, Minister Cokanasiga highlighted the role of China in Fiji’s development. “The assistance is indicative of the relationship between our two countries,” he told Lt. Gen Wang.

“We have seen cooperation in the various sectors of our economy including socio and economic assistance which have been rendered towards Fiji and we are grateful to have a friend like the Peoples Republic.”
The signing also strengthens the existing defense MOU that was signed in 2011 between the two countries.

Minister Cokanasiga also briefed the delegation on the bold step taken by the two countries in building strong allies. Currently, two Chinese police officers are on attachment with the Fiji Police Force assisting local police officers in their daily duties.

(L-R) left is PS Defence Mr Osea Cawaru, Minister Cokanasiga, Mohammed Aziz, Major Sila Balawa and Captain Duaibe (MoI)

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

X-Post: Islands Business - Foreign Policy Towards Fiji, Up For Debate

Source: Islands Business

(Audio -posted below) From RNZI

Fri 12 Jul 2013
OTAGO, New 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’.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

X-Post :Thesmith - In the South Pacific, Chinese Economic Development Continues

There is a paradigm shift happening in the Asia Pacific that is energising the region in a slow but clear way. For the foreseeable future at least, many of the Pacific’s smaller states are set to continue their trend of relying on larger power patrons for funding while developing stronger ties with each other, creating something of a Pacific network.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

X-Post: PACNEWS - Australian Defence Encounters New Pacific Realities.

By Michael O’Keefe,

  Canberra has turned its attention back to the Pacific. No more potent a symbol of this renewed interest could be found than the Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith’s visit to Tonga on the eve of releasing the Defence White Paper ‘Defending Australia and its National Interests’.

The fact that Smith was convening the inaugural annual ‘South Pacific’ defence ministers meeting is certainly significant. But there is also substance behind this symbolism. The minister foreshadowed the new Pacific Maritime Security Programme, which replaces the Pacific Patrol Boat Project and forms the centrepiece of Australia’s new Pacific strategy.

Canberra has some catching up to do after years of benign neglect. For over a decade, Australia and its US ally have been focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and the ‘War on Terror’. Operations in Afghanistan are winding down and the White Paper is sensitive to the implications of this major shift in tempo.

Australia’s other large and enduring operation in the Solomon Islands is also winding down. RAMSI has been a major bridge to the region and ending this link will have an impact on the Solomons and on Australian defence engagement. The second principal task of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) identified by the White Paper is to “contribute to stability and security in the South Pacific and Timor-Leste”.

Naturally this comes second to providing for the direct defence of Australia. However, it is widely acknowledged that a direct threat is highly unlikely to develop for a generation and therefore the focus on the Pacific gains priority. While the US is pivoting to Northeast Asia to focus on China, Japan and the Koreas, Australia is pivoting back into the Pacific. The challenge for both is that the seascape has changed dramatically in both areas since their attention shifted to the Middle East over a decade ago.

One key strategic shift that links this ‘pivoting’ is that the Pacific is becoming an arena for geopolitical contest between the great powers. Australian and US’ strategic interests may very well overlap in this regard, but Australia is apt to view the Pacific as its backyard rather than simply a venue for strategic competition.

A major stumbling block preventing re-engagement is the continuing diplomatic standoff with Fiji. A key plank in the sanctions regime is a ban on defence cooperation. Historically, Fiji has been Australia’s largest defence cooperation partner in the Pacific and the key to broader regional defence cooperation. This is not simply because of the size and capability of the Fiji Military Forces, but also because of Fiji’s place as a hub for the region.

When an Australian defence attaché arrives in Suva after the elections in 2014, he will find a radically different diplomatic environment than when his predecessor left. The Fijian government has a new-found confidence in its diplomatic affairs and Australia is no longer the dominant military cooperation partner. Countries such as China, Indonesia and Russia have filled the gap in defence training and logistics.

This situation is largely of Australia’s doing and it will be its responsibility to play ‘catch up’. It’s clear from the tone of the White Paper that Australian defence planners are sensitive to the changed dynamics of the region. The aim is not to “control” but to “contribute” to the maintenance of regional security.

Furthermore, the emphasis is on regional security challenges that more reflect the interests of the Pacific countries rather than the orthodoxies underpinning the rest of Australia’s strategy.

Michael O'Keefe

" One key strategic shift that links this ‘pivoting’ is that the Pacific is becoming an arena for geopolitical contest between the great powers. "
Seeing the Pacific through Pacific eyes means that the focus is on maritime security (such as fisheries management and protection), transnational crime (such as human trafficking, people smuggling and drug smuggling) and disaster management (humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and stabilisation).

The new maritime security boat programme neatly captures Australia’s intentions and the potential role Pacific leaders have in shaping it to suit regional interests.

This programme will be the centrepiece of defence cooperation. We have no idea what the boats will look like but the intention is clear.

At one point, the White Paper highlights the role of the Royal Australian Navy amphibious ships in humanitarian assistance, etc, in the Pacific. In contrast, the maritime security boats will be gifted to Pacific Islands states to assist islands nations in protecting their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

The capability of these boats will be defined in the year ahead and there is an opportunity to shape the project to meet the maritime security needs of Pacific Islands states for the next generation. Furthermore, whether the boats gifted to individual islands nations are connected into an integrated regional surveillance network supported by Australian assets (such as maritime patrol aircraft) remains to be seen.

To realise its potential, the gulf that has opened up between supporters of Fiji and supporters of Australia isolating Fiji will need to be bridged. Pacific and Australian leaders will have to navigate their way through the turbulent waters created by the ongoing diplomatic tension.

A significant gap in all the White Papers is that they don’t include implementation strategies and the most challenging issue will be how the defence cooperation with the region can be rebuilt.

The maritime security boat programme is one possible bridge. Another could be in relation to peacekeeping. Only last month, a new arrangement linking the training of Fijian and Papua New Guinean peacekeeping forces was announced.

Peacekeeping is a costly and admirable endeavour and one in which the FMF and ADF have some experience. It would be natural for Fijian participation in operations to expand after 2014 and much work could be done to prepare for this eventuality.

Similarly, military forces have the best training and expansion capacity to respond to complex humanitarian contingencies and coordinating the development of a regional capacity to act swiftly to natural disasters is long overdue.

There is great potential for the White Paper to support enhanced regional defence cooperation, but it has to be
acknowledged that the strategic seascape has changed. Whether it achieves its promise depends on the regional buy-in. Probably more than at any time since the Pacific Islands states gained independence, regional leaders have the capacity to shape the scope of defence cooperation.

• Dr Michael O’Keefe is a Senior Lecturer & Convener at La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia


Viewpoint in Islands Business magazine,  June 2013 Edition

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chinese President Xi Jinping Meets Fijian Prime Minister

Source: CCTV

President Xi meets Fiji prime minister 

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) -- President Xi Jinping said Wednesday that China is ready to strengthen communication and cooperation with Fiji and other Pacific Island nations.

 [Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd R) meets with Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama (4th L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, May 29, 2013. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)] Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd R) meets with Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama (4th L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, May 29, 2013. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

Xi made the remarks while meeting with visiting Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama in the Great Hall of the People. Xi said China believes that all countries are equal members of the international community and should respect and treat each other as equals. Xi said China treasures its friendship with Fiji, respects the development path chosen by its people and will continue to provide assistance to Fiji within its capacity.

Xi said China appreciates Fiji's support regarding issues related to China's core interests. Xi said both sides should deepen cooperation in agriculture, forestry, fishery, transportation, telecommunications, mining, infrastructure development and tourism. He said both sides should promote cultural exchanges and contacts, especially among young people. He said he hopes both sides can step up coordination on multilateral and Pacific Island issues.

Xi said China supports Fiji's requests regarding energy security, climate change and the protection of maritime resources, adding that China is ready to further advance its relations with Fiji. Xi said Pacific Island nations are an important part of the Asia-Pacific region, adding that the region cannot achieve development and prosperity as a whole without the development of Pacific Island nations.

Xi said China supports Pacific Island nations in playing an equal part in international affairs, enhancing development and realizing sustainable growth. Bainimarama said China has provided invaluable support for Fiji and brought benefits for its residents, adding that he hopes to learn from China's success and step up cooperation with China. Bainimarama is the first Pacific Island nation leader to visit China since China's new leadership came into power.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Flying Solo - Fiji High Commissioner to UK, Speech at SOAS, University of London

Solo Mara
Remarks by Mr. Solo Mara
High Commissioner
Republic of Fiji High Commission to the United Kingdom
Before the
Spring Ambassador Speaking Series
Pacific Islands Society at SOAS
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
March 5, 2013
Source: SOAS


I am pleased to speak to you this evening on the future of traditional and non-traditional security in the Pacific Islands.  I am sure that many of you are familiar with the Pacific Islands region; few in the general population know much more than the information featured in tourism literature, and many from outside my region have no desire to look much further beyond those images of tropical idyll.

However, with fourteen votes in the UN and rich marine resources, the Pacific region has a voice on the global stage. A voice that is beginning to be recognised, first in the name change of the UN Asian Group to Aisa-Pacific and Fiji’s current Chairmanship of the G77+China. Its internal security, and international security, are of growing interest outside the region; to scholars, such as yourselves, to politicians, and to business.  Some commentators have suggested that the Pacific Islands region is a new geo-strategic political pitch for the super-powers, particularly China and the United States.

A Snapshot of the Region

The Pacific Island region is defined by more than the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean; there is a rich bio-diversity of fish stock, and untapped underwater mineral deposits.  The small Pacific Island Countries vary greatly in terms of natural resources and population; the total population of the region is relatively small.  The region’s total population is about 7 million, and half of these are in PNG.

Selected statistics will give you a snapshot of the Pacific Islands region.  First, the combined total land area of the 14 Pacific Island Countries [PICs], namely Cook Is., Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, PNG, Marshall Is., Samoa, Solomon Is., Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, is 526,724 sq km [which is bigger than Spain, and a little smaller than France].

One of the most significant assets of the Pacific Island Countries is the size of their combined Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ- which amounts to 19,927,900 sq km.  This is slightly greater than the combined land mass of the USA and Canada.  The World Bank’s statistics suggest that this important asset is not being used to its full potential however, as the total combined GDP value of the 14 PICs is US$ 20 billion.  In contrast, New Zealand’s GDP, at US$ 142.48 billion, is 7 times bigger.  The most prosperous Pacific Island Country, measured in GDP per capita, is Palau, at US$ 8,730; whilst the least prosperous is the Solomon Islands at US$ 1,517.

These statistics put into perspective the factors that define the Pacific Islands concept of security, whether it be economic, geographical or political in nature. The Pacific Islands region, vulnerable in terms of its small size and relatively low level of development, yet possessing enormous untapped resources and a youthful population that can be educated for the global knowledge economy, is bordered by the world’s superpowers.  These larger nations, including the US, Russia, and China, all take considerable interest in what’s developing in this region.

Different Views of Security Threats

If I were to ask the room this evening to suggest 3 issues that you would consider to be significant threats to security in the Pacific Islands, it is likely that your collective list would be dominated by traditional security issues, such as superpower rivalry, terrorism, people smuggling, drug trafficking, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber-crime, and internet fraud…

Were I to, at the same time, ask a group of Pacific Islanders which three threats to security are most pressing, I am sure that their answers would differ to yours.  This does not mean that the traditional threats you are likely to have mentioned do not feature or are unimportant; the Pacific Islands region does face, and manage, traditional threats to its security.  The active participation of the Pacific Small Island Developing States within the UN framework, and the positions we have taken on those issues in the global arena, are proof of our regional concerns relating to traditional security threats.

A group of your peers in the Pacific Islands might agree with your assessment of security threats in general, and over the long-term, and might note that the issues that dominate western thinking on security are most relevant to large, developed states in the short-term.  They would likely localise the discussion of “security”.  “Security”, as considered from the perspective of the governments on coral atolls or volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, features a wide mixture of issues.  Some of those factors, that I will now discuss, will be familiar to you, whilst others have not yet been considered widely outside the Pacific Islands region.

Traditional Security Threats

The Pacific regional security environment, which for simplicity’s sake I will consider since the early 1970s, when most of the PICs were gaining independence, has become increasingly complex and diverse. It has faced, and continues to be challenged by, traditional threats to security, including an increase in various types of transnational organised crime, internal conflicts and crises, which have threatened the stability of governments; the ever-present global threat of terrorism; governance challenges; and limited legal and law enforcement resources and capacity.

Consistent with global trends, transnational criminal activity has increased in the region. The emergence of a globalised economy, a huge growth in international trade, greater mobility of people and services, and advances in communications and information technologies have resulted in the Pacific region being more prone to the presence and activities of criminals and crime syndicates. Transnational crime includes the illegal movement of people, narcotics, wildlife and goods, as well as illicit financial transactions linked to money laundering.

Resources to address these security challenges are limited, and challenges are great.  The limited resources that Pacific Islands Countries have are good resources; by and large, the Pacific’s human resources are well-trained and supported by many generous international partners.  But resources are limited in number and in support.

Furthermore numerous instances of violent conflict, civil unrest, and political crisis have had serious consequences for internal stability and sustainable development in a number of Pacific Island Countries.  Stability is absolutely essential if gains are to be made in education and in health to support economic growth.  The reactions of development partners to internal security issues have varied widely, and this has had an impact on donor relations with Pacific Island Countries.

Traditional security threats described above are being managed by the Pacific Island Countries within existing regional infrastructure, which includes several regional agencies.  Given the region’s geopolitical importance, many donor countries are also involved in regional discussions of and management of security threats.
The regional security framework, which was developed by the region’s leaders as part of the mandate of the Pacific Islands Forum, and has been revised and enlarged over time, was primarily designed to ensure the cooperation of national law enforcement authorities with each other and to ensure a standard regional approach to security activities.

Significant security instruments, all of which continue to be used as the basis for discussions and decisions of a regional nature, include the 1992 Honiara Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation,  the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration on Regional Security Cooperation, the 2000 Biketawa Declaration, which relates to regional crisis management and conflict resolution initiatives.

Non-Traditional Security Threats

It is crucial however to consider other new and emerging threats to security; these are the threats that occupy the thinking of your peers in the South Pacific.  Non-traditional security issues, the most prominent of which is Climate Change, are dominating the agenda of governments of the Pacific Island region; resources are being spread thinly- perhaps too thinly- according to need.

The priority security issue in most Pacific Island countries now is human security.  The most prominent amongst these is the impacts of Climate Change on the continuing existence of Pacific Island societies in their current form and environment. Climate change threatens human security in the Pacific now- not in the next few decades, or ten years, but now.

Society and livelihoods are under threat, a threat that is so large and seemingly interminable that it is proving extremely difficult to manage. However, there are other threats to human security that are also competing for the attention and very limited funds available to Pacific Island governments.

Climate Change

Pacific island countries are bearing the brunt of the impacts of Climate Change. The tidal surges that are engulfing atoll nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are having an immediate impact on their livelihoods. Climate change will continue to impact on all aspects of Pacific life – the health of the oceans, including acidification and cleanliness, and the availability of fish in the sea; changing patterns of agricultural production and access to fresh water; and rising sea levels.

The region is acting collectively to effectively make its voice heard by the international community. But it will certainly need the support of- and funding from- the international community to find ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change. I applaud the EU for having provided eight million euros for a five-year research and adaptation project, working in fourteen countries, to conduct research on Climate Change, equip communities with knowledge and practical tools for adaptation, and train young Pacific Islanders to postgraduate level, so that the region has the human resourced required to formulate effective and enlightened policies.

The PSIDS Group in New York attempted, with the support of some EU countries, to place Climate Change on the agenda of the UNSC in 2012, but failed due to strong lobbying from some members of the UNSC.


Further impact of Climate Change is also evident on the fisheries resources that in some instances provide the only income to some island countries. Changes in sea temperatures have been reported to have forced the migration of marine life away from its natural grounds and have negatively impacted the growth and development of many marine creatures.
Given the huge EEZ of the Pacific Island region, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing fleets are taking much-needed income from the region and are also proved to be linked to other traditional security threats, such as people smuggling and drugs and weapons trafficking.

Health – HIV/AIDS and NCDs

Another relevant non-traditional security issue for the PICs can be found in the Health Sector. The spread of HIV and the rising incidence of NCDs, such as diabetes and strokes, are two threats to human security that are of increasing concern to Pacific Island Countries. These feature very prominently on government agendas primarily because very limited funds must be diverted to address these issues, both of which have a sustained negative impact on productive labour resources.

Who Determines Which Security Threats are Addressed?

It is clear that the variety of threats to security is staggering.  And resources are limited- I refer not just to limited funds, but to limited human resources to implement policies and carry out projects.  Pacific Islands need to have the space and support to prioritize for themselves which security issue in their own region need to be addressed.

Pacific Islanders have their own view of security threats and needs; their development partners, interested neighbours, and metropolitan powers interested in the region have another.  Like Japan’s renewable [solar] energy assistance programme currently being rolled out in rural Pacific communities. As much as is possible, there needs to be a meeting of the minds to deliver outcomes that will benefit the human security of Pacific Islanders whilst supporting a stable and crime-free region.

The regional security agenda has changed over time.  An examination of the regional security agenda discussed within regional organisations like the Pacific Islands Forum some ten years ago reveals that issues such as the development of legislation on aviation and maritime security, law and order training and the ratification and implementation of international and regional human rights and security related conventions dominated the agendas.

Whilst these may have been important to some developed members like Australia and NZ, they did not necessarily address the development needs of the PICs. This often led to accusations being levelled against Australia and NZ, and suggestions that they pursued a self-serving security agenda with relation to the Pacific Island countries. The example of Australia’s Pacific Solution to the issue of the illegal “boat people” migration from Indonesia comes to mind.

More recent discussions on regional security vary considerably in their focus.  Non-traditional security issues, such as Climate Change, are still being viewed from the perception of the metropolitan powers, however, and do not address the needs of the Pacific Islands. There is a general perception, amongst Pacific Island peoples, that their immediate development needs are not being addressed in favour of longer-term human security issues.  There is growing dissatisfaction over the lack of infrastructural development and the provision of basic public services like health, water, education. And when one adds growing unemployment figures, rising costs of food and their corresponding negative impacts on living standards, the result can be worrying. The 2006 riots in Tonga and Solomon Islands were said to be indicative of the growing frustrations of the population with the lack of tangible benefits from development on the islands.

It is a common assumption that, in this day of globalisation and modern information technology, we share the same understanding of important issues like security.  This is believed to be particularly true when we are speaking in terms of geographical proximity.  That is a common misconception- there is a marked difference in viewpoints between the PICs and its more affluent Pacific neighbours.  This misconception often leads to the “misunderstandings” that have marred the partnerships between the PICs and neighbouring metropolitan powers.  Some have even argued that it has led to increasing engagement with China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

How Security Concerns have contributed to the Pacific’s Closer Relations with China

To most Pacific Island leaders, adopting a “Look North” policy anchored on improved and closer relations with China was an inevitable progression. PICs have for years been warned by metropolitan neighbours of China’s “questionable security intent” in the region.

However, after three decades of interacting with the Chinese leadership, marked by high level visits to China by Pacific Island leaders, Pacific Island Countries have come to recognise in China a valuable and sincere development partner. The then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Fiji in 2006 and held a meeting with 10 other PICs leaders in a development-focused meeting aimed at strengthening the “China-PICs Cooperative Partnership” in all sectors of development.

China stepped in when other western development partners, such as the US and the UK, withdrew.  Australia did not adequately fill the vacuum that was created- or one can say that they did not do it as effectively as the Chinese.

The increasing involvement of both China and the US in the region is hard to ignore.  It seems that Washington has ramped up its presence and involvement in response to China’s increasing activities and influence.  The attendance of the US Secretary of State at the PIF Leaders Meeting in 2012- never before had such a high-ranking American official visited the region- was a clear confirmation of Washington’s realization that it must be more involved in the Pacific Islands or risk losing its influence entirely.  It is interesting that Mrs Clinton was beaten to the islands by a multitude of senior Chinese Government officials- including Xi Jinping, who will assume China’s presidency this month.

To Pacific Islanders this renewed interest by the US is welcomed.  China is also a valuable “development partner” that has demonstrated its active support in addressing non-traditional security issues.  Access to the Chinese Exim Bank loans is providing much needed infrastructure development for economic development in the islands.  And China is trading more with the region and contributing to economic growth in the process.
But one lesson that the PICs have learnt from its engagement with China, India, Indonesia in its “look north policy” is the importance of the word partnership. Particularly, partnership based on mutual respect, which was evidently lacking at the 2007 meeting of Pacific Island leaders with the than US Secretary of State , Ms Condoleezza Rice in Washington, where she was reported “to have appeared only for a 10 minutes photo opportunity” with Pacific Island leaders who have travelled thousands of miles for that meeting. The changes in five years- from that photo opportunity to Mrs Clinton’s trip to Rarotonga- are quite remarkable.


Bridging the difference in the perception of security threats is fundamental to effectively ensuring the future security of the Pacific Islands. The Pacific Islands region must accept that the interests of its donors and superpowers will at times dictate what security activities they prioritize and fund.  However, interested foreign “development partners” must engage from a position of respect and understanding with Pacific Island Countries, and realize that they will always need to prioritize human security, as limited funds mean that the most pressing issues must be addressed.  Once Western countries understand this, they will understand why the Pacific Islands have sought closer ties with Asia in their pursuit of “security” in the Pacific Island sense.
The Pacific Islands region will do well to engage productively with both superpowers.

The US and China to Pacific Islanders represent the two sides of the same coin. And the Pacific Island region geographically is big enough to accommodate all of our development partners including the EU. It is in everyone’s interests to safeguard fisheries, limit and manage the impacts of Climate Change, and reduce transnational crime.

Improved health and educational outcomes, which can be supported with foreign aid, will contribute to socioeconomic stability in the island countries.  This stability is what all involved wish to see. One thing is indisputable.  To Pacific Islanders, Climate Change is not a distant concept or an emerging threat.  It is a threat today; when villagers have no fresh water because it has not rained for months, when they cannot plant because the soil has too much salt, when roads are washed away by “King tides”, they see Climate Change.

It is the greatest threat to human security in the Pacific.  So China and the US can jostle for position, and fund security initiatives and development projects, but the biggest contribution they can make to security in the region is to acknowledge their own role in and responsibility for Climate Change.  They can help Pacific Islanders, who are most affected- and who are affected now.

Club Em Designs

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

South Pacific Sloganeering: From Arc of Instability To Arc of Opportunity

Radio Australia program Radio National, interviews Australia National University (ANU) Sinclair Dinnen in an episode "Rethinking the South Pacific" and previews the  ANU hosted Feb 8th workshop, that contemplates the question of whether Australia should rethink its approach to the South Pacific and by extension, re-frame the phrase 'Arc of Instability'. Podcast of the radio program (posted below)

(Posted above) Video from Australia National University (ANU) and their academics: Joanne Wallis, Sinclair Dinnen from the College of Asia and the Pacific, reflect on the coined phrase "Arc of Instability" and the genesis of the slogan. The academics also discuss the developments in the  region.

At the backdrop of the academic discussion on Australia approach to the South Pacific, former Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka's talking points, suggests Australia should re-engage diplomatically with Fiji and their poor relationship has ultimately benefited China .

Monday, January 28, 2013

X-Post: Strategic Culture -The Pacific Ocean: The Pentagon Next Human Terrain Battlefield

Wayne MADSEN | 27.01.2013 |

The Pentagon planners and their paid anthropologist shills are gearing up for the Pentagon’s next battle: the one for the Pacific that will ensure that the island nations that dot the vast maritime expanse will remain a part of the Anglo-American sphere of influence and not become part of a «Chinese lake».
The Pacific Ocean has been a favorite stomping ground for U.S. government-financed anthropologists ever since Margaret Mead ‘s 1928 treatise on the Samoan people, Coming of Age in Samoa, laid the groundwork for the intelligence-related anthropological study of the peoples of the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. military and intelligence services. Mead later became a researcher for the CIA-connected RAND Corporation and became a supporter of CIA funding of anthropologic surveys and studies via laundered academic research grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID / CIA/Special Operations projects with names like Phoenix, Prosyms, Sympatico, and Camelot used anthropologists and social scientists to reconnoiter targeted tribal areas in South Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Colombia, and Chile to determine how U.S. Special Forces and intelligence agents could use indigenous peoples to further American military goals. The operations in the cases of Phoenix in South Vietnam and Prosyms in Indonesia resulted in genocide on a massive scale…
Today, the military’s tribal and native peoples targeting programs fall under the nomenclature of «human terrain systems» or HTS. Brought back to life in Afghanistan and Iraq, these genocidal programs now have their eyes on the Pacific in order to gear up for what the Pentagon and Langley planners believe is an inevitable war with China.

It is fitting, therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now looking for up to 15,000 acres of land to lease on American Samoa. The U.S. military wants to establish a major training base on American Samoa for at least five years and probably longer. The base is to provide 24-hour road access that will permit 60 full days of training per year. The Army also wants the base to permit the use of pyrotechnic and blank ammunition during daytime and nighttime training. It is certain that the U.S. is looking at building a simulated rural and village tropical environment for the use of U.S. and future «coalition of the willing» armies to practice battling an enemy in the Pacific region. That «enemy» is China.

The United States obviously foresees the Pacific as a future battleground between American and its allied forces and China for control of the important trade routes that crisscross the vast maritime region. Not since the U.S. military campaign against Japan during World War II has the Pacific seen such an American military projection of power.

The decision by the Obama administration to «pivot» its military forces into Asia and the Pacific has brought about a strong response from China, which sees itself as the ultimate target for the increased U.S. military presence. China’s ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming called the stationing of 2500 U.S. Marines in Darwin an «affront» and a Cold War containment policy toward China.

The establishment of a U.S. military training base on American Samoa follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first ever attendance by a U.S. Secretary of State of a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. It was the first such visit to the Cook Islands and underscored America’s decision to maintain its stranglehold over the small Pacific island nations while at the same time beefing up its military forces in the region.

The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only. Enter the Human Terrain practitioners from the Pentagon and CIA to keep the Pacific islanders divided. Clinton’s participation in the PIF summit is aimed at not only maintaining the status quo but in promoting the rivalries between Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians among the island states. 

The United States, having virtual ownership of the quasi-independent Micronesian nations of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, as well as total control over the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas, can use its influence over Micronesians to play them off against the other two major ethnic groups,. They are the Melanesian Spearhead Group of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and the New Caledonia (Kanaky) liberation front and the Polynesian Leaders Group of Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, as well as the intelligence eyes and ears of Washington, American Samoa. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand can use their Human terrain System knowledge of ethnic rivalries in the Pacific to ensure that China is kept out of the area.

Part of the strategy relies on Taiwan’s «checkbook» diplomacy to maintain Taiwanese rather than Chinese embassies and aid missions in the small island states. There are currently Taiwanese embassies in Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Kiribati. Among these, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati switched their recognition back to Taiwan after opening up diplomatic relations with China. Kiribati came under pressure after it decided to allow China to build a missile tracking station on south Tarawa. 

Wayne Madsen

" The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only [...]

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing [...]

Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region. There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea [...]

If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’état duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji."

The U.S. believed the China Space Telemetry Tracking Station was going to spy on the «Star Wars II» activity at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese on the atoll are under constant surveillance by well-armed U.S. security personnel. In 2004, Vanuatu switched its recognition back to China from Taiwan after Prime Minister Serge Vohor paid a secret visit to Taiwan and was ejected from office in a vote of no confidence. Vohor actually punched the Chinese ambassador after Vohor returned from Taiwan. Such incidents in the Pacific Islands have been known to set off riots between opposing political parties and ethnic groups. The Pentagon will use such politico-ethnic tinderboxes as a secret weapon against China.

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing. However, the Human Terrain operatives have gone further. Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region. 

There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The CIA’s Operation Prosyms in Indonesia relied on longstanding animosity between Muslim Indonesians and ethnic Chinese to stoke riots against the Chinese in the aftermath of the 1965 CIA coup against President Sukarno. The mayhem resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 ethnic Chinese and a severance of relations between the CIA-installed Suharto government and China. President Obama’s anthropologist mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, played a crucial role in Prosyms. Mrs. Dunham’s son appears prepared to reenact anti-Chinese pogroms in the islands of the Pacific.

It is clear that the U.S. military training in American Samoa will be used to train Pacific Islander mercenaries, many of whom, such as Marshall Islanders, American Samoans, and Guamanians already serve in the U.S. military, to train young men from impoverished Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa, and Fiji. Fijian and Tongan mercenaries, battle-hardened from Western campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions, are also available to supplement the U.S. Pacific Command’s training complex on American Samoa. If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’état duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji. And the diplomats of the small Chinese embassy in Nuku’alofa, Tonga have witnessed how fast the fury of local Tongans can be turned on the Chinese business community. These blood-soaked scenarios all figure heavily into Pentagon HTS plans for the Pacific.

The United States will continue to keep the Pacific Islands within its vast gulag to prevent the extension of Chinese influence. Today, Pacific Islanders are faced with a virtual «Berlin Wall» that keeps Pacific Islanders confined to their own islands while outsiders, like Chinese and Russians, are kept out. The method by which Washington, Canberra, and Wellington have created airline and sea transit monopolies and transit visa requirements means that Samoans from the Independent State of Samoa cannot visit nearby American Samoa without a special permit. And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decides who will receive special permits and transit visas, including for those traveling on diplomatic passports. Any scheduled airline that connects any of the islands via American Samoa, Guam, or Hawaii requires a U.S. transit visa and that entails invasive interviews by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.

There is a reason why so many negotiations and agreement to establish the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership have been secret. As the title indicates, the TPP, as it is known, is a «strategic» trade bloc, which means it also has a military dimension. In essence, it is no different than the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere established by Imperial Japan during World War II. The United States, not wanting to be viewed as starting the bloc but wanting it to be a replacement for the Cold War military alliance, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), sat in the background while New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, and Chile signed up as charter members in 2005. 

As more nations joined, the TPP’s military profile became clearer. The countries that signed up to the TPP were all being groomed for the anti-China military bloc for the Pacific: Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru, and the United States signed on. Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Colombia, Costa Rica, Laos, and Taiwan later expressed an interest in joining the TPP. The eastward blockade of China became clear. The United States already had existing military alliances with six of the other ten TPP member nations. From Darwin, Australia and Subic Bay, Philippines to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and the U.S. built Mataveri Airport on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), the U.S. was delineating the borders of its own Asia-Pacific Sphere and a line over which China would be warned not to cross.

Mrs. Clinton may have arrived in Rarotonga last year amid waves and smiles but her sinister plans for the Pacific region have more to do with using the Pacific Islanders for cannon fodder in what Washington expects to be a coming regional war with China.

Source: Strategic Culture

Club Em Designs

Sunday, January 27, 2013

X-Post: Island Business - Reconfiguring Regionalism in the Pacific

by Nic Maclellan

Last month, Sir Mekere Morauta launched a new website, calling for public submissions into his review of the Pacific Plan. Over the next eight months, the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister will lead a team around the region to look at the plan, which is supposed to set priorities for key regional institutions—the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the other members of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP).

According to the Forum’s Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the review will be “an ambitious scope of work that will involve leaders, officials, and a range of non-state actors from across the region in assessing past performance and mapping out a path ahead.” As a framework for regional co-ordination, the Pacific Plan grew out of a 2004 Forum Eminent Persons Group, which called for a new vision for Pacific regionalism.

However, the resulting policy framework—the 2005 Pacific Plan—was one of the least visionary documents to appear in recent years. It was widely criticised for down-playing issues of culture and gender, and its recommendations often reflected the existing agenda of regional intergovernmental bodies. Morauta’s review comes at a time when there is widespread debate about regional institutions as Pacific governments and communities face a complex range of international challenges.

The regional agenda has broadened, with significant pressures on the region’s institutional architecture. Looking to the year ahead, there are a number of challenges: elections in key states; debates over Fiji’s transition to parliamentary elections in 2014; the challenge of integrating the remaining Pacific territories into Forum activities; and deadlines to review the Millennium Development Goals and regional frameworks on climate, trade and other issues. But just as the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? How can churches, women’s groups, customary leaders and young people carry their voice into the regional structures?

Reviewing the Forum 

In recent years, there has been quiet—and not so quiet—criticism of the Forum Secretariat, suggesting that it is not fully engaging with the needs of member states. A comprehensive review of the Forum Secretariat last year by Peter Winder of New Zealand;Tessie Lambourne of Kiribati; and Kolone Vaai of Samoa highlighted competition between CROP member agencies and made a series of recommendations on reforming the Secretariat’s structure, leadership and priorities.

Last August in Rarotonga, Forum leaders deferred action on the Forum Secretariat’s review, agreeing that its recommendations be rolled into the wider review of the Pacific Plan. But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). For many years, the Small Islands States have caucused before Forum leaders meetings and issued communiques on their particular concerns.

In the Northern Pacific, the Micronesian Chief Executives meetings are slowly expanding, with talk of a new secretariat. Last year also saw the first meeting of the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG). The idea of a Polynesian bloc within the Forum has been floating around for decades—as France’s Secretary of State for the Pacific in 1986-1988, Gaston Flosse, tried to create a Polynesia sub-group in an attempt to blunt the MSG’s solidarity work with the FLNKS independence movement in New Caledonia.

Now, Samoa has taken the lead, driven in part by Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s very public disdain for the Bainimarama regime in Fiji. The Polynesian nations are also seeking to develop common fisheries policies, with the New Zealand-supported Te Vaka Moana initiative, at a time when the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) nations and Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are perceived to be driving regional policy. At the PLG meeting in Apia last year, there were also invitees from Hawai’i, Rapanui and Aotearoa—the far-flung inhabitants of the Polynesian triangle. Will indigenous peoples living with constrained sovereignty form a stronger part of this new regional network?

PACP and regional trade 

Over the next year, long-running debates over regional trade policy will reach a new tempo. In a major change last November, leaders of the Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group (PACP) agreed that Fiji should re-join the fold. All countries of the PACP Group will now participate in all meetings relating to PACP. In a significant shift, Papua New Guinea has offered to host the secretariat of the PACP Leaders meeting—until now, administrative and support services for the PACP have been provided by the Forum Secretariat.

After a battle with the Forum Secretariat over trade policy, the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila already hosts the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA). Trade policy has led to extensive critiques of the Forum in recent years, amid perceptions of excessive Australian influence in Suva (not helped when the Forum’s Director of Economic Governance Roman Grynberg was replaced by AusAID’s former trade adviser Chakriya Bowman between 2007 and 2011). Just as OCTA was established to provide independent advice and support in the negotiations of PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, the new PACP Secretariat will eventually provide an alternative source of trade policy advice, especially for negotiations with the European Union (EU).

For years, the Forum has been discussing a comprehensive regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. But the EPA is in trouble, more than five years after it was supposed to be finalised. Once again in 2013, the European Union looks unlikely to seriously address key Pacific concerns in the trade negotiations such as labour mobility and market access for fresh and frozen fish. Inter-islands trade through PICTA has been slow to get off the ground, but the PACER-Plus and EPA processes have largely failed to create innovative trade and development linkages.

The European Commission has a long way to go to engage SIDS leaders, according to Niue Premier Toke Talagi: “There is a degree of frustration on our part at the fact that this agreement has not been signed. There is also suspicion on our side that they may be trying too hard to get all that they want, and there is no degree of compromise in the arrangements we need to put in place.” The revitalisation of PACP in 2013 and new sub-regional initiatives are showing more promise. This year, the MSG Trade Agreement will take on a new life after Papua New Guinea agreed to reduce duties on almost all of its protected goods. PNG’s notoriously protectionist business community now recognise the need for more regional support to enhance the LNG boom with small but growing investment from Fiji.

New spaces to talk 

There are other signs of sub-regional networking. With the signing of an MOU between Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the MSG Skills Movement Scheme is slowly getting off the ground at a time when Australia and New Zealand are focused on seasonal worker programmes. In the education sector, Fiji National University (FNU) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) are discussing extending their operations beyond existing Forum islands countries, to include Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Fiji has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation with Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. Through the Fiji Volunteer Service, the first 12 teachers headed off to the Marshall Islands last September.

Nick Maclellan

" [A]s the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? [...]
But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)[...]
Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy[...]
Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies [...] "
Former USP economist Dr Wadan Narsey has noted that Papua New Guinea and Fiji’s role in the region’s economic and political life is significant, telling Radio Australia: “The Forum Secretariat is very seriously in danger of being marginalised in the Pacific. I think to some extent when you look at the recent re-admission of Fiji to the Pacific-ACP negotiations, in a way that is a symptom of the fact that the Melanesian countries are not going to allow one of their own to be marginalised from regional and international trade negotiations.”

The Forum is deeply rooted in regional frameworks and has become a focal point for international engagement—highlighted by recent visits to the Forum leaders’ meetings from Ban Ki-Moon, Hillary Clinton, Juan Manuel Barroso and other international dignitaries. But just as islands leaders stepped out of the South Pacific Commission in 1971 to create a forum where they felt free to talk politics, Pacific islands leaders are again seeking spaces where they can address their concerns and visions, without the major powers setting the agenda.

To create a new venue for governments and civil society to meet outside the Forum, Fiji’s Voreqe Bainimarama initiated the “Engaging with the Pacific” meetings in 2010. This year, these meetings will evolve into a new Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). The PIDF will extend debates about “green growth”, the Pacific Conference of Churches’ “Rethinking Oceania” proposals and work on alternative development indicators, such as “Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia” (the 2012 pilot study produced by the Vanuatu National Statistics Office and other government and community representatives).

Over time however, it will be worth watching to see if the PIDF becomes the venue for inter-islands dialogue without Australia and New Zealand in the room (along with all the other official Forum observers like the World Bank, the ADB, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations etc). After the 2012 Rio+20 conference, there’s plenty of work to do this year on environment and development—especially as the Pacific will host the Third Global Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

Nauru’s President Sprent Arumogo Dabwido has said that “Rio infused new energy into making the islands a model for sustainable development by agreeing to convene the Third Global Conference on SIDS.” But the latest global climate negotiations in Doha have put a damper on hopes for urgent action on global warming. Before the Doha summit, President Dabwido noted: “It is revealing just how much our ambition to address this crisis has been downscaled in just three years. Copenhagen was the conference to save the world. Cancun was the conference to save the process. Durban, it seems, was the conference to save the rest for later.”

Fiji’s foreign affairs 

This year will be a major test for the Bainimarama regime as Forum member countries monitor its progress towards a new Constitution and free and fair elections in 2014. On the domestic front, Fiji faces severe problems, with the declining sugar sector, ongoing rural and urban poverty and the damaging effects of cyclones and flooding.

The Bainimarama regime is widely condemned for harassment of trade union leaders and restrictions on union rights. Relations with the independent commission to develop a new Fiji Constitution have been fraught. But on the international stage, the post-coup regime in Fiji has begun to transform the country’s foreign policy. In the last few years, Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy. The signs are everywhere.

In April 2011, Fiji joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in recent years has established diplomatic relations with a range of key developing nations—from Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, to Iran, Cuba, North Korea—and, of course, China. Passing through Beijing last year, Fiji’s foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola stated: “We appreciate China’s position on South-South co-operation and its decision to provide funding to Fiji through bilateral mechanisms and not through the Pacific Islands Forum’s Cairns Compact. “This funding option is more effective and really addresses the real needs of the people.”

Not everyone is sure these changes will last. In a December 2012 essay in the journal Security Challenges, Fiji historian Brij Lal argues that “these are short-sighted and eventually counterproductive diplomatic games Fiji is playing with no serious expectation of any far-reaching benefits.” Lal, one of the co-authors of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution, says: “Perhaps all these new initiatives will be allowed quietly to relapse once Fiji returns to parliamentary democracy,and once no benefits are seen to derive from them.” However, there is evidence that Fiji’s role in the Group of Asia and Pacific Small Islands Developing States at the United Nations is coming up with results.

Last September, Fiji was nominated by the UN’s Asia-Pacific group to chair the “Group of 77 and China” for the duration of 2013. This is the first time in nearly 50 years a Pacific country has led this developing country network (with 132 members, the G77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations.) In part, Fiji’s diplomatic tensions with Canberra and Wellington are driving its links to China and the developing world. But they are also a reflection of emerging strategic shifts on a global scale, at a time when China, India, Korea and other countries are transforming global economics and politics.

New friends 

Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies. Seeking to link Pacific states with the dynamism of Asia, many Forum member countries are looking north (indeed, last October, the Gillard government released the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper, a road map showing “how Australia can be a winner in the Asian century”.)

At the 2012 Cooks’ Forum, Premier Talagi of Niue told the Chinese news agency Xinhua: “From Niue’s perspective, we’re very happy that China’s in the Pacific. I don’t believe that China’s incursions into the Pacific should be seen as a negative thing. I see it as a very positive thing and I have also heard US President Obama say the same thing.” As we move into 2013, new leaders in Beijing and Tokyo will review their policies towards the region (though the conservative Shinzo Abe government in Japan, elected in December 2012, will likely turn back the clock on nuclear and fisheries policies).

The United States too is turning to the Asia-Pacific region, with the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot, including the Forum Islands countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won plaudits for her appearance at the 2012 Forum leaders meeting (although she will leave the post in 2013, with Senator John Kerry the front runner as her replacement). Beyond the obvious delight of Forum islands leaders that the United States is paying attention again, there are still a number of issues where there are fundamental policy differences with Washington, on climate change, decolonisation, maritime boundaries and the renewal of a key tuna deal with the islands.

The Obama administration has yet to persuade the US Congress to increase compensation for the health and environmental impacts of 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs tested at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands—an issue that will be high on the agenda when Majuro hosts the Forum leaders’ meeting later this year.

Integrating the territories 

Since its founding in 1971, Forum membership has been limited to Australia, New Zealand and the independent islands nations. In contrast, other CROP agencies like SPREP and SPC include all the countries and territories as well as colonial powers like France and the United States. In the original 2005 Pacific Plan, the status of the non-self-governing territories was largely ignored, with action plans relegated to the footnotes.

This silence on decolonisation is belied by the steady integration of the remaining French and US Pacific colonies into Forum activities. After the 1998 Noumea Accord, New Caledonia and then French Polynesia gained observer status at the Forum. Both were upgraded to associate members at the 2006 meeting in Apia, where Wallis and Futuna was also introduced as an observer. In Auckland in 2011, the Forum also gave approval for the US dependencies—the territories of Guam and American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the North Marianas—to obtain observer status. They attended the Forum meeting for the first time in Rarotonga last year. The names are different—associate member, special observer, observer—but fundamentally the US and French dependencies are all in the room (apart from the annual leaders retreat).

This trend will continue in the coming year, but the renewed engagement across colonial boundaries opens new debates about the criteria for full membership of the Forum. As the team led by PNG’s Morauta conducts its review of the Pacific Plan over next year, the long-term status of the territories remains a difficult issue.

Last year, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs Richard Marles told ISLANDS BUSINESS that Australia now supported New Caledonia becoming a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, even before the French colony makes a final decision on its political future after 2014. Marles said: “We would support New Caledonia’s full membership of the Forum now, in terms of Australia’s position.

But in saying that, we acknowledge that we’re just one member and for New Caledonia to become a full member of the Forum, it may need to win the support of the majority of Forum members. “My observation is that they’re a fair way off doing that at the moment…We see that New Caledonia is an important member of the Pacific family and that full membership of the Forum is supported by all political elements in New Caledonia, as it is supported by France itself.”

For many people, it’s timely that the US and French territories are now closer to the Forum, which remains the key inter-governmental organisation concerned with political and security issues in the region. But as barriers to participation at Forum events are lowered, does this mean that the region still supports the call for self-determination amongst indigenous communities in Guam, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and beyond? Or will improving regional ties with France and the United States re-affirm the colonial status quo?

A year for the French Pacific

The call for self-determination and independence will again be highlighted this year if Oscar Temaru, the current President of French Polynesia, is re-elected in the March 2013 elections. The MSG will also hold its annual leaders meeting in New Caledonia in mid-2013, with the FLNKS taking up the rotating chair of the Melanesian bloc at a crucial time (elections for New Caledonia’s Provincial Assemblies and Congress in 2014 will determine the balance of forces for any subsequent decision on the territory’s future political status, scheduled between 2014-2018).

Last August, at the same time Clinton was attending the Forum meeting in Rarotonga, Fiji’s Foreign Kubuabola was in Tehran, attending the 16th summit of the NAM. Recognising Fiji’s role on the UN Special Committee for Decolonisation, the summit communique stated: “The Heads of State or Government affirmed the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia—Maohi Nui to self-determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).”

A month after the Rarotonga Forum, the leaders of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu lined up at the UN General Assembly to publicly support French Polynesia’s right to self-determination, explicitly called for action on decolonisation. As Samoa celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from New Zealand, Samoa’s Tuilaepa told the UN General Assembly: “Half a century later, there still remain territories today even in our Pacific region where people have not been able to exercise their right of self-determination. “In the case of French Polynesia, we encourage the metropolitan power and the territory’s leadership together with the support of the United Nations to find an amicable way to exercise the right of the people of the territory to determine their future.”

French Polynesia’s President Temaru will continue to seek support from Pacific states for French Polynesia’s bid for re-inscription at the United Nations, even though the August 2012 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum re-affirmed the Australian and New Zealand position, calling for further dialogue between Paris and Papeete. Given the Forum’s policy, the MSG will play an increasing role on this issue. The MSG sent a mission to New Caledonia in July 2012 to monitor the progress of the implementation of the Noumea Accord, and subsequently establish an FLNKS Unit within the MSG Secretariat, to act on initiatives that in the past were undertaken by the Forum Secretariat.

The commemoration of the MSG’s 25th anniversary, to be held in New Caledonia in June, symbolises the links across colonial boundaries. The issue of nationalism and statehood across Melanesia will soon be bumped up the regional agenda by a coincidence of events. After Congressional elections in 2014, New Caledonia is scheduled to hold a referendum on its political status between 2014-2018.

At the same time Bougainville is coming to the end of its 10-year autonomy transition under an autonomous government. As well as New Caledonia, Fiji and Indonesia are scheduled to hold elections in 2014—with both countries vital for the future of Melanesian stability. By 2015, countries must decide whether to sign on to a global climate treaty, and the development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals. This year is a time for reflection and review – and after that, there’s a lot to do.

Source: Islands Business