#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Another analysis on Fiji crisis: is the 'Pacific Way' better?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another analysis on Fiji crisis: is the 'Pacific Way' better?

By Gerald McGhie, Pacific Scoop
Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s track record does little to encourage those who look to an early negotiated settlement to the current coup/crisis.  But the coup is now in its fourth year and Bainimarama remains well entrenched.  Action to date has not brought him to the negotiating table.

Given the unproductive rhetoric and exhortation from both sides, the stand-off seems likely to continue. Should New Zealand be looking for alternative approaches?

The short answer is “yes” but power struggles, ethnic and land disputes have a habit of  locking themselves into the DNA of Pacific communities. Given the essential complexity of the problem there can be no quick fix or short term solutions to the issues surrounding Fiji.

It is hard to believe that the Pacific, an area noted for its complex procedures of conflict resolution, has not yet produced a formula that all sides can accept. Overtures have been made.  Sir Michael Somare has recalled that at its inception in 1971 the Forum was determined to have an inclusive membership. That principle has underlined his approach to the region ever since.

He has also said that “the Pacific way is not about burning bridges” it is about “going the extra distance, compassion and participatory democracy”.  If there are any lessons to be learned from previous coups, he said, “hurriedly prepared elections and token changes to rules do not ensure real democracy”.

In spite of Somare’s experience and insight, momentum has been lost.  Bainimarama’s sharply worded criticisms continue.  The Forum meets and disperses.

But have negotiations to date been a genuine reflection of the fa’a Pasifika?  Regretably, Pacific Forum countries have an excellent record of producing documents.  Most are quickly ignored particularly the Eight Points of Accountability on Good Governance  and the less useful Pacific Plan.

More durable
But the 2000 Biketawa Declaration has proved more durable.  Somare drew on this document at a Forum meeting in January 2009 when he exhorted members to “constructively address difficult and sensitive issues including underlying causes of tension and conflict”.

Biketawa refers specifically to ethnicity, socio-economic disparities, lack of good governance, land disputes and the erosion of cultural values as continuing areas of concern.  These factors are all in play in Fiji:  Somare’s plea was to engage the interim government fully to help political dialogue succeed.

But for governments to say that they are ready for talks is not enough.  Personal animosities have reached a point where approaches have to be carefully tested. All sides must address three issues before proceeding.  When to talk, what to say and how to say it. But most of all  Australia and New Zealand must take a step back and allow the Pacific countries to initiate and carry out the discussions themselves.

Realistically, Bainimarama is in control and he will not compromise on the Roadmap, the constitutional reforms and the elections in 2014. Negotiations with him will not be easy but if understandings can be agreed and adhered to at least there will be some structure on which to base discussions.

Early contact between the parties would be modest and low key.  A Pacific-based Negotiating Group (PNG) would send an unambiguous message to the interim government that they will address all items on Fiji’s agenda.  For their part New Zealand and Australia would offer a simple statement agreeing that they would be prepared to enter into serious negotiations at an appropriate time but until then Forum contact would be in the hands of Bainimarama’s Pacific colleagues.

These actions are limited in scope and would not at first substantively alter the character of the Fiji government’s relations with the Forum (and New Zealand and Australia) but they would communicate to the interim Prime Minister that all Forum members intend to pursue a different strategy.

That new policy would require a new tone.  Fiji is a proud nation.  Continued denunciations and comments dismissive of the regime would only produce greater intransigence.

Tough talk
Thus Australia and New Zealand must be clear.  Endorsing their own agenda, engaging in tough talk while indicating a readiness to seek negotiations is unlikely to succeed.

More important, relations with Fiji must not be played out in terms of domestic constituency politics in New Zealand.  The Fijian diaspora will know that they stand to gain from realistic negotiations.

The Pacific Negotiating Group will require a leader.  To date Sir Michael Somare has spent considerable time and much reputation coaxing Bainimarama back into the fold.  He should at least have the right of first refusal.  Appropriate support for his activities is vital. He must have a new and well-qualified team.

The UN has experience of dealing with similar knotty problems.  As an expression of goodwill the Pacific Forum nations could make a joint approach to the Secretary General to seek his involvement.  New Zealand and Australia would underpin the negotiations by ensuring the provision of adequate finance and support for the Pacific Negotiating Team.

Neither side involved in the negotiations is likely to achieve all their aims.  They seldom do when the primary challenge is political. But Fiji’s internal disputes, unresolved since independence and before, have to be dealt with by Fijians and the decisions reached accepted by the Pacific and wider community.  The involvement of the United Nations would provide a measure of legitimacy.

Certainly no country in the region will benefit in the long term from a banished and ailing Fiji.  Fiji’s neighbours must be aware of this.

It would be naive to assume that there are no risks or obstacles associated with this approach.  But suspicion now dominates a relationship that has a long history of cooperation.  Australia and New Zealand can impose costs on Fiji but they cannot impose their will.  If the US can seek talks with the Taliban, it’s time to demonstrate continuing diplomatic skill in dealing with a festering and unacceptable Pacific problem.

Gerald McGhie is an independent commentator and a former diplomat and ex-director of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.

Picture: Bainimarama. Fiji TV pic


sara'ssista said...

Why..oh why do diplomats from aus and nz always the first to throw up the white flag and give in to illegal regimes. They are always very quick to talk, and talk , talk and then haggle away the rights of others in the spriti of negotiation and compromise. Why are we placating these thugs?? How doe we look where the opponent gives nothing, and i mean nothing, and we give ground from a perfectly defensible position.

ex Fiji tourist said...

Why would the author think that somare has any credibility?

He is a corrupt, lying, thieving useless individual who has set PNG going backwards.

Actually he would make a perfect cell mate for bananasinpyjamas.

Jake said...

Fiji should be left in the capable hands of our hero Bai. We don't need Oz or NZ, we are doing better without them. That is why they come crawling back with a different tune everytime. They need Fiji and Fiji does not need them. Bless Bai and the Kalou Vu.

Jake said...

As I have earlier stated the brotherhood of nations are on the verge to welcoming back into the fold their friends.

For they now understand the reasons why Bainimarama had to remove the most corrupt goverment that has ever graced the shores of Fiji.

LOng live Bai.

Anonymous said...

Tourist shame on you for telling the truth hehe

Anonymous said...

Damn!! The face tells it all. "I DIDN'T DO IT, HE DID". Just put up a brave face boyzzz!!!!

Jimoni said...

Sa levu ga na theory, o koya qo sa vinakata ga e dua na taba ni dogo se dakai jiji.

Jimoni said...

What is democracy? Too many people throw the term around without understanding what it is? According to Hobbes, there are three kinds of political authority in which human beings can rule over others. Either one of them rule, or some of them or all of them. When all of them rule, the resulting government is democracy. Literally this ludicrous but it is achieved via the ballot box i.e representtative rule.

But government or politics is reserved for the educated, rich, powerful and devious amongst the people. So, in fact democracy as we know it, is basically rule by the few, the elites or aristocracy and feudalism in another form. It is a means of keeping the mass happy and under control, thus preventing revolt, with the illusion of government by the people for the people.

In the words of a high ranking Soviet official to a European Prince: "Your ancestors exploited the people, claiming that they ruled by the grace of God, but we are doing much better, we exploit the people in the name of the people."

That is democracy, whether you like it or not.

Ateca V said...

One cannot analyse "democracy" in one short sweeping statement.

Democracy to Fiji must be restored as it brings back to us the people all the inherent characteristics of representation, opinion,civil freedoms, neighbourhood sharing & the checks and balances that are all MISSING from this dictatorship.

Anon. E. Mous. said...

@ sar'ssista.

Spot on.

Is it diplomatic & bureaucratic arrogance or simple stupidity?
Do they actually believe everybody thinks & behaves like them?
Can't they figure out current ruling despot & associates are all career military? Must be treated accordingly?

Anon. E. Mous. said...

Know someones on shaky ground when they start quoting Soviets - Princes & God about democracy.

Jimoni Levu said...

@Ateca n Mouse: What is democracy then? You don't seem to understand what it is. Sad to say poor shods like you are ripe for exploitation...democracy in Fiji was merely the elites, chiefs and you know who? exploiting the poor. Makes no difference in their lives. Freedom and equality are illusions ...they do not exist. The freedom you enjoy is within laws and social norms that control your everyday life. The world we live in is unequal in nature and inequality is inherent in human beings. You need force to bring about equality but in the process you upset the apple cart, the natural order of things. There smart people, there are dumb people, strong and weak.

The term democracy is not only ambiguous but a deceptive term. Rule by the people or by the majority is impossible so we come up with the idea of representative government. But at the end of the day it merely confirms rule by the minority with one person at the top of the triangle and the people or the majority at the bottom.

Because democracy relies on the votes of the people, it is nothing more than a popularity contest. As such election slogans and manifestos are often packaged in such a way to attract the majority of the populace, whether it is realised or achievable after the election is irrelevant. Woodrow Wilson commenting on democracy stated “they give us so many elective offices that even the most conscientious voters have neither the time nor the opportunity to inform themselves with regard to every candidate on their ballots, and most vote for a great many men of whom they know nothing”.

More recently Walter Lippmann said, “There has developed in this century a functional derangement of the relationship between the mass of the people and the government. The people have acquired power which they are incapable of exercising and the government they elect have lost the powers which they must recover if they are to govern”.

The point is that in western democratic systems, to advance politically you must placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in your constituencies. The main consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular- not whether it will work well but whether the constituent like it immediately.

Demo God said...

Jimoni Levu and Russian princes and Walter Lippman: How can there be democracy if there is a clear movement against the regime? Qarase was corrupt but Vore installed himself illegally and turned Fiji upside down to bring about his perceived utopia. Kai India and the elites and military who are lining their pockets are all smiles but that's a fraction of populace. Let us have elections and we will have our say, dat is democracy.

Anon. E. Mous. said...

@ JL.

Try & keep this real simple.

Your not happy with your mechanic -baker - corner store - you change.
Same applies to elected represensatives.

As for your last point? (bribery excluded).

With all its faults - still better than your alternative.

Pleasing (listening) to 'all' constituents is what its all about - there too serve - if you don't? (see 2nd pargraph).

Jimoni Lailai said...


Trying to keep it simple but democracy is not simple. I am not in any way supporting Bainimarama or anybody. I am trying to make people like you think about what is democarcy and how you fit into the scheme of things.

Democracy is a political philosphy that attempts to give all under its care and equal opportunity to achieve their full potential. There is nothin wrong with it but as it is now it does not work and needs an overhaul.

Democracy comes with two problems: consumerism and capitalism. While democracy lays the foundations for all to achieve it also embraces the less desirable human traits of greed. The more you get the more you want. Capitalism is cut throat, the survival of the fittest...the exploitation of the masses.

The 'serving the people' bit may be good for you but in reality, it is crap. It is about power, status, priviledge and lining their own pockets.

The powerful, the rich, the elites are the ones calling the shots. The majority are merely being led by their nose to the slaughter.

Anonymous said...

Jim Lad - suggested reading - research.

Look thru historical archives - locate - then name - all autocratic (military) dictatorships from day zero that have been successful?

Own findings overwhelming concur that this form of goverment does not - has not - never will - work.


Doesn't strike you as unusual that right now a career military officer is running(amongst other things) - Sugar?

Anonymous said...


Does "rule by some" also include communist rule. In this case is there really a difference between communism and western democracy?

I would still prefer democracy per se where the people are empowered to fire their rulers and hire new ones despite their status.

Jimoni Lada said...

@Demo Kalou Jevoro

That simplistic view of democracy is basically the problem. People don't take the time to think about what is happening within democratic systems. Going to the poll is not all that is involved, the running of government is never simple. And you influence on it, apart from an insignificant tick at the booth is nil...zero.

Your lot in life is basically as part of the masses, pawns in the hand of the rich and powerful who control what is fed to the public through the so called free media. The masses like army of ants on a forced march, you follow the majority, fed by high powered advertising and marketing creating trend, we mass in our millions towards our own financial destruction.

In the end we are not masters of our future, but rather servants of those who own us. We have allowed ourselves to be the puppets of a commercial world, and follow like sheep to the financial slaughter.

Anonymous said...

@Jim Lad.

Commiserations on your current situation - dark place you currently inhabit.

Jimoni Luvena said...

Mouse 12:29 You do the researh budy and tell me.

I am not advocating dictatorship, I am merely analysing democracy. Hitler basicaly came to power through democracy, he enjoyed the popular support of about 60% of the people. That is why he was able to finally rule as a dictator.

Something to think about rather than a blind faith in the virtues of democracy.

Jimoni kaji said...

Mouse 3:06

There you go again on something you don't appear to know. Communism is an economic system not political. It is comparable to capitalism and not democracy. So there is more democracy in communism than in a capitalist system.

Guess who was at the forefront of the fight against communism? The capitalists, those who control western demcracy from the background. They stand to loose if communism was allowed to evolve. Its all about controlling the means of production.

The sucess of western countries has nothing to do with democracy but everything to do with capitalism.

Ok se lao mada i moce.

Jimoni Levu said...

Oh I almost forgot, Bainimarama thinks he is the man with da power but he is only a pawn in the scheme of things. The power is with the rich who manipulate the situation and make their money while Bainimarama struts around like a peacock. That is why the changing stance of Oz is beginning to appear. The capitalists are pushing for a change cause they also want to make some money in Fiji.The Chinese however are well on their way...they pull da strings and pupet Vore jerks into action.
Sa lao dina i moce, dis time.

Anonymous said...

Gerald should have made things easy by answering a flat "No" to the first question posed in this article,"Should NZ be looking to an alternative approach to engaging Bainimarama"?

That way we would be saved from another long winded explanantion from someone who has forgotten about justice for the victims of that mentally unstable dictator.

Save you breath Gerald,all we want is for the traitor Bainimarama to hang at the gallows like Saddam Hussein...we will wait till the opportunity arises but no immunity for Franky and his bocis till then!!!

Jimoni said...

Good morning bloggers.

I would love to see Vore hang from the so called gallows but reality tells me otherwise. He is in for the long haul and unless he is taken down from within the military, everyone can dream on.

Oz and NZ will be forced to accept the status quo if it continues, and once the push from the capitalists (who have business interests in Viti)comes to shove.

In spite of all the rhetoric about democracy both OZ & NZ are cozzying up to China on the trade front. They make heaps of money from exporting to the millions in China. Fiji compared to China is paenuts, in terms of export or money making potential.

What people in Fiji should do is cut the emotional crap about democracy et al. Face the situation as it is, and discuss how you can bring down the regime from within. No one is going to come to come our assistance on that.

Jimoni said...

Anon 6:34

No need for your commisserations coz I don't need it. But you may after realistically evaluating your place in the overall dynamic of things happening around you.

Anon 8:35

If it was as easy as a yes or no, it would be nice. Unfortunately, the situation is very complex with different variables at play. Oz & NZ now realise that the Fiji regime will continue with or without their support. The Chinese influence increases by the day, with Bainimarama firmly in control, and that is why they are left wondering.

Believe me the change in approach will come and acceptance of the status quo a foregone conclusion.

They have taken a position and to change suddenly means losing face or giving in to Bainimara. So they make some noise first through the so called experts before slowly changing course.

Anonymous said...

Changing course inevitable - but not for reasons currently canvassed.

Unless something is done immediately RAMSI will seem like a stroll in the park compared to impending humanitarian crisis currently manifesting within the Sugar sector.

Veli said...

RAMSI can do shiiit in Fiji, end of story. Fiji has been sold to China you dope