It’s hard to believe that a so called expert has suggested sanctions placed on the illegal government in Fiji should be lifted.
Anthony Bergin fails to understand or just doesn’t want to understand why countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA have done this.
If he were such an expert of whatever he would know that funding an illegal government is aiding and abetting their treasonous behaviour and condoning all the atrocities they have committed.
The Nation of Fiji sorely needs as much aid funding as it can possibly get but with the ig coupsters bullying any aid would disappear into their own pockets and would be totally useless to the Nation.
We don’t want to go down the same path as the African Nations that continually accepted funding that did not go towards the welfare of their countries and its people instead making the few megalomaniacs disgustingly rich and causing such tremendous hardship for everyone else, resulting in warfare and unbelievable atrocities.
No – we can do without all that thank you Anthony Bergin as in the two short years the illegal government has deigned to rule it has taken this Nation backwards – way way back.
I welcome the sanctions – it won’t kill us, but providing aid and lifting travel bans will only encourage the ig coupsters to continue on their devasting path of destruction.
Anthony Bergin needs to understand that the countries that have applied these sanctions know what they are doing and are in fact helping the honest citizens of this country by their actions.
We are already sufferintg Anthony Bergin – we are proud people and we suffer in silence, but we don’t need your narrow white bread views to add to our miseries. It’s hard enough as it is.
I’m not sure if Anthony Bergin is looking to do a little bit of paisa clean up with the compliments of the ig coupsters stolen money like samy and others have done but his views are destructive to say the least.
Fiji already has a megalomaniac it can’t get rid of quick enough and any encouragement from the likes of Anthony Bergin will make things worse. Very very irresponsible Bergin.
I wonder if he wants genocide on his hands as this is how it all started in the African Nations.
All I have to say to Anthony Bergin is he knows what he can do with those carrots.
Please read on……………..
Offer carrots, not censure
AUSTRALIA is getting nowhere in its policy towards Fiji and is losing regional credibility. We should change tack. Ever since military commander Frank Bainimarama seized control in 2006, Australia has condemned the coup, imposed wide travel bans, mobilised regional opposition and demanded a quick return to democracy. All to no avail.
Our failure was demonstrated again by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s visit to Fiji recently, along with his ministerial counterparts from five other Pacific states.
Bainimarama refused to budge on the key issue raised by the ministers. He will break his promise and won’t hold elections by March 2009. The coup culture looks to be deeply entrenched. The timetable for elections will instead be decided by progress in the political dialogue process he has initiated within Fiji. And progress will be measured by how long it takes for everyone else to agree with his vision of Fiji’s future. Whatever changes he offers, the unspoken reservation is that the military can step back in again any time it feels like it.
If necessary, Bainimarama will tolerate Fiji’s expulsion from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth as the price of his independence. Fiji has, after all, been expelled from the Commonwealth before. Anyway, it’s hard to see how such actions would assist political dialogue with Suva.
All the while Fiji suffers. The coup has hit the Fiji economy hard. The European Union has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars promised for the sugar industry. The global financial crisis will hit Fiji even harder. Bainimarama, meanwhile, has raided the national treasury for funds to keep his troops happy and awarded himself $184,400 in back pay for leave not taken since 1978. Because Fiji suffers, the region suffers. Fiji is home to regional and international organisations serving the whole Pacific.
Australia needs a fresh approach that emphasises the carrots we will give after Fiji returns to democracy. For a start, we should stop insisting on March 2009 as the deadline for elections, at the same time offering a productive partnership with Australia for a return to democracy some time after that.
We should look again at our bilateral aid program. We don’t give much direct aid to Fiji – less than $30 million a year – on the grounds that it has the Pacific’s most sophisticated economy and can look after itself. If that was true in the past, it’s much less true now.
Fiji’s water supply systems, hospitals and schools no longer set the standard in the region.
In the spirit of the Rudd Government’s new Pacific Partnerships for Development, Australia should commit itself to a five-year aid partnership with Fiji aimed at restoring that country’s development pre-eminence in the Pacific. The focus should not be on good governance. Fijians have heard enough of that from us. We should offer practical assistance to renew vital infrastructure in water, power, health and education. That partnership, conditional on Fiji holding elections by 2010, should be aimed at consolidating the democratic system by offering tangible evidence of its benefits.
At a time when Australia is committed to increasing development assistance, the Rudd Government should be contemplating a democracy aid package to Fiji worth about $100million a year over five years. This would be less than half of what we are spending in Solomon Islands.
We should reconsider the travel bans. They cast a wide net over Fiji citizens who might contemplate serving the interim Government in any way and prevent many from travelling to Australia. The EU bans travel by about 160 associates of Robert Mugabe’s odious regime, whereas, by some estimates, Australia’s ban on Bainimarama’s Government affects more than 1000 people. For all Fiji’s problems, it can hardly be compared with Zimbabwe and does not deserve harsher treatment.
Sanctions look good in Canberra. In Suva they enable Bainimarama to depict Fiji as the injured party. They allow him to say, as he did this month, that he will not be deterred, no matter how cruel travel sanctions might be to some of the country’s poor, young and innocent. We should relax the wider travel bans immediately as a gesture of goodwill and undertake to abolish them all as soon as a reasonable election date is set.
For the moment, they should remain only for the small circle of people around Bainimarama.
We should promise the people of Fiji access to our Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme once democracy returns. So far, Australia has pointedly excluded Fiji because of the coup while offering seasonal work visas to people from Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu. A democratic Fiji deserves access to our labour market.
Fiji’s armed forces will remain central to the country’s fortunes. Australia should undertake to restore Fiji’s involvement in regional peacekeeping and to lobby at the UN for Fiji’s increased participation in peacekeeping internationally once democracy returns. We should follow the British example and recruit citizens from Fiji for the Australian Defence Force. This is win-win: it would help to ease our military’s recruitment and retention problems.
We need to ensure that the good things Bainimarama wants aren’t lost because he advocates them. One of those is to change the electoral system. Under the constitution, race determines eligibility to stand or vote in 46 of Fiji’s 71 parliamentary seats. It’s as if Australia had electorates specifically for citizens of Chinese, Vietnamese and Lebanese origin, where only people of that ethnic background could cast a vote or be elected. Abolishing racial voting is enshrined in Bainimarama’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress. It’s a blueprint that he claims has the support of 90per cent of Fijians.
In fact the charter has much less support than that and is far more contentious. Without supporting the charter, Australia should applaud the move towards a race-blind voting system and work with the interim Fiji Government on constitutional ways of introducing it for the next elections. Most ethnic Fijians no longer cling to communal voting for protection against the old “Indian threat”. They have become the clear majority in Fiji and their numbers alone will bring electoral success. The original reason given for communal voting – the minority status of indigenous Fijians in their own country – has disappeared.
Much is at stake both for Fiji and the region. We don’t want Fiji to crumble into a tin-pot dictatorship. Nor do Fiji’s Pacific neighbours, who need Fiji to be prosperous and stable. The time has come, however, for Australia, working with its regional friends, to embrace a new policy approach more likely to bring about Fiji’s return to democracy and economic growth.
Anthony Bergin is director of research programs at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. These are personal views.