Pacific

Sinking islands: the inconvenient truth

Earlier we wrote about Pacific nations screaming out for help to mitigate supposedly rising seas.

There is an inconvenient problem with their hypothesis of sinking islands…if the sea level rises, so too do the islands.

Rising seas are eating away at small islands and will eventually turn their inhabitants into climate refugees, right? Not so for some of the world’s most threatened islands, which have grown despite experiencing dramatic sea level rise.

Funafuti atoll, which includes the capital of Tuvalu, is an islet archipelago in the tropical Pacific Ocean made from coral debris washed up from an underlying reef by waves, winds and currents. Over the past 60 years the sea has risen by around 30 centimetres locally,sparking warnings that the atoll is set to disappear.

But Paul Kench of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and colleagues found no evidence of heightened erosion. After poring over more than a century’s worth of data, including old maps and aerial and satellite imagery, they conclude that 18 out of 29 islands have actually grown.   Read more »

NZ on Tsunami Watch after magnitude 8 earthquake near Solomons

Fox reports

Credit: Hugh Gentry/Reuters

Credit: Hugh Gentry/Reuters

A tsunami alert was issued Wednesday for several South Pacific island nations after a strong earthquake struck near the Solomon Islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said sea level readings indicated a tsunami was generated that may be destructive near the epicenter.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 8.0-magnitude quake struck Wednesday 50 miles west of Lata, in the Solomon Islands, at a depth of 3.6 miles.

There were no immediate reports of damage. Josephine Mae, a police official in the Solomon’s capital city of Honiara, said she had not felt any shaking and said police had received no reports of a tsunami being witnessed there.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami warning is in effect for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna. A tsunami watch is in effect for American Samoa, Australia, New Zealand and eastern Indonesia.

This post will be updated as more information comes to hand.    Read more »

Face it, we lost Fiji

China's growing influence in the South PacificI blogged on the weekend about the massive shift in influence in South Pacific politics with the announcement that Fiji would join the Non-Aligned Movement and the growing influence of China in Fiji.

We need look no further than the Fiji Government’s own website to see just how out of the play New Zealand has become. Right across the home page is a lovely picture from 4 days ago of the Chinese Ambassador handing yet another cheque.

Also on the Fiji Government website is a link to the proposed People’s Charter. If only our government proposed solutions in such a transparent way. Perhaps for the first time since independence in 1970 we are seeing Fiji actually properly participate in nation building, and without the strictures of a colonial past to hedge in the populace. The People’s Charter reads well, certainly far better than Sir Paul Reeves travesty of a constitution which condemned Fiji to a separatist parliament and further coups.

To go with the People Charter a song and video has also been commissioned that shows Fiji in a far different light from that showed by our mainstream media, who prefer to continue to show gun wielding soldiers when they are in fact few and far between.

In the game of Realpolitik the Commodore has showed up Helen Clark, John Howard, John Key and Kevin Rudd and in the process started the eventual weaning of the rest of the South Pacific from the parsimonious, condescending and sanctimonious remonstrations of New Zealand and Australia. Mark my words, this failure of our foreign policy will be felt for many years to come, with Vanuatu, Tonga, then Samoa distancing themselves from New Zealand.

the worst part of all this is that we only have our-selves to blame. In our arrogance, we thought we knew best, we thought that we could force Fiji into our way of doing things, yet conducted ourselves with complete hypocrisy. We insisted that Fiji return to democracy and at the same time feted dictators, cut free trade deals with non-democratic regimes and exported our produce to worse. All the time we wagged our fingers at Fiji and tut-tutted about how terrible it all was that they didn’t have an elected government anymore. Well we have got what we deserved, and the Fijians are laughing at us.

Murray McCully hasn’t even issued a press release about Fiji’s joining of the Non-Aligned Movement. I suppose he will throw his hands up in anguish when Robert Mugabe, Muammar al-Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad come calling. We can hardly complain though can we?

The Commodore basically “rat-fucked” us internationally, and all he did was stand firm and tell us to stop interfering in Fiji’s internal affairs. Actually, a quite reasonable request. Instead we place restrictions and sanctions on them because…well..because they were so successful with Zimbabwe, weren’t they?

So, thanks to successive governments, China is now happily camped less than three hours flying time from Auckland and not a shot was fired. I wonder what our Vietnam, Malayan and Korean veterans think about that? They gave their blood, sweat, tears and lives to keep China and their proxies at bay. that has turned out to be all for naught.

Nevermind about mending bridges, there are chasms to be filled now and with our current policies I don’t hold much hope in the place of my birth resuming friendly relations with New Zealand anytime soon.

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That was real successful – Not!

New Zealand’s foreign policy commitments have barely changed since the government changed in 2008. In particular our foreign policy goals with regards to Fiji have hardened rather than changed.

It is then with little surprise that we now find that Fiji has joined the non-aligned movement. The NAM was largely the brainchild of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, president of Egypt Gamal Abdul Nasser and Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito. As such it comprises of much of S.E. Asia, Africa and Islamic nations. From Wikipedia:

The purpose of the organisation as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” They represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’s members and 55% of the world population, particularly countries considered to be developing or part of the third world.

Fiji is now part of the Non-Aligned Movement, their Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama confirmed.

Commodore Bainimarama said this following a meeting with the undersecretary of the Department of Economic Development of the Abu Dhabi Government Mohammed Omar Abdulla in Abu Dhabi.

He highlighted that Fiji is now moving away from its former international partners like Australia and New Zealand.

“Fiji is now part of the Non-Aligned Movement and is focused on its Look North policy which involves developing relationships with countries outside the southern Pacific sphere,” Commodore Bainimarama said.

Fiji: China's client-state in the South Pacific

I’d say the decision of Fiji represents perhaps the largest failure of New Zealand foreign policy in our lifetime. We have, through pious bully-like behaviour, forced Fiji into a grouping of communist or Islamist nations largely controlled or manipulated by China. Through our insistence in returning Fiji to a form of democracy that was based upon a racist constitution and structural nepotism we have actually encouraged them to seek support and assistance from other countries.

When we could have sat around the table and offered electoral assistance or supported the Commodore’s road map to returning to democracy we have instead wagged the finger and tut-tutted our way to allowing a foot-hold in the South Pacific for Chinese imperialism at the point of the cheque-book. It is a spectacular foreign policy failure and one which Murray McCully has played his part in causing this chain of events to occur.

Instead of acting like big brothers New Zealand and Australia treated Fiji like a naughty boarder at a hostel. It should be no surprise now that Fiji will not be listening to any further commentary from New Zealand regarding its internal politics. Even when our government issues silly travel warnings about Fiji the general public knows better and continues to vote with their wallets and holiday in the most accessible tropical paradise to New Zealand.

Now with Chinese largesse instead of NZ and Australian parsimony, Fiji will have improved infrastructure and better access to resources. We have only the policy wonks at MFaT and the politicians of successive governments since the first coups in the 80’s to blame.

A decision for Fiji to joined the NAM is irreversible now. The situation is lost. It is best now that New Zealand realises this loss and starts to act in a more useful fashion toward Fiji. I say this because it is abundantly clear to all that our former policy objectives with regard to Fiji have abjectly failed.

We can now look forward to watching state visits of Fiji democratic luminaries such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Chavez of Venzuela, Kim Jong-il of North Korea and Sr. Gen. Than Shwe of Myanmar (Burma).

Personally I am very sad that the country of my birth has taken this step, but politically I can see that they had no choice. Through out actions and our words we forced them into this position. What will be interesting to see is the march of other South Pacific nations into the arms of the NAM as they watch the economic benefits of cuddling up to China manifest themselves in real ways.

Count on us China tells Fiji

I think Murray McCully needs to stop worrying about the “Whales” and start concentrating on Fiji and how to gain favour with Fiji again. As I have repeatedly said about our parlous relationship with Fiji, the current stance, inherited from the Clark regime hasn’t worked, isn’t working, unless of course our foreign policy goals include ceding influence in the Pacific to China.

Today the Fiji Sun reports that China has told Fiji that they can count on them. In other words they can’t count on us or Australia.

Fiji in ChineseThe People’s Republic of China has many projects lined up for Fiji, it has been revealed.

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China’s Political Section secretary Wu Chunlai last night indicated that they are happy to assist Fiji at any time.

He said apart from the ongoing projects, they are working with the Fiji Government for future projects as well.

“Yes, we have many projects.”

“They are not only for the future but also for now,” Mr Chunlai said.

He said China’s assistance comes in the area where the Fiji Government is lacking.

China’s assistance to Fiji through aid in 2006 was F46million before it rose to a staggering $F322m in 2007.

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China this month signed the contract for the construction of a multi-cargo vessel.

This will be donated to the Fiji Government.

Mr Chunlai said ongoing projects involving Chinese assistance include the fencing of Government House, which is the President’s official residence.

Chinese companies are helping with Chinese financed development projects around the country.

Also assistance is made by supplying tonnes of NPK fertilizer for the Ministry of Primary Industries, donation of sewing machines to the Ministry of Women and higher level of professionalism in the area of rescue operations and fire fighting for the National Fire Authority.

It is high time that some serious questions were asked of MFaT officials and why they still advise that NZ keep following our current failed policy with regard to Fiji.

On the other hand Fiji is now poised to become the Hong Kong of the South Pacific with assistance from China. Given they are already the wealthiest country in the South Pacific this should make Fiji even more attractive for investment. If I was the Commodore I probably wouldn’t return McCully’s calls either. It isn’t worth the grief.

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Failing on Fiji

While the NZ Government has been pandering to officials and representatives of one of the most non-democratic countries in the world another little country that isn’t democratic but is much closer to NZ than China will ever be sets about ignoring our foolish foreign policy stance and is making new friends.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al NahyanLeaders of the Pacific Island states, including Fiji, will be hoping to tap into the $5.25 billion in Foreign economic aid offered annually by the United Arab Emirates at a historic meeting in Abu Dhabi later this week.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs will convene the first ever Pacific Island Arab League Summit entitled “Prospects for Cooperation between the Arab world and the Pacific Islands” to be held in Abu Dhabi at the Emirates Palace later this week.

The Ministry says following his visit to the Pacific region in February this year, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was inspired by the unexplored opportunities that could be developed between the Arab world and the island states of the Pacific and the potential to strengthen relations on the political, economic and cultural levels.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum are amongst the 14 Pacific Island leaders who will engage in intense talks with the 21 member countries of the Arab League to explore social, political and economic partnerships and to exchange dialogue on the issues and challenges that are affecting both regions.

We have only our silly insistence that Fiji, alone amongst our trading partners, return instantly to “democracy” under a faulty and corrupt constitution. We don’t expect this of China, nor any other pacific country so why do we insist upon it for Fiji. Meanwhile though Fiji just moves on and makes new friends. China is literally dropping billions into Fiji and now it looks like the UAE will too. The Commodore really has no other option due to our and Australia’s insistence on returning to a system which broke Fiji in the first place.

The Fiji Sun makes mention of our failings:

The Government is also known to have followed up on an official visit by United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in February. This includes on the Pacific Islands Partnership Programme the United Arab Emirates is developing.

It was no coincidence that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stopped over in the United Arab Emirates just a few weeks ago.

All this underscores again the failure of Canberra and Wellington’s efforts to isolate us internationally. It highlights how any influence they might have had here has disappeared.

When will the politicians and bureaucrats in Canberra and Wellington ever learn? When will they accept the realities of Fiji today and that they cannot dictate Fiji’s internal affairs?

Precisely. We can no more dictate to Fiji about their internal affairs than we can dictate to China. The question is then, why do we?

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Why can't we work with Fiji?

Fiji  - At least Westpac loves themIt has been a while since I blogged about Fiji. Some brain-farts from our Foreign Minister and the his Australian counterpart certainly warrant some comment.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s comments after the Forum’s Ministerial Contact Group meeting “broke up” in Auckland recently, (Monday May 31st), haven’t helped in mending bridges with the Fijian Government. The Forum members were invited to visit Fiji by Frank Bainimarama, but the invitation has now been withdrawn because of the attitude of the NZ and Australian Foreign Ministers. Once again they have acted all bellicose, arrogant and misinformed about Fiji.

Murray McCully was asked if there was any move to relax the travel ban placed on leading members of the regime, Mr McCully said: “We have nothing to reward.”

On the other hand we certainly haven’t gone out of our way to try and help Fiji return to democracy. Instead New Zealand and Australia have placed impediments in the way of progress.

Why won’t the NZ and Australian Foreign Ministers admit that the travel bans are not working? They have been in place for nearly 5 years now and it hasn’t altered the Commodore’s stance one bit. Fiji simply doesn’t care anymore what the “rest” of the world thinks and is moving on to fresher, newer pastures – leaving NZ and Australia behind. All the travel ban has done is stop good, capable Fijian civilians from taking up government positions because a lot of them have family and friends in NZ and Australia and want to be able to travel freely – so the Military take on the government positions – someone has to do the job. The travel bans need to be relaxed. If it makes the NZ and Australia governments feel better then keep them on Frank Bainimarama and the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum – they are probably too busy to come to NZ or Australia in any case. Relaxing the travel bans on civilians (and judges) will mean that instead of working behind the scenes, good and capable Fijian civilians can openly help the Fijian government without fear of reprisal and a travel ban being slapped on them.

In the end, all that the NZ and Australia travel ban stance has done is just hinder and slow the Fiji Road Map progress towards democracy and a one man-one vote democratic election.

I doubt if the Pacific Forum members have actually read the Fiji “People’s Charter”. It’s no wonder Helen Clark went so nasty against Frank Bainimarama and his government – the reference to “God” and “Creation” at the beginning of the “People’s Charter” would have gone down like a  cup of cold sick.

Emeritus professor of the University of the South Pacific, Crosbie Walsh,  has just written a special feature on Fiji, examining beyond the veneer of reportage in a three-part analysis piece. – now published in Pacific Scoop.

Special Feature: Inside Fiji’s shoes and why NZ and Australia need to rethink strategically

1. Bainimarama and McCully: the Way Backwards
2. What Bainimarama May Be Prepared to Do
3. What New Zealand Can Do to Help Resolve the Fiji Political Situation

P Holmes, also, has just been to Fiji staying on an island at a resort called Qamea. Last Sunday he wrote his usual NZ Herald on Sunday column about his present holiday in Fiji. His anecdotal comment on Frank Bainimarama was interesting because he has not been as positive in the past – more neutral to negative. No doubt he learnt first hand about the changes that have been going on in Fiji – from the grass roots people. There are definitely two distinct types of reports emerging from Fiji. One is from the politicians and dignitaries and NGO’s from foreign countries and the other from the Fijian government and the grassroots people who actually live in Fiji.  The question is which one should we believe?

As for Commodore Frank Bainimarama? Well, on the odd occasion when his name has come up, and it hasn’t very often, I hear nothing but good. People seem to feel that he is doing well, rooting out corruption in the army and the police.

There is consternation at the attitude of Australia and New Zealand. Bainimarama has made transport to schools free. This is particularly good for people on outer islands such as this one, where going to school involved a boat ride and then a bus, twice a day. And with us turning up our noses at Bainimarama, the Chinese money is pouring in, wouldn’t you know.

P Holmes is right about Chinese money too. Why would Fiji want to go cap in hand to Australia and New Zealand for aid money when the strings attached to that are onerous when they can get pretty much as much as they want out of China at less than 1% interest, especially for infrastructure related work. There are billions available and if I was the Commodore I would be availing myself of it as much as possible.

Meanwhile our citizens vote with their feet, ignoring the weasely platitudes of our government.

Fiji has recorded the highest number of tourists ever for the month of April with 44,996 visitors compared to last year April record of 39,302.

This was revealed by the Tourism Minister Aiyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum at a press conference yesterday.

Saiyed-Khaiyum said that the increase is good news as this has never been recorded for the month of April, and the last highest number of visitors recorded in the country was in 2006 and this year’s record has surpassed it.

Saiyed-Khaiyum said the government will continue to invest in the main tourist countries Australia and New Zealand.

He said the countries that have recorded a growth are Australia by 19.6%, New Zealand by 11.2% and the US by 26.2%.

Other countries included are China, India and Taiwan

So while our government pursues and signs Free Trade Agreements  with non-democratic nations such as China we seem to be stuck on the idea that if Fiji doesn’t have a democratic government then they must be punished. We don’t see the same media and government scrutiny of China as we do for Fiji.

At least the Government’s bankers still seem to love Fiji.

Very Curious Behaviour

The other day I suggested that the ex-Police Commissioner of Victoria, under fire for her behaviour during Black Saturday, had organised the hit on Carl Williams. My underworld sources have been squawking loud and long about it.

There has been much muddying of the waters with even a suggestion that Chopper Read had organised it due to the close relationship of him with the alleged murderer. Chopper as usual was very irreverent when asked about the murder. Chopper clearly doesn’t give a rats arse about Carl Williams but he is very clearly hinting at where to go looking for connections.

Not everyone was as concerned over Williams’ death, with veteran criminal Mark “Chopper” Read saying his first reaction to the news was to burst out laughing.

Read told Adelaide radio that he knew Carl “would end up getting it sooner or later”.

“I spat out my drink. And laughed my head off. And I thought to myself, ‘hah hah hah, another one bites the dust,” Read said of hearing the news.

He told Nova FM’s breakfast show in Adelaide that he wasn’t surprised a supposed ally may have been involved.

“If you want someone to kill you, you’ve got your friends or relatives to do it.”

He said he had never been impressed by Williams: “He was just a big, fat, wobbly-bottom kid from Footscray. He wasn’t much of a man at all. He was nothing.”

Meanwhile my sources tell me that differing bent factions inside the Victoria Police are heading for a bust up over the killing. The cronies of Christine Nixon are spinning and laying down smoke screens everywhere and those opposed to her are wanting to nail this corpse to her door.

In an interview on Channel Ten’s The Circle she was ambushed and gave a very strange answer to a direct question.

“Are you glad Carl Williams is dead?”

That’s the question embattled former police chief Christine Nixon faced today in what was billed as her first major media interview since the controversy erupted over her pub meal on Black Saturday.

Ms Nixon was appearing on the Channel 10 program The Circle, between segments about viewer makeovers, commercials for abdominal machines and fat-reducing techniques.

She was quizzed about her movements during the worst hours of the bushfire crisis and the meal on Black Saturday that has earned her so much recent criticism.

But midway through the interview the topic turned to notorious underworld figure Carl Williams, who was bashed to death on Monday in the high-security Acacia unit of Barwon Prison.

“Christine, can I ask you about Carl Williams? Are you glad that he’s dead?” asked panelist Gorgi Coghlann, to laughter from the audience and a look of bewilderment from Ms Nixon.

“Well you were the former chief commissioner of Victoria Police,” Coghlann said.

Ms Nixon diplomatically replied that her responsibility as a police commissioner was to ensure that when people committed offences they were brought before the courts and dealt with according to the law.

“Look, I think it’s disgraceful in the sense that criminals die in custody and I think that it’s a matter that will be investigated. And many, many people have made comments, and I’m not sure I add much to it.”

After which the topic quickly returned to bushfires.

The underworld money is being laid on Nixon being the one who ordered the hit and it is clear that Channel Ten has their ears to the underworld grapevine. Nixon is, of course, glad for this nice diversion from her troubles which is why Carl Williams was killed. The street isn’t happy and neither are the cop factions. there is going to be fall out and it isn’t far away.

Fiji and Censorship

There has been a great deal of angst over Commodore Bainimarama’s draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 which features harsh penalties for journalists and news organisations which breach vaguely worded content regulations. Being a freedom of speech kinds a guy I can see too why this isn’t a good thing, however Fiji isn’t New Zealand and each country has its own solutions to particular issues of the time.

It is extremely hypocritical of us to wave the finger at Fiji over press freedoms while at the same time having free trade agreements with other, far more, authoritarian regimes. Currently we have;

Of those only Australia has true freedom of the press. The Asean Nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) with the sole exception of the Philippines, and even that is marginal, re true democratic countries, the rest, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are authoritarian. If you don’t think Thailand is, then try and write something in the press against the King of Thailand and see where that gets you. There are no freedoms that we take for granted in Hong Kong and China yet we have deemed it desirable to have a FTA and also to not comment on their internal politics.

So why is Fiji different. is it because government was formed at the point of a gun? Yes? Then what about China? Their government was formed at the point of a gun when the Communists overthrew the legitimate Kuomintang government in 1949.

Read more »

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Repeater fined for Shonky Repeating

from Croz Walsh’s blog

Barbara Dreaver and TVNZ found guilty of unbalanced reporting. Barbara Dreaver, who sent a number of misleading reports on Fiji until she was denied entry, has been found wanting for one of her reports on Samoa, and TVNZ that screened and added to her story suggesting Samoa was awash with drugs and guns, has been fined $5000 by the Broadcast Standard Authority, payable to the Samoa Government, with another $2000 payable to the Crown.

“In the Authority’s view, the cumulative effect of such a dramatic introduction coupled with the information presented in the item was to create an impression for viewers that not only was the situation in Samoa extremely serious, but Government officials were complicit in the guns and drugs trade.”

Two years ago the BSA ruled against Michael Field for misrepresentation.  It’s always too late but thank goodness there is some check on sloppy and irresponsible journalism.

Michael Field really is a prize prick as well as being woefully ill-informed. For a repeater he seems awfully bitter.

Meanwhile back in Fiji the Commodore has started to clean house. He is sorting all the civil service problems out! Affairs and pillow talk are very common in Fiji government departments.

Civil servants engaging in extra-marital affairs will face the sack, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says.

Speaking at Nacamaki Village, on Koro yesterday, Commodore Bainimarama said the military had led the way by sacking 10 instructors for having sex with female cadet officers.

“This should be a warning to everyone employed as a civil servant. We will not tolerate such behaviour from those employed by Government,” he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said civil servants must show good examples to the people they served.

“If any civil servant is found engaged in such activities, they will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
He warned all civil servants to maintain ethics and values.

Imagine the uproar here if John Key did the same! I wonder – Tigerpig‘s most popular hunting grounds would be out of bounds?

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