Our folly over Fiji

I have repeatedly blogged about the country of my birth, Fiji, and how New Zealand through utter hypocrisy has treated them. Along with Australia our successive governments have decided to wag our collective fingers at Fiji and tell them how they must behave.

Instead of helping and assisting a return to democracy we have hindered. We placed sanctions on travel, on advice and then coerced the Pacific Forum to give them the cold shoulder. All we have done is show the welcome mat to increase Chinese hegemony in the Pacific.

Shortly we are going reap what we have?sowed?with Pacific nations who have looked on as Fiji didn’t collapse, rebuilt their infrastructure and all the time thumbing their noses at the bombastic nature of the Australian and New Zealand. The Pacific nations have patiently waited until the embarrassment of what they are about to do would be maximised.

New Zealand and Australia face diplomatic embarrassment in Auckland this week, with the Pacific Forum set to give Fiji military strongman?Voreqe Bainimarama a ringing endorsement ? even without him being here.

Prime Minister John Key, who will chair the 40th edition of the Pacific Forum, faces a Melanesian and Micronesian rebellion over his hard-line on Bainimarama, who seized power in a military coup in 2006.

Pacific leaders will be handed evidence of overwhelming multi-racial public support in Fiji for Bainimarama and his martial law decrees which are seen as keeping order in the coup-prone nation.

The data comes on top of a WikiLeaks diplomatic cable revealing a top Australian politician telling the United States that “Bainimarama will either be shot or we’ll have to do business with him”.

The forum, in its 40th year, was intended to be a celebration for the organisation which first met in Wellington in 1971. From then until 1996 it was united in condemning French nuclear testing, but since then Fiji’s woes have been the central focus. When Bainimarama failed to keep a promise to hold elections by April 2009, the country’s membership in the forum was suspended. Bainimarama has said elections would be held in 2014.

Wellington and Canberra have maintained “smart” sanctions since 2006, hoping to force elections, believing it is the will of the majority of Fiji’s 837,000 people (57% Fijian and 37% Indian).

However, remarkable data to be released to the forum, seen by the Sunday Star-Times, reveals strong support for Bainimarama and mounting public anger in Fiji toward New Zealand. Over two-thirds of both races support him, according to the data. There is even overwhelming support for his moves against the indigenous dominated Methodist Church.

A senior political figure admitted there was no surprise in the information. “We have expected it, but it does make it hard to decide what to do next.”

All this could have been avoided, but our government insists on listening to the out touch morons in Foreign Affairs and continuing a policy of seclusion for Fiji that we don’t similarly apply to other non-democratic nations like China, or even Libya.

I fear though we are too late to reverse the situation. Ironically our government position may have strengthened Fiji’s resolve. I am yet to meet a Fijian, or Fijian Indian who has a bad thing to say about the remarkable turn around in Fiji. Bainimarama has removed corruption, destroyed the power of the Great Council of Chiefs and is now bringing the hopelessly corrupt and politically active Methodist Church into line. Fiji has new and better roads, a better port, a infrastructure building programme and most importantly still dominates Pacific tourism.

Anyone who has holidayed in Fiji knows that the news reports breathlessly shown here about Fiji could almost be fiction.

It is time New Zealand dropped its failed Fiji policy and stepped up tot he mark to actually help return Fiji to democracy.