Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Engaging with Fiji: New Zealand thawing cold relations

Engaging with Fiji: New Zealand thawing cold relations – Fijian Minister Filipe Bole in New Zealand for Medical treatment.

Fiji's Minister of Education, Filipe Bole, currently in New Zealand for medical treatments.
Currently Fiji’s Education Minister, Filipe Bole is reportedly in New Zealand for medical treatments. Stuff, Dominion Post newspaper’s website reported that an ailing Bole was let into New Zealand which has briefly lifted its ban on politicians involved in the military rule of Fiji to allow an ailing minister into the country. [Strangely the full story from the website appeared to have been removed.]

The Stuff seems to have got its signals wrong because it is not a brief lifting of sanctions but appears to be a systematic thawing of cold relations that had existed between the two neighbours. This is not the first time Bole was allowed into New Zealand. Previously, he attended an Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) ministerial meeting in Manukau, Auckland on 22 March, 2010. It was then hailed as a very promising sign.

It is evident that Bole’s treatment in New Zealand was a result of the July high-level meeting in Sydney of Australian, Fijian and New Zealand foreign ministers, which signaled a thawing of diplomatic relations. This included reappointing high commissioners by all three countries and easing by Australia and New Zealand of some travel sanctions on members of the Government.

It appears the change in heart was initiated at the 2010 Natadola meeting in Fiji.
When engaging meeting at Natadola in Fiji was held on 22 and 23 July, 2010 and an overwhelming support for Fiji was shown by Pacific countries, some doomsday pundit had their day. One was Kiwi journalist Michael Field, a supposed expert of Pacific issues, now banned from Fiji. He said the following:  

“Natadola and its communiqué will quickly fade away. It was nothing but an ego fest for one man.
Fiji's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama
By that one man, he meant Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama. Three years ago, I had predicted this small engaging meeting was to grow great. So it did. History is a testimony to the fact that most big things today had a humble, in fact, some, very insignificant beginnings. Whether it is the genesis of Colonel’s Sander’s KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), the Mc Donald’s, the World Disney or, the formation of United Nations which replaced the League of Nations and so on. Perhaps the coming generation may view the Natadola Fiji Engaging meeting in a similar manner.

Certain sections of the Communiqué that resulted from that meeting revealed that the island countries which attended the meeting showed an understanding, and perhaps an acceptance and appreciation of Fiji situation. What one could deduce out of those communiqué was an expression that the system under which Fiji had been governed was a failure and there was a need to substitute the old imported system with a home-grown one. It was also recognised that the development process in Fiji which was trying to implement changes conducive to its current level of developments and other environmental factors, was to be a lesson to  other countries on how they could implement changes that suited them. With a strategic and leadership position that Fiji occupies in the Pacific, it could not be ignored by the other sections of the Pacific community. Australia and New Zealand had boycotted that engaging meeting. But it now appears that what started in Natadola in some small way has borne fruit and encouraged fruitful talks with both Australia and New Zealand which has seen Bole in Auckland and other behind the scene developments.

We must commend New Zealand government, in particular its Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, and the National government’s pragmatic changing policy towards a past neighbour and close ally.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully -pragmatic action in engaging with Fiji
 Good positive steps, keep it up, McCully, well done and much appreciated. Wish a quick recovery for Minister Filipe Bole. Get well soon.

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