Melanesia CountriesThe Melanesia Countries
Mood in Melanesia after the regional aid mission to the Solomon Islands - Carter - 2016 - Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies
Mélanesia becomes a multi-partner area that expands diplomacy opportunities and a new feeling of autonomy. In the broader contexts of the new Melanese self-confidence, China is an emerging force and Indonesia is establishing stronger ties with the West Pacific. Fiji's new force came from the embarrassment of Australia and New Zealand after the 2006 war.
The new trust in Papua New Guinea is based on the liquid petroleum product market upswing. The Solomon Islands are also developing relations with diplomats. At the regional level, the changes in the Melanesian spearhead, now a member of Indonesia, and Fiji's insistence on its own Pacific regionalist perspective are evident. However, Australia and New Zealand still represent the essential countries in the area.
Australia's dedication to Melanesia has remained consistent, but without the courageous initiative and intervenist zeal of the early days of Samos. In the second half of the 2003-2013 decennium of the Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), the old simplifications about Pacifica and Melanesia's global relationship have evolved into a more sophisticated area.
The Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) affirmed new external political autonomy. Sub-regionalism in the shape of the Melanesi Spearhead (MSG) and the Pacific Islands Development Forum began to question the priority of the traditional Pacific Islands Forum in matters of state. Melanese- and other Pacific states welcomed the United Nations (UN) agendas activities, particularly those related to the issue of global warming, and at the UN in New York they organized the Pacific Small Island Developing States Group, which did not owe Australia and New Zealand anything (Tarte 2014).
In the broader contexts of the new Melanesia enforcement, China is a growing force in the area, the United States is reacting to this ascent, and Indonesia claims a Melanese presence for its most eastern province as part of a coordinated endeavour to establish stronger ties with the islands of the West Pacific.
Japan, China, the United States, Korea, India, Indonesia, Israel and the European Union are among the foreign states that have intensified their long-term relations with Melanesia in recent years, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Georgia are among the youngest smaller states. The Pacific is an island nation with three Pacific regions.
While China has no great mindset to domineer Melanesia, the interests of China's businesses are serviced by the political emphasis of the China administration on financing infrastructures, as evidenced by the recent establishment of the Asia Investment Bank in Shanghai on a large scale and for the whole of East Asia.
It has a lot of funds to be lent to Melanesian countries and wants to borrow it for government and other corporate lending out. China's contractors have been in charge of a number of local infrastructural projects: the Nadarivatu hydropower plant in Fiji, the extensive rehabilitation of the Lae harbour in PNG, a motorway system for Ports Moresby ahead of the 2015 South Pacific Games, a conference center in Puerto Vila, Vanuatu, and, further away in the Pacific, the rebuilding of Tonga's center, Nuku'alofa, after the 2006 upheavals.
All of these initiatives, which have been concluded in the last three years, indicate the focus on infrastructures in China's current external trade policies - in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and almost by the way also in Melanesia. In Melanesia, China also invests in resources in the region. It is a leader in the production of boron oxides and bauxites and gold in Fiji and PNG where Ramu has its own refining facility.
There is the potential for seafloor extraction in the extensive Melanesia Marine Exclusive Economy Zone, an area of mine engineering in which China has particular experience (Hannan & Firth 2015). Enlargement and diversity of the relationship between the Pacific Islands and the remainder of the globe was symbolized by the visit of President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to Fiji in the end of 2014 and President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to PNG in 2015.
The Fiji government unrolled the rhododendron, especially for Xi Junping, and it reacted with treaties on infrastructures, mitigation technologies, commerce and investments with the eight Pacific countries that recognize the People's Republic of China-Fiji, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Among the Melanese countries, only the Solomon Islands, which recognise Taiwan, were absent, but even they have taken China's low-interest credit. PNG, Fiji and Vanuatu are already acquainted with China's generosity. The China-Pacific Developmentforum in Guangzhou in 2013 informed the eight island guides that they could receive USD 1 billion in credits and another USD 1 billion in credits for developing countries.
Weak credits have their perils, not least for small island states, but they are very appealing to Melanese executives looking for high-calibre public policy in 2013 (Pacific Institute of Public Policy). China's weak position is being eroded by the resentments of many Pacific Islanders against the "new Chinese", who have emigrated in their tens of thousands over the past 20 years, but China's increasing territorial image in all its aspects - in terms of investments, commerce, development aid, patriotism and even in terms of defence co-operation - means that the eight "recognising" Pacific states have a wider variety of choices to determine their external affair.
Fiji and PNG claimed a new sovereignty in external relations in the second tenth of the new age. The Australians were leading the way in enforcing this separation, especially after the 2009 abolition of the country's constitutional system, the declaration of a state of martial law and other actions that were far more dictatorships than democracies.
It has deported alien reporters, gagged the press and withdrawn all court nominations before enforcing oversight of the lawyer's work. Decades earlier, in reaction to the Fiji and Solomon Islands coup d'états in 2000, the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum had subscribed to the Biketawa Declaration and committed themselves to "maintaining democratically conducted procedures and structures appropriate to domestic and regional conditions, such as the non-violent surrender of powers, the Rule of Justice and the independent functioning of the justice system, a just and just government".
By reaffirming this standard, Australia and New Zealand reacted to the violent fall of Fiji and the question could never be confined to one of Australia's relationships with Fiji alone. Australia's answer to the Fiji coup was inevitably a local affair, a scale of the question that was not recognised by those who asked Australia to re-establish its relationship with the regime of the coup quickly and for reasons of realpolitik.
While the 2006 putsch in Australia and New Zealand sparked protest and sanction, the drastic consolidations of Bainimarama's powers in April 2009 had a far more detrimental impact on Fiji's cityship. The Fiji Forum suspendted Fiji within three week after its repeal. Toke Talagi, chairman of the Forum, said that a regimes showing such complete contempt for fundamental humanitarian law, democratic principles and liberty had no place in the Forum (Fiji 2009).
Fiji only became the second Commonwealth nation - the other was Nigeria in 1995 - to be completely suspensions a few month later, ending assistance and banning access to the Commonwealth Games (BBC News 2009). He reacted by looking for boyfriends elsewhere, pursuing a "Look North" external relations and traveling frequently to China.
Fiji High Commission in Pretoria is our first ever African ambassador to Africa and we see it as the gate to this great nation. Mr President, in May this year Fiji had the honour of joining the non-governmental movement. When Fiji tried to establish a new, autonomous place in the global fellowship, it included the Republic of Korea and the United Arab Emirates in the Fiji lists of countries with Fiji embassies.
The Australians and New Zealanders could not stop the UN from receiving peacekeeping forces from Fiji, which strengthened their armed forces in the Guard Unit of the UN aid missions for Iraq and sent peacekeeping forces to Southern Sudan, Abyei in North Sudan, Darfur, Liberia and Timor Leste. The UN was pleased to have them, far from ruling out Fiji peacekeeping forces, and in 2013 a further 500 reached the Golan Heights to replace the Croat ian, Japonese and Austrians flying off, who were pulled out of the UN observation force due to the increasing force in Syria.
Fiji's increasing level of trust in diplomacy, as a North Korean mission reached Fiji in 2012, was informed by Fiji's Secretary of State Ratu Inoke Kubuabola that Fiji was trained as a facilitator in supporting the unification of the two Koreas based on its experiences in peace-keeping (Fijlive 2012). At the beginning of the year, Fiji received Russia's Secretary of State Sergei Lavrov and reached an agreement on a visa-free trip between the two countries.
Fiji was appointed Chairman of G77 PLUS China, the United Nations committee of 134 development countries, in 2013. The Bainimarama soon discussed bi-lateral relations and foreign issues with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who headed the Non Aligned Movement (Fijilive 2013). Since 2014, Fiji has been Chairman of the UN Convention on Climate Change and will take over the chairmanship of the UN General Assembly in 2016.
Within three years, Fiji came onto the world scene as a small but respected actor with an autonomous external sphere. New and more aggressive external policies also arose in the Solomon Islands in the second half of the GRAMSI decades, especially after 2013. Gordon Darcy Lilo, his replacement, who stayed in charge until the end of 2014, stepped up and broadened the solo monks' diplomacy outside the countries of Rams.
Investigation of the appointment of ambassadors and High Commissioners by the Solomon Islands legislature in 2011 was important not only to address the concern of the general population about the opening of new mission openings, but above all as a revision of the State Department and external policies (Solomon Islands National Assembly 2013). Leading mission culprits consolidate and confirm Solomon's'look North Policy' with a strong emphasis on Asia's overseas assistance (Radio Australia 2011).
At the same time, important milestones were achieved in Geneva in 2011, in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Havana in 2013 and in Wellington in 2014. Cuba is the first and only Pacific embassy in the country to focus on South-South cooperation, in particular the education of Ph. D. meds.
In Geneva, the UN Office and the World Trade Organisation were shut down for funding purposes in 2013, but re-opened a year later. In addition, the United States, Cuba, Malaysia, Taiwan, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and PNG have embassies in Brussels.
The external relationships of the Solomon Islands were not always without problems according to RAMSI. Recognized in Taiwan since 1983, Solomon has had a Taipei missions since 2000 and is Taiwan's most populated Pacific ally, but appreciates China's investments and low-interest credit. A number of commentators argue that Lilo's open dialog with China and his toleration of China's investments and subsidised credits run counter to his country's alleged loyalty to Taiwan (Sasako 2013b).
Inescapability cannot be removed from the formula of how we govern our global relationships, the global business community, global commerce and even our external policies.... Chances will arise, as the opening of better relationships will lead to a more vibrant way of dealing not only with politics such as commerce and economics (Radio Australia 2013).
On the Solomon Islands, as elsewhere in Melanesia, even Taiwan's Pacific partners are pulling China's business footprint and prospective opportunities into their own space of possibility. Correspondingly, this bananza has strengthened the trust of the country's political leaders in the independence of the PNG in the rest of the know.
By 2014, the US administration was abolishing the visa system for Australians, after years of trying to issue a visa to PNG nationals upon their arriving in Australia, although Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato spoke of removing these limitations by the end of 2015. After Peter O'Neill learned from press coverage that Australia would set up a new embassy on Buka as the date of Bougainville's upcoming date of independency talks (probably 2019) approaches, a provisional prohibition was imposed on the Australians to enter Bougainville.
Peter Varghese, Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, later acknowledged that Australia had not previously notified PNG (Radio Australia 2015b). Simultaneously, PNG, long the main beneficiary of Australia's Pacific ODA, became an independent donors providing nearly $40 million to the Solomon Islands for a five-year programme of economic growth and $20 million to Fiji for the cost of the 2014 elections.
Further beneficiaries were Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, and PNG has pledged Palau $US3. 7 million to finance a smaller local agency of the islands (Oceania TV News 2015). In the meantime, new embassies have been opened in Shanghai, Bangkok, Geneva and Paris, and in 2013 Peter O'Neill was the first PNG Premier to make an offical trip to Israel.
Premier Benyamin Netanyahu approved that Israel will provide staff and law enforcement trainings in Papua New Guinea in the run-up to the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation to take place in Port Moresby (Firth 2014) in 2018. Fiji's most pointed claim of external political autonomy was addressed directly to Australia and New Zealand.
Suspension from the Forum of the Pacific Islands, Fiji searched for alternative solutions, first through the Melanesi Speerspitze, which is the organization of autonomous Melanese countries (Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) and a governing body, the autonomous Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) from the New Caledonia region of France.
In 2010, Bainimarama was to preside over the MSG and organized a Pacific MSG Plus meet to cast a shadow over the Pacific Island Forum leaders' gathering, but the Vanuatu meet was adjourned at the last second. Mr Bainimarama put the blame on Australia and New Zealand and repaid it by deporting another Australian High Commissioner.
Fiji anual MSG Plus meeting, to which only the Pacific Island States were regularly admitted to the Pacific Islands Development Forum, and in 2013 they were institutionalized in the Pacific Islands Development Forum, a Pacific Islands regionalen organization. Concerning the Pacific Islands Forum, Fiji was asked to re-join after the 2014 elections, but stated that this would not happen until Australia and New Zealand were taken away, which prompted New Zealand Premier John Key to point out that "it is Australia and New Zealand who are depositing the money".
He mitigated his position in 2015 by saying he would not attend any Forum Chairmen meetings until the question of the illegal impact of Australia and New Zealand was raised and Fiji committed to participating in the Forum's activity at technological and governmental level (Fijilive 2015). With Fiji being called upon to rejoin its full forum participation, Bainimarama is using Fiji's comeback as a negotiating tool in the discussion on the redesign of the region's architectural fabric.
Regionalist reforms are an area of great disquiet for Australia and New Zealand, who have supported the Forum for more than 40 years as a leading local body for the area. The MSG has welcomed the liberalization of inter-member state commerce; it has created a Melanesian Green Climate Fund; it has created a system of qualification movements aimed at doing what Australia has never done for the area, namely opening the boundaries to the movements of local experts;
The MSG has established a general arrangement for the exchange of information on cross-border criminality and other criminal prosecution matters, which are periodically debated by Melanese policemen; and at least on the basis of papers, the MSG has a Melanese peace-keeping force and a peace-keeping section to pave the way for the Melanese countries to deploy their forces to the United Nations.
Cambodia has provided $1 million for the new MSG Regional Police Academy in Nasova, Fiji (Fiji 2014). For example, Fiji and the Solomon Islands got into a protracted air traffic conflict in 2014. Both countries' State Departments were joined after a trade conflict between Fiji Airways and Solomon Airlines when Fiji Airways was refused a landings in Honiara and Solomon Airways in Nadi.
This backlog was escalating when Fiji Air stopped Niugini from collecting Nadi travellers on code-sharing services to Honiara. As a result, there was a conflict between the premiers of both countries, which took place in the press. The MSG's solidarities were also put to the test by the election of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2013.
The MSG states gave their consent to Fiji at the end of 2012 when it declared its candidates for the office, former Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola, one of the most seasoned Pacific statesmen. At the beginning of 2013, however, the Solomon Islands had suggested another in the form of Dame Meg Taylor to their candidates Jimmy Rogers and PNG.
Lady Meg was voted in July 2013, a PNG hero. After his coup d'état, as premier of a post-Fiji state, Peter O'Neill is also said to have been insulted by the Bainimarama statement during President Xi's mission that China alone was supporting Fiji during his own embarrassment.
Most importantly, West Papua was a delicate topic for the MSG, whose roots in the 1980s were marked by the demand for full decolonization of Melanesia. In those days, the main emphasis of the Melanesian Independents was on the territories of New Caledonia in France, which is why they incorporated a New Caledonian religious group, the FLNKS, into their first members.
Over the past few years, the second question of freedom has been at the heart of the debate with the freedom movements of the Papuan and West Papuan states. Since 2011 Indonesia has been a member of the Melanesi Speerspitze and has used its memberships to counter a possible Pacific assistance for the independency of West Papua and to send pro-Indonesian West Papuans to MSG-reunions.
The West Papuan Independent Groups joined forces in 2014 as the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and requested MSG status. Yudhoyono gave the key note speech at the second Pacific Islands Development Forum Summit in Nadi in 2014, Indonesia's Secretary of State Retno Marsudi paid a formal speech to Fiji, Solomon Islands and PNG in March 2015 and President Joko Widodo paid an official patronage to PNG two month later.
Faced with a similar request for EU-membership on the same opportunity from the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, the MSG has postponed the topic, but "supports the West Papuan people's unalienable right to self-determination as provided for in the MSG Constitutional Preamble" and requests that "the MSG's concern about the violation of humanitarian law and other acts of atrocity against the West Papuan population be addressed to the Indonesian government on a bilateral basis and as a group" (MSG 2013).
At the beginning of 2014, Indonesia organized an formal meeting of the Melanese MFAs in West Papua, who then expressed in a statement by the MSG and Indonesia that they "respected our particular sovereignty, unit and regional integrity as well as the principles of non-interference in each other's business in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations" (MSG 2014).
Vanuatu, a traditional proponent of West Papuan liberation, was standing next to the trial and revealed rifts in MSG solidaritys. The topic has become increasingly important in recent years through various forms of public service and protests such as the Fiji Solidarity Movement for West Papua's Freedom and Solomon Islands for West Papua and the PNG Union for a Free West Papua, which held a protests at the port in 2015 when President Widodo arrives in Port Moresby.
As a result of this campaign, the Fiji, Solomon Islands, PNG and Vanuatu authorities had a decision to either advocate West Papuan autonomy or to take Indonesia's side on a delicate question of regional integration as is customary. Pressures were reflected in the new attitude of Peter O'Neill, who adopted a greater voice on behalf of West Papua on the subject of respect for mankind and called on Indonesia to keep the pledge of its former chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to cut back the number of forces deployed in West Papua.
Cambodia adopted the policy of proclamating a Melanese Identity to pave the way for a MSG affiliation plan and offering help to the Melanese countries. Indonesia is helping to finance the MSG in Fiji and during her trip to the area, the Secretary of State referred to the $20 million Indonesia has allocated to build capacities in the Melanese countries.
In Port Moresby, she recounted to her public that Indonesia is home to more than 11 million Melanesians. Indonesia is Melanesia and Melanesia is Indonesia. We sharing a shared rural frontier and cultural heritage with our next largest Melanese nation, PNG' (PNG Post-Courier 2015). Indonesia defines the Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara as Melanesia, and in a singular wording called "Indonesia" they requested affiliation as an associated member of the MSPG.
It was the objective of this action to avoid the accession of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua to the MSG. The same thing was said by Fiji, and at the MSG leaders' gathering in Honiara in June 2015, Indonesia became an associated member of MSG in the shape of its five "Melanesian" Provinces.
This resulted in a loss for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which was awarded observership as a" Developing Partners for the well-being of Melanesians outside" (Radio New Zealand International 2015). Indonesia's admission to the MSG, also as an associated member, has the capacity over the course of the years to become a regionally based organization with one base in the Pacific and the other in Southeast Asia, and is likely to entail extra Indonesia funds that could increase the importance of the organization.
Less reliant on their long-standing counterparts Australia and New Zealand, the Melanese countries make new acquaintances through a wide range of forum and ambassadors. After RAMSI, the melanese government, supported by the increasing multiplicity of its foreign diplomats, certainly see this period as a period of opportuin.
This is particularly true of the Melanese states and not of the Melanese population. While Fiji is in the middle of the UN Human Development Index, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and especially PNG are far below, as their population is largely deprived of the advantages of the economy's development.
On the Solomon Islands, the use of RAMSI has resulted in a reassessment of external policies and the introduction of a look-north approach that brings the Taiwanese recognition process virtually nearer to China. At PNG, the liquefied gas booming has transformed the mindset of an elitist whole class of politicians who now regard their countries as the physical leaders of the Pacific island states and to whom the small Pacific states are turning for aid and even inequity.
The PNG group invests in other Pacific countries such as Solomon Islands and Samoa. The PNG is a donors of help, it united with the multinational fellowship and sent help to Vanuatu after the hurricane, and the country's premier was optimistic enough to call on Indonesia to cut its Indonesian army coverage in West Papua (Radio Australia 2015a).
The Australian and New Zealand enforced isolations offered Fiji the possibility of finding new places of cosmopolitanism. Among others, Fiji found partner in the United Arab Emirates, Iran and South Korea, which finally took over the chairmanship of the G-77 + China group and were recognized on the global scene. Developing this new initiative, Bainimarama was fuelled by concern about the legality of his administration at home and abroad and never missed the chance to reiterate to the Fiji population that Australia and New Zealand are doing bad treatment to them.
After the long-awaited elections ensured its domination of Fiji's business, Bainimarama's voice has changed to justification, while his regionalist policies continue to undermine the Pacific Islands Forum to foster the MSG's and his own Pacific Islands Development Forum.
Nevertheless, Australia and New Zealand continue to be key outside actors in Melanesia, as the 2015 Cyclone Pam disaster in Vanuatu shows us internationally. Nobody was expecting this reaction to be driven by China; the leaders came, as usual, from Australia and New Zealand.
Vanuatu received $5 million in Chinese and Indonesia sent more than $2 million in humanitarian help, but the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force were the first to arrive in Vila, and Australian and New Zealand air support remained in large numbers.
Australia's Secretary of State Julie Bishop paid a visit to Vanuatu, and general relief efforts through Australia and New Zealand were considerable. Australasia and New Zealand continue to be the essential countries in the area. These are the standard Outer States to which the Melanese authorities turn in periods of disasters or in anticipation of other aid.
Much of Melanesia and the other Pacific islands have been spared the severe cuts in Australia's relief budgets promised in May 2015, while Australian Secretary of State Julie Bishop has shown her skill in interacting with the Melanese countries and building good relations with the island guides, which are the keys to Australia's standing in the region.
However, the Melanesia that Australia and New Zealand now have to do with is a multi-partner area that expands diplomacy and a new feeling of autonomy. Declaration by Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, at the general debate of the Sixty-sixth World War 2011.
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