Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 11:55 | SYDNEY
Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 11:55 | SYDNEY

What right for Burma is right for Fiji


Jenny Hayward-Jones


11 February 2010 13:42

The Foreign Minister delivered a statement to parliament about developments in Burma this week. Mr Smith outlined the disturbing situation in Burma, the promises of elections and Australia's decision to 'do more for the long-term future of Burma's people'. He explained Australian policy towards Burma would follow the US Administration's new approach – that is, a combination of engagement, sanctions and humanitarian assistance.

Australian sanctions will be maintained until there is significant change from Burma's authorities. Australia will continue to engage with Burma to directly advocate democratic reform and national reconciliation. Australia will increase aid to Burma to $50 million annually over the next three years to meet humanitarian needs and address long-term challenges.

A similar address on Fiji would be timely. In fact, the Minister could almost do a cut-and-paste job for some parts of the speech. This Ministerial press conference last week explained the state of relations with Fiji and the objectives of the trilateral (Australia/New Zealand/Fiji) Foreign Ministers' meeting but did not get the attention that a statement to parliament would receive.

It is now obvious that Commodore Bainimarama is here to stay. Despite an announcement that he will retire in 2014, he has already indicated that the military will continue to dominate an elected government after that time. 

As I argued last week, the region needs a long-term strategy to engage Fiji without supporting the Fiji regime. The Australian policy debate on Fiji is poorly informed about what is really happening in Fiji, the motivations of Australian policy and the reasons why international pressure on the Fiji regime has not worked. A Ministerial Statement on Fiji from the Foreign Minister, along the lines of what he delivered on Burma, would help. 

Mr Smith should use it to outline negative developments in Fiji, the reasons behind Australian policy and why engagement to protect the long-term future of Fiji's people is vital. A clear statement would not only inform the debate in Australia but importantly be available to the people of Fiji, who only hear about Australian policy through Commodore Bainimarama's filters.

Photo by Flickr user Andru1308, used under a Creative Commons license.