February 10, 2009

Spy Games

Here's an interesting letter that was posted to the Islands Business magazine recently.

We have borrowed a very fitting image from the "Fiji Silenced" blog.

Letters: Spy Games

I write in response to a report on Mai TV’s Simpson at Seven aired on Sunday 25 January 2009 by Setaita Tavanabola titled: “Are Australia and New Zealand spying on Fiji”? Well, that report has convinced us that they are. So the question we should be asking now is: “Why are they doing it”?

To answer this question, we must look from a global perspective because there are bigger things at stake here and bigger players at play. The interim administration is willing to forego the $350 million in sugar aid money from the European Union, the $1.4 billion in annual bilateral trade with Australia and other aid monies, expulsion from the Pacific Islands Forum and Commonwealth, trade and aid money from New Zealand and other foreign donors because it has made a secret pact with a new ally—China.

China is a rising superpower and the Chinese would love to have a foothold in the Pacific, and what better place than Fiji because of its geographical location and infrastructural capacity.

China currently is facing three domestic problems which are pollution, overcrowding and family planning. So they are looking for places where these problems can be alleviated. Hence, by relocating their factories, the pollution problem is minimised. Mass migration will solve the overcrowding issues while many young couples would love to leave China because of its “one-child policy”.

The move to the Pacific would also alleviate transport costs of shipping goods from China to the markets in the South Pacific region where if you included Australia and New Zealand is around 27.2 million people.

The Chinese government is willing to pay any amount of money to make this happen, and believe me; they have the money to do this.

And so if you take a drive along Queen Elizabeth Drive in Nasese along the seawall, you will find next to the China Club a huge construction work going on there. But you can’t see what they’re building from the roadside because it’s totally blocked out and none of the workers working on that project are local. They have been brought in especially from China to build the new Chinese Embassy complex to accommodate China’s expansion plans in Fiji and the region. And for Fiji’s part, we have good old James Ah Koy in China working tirelessly to bring anything and everything that’s Chinese over to Fiji from car exports, garment factories, ethanol production, road and building construction and even a news media organisation.

But in order for this plan to materialise, Fiji must sever all old friendships and ties with its traditional partners. And so this is what we see the interim government doing right now before our eyes. In the process, they have managed to remove all freedom of speech, including the media, and infiltrate and take control of the last independent estate of power in our democracy – the Judiciary. They already have control of the Executive and Parliamentary framework. So if you are reading this and you haven’t yet realised; our beloved Fiji is being ruled and run by a military dictatorship!

In the Simpson at Seven interviews, Lt Col Raivoce said: “Fiji is not a threat to Australia and NZ” and that: “they have other important things to do than to be spying on us”.

Well, Australia and New Zealand are very concerned at the prospect of the Chinese moving in to Fiji because it’s going to destabilise the peace and stability in the region. These can range from dramatic increases in people and drugs smuggling, prostitution, diseases, manufacturing of illegal substances and its distribution, use of illegal substances in food manufacturing (as was the recent case in China of powdered milk poisoning that killed hundreds of babies). Plus, there would be a huge shift in the balance of trade between Pacific Islands countries and Australia and New Zealand if China were to set up shop in Fiji and in the course of time infiltrate the region.

So, the stakes are high and Fiji is holding the trump card here. And while the political ramblings venture on without any real solution in sight, the spying game will continue and senior government officials will go in and out of office as often as fuel prices change (which is quarterly in Fiji). But are the stakes high enough to warrant an invasion and establishment of peace-keeping forces on the ground similar to Timor Leste and Solomon Islands? And if so, will the invasion be voluntary or in response to an uprising from the innocent people that are caught up in the middle of all this—the ordinary citizens of Fiji?

—Roy Martinez

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