back to news archives for 18-31 August, 2000

PACNEWS - Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association News Services
Saturday, August 19, 2000 11.00AM (c) Copyright PIBA 2000

Pacific ACP mission on whether sanctions are imposed wraps up its tour of Fiji

19 AUGUST 2000 SUVA (Pacnews) - The four member team of the Pacific members
of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc of countries wrapped up
their tour of Fiji today but declined to reveal what their recommendations
to Europe will be.
Mission leader Sir John Kaputin, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Papua New
Guinea said his team would only submit facts collected during the visit for
the European Union (EU) to decide on whether economic sanctions should be
imposed on Fiji.
"Our assignment is not to make judgments, but to collect facts which can
help to provide the basis for recommendations to the European Union on the
questions of sanctions," Sir John told a news conference in Suva this
"The European Commission will not finalise its consideration of the question
of possible sanctions until after the Pacific ACP Ministerial Mission's
report has been received."
Pacnews understands the Sir John Kaputin report will be discussed at a
special meeting of the Council of the EU in October. The meeting is expected
to take three days.
There is a belief in Fiji that its sugar market in Europe will not be
affected by any sanctions since the sugar protocol under which it sells its
sugar to the EU is separate from the other development aid programmes of the
Fiji however still stands to lose up to US$36 million in exports revenue if
its tuna and garment markets in Europe are blocked and aid assistance
already promised for the construction of Fiji's largest bridge is
Sources told Pacnews the possibility of channelling EU aid through
non-governmental organisation instead of using the un-elected government now
running Fiji is also another option.
Sir John said once completed, copies of their report will be presented to
the co-presidents of the Council of Ministers of the 77-member ACP group of
states and the 15-member EU, the European Commission and the co-presidents
of the ACP-EU joint- assembly.
Another copy will be forwarded to the secretariat of the Pacific Islands
Sir John described the Fiji-leg of the mission as successful, saying his
ministerial mission has been impressed with the "transparency, co-operation
and efficiency" of Fiji's interim government.
"As one who has participated in other ACP and joint ACP-EU missions to other
countries, I must say the arrangements made in Fiji were the best I have
"The ministerial mission is both pleased and grateful at the trouble which
so many different organisations, groups, and individuals took to come to our
meetings, make their views known and, in many cases, provide us with
detailed, written submissions," Sir John said.
On their impression of the situation in Fiji, PNG's Foreign Minister said
"the situation in Fiji is not unique."
"Many countries also faced the kinds of questions you are facing, there are
ethnic problems in other countries, they are racial problems in other
Sir John however rejected claims that the absence of any African or
Caribbean representative in the mission means the mission's report would be
"I guess that's an opinion you can express. When the Commonwealth mission
came here, they have Africans in there and although the two members of the
Forum (Australia and New Zealand) were there, there was no representative
from the Pacific ACP group."
The mission extended for one day its stay in Fiji to allow members to visit
resorts and businesses that are reeling from the impact of the May 19 coup.
The ministers visited the five stars Fijian Resort west of Suva as well as
the Mark One Apparel factory on a Suva suburb.
The mission members also called on residents of Muaniweni settlement outside
the capital, most of whom have moved out of the area after being terrorised
by nearby villagers.
The Sir John Kaputin-led team comprising Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Serge
Vohor and Samoa's Education Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa leaves for Honiara
for the second leg of the tour later today.
Cook Islands' Foreign Minister Dr Robert Woonton is also part of the
mission, but he left for home early today and is not going to the Solomon
Islands. ... PNS (ENDS)



Fact-finding mission concludes Fiji visit

19 AUGUST 2000 RAROTONGA (Pacnews) -- The Pacific African Caribbean Pacific
fact-finding mission on the crises in Fiji and the Solomon Islands has
completed their discussions in Fiji on the 19 May coup, its aftermath and
plans for national recovery.
Cook Islands Foreign Affairs & Immigration Minister Dr Robert Woonton is
among the mission delegates that also included ministers from Papua New
Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu.
In a statement issued from Fiji, Dr Woonton said "during our five working
days in Suva, we met with a very broad cross-section of Fijian society.
This included the Great Council of Chiefs, the major political parties,
numerous non-governmental and religious organisations, the military and
police, other private sector groups including those involved in the vital
tourism and sugar production sectors, representatives from the trade union
on University of the South Pacific (USP), Fiji School of Medicine (FSM) and
other regional organisations.
Minister Woonton said on Thursday, the mission had very useful, detailed
discussions with Fiji's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and members of his
interim administration.
He said "Included in the mission's programme were visits to the
parliamentary complex where the hostages were held, the part of Suva
destroyed during the riots and to a rural area of Fiji where we were able to
see for ourselves several houses that had been burnt down after 19 May."
Woonton said they were also able to speak with the villagers in that area,
both indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, on the situation and plans for the
"We were please to learn of the government's commitment to compensate those
suffering damages as a result of the coup.
"Our mission was widely welcomed throughout Fiji and we are now in a much
better position to make a report to the European Union on the situation in
the country."
Minister Woonton said the mission is hopeful their report will enable the
European Union (EU) to decide on its approach to Fiji that will best assist
the country recover fully from the disastrous events of 19 May and without
causing further hardships to the innocent people of Fiji.
Owing to previously scheduled commitments, Woonton will not be able to
participate in the mission to Solomon Islands.
Instead, Dr James Gosselin, the Cook Islands' International Affairs/Legal
Advisor will represent him on that leg of the mission.

PACNEWS - Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association News Services
Third Edition Friday, August 18, 2000 3.00 PM (c) Copyright PIBA 2000

Australia rejects claims of being 'paternalistic' towards Pacific

18 AUGUST 2000 CANBERRA (Pacnews) -- Criticisms of Australia's response to
the political crisis in Fiji as "western and paternalistic" has been
rejected by the former Minister for Pacific Affairs.
Gordon Bilney, who was Pacific Affairs Minister in the Keating government
admitted Australia has not paid much attention to the region as it should
"I indeed agree that we have made mistakes in the past and I guess we'd be
flattering ourselves if we thought we never would again," Bilney said in an
interview on Radio Australia's Pacific Beat programme.
"But I think that we started to understand the Pacific better. I think it
can be said that we have taken as our main mistake is to have taken our eye
off the ball in the last few years and not to have understood what was going
Bilney said while Australia has the right focus in the region, it should
have a more direct intervention role on security matters.
"I think we need to take less shrieking about paternalism when perhaps a bit
more direct action would have solved some of this problem or at least helped
to prevent them."
He rejected claims that Australia is imposing its western values on Pacific
islanders who are foreign to cultures of human rights and democracy.
"We live in a globalised world where what is culture, it's not just a matter
of lip service to democracy or to human rights or anti-racism. It's up to
countries in the Pacific to go back to an idyllic lifestyle where they ate
coconuts and let's say each other, then that's up to them.
I don't think that's the way to bring about the kind of decent life for
people in the Pacific, who I know hunger for good education for their
children and better life for their families."
The former Pacific Affairs Minister was reacting to comments by a Pacific
academic, Professor Ron Crocombe at the regional security conference which
ended today in the Australian capital, Canberra.
Professor Crocombe had criticised Australia and New Zealand as being
'patronising in their dealings with Pacific nations.'
He said the two countries have imposed their western ideals of equality and
democracy on island states in the Pacific.
Most of these countries, like Fiji, have failed to adopt multi-racialism
because Australia and New Zealand have failed to lead by example, the former
University of the South Pacific professor said.
"How can Australia lecture other countries on their race relations, when it
has conveniently designed itself a form of democracy that makes sure its
indigenous people, the Aborigines, don't get represented in Parliament,"
Crocombe told the conference.
The Canberra conference is looking at ways Australia can respond to emerging
security concerns in the Pacific in the future.....PNS (ENDS



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