Sanctions Against Fiji

In the wake of the December 5, 2006, military coup, Australia and New Zealand are falling over one another to impose economic, military, and political sanctions against Fiji. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is even considering imposing sporting sanctions against Fiji athletes. Australian Prime Miniser John Howard, who turned his back on Laisenia Qarase when his Fijian ally called for help, has cancelled all military cooperation with Fiji, although aid intended to help alleviate poverty in Fiji is being maintained.

For now Australia hasn't imposed direct economic sanctions, possibly out of fears of driving Fiji into the arms of Asian countries, as Eisenhauer and Nixon drove Castro into the arms of the Soviet Union by cancelling the Cuban sugar quota. Will the European Union repeat history by cancelling the Fiji sugar quota? Such a move would impose grievous hardship on the quarter of Fiji's population which relies on the sugar industry for its livelihood. The United Nations starved hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to death in the name of democracy with sanctions intended to drive Saddam Hussein from office. Luckily, Fiji has no oil.

Tourism is Fiji's biggest industry, accounting for over a quarter of the gross domestic product. Even before Laisenia Qarase lost control of the country, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and many other so-called “friends” of Fiji imposed sanctions on this industry by issuing highly misleading travel advisories warning against visiting the country. To date, all reports say that Fiji is perfectly calm and safe for tourists. Australian and New Zealand diplomats in Suva must know that, but like the United States government which imposes fines and even jail sentences on individual Americans who dare to visit Cuba, Australia and New Zealand are quite willing to use their own citizens as pawns in their political games. My advice to travelers is to ignore these false advisories and have a nice time in Fiji.

Instead of giving lectures on democracy, Helen Clark should be calling for immediate negotiations between Commodore Frank Bainimarama and Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs to try to resolve this crisis. Unfortunately for Ms. Clark and Mr. Howard, Qarase and his corrupt cronies will probably not be coming back, just as Dr. Timoci Bavadra never came back after the 1987 coups, nor Mahendra Chaudhry after the coup in 2000. Break it and it's yours, and Bainimarama is now the power to deal with in Fiji. Peaceful protests are certainly not going to convince the Fiji military to return to its barracks, and the consequences of violent protests are too terrible to imagine. No one wants to see Suva burn, as Honiara and Nukualofa burned all too recently. John Howard and Helen Clark should be very careful about what they say and so.

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