I was wading through the agreement establishing the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area a few weeks ago – a little light reading for a Frog. Looks like New Zealand will be doing business with Burma (or Myanmar as the military dictators refer to Burma). Green MP Dr Kennedy Graham spoke about this in the House as we voted against this legislation along with the Maori Party.
The fact that New Zealand is doing business with a country ruled by one of the vilest regimes on earth is not however newsworthy – after all the overarching mantra of free trade can allow us to do business and glad hand anyone.
What is newsworthy apparently is if some in the Maori Party decide that after three years of New Zealand achieving little in Fiji with the diplomatic equivalent of a big stick – ‘hey lets go and see for ourselves and have a chat to our Pacific brethren’.
This approach of going to see what the situation is perhaps seeing if there is anyway of advancing the slow moving and jaded progress of Fijian democracy is causing many in the media to work themselves into a right old lather. I reckon they should chill out and perhaps take a few tips from ‘our Keith’.
A week or so back Keith was calling for the United Nation’s to stop using peacekeepers from Fiji, and he also supported Fiji being suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum. This is because Keith opposes military rulers that censor the news and seem intent on dragging out the prospect of elections. However, he also supports Hone going to Fiji to talk to the political players – even the Big Man.
Gordon was saying that “our current diplomatic policy is only likely to push Bainimarama further into isolation, and further towards a closer alliance with China, thus providing China with a military and economic ally right on our doorstep.”
China isn’t exactly a paragon of democracy and there are no free and fair elections planned in China anytime soon, but for some reason (Free Trade perhaps?) our Prime Ministers such as Helen Clark and John Key love glad handing in Beijing.
So maybe Keith may have a wee mosey in the sun and see for himself what the situation on the ground is – he won’t be going to get a sun-tan or glad handing dictators but rather to make the best of a bad situation. He’s done “non-government” diplomacy trips before – to Sri Lanka (2003), West Papua (2005) and Tonga (2006). Keith’s philosophy is that every bit helps.
Foreign Affairs is a million shades of grey and you never win with just one approach.