From The Spark November 2007
On 16 and 17 October 2007, the leaders of 21 Pacific nations met in Tonga for the thirty-eighth annual Pacific Forum.
Proceedings were dominated by the question of Fiji and its military regime, with Prime Minister Helen Clark launching a series of attacks on Commodore Bainimarama and his government, calling for the restoration of parliamentary democracy and for “free and open elections” to be held “by the end of 2009″.
The New Zealand government has been very vocal in its opposition to the regime in Fiji, taking the role of a white knight of democracy, charging fearlessly towards the foul hordes of despotism! Yet at the same time, it has been remarkably less vocal in its criticisms of the country that hosted the Pacific Forum, Tonga.
Propping up the royal mafia
Even when the people of Tonga revolted against the monarchy in November last year, destroying large parts of the nation’s capital, the New Zealand government did not apply any kind of sanctions. Yet they have been remarkably quick to do so with Fiji, even though economic sanctions will not affect the military regime itself and will only further impoverish the workers of Fiji.
Last year six people died in pro-democracy riots, and now a Tongan MP has said that campaigners are ready to fight for political reform, as they feel the country’s leaders are looking after their own wallets and not the people.
In Tonga, only nine MPs are democratically elected to parliament, while 15 are appointed directly by the king, including ministers. If the New Zealand government truly believed in parliamentary democracy, it would be condemning the country that just hosted the Pacific Forum.
The real reason that Bainimarama is being pilloried by the New Zealand government is that he is trying to take a relatively independent line in the Pacific, and is not loyally serving the interests of the New Zealand and Australian ruling classes. While his military regime is obviously not worthy of workers’ support, it is no worse than that of the feudal Kingdom of Tonga.
Solomon Islands boycott the Forum
The Forum was boycotted by the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, in protest against the continued presence of RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) forces in the Solomons.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said that his government is insulted by Canberra’s ongoing pressure on Forum member countries to oppose the Solomon Islands’ intention to review the Facilitation of International Assistance Act 2003 (FIAA) that allows RAMSI into the country.
Australia has been trying to bully the Solomon Islands into accepting the imperialist occupation force that it led into the Solomons in 2003, after widespread unrest following the collapse of the government there due to lack of funds. The state apparatus in the Solomons is now largely controlled by Australian imperialism.
Oppose New Zealand imperialism
The Pacific Forum has served to illustrate the hypocrisy of the NZ government in applying sanctions to Fiji and condemning Fiji for being undemocratic, while at the same time propping up a far worse regime in Tonga. It has also revealed the growing discontent amongst the people of the Pacific at the neo-colonialist policies being taken against them by the Australian and New Zealand ruling classes.
Workers, socialists and progressive people in New Zealand have the responsibility to oppose New Zealand imperialism in the Pacific and to build links with the struggles of Pacific workers, and the Pacific peoples in general, to be free of modern-day colonialism and to have control of their own destinies.