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How role of
our military grew despite Aust, NZ
By SELWYN MANNING
(The following is an edited excerpt of a longer report by New Zealand investigative journalist Simon Manning for 36th Parallel Assessments. This is a non-governmental, non-partisan New Zealand based political risk and strategic assessment consultancy.
Since the 2006 takeover Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama’s military-led government has remained fully engaged with the United Nations while incrementally increasing the number of troops and police it contributes to UN peacekeeping operations.
United Nations records show, that in the past year alone, Fiji has increased by 29 percent the number of Fiji military and police personnel deployed to UN operations. Between April 2011 and May 2012, Fiji also contributed more peacekeepers to UN operations than Australia and New Zealand combined.
A UN Mission’s Summary report obtained by 36th Parallel shows that on May 31 2012 Fiji had deployed 359 soldiers and/or police to UN operations (This does not include the battalion serving with the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, which is not a United Nations mission)
This same report showed Australia had contributed 112 personnel to United Nations operations, and New Zealand 24 personnel.
The data shows that the governments of Australia and New Zealand have not impeded the participation of Fijian troops in UN peace-keeping operations in spite of their public calls to that effect, and in fact have not impeded a rise in the number of Fiji troops being deployed to United Nations operations since the December 2006 military takeover.
Despite Fiji’s military being warned by the United Nations secretariat in November 2006 that if it overthrew its government, then its contribution to UN-led operations would be reduced or suspended, the United Nations increased the number of Fiji personnel deployed in the immediate post-takeover period.
That trend has increased in the six years since.
In December 2006, Fiji had 275 troops serving in UN peacekeeping missions. By April 30 2007, a report published by the United Nations’ Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) showed Fiji had 17 extra soldiers deployed to UN missions – with a grand total of 292 soldiers participating in UN peace missions.
Throughout 2007, the UN’s position began to soften. In January 2007 Ban Ki-moon replaced Kofi Annan as the UN secretary general. At the time, Ban Ki-moon was under considerable pressure by Australia and New Zealand UN-based diplomatic representatives.
In January 2007, New Zealand’s then prime minister Helen Clark said at her post-Cabinet press conference: “Shortly after the Fiji coup, when we announced the measures we were taking, our Ambassador herself went to the UN.
So we did it at the most senior level in New York, and made it very clear that we did not think that Fiji troops should be supporting these exercises.”
By April 2007, Ban Ki-moon announced he had instructed UN officials to conduct a fact finding mission to Fiji as a basis for establishing a firm policy response.
In response to questions in May 2007, Rosemary Banks said: “According to a release from the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, the report (when completed) will be confidential and will not be released beyond the Secretariat. We have not seen the report and do not know what its current status is.”
Fiji’s contributions to UN peacekeeping operations increased in the immediate term, between May 2006 and May 2007, by 81.6 percent. Current UN reports show the number of Fiji personnel contributions as of May 2006 through to May 2012 were:
l May 06: 147
l May 07: 267
l May 08: 277
l May 09: 268
l May 10: 271
l May 11: 276
l May 12: 359.
United Nations fatalities by Nationality from 1948 to June 30 2012:
New Zealand, 5.
In May 2007, a spokesperson for New Zealand’s then foreign minister, Winston Peters, said: “The United Nations … struggles to recruit professional and well-trained troops for peacekeeping duties in areas where those soldiers are potentially preventing civilian deaths from conflict.
As a result they have often been forced to accept deployments from nations whose domestic human rights records are questionable.”
This appears accurate. UN reports in 2012 suggest Fiji’s troops in particular are valuable in combat operations. Fiji personnel have been deployed to some of the globe’s most serious hotspots.
For example, Fiji’s contribution to the United Nations Assistance Mission For Iraq (UNAMI) increased from 221 personnel in April 2011, to 301 personnel in June 2012. That’s an increase of 36 percent, and shows Fiji’s troops make up 75 percent of the UN’s total contingent operating inside Iraq.
Over the past two years, there has certainly been a rapid increase in the use of Fiji military and police personnel.
This runs parallel to a relationship thaw between Fiji and the USA, particularly since the Obama Administration deployed its former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Frankie Reed, as its ambassador to Suva in October 2011.
The move ended the US’s apparent estrangement policy with regard to Fiji. Immediately prior to Reed’s Suva appointment, Commodore Bainimarama was issued an open visa to visit the US and had engagements in Connecticut, Florida and Tennessee. Officially, the rapprochement Between the US and Fiji runs counter to Australia and New Zealand’s travel sanctions policy against Fiji’s military regime leadership and their immediate families.
THEN AND NOW
From May 2006 to May 2012 the numbers of Fiji personnel deployed to UN missions is (at a 144 percent increase) over four times that of the increase in global deployed personnel numbers (36 percent).
In July 2012 36th Parallel sought a response from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) asking: In 2006-07 the New Zealand Government openly advocated Fiji be excluded from UN peacekeeping operations. Has the New Zealand Government’s position changed, if so why?
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade responded: “New Zealand has in the past made clear its concerns about Fijian military personnel being used as peacekeepers because of the 2006 coup. Our future position will depend upon developments that take place in Fiji.”
Additionally, 36th Parallel sought a clarification from the United Nations secretary general exactly what its position is on Fiji asking: Can you confirm whether the United Nations has formerly engaged Fiji as a contributing nation to UN-led peacekeeping operations and if so when was the UN-Fiji commitment resumed?”
The UN’s chief public affairs section, Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, Kieran Dwyer, responded: “There was no formal suspension of Fijian contribution to United Nations peacekeeping.
Since 2006, the United Nations has carefully reviewed any offers from Fiji on a case by case basis.”
Australia and New Zealand’s policy of travel sanctions against Fiji’s military leadership and their immediate families appears out of step with their close security and trade partners – the United States and China.
Throughout the post-takeover period, both New Zealand and Australia have maintained sanctions against Fiji, and Fiji continues to be suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), largely at the insistence of the ANZ bloc.
36th Parallel’s inquiry shows the United Nation’s increased use of Fiji personnel in peacekeeping missions is contrary to the foreign policy positions maintained by Australia and New Zealand.
The inquiry’s findings also show the two CANZ bloc nations, while maintaining their respective public hard lines with regard to Fiji, have since mid 2007 remained silent while the United Nations increased the number of Fiji personnel deployed to peacekeeping operations.
Meanwhile the United States and China have developed closer ties with Fiji’s military regime.
Through 2012, the Baimimarama Government has indicated its intent to hold democratic elections in 2014 and most recently conducted a voter registration exercise, while work is ongoing on drafting a new constitution.
Forecast: In view of the UN, US and PRC approaches to Fiji, it is likely that Australia and New Zealand governments will publicly begin to soften their positions against the military regime, and will probably use the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit as an opportunity to articulate an incremental re-engagement plan.
United Nations reports show there are currently 16 United Nations peacekeeping operations, and one special political mission in Afghanistan.
These are all led by the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).
Summary of Current UN Peacekeeping Operations:
UNAMI – United Nations Assistance Mission For Iraq
Australia (2), Fiji (301 troops out of a total 400 troops), New Zealand (1) contribute military personnel.
The UNAMA - United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
Fiji contributes military personnel to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and also contributes military personnel to other lead nations’ military and security forces operating inside Afghanistan, including British military forces.
The UNAMID – African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur
Fiji contributes police personnel.
The UNSMIS – United Nations Supervision Mission In Syria
Fiji and New Zealand have contributed military personnel.
The UNMISS – United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan
Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Canada are contributing military personnel, and Fiji and Australia are also providing police personnel to UNMISS.
The UNMIL – United Nations Mission in Liberia
Fiji is contributing police personnel.
The UNMIT – United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste Fiji, Australia, New Zealand are contributing military and police personnel.