Draft Report – 2012 Review of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Just the other day, I received in my inbox a draft copy of the 2012 Review of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. It’s a fairly lengthy 79 page, 2.29MB document which I have not thoroughly read just yet. But just skimming through some highlights from it were:

  • that the PIFS is heavily influenced by Australia, New Zeland and the European Union,
  • that the PIFS is unresponsive to Pacific Leaders,
  • that the PIFS lacks the mandate and regional consensus around key areas, including trade,
  • that the PIFS management is weak,
  • that the PIFS is incapable of delivering in key areas,
  • that the Pacific Plan should be made ‘aspirational’,
  • that the PIFS has an under-developed and aging operating structure, and
  • that the PIFS staff are underpaid.

I’m not saying that the PIFS is a waste of time because it has achieved many successes along the way, but quite simply the geo-political and economic currents of the world have changed. The world we lived in 30 years ago or even as recently as 5 years ago has completely changed and so the custodian of the Pacific Plan has to under go a major shake up for its Pacific Islander member states to naviagate this new, exciting yet precarious future.

The one key area I see for achieveing this by our leaders in our respective countries is to start taking ownership of the PIFS more seriously. Especially and more than ever PNG has to take the lead in this because we repesent one of the larger economies among the PIFS members. So to do this we simply have to put more of our own money into the PIFS.

Currently,  as per this draft review, the PIFS annual budget of $26,980,008.00 (Fiji Dollars) is split up into the following:

  • Regular Budget: $4,923,567
  • Core Budget: $13,134,222
  • Extra Budget: $8,922,219

 The regular budget is financed largely by member states so, among others and as an example, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu each pay $79,966 per annum. Papua New Guinea pays $221,192, and Australia and New Zealand each pay $1,498,230. Now for all the billion dollar issues that face our region, is that all we are committed at throwing to the PIFS to resouce the execution of our Pacific Plan?

In terms of generating an ownership of the PIFS by member states, the core budget is funded entirely by Australia ($10,546,738) and New Zealand ($2,587,484). Isn’t there something wrong with that? When will PNG wake up and pay its way in this region? PNG leaders love to talk about Australia in our eternal love/hate reltionship, but PNG has to start putting its money where its mouth is.

And lastly the extra budget, which is funded (among others) again by Australia ($1,180,000) and New Zealand ($1,637,143) but also with a group of other friends such as the People’s Republic of China ($531,000), the Commonwealth Secretariat ($175,000), the European Union ($4,048,309) and Japan ($446,870).

 In short we can’t expect much from our region if we don’t contribute meaningfully to the PIFS. The PIFS has brought together the important things that make us Pacific Islanders over the last 40 years. It has taken us a while to get used to each other as we are all different, yet our commonalities are strong and it is these common ties that have kept us together. The Pacific is the last frontier and we have watched the rest of the world build and destroy themslevs then build themslves again. So we are in the best position now to learn from the worlds mistakes, but we won’t own the future if we don’t own the issues at hand today.

14 thoughts on “Draft Report – 2012 Review of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

  1. When the Forum was set up, I was disappointed that Australia and New Zealand were included. As the major funders, I’m sure they have had an inordinate influence over the years.
    Manage the ‘real’ Pacific Islands to get their act together and fund the body ‘locally’, then you can politely ask the two bigguns to quietly fade away, so that it becomes the definitive ‘Voice of The Pacific Islands’.
    This is no longer ANZ’s sole sphere of influence.

  2. I had the feeling that it (PIFS) hand strings attached to it (and big strings as per the report revealing now).
    Is the Melanesian Spearhead Group of the same set-up? If not, I guess we have to push with the MSG, since most bigger PIFS members are in the MSG members.
    Like you said Manu, our leaders need to take bolder steps, if we think something is not right for our country or Region, lets speak and act our mind. I like the way Fiji handled itself – it did not matter what Australia and NZ said about the Military Coup (I bet the Fijians knew how the ANACs will react). BUT this is what they saw as the best means to sorting out their ‘household’ issues (am not saying everything they did is good, there may be questionable things). The bottom line is that we got Independence, we have been around for some time (we are no longer infants). Sometimes too much “mauswara” that it kills our determination to do things – do a 30/70 (30% talk and 70% action)

  3. Thank you, Melanesian. We live in Au now, but my seven PNG-born children [4 Bougainville, 3 POM] and my Buka wife, are receiving this article and I am recommending that they keep it and re-read it often, and pass it to their children in due course.
    In 1968 I travelled the Highlands Highway from MtH to Goroka and back. [Quite a challenge in a 2-wheel-drive at that time]. I was impressed by the homage paid by all the Highland people stopping at the place where Mr Agaunduo’s vehicle left the road. He was certainly highly respected and mourned. Not sure what year he passed, but it was some time before that.
    Mr Singirok needs to be honoured as a National Hero for his fortitude on behalf of Bougainville and the Nation. Do it while he is still with us, not posthumously!
    Thank you Emmanuel, keep this wonderful blog going — you bring out so much of the heart of PNG!

  4. Yes brother melanesian, ‘the wolves are no longer at the door BUT are already in the living room’ and I pray they don’t get the full course meal and sit back in the lounge and watch footy over some buai, I dread that day. Neighbours and friends are good BUT the house owner has always got to have boundaries made clear to the visitors…that’s your turf and you call the shots for the sake of protecting your turf.

  5. John Howard’s Values in Melanesia

    The Australian newspaper on Australia Day weekend (26th January 2007) had an insightful cartoon of the unmistakably short, be speckled and bushy browed John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, head slightly tilted to the left, looking up to a fluttering American flag, counting its many a spangled stars and singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, How I wonder who we are…”. It was a telling caricature of not only the times we lived in from a post-Nine Eleven context, but in just a few wiggly lines, the cartoonist cleverly opened our eyes to take a rare glimpse of the heart and soul of a nation, its people and its destiny as perceived by its leaders.

    It was a weekend that saw flags raised in almost every town in Australia extolling the virtues of Australian society and its values. Equally in just about every pub, many schooners and stubbies of beer were raised. In city halls and malls politicians and local government aldermen handed out Australia Day Awards and Medals in elevation of certain individuals in society as model citizens of that year. Some even became new citizens that day swearing to abide by the Australian values.

    A curious Melanesian visitor passing through Australia that weekend would have been excused for pondering about what exactly were Australian values. What exactly were the national values was Howard talking about; as opposed to private or individual values?

    There is a prevailing view today that a nation has no values of its own; it merely reflects the common values shared and practiced by its citizens; some shaped by history with ancient origins while others by modern contemporary culture or religion.

    Writers like Steven Covey of the school of effective leadership, take a more incremental approach and argue that values are more like mission statements, each deliberately laid out by leaders or chief executives of entities, to guide policy or shape organizational behaviour.

    Be that it may, we cannot deny the critical role values play in defining a nation and its people. It sets a people apart from the rest and gives them meaning, purpose and direction. It is the sacred place of noble design, the deepest well, from which a people’s hopes aspirations and their loftiest dreams are drawn from, and crafted into attainable goals for the kind of future and society they envisage for themselves and their children. It shapes, drives and guides policy and lawmakers alike. As such, those who hold this view argue that the contrary is true of a nation without values; it is bared of substance and soul and not quite unlike a rudder-less ship, cast upon the vagaries of internal politics, social expediency and economic self-interest. That, without values a nation can have neither soul nor the substance of a vision for the future.

    As a body of intelligent humanity we know that vision cannot exist without values, and values cannot exist without a greater moral fecundity to give it its necessary substance and suasion. Almost certainly we can hear the audible echo of that ancient biblical proverb that pronounces the sobering clarion call that, without a vision, the people shall surely perish.

    Equally sobering is the realization that a nation acting purely from imperatives of political or economic expediency, whether in internal policy translation or in reaction to external forces, may sometimes act in isolation of and or in diametrical contrast to the will and the sum of the collective values of its citizens. When governments act against the moral and value choices of the masses, it is invariably characterized as ‘Big Government’. Big Government may yield in more social and economic disharmony, loss of confidence in government and loss of social cohesion in communities. Most importantly it may result in loss of trust and confidence in an institution like democracy in ways more subtle than society can progressively measure. In contrast to the idea of Big Government, democracy as an ideology as initially designed, evolved and handed down from the Greeks and Romans, by essential character and definition, is supposedly for and by the people; reflecting the will, intent and values of the people. Governments who continue to ignore the values of the people tend to lose the heart and mind battle at the polls.

    That January weekend many speeches, both evocative and sentimental were given by civic and political leaders of Australia. John Howard was no exception, when he spoke imploringly of the values of giving someone a “fair go”, and “mate-ship”, as being the two important national values of Australia.

    Now, if you were to stand back and examine Howard’s speech and his two national ‘values’ from a strictly Melanesian perspective, you would have to admit that a leader in Melanesia would be scoffed at for seemingly scrapping the bottom of the barrel of virtue, for daring to exemplify and extol these as national values in such a public gathering. For the observant Huli man from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea or a Matu from Morobe, for instance, Howard was attempting to squeeze the sublime out of the mediocrity of what is common and banal. Such exultation would be highly offensive to Huli and Morobe minds who are used to unraveling rich oratory mysteries that encompass and betray a serious study in literacy, history, life, and relationships that are complex in earthiness and yet critical to the fecundity of life and survival of both man and his spirit. Indeed the Huli and Morobe stride with such richness of elegance and eloquence that would make both Longfellow and his Hiawatha weep with joy unbridled.

    A Huli man who opens his mouth like an owl in vanity is quickly reminded of his place. The elders shake their heads or roll their eyes in distress and look up to the skies as if to blame God for the paucity and triteness of thought in utterances that are devoid of history, idealism and practical pragmatism, either to give or take life. They would gather up slowly, and deliberately, in mid-stream, each clasping their straggling aprons of bilum or vigorously shake the earth off their dried tanget leaves covering their neither worlds in the face of the speaker and slowly retreat. Then someone, invariably, as if to embellish the magnitude of the moment, cries out, and challenges the speaker as to where and how he derived the authority to defile the privilege of the podium of such a place as this with his adolescent mutterings! What shame! If only he could melt into the earth, but the earth refuses to open up and swallow him. He looks up, but the heavens merely rain a thousand beads of sweat upon him. In his heart the silent hand of truth moves, coalescing all manner of form, shape and substance of things to reveal to him a new and painful understanding of his own world. Things are not always what they seem.

    It is likened to a little bird in the cusp of a man’s hand. It may be chirping away, but the Huli know that the little bird is neither dead nor alive. The hand that holds it carries with it both life and death, and so it is the man who stands in the midst of multitudes and opens his mouth. With timeless metaphors and multilayered paradoxical and parabolic discourses of truth, like an onion or a babushka doll with its real core found in the next layer, or a maze in mosaic manner laid, each word he carefully spins by masterful hands into a loom of beauty that tantalizes the ears and intoxicates the mind.

    He takes you on a journey with a lilt in his voice, a little hop and a skip in his stride, eyes darting first to the left then to the right; he lifts his spear, like the mast of a galleon’s flag, and plants it firmly on the ground in front of him. There you are, astride with him, on one leg teetering gingerly on the cusp of one word and the thread of a single thought. Only the learned know where in a few lines and a singular breath he has taken you. Only those who have eyes can now see, even fleetingly, the hand that holds the past and plays the future.

    When you, with thousands alike are held enthralled, transfixed and mesmerized by the agonizing beauty of eloquence, there is neither want for food nor drink, for you know your soul is feasting on the very narrow of life itself and every word uttered is like a solitary rock on the great stream of life. Every man, woman and man-child who live to face another day shall take away their fill to ruminate over on their journey back, across the rivers, ravines and misty ridges that fade to cloudy ranges, to talk about around the fires for days and years to come.

    As Melanesians, and as Pacific people, we almost take all forms of common human interaction (even giving someone a fair go or showing kindness and consideration of thought through difficult times) that Howard talked about for granted, as part of our cultural heritage and tradition. Our very existence as a people depends on hospitality, sharing, caring and dealing with an even hand. These virtues are part of the essential nature and fabric of our societies and there is nothing unusual or extraordinary about them. They are as old as the mountains that grant us perspective by day, and the stars that chart our courses by night. They are like the constant ebb and flow of the waves, and the rise and fall of the tides. They are likened to breathing in and breathing out, and are as common as coconut palms swaying in the evening breeze on some lonely sun-bleached island in our Pacific Paradise.

    In all seriousness, we would not for one moment even consider making them our national values or celebrate them as our very own unique virtues, nor would we even dream of distinguishing ourselves as a people by our hospitality or common gestures of social kindness and fairness that have sustained our societies for centuries, and shall continue to do so for generations to come.

    It is therefore understandably difficult and in a sense offensive to the sensibilities of Melanesians and Pacific minds to comprehend why what we consider common place and universal would be sanctified and extolled as a nation’s core values or some special virtues that deem a people worthy of peculiar distinction.

    In an era of rapid globalization and massive demographic shifts, many may not find the cause to pause, to realize that Melanesians are an ancient and deeply spiritual people, steeped in a higher consciousness of their own history and place. When modern man goes to extrinsic sources to understand his own existence and his own past, we Melanesians reach deep within to find and know ourselves.

    Modern archaeologists and anthropologists are only now beginning to understand and validate extrinsically what each of us from our various Islands, language groups, villages and tribes already know intrinsically of ourselves. We are whole vibrant societies, complete with own culture, identity, government, laws and spirituality. We possess extraordinary prowess to assess and self-assess, to morph into or around calamity and change alike and thrive in modernism without completely losing ourselves.

    We know that we did not just sail in yesterday from somewhere nor is our existence a matter of social or historical aberration. We are not an accident, nor are we a scar or some non-descript pimple upon the face of planet earth. We did not emanate as a synthesis of the big bang theory.

    We are a deliberate people with societies under-pinned by very strong value systems, passed down through generations for thousands of years that make us who we are. We are defined and our every conduct is measured by these timeless values, and how we live with our land and surrounding environment. We derive our validity and life force by our very existence since time immemorial as Melanesians and as Pacific people. We are earth people. We are the keepers of the earth.

    In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, for example, our proud agrarian culture of over 7000 years rivals the agrarian sophistication of Mesopotamia and its Fertile Crescent, popularly deemed by modern scholars as the cradle of modern civilization. Our ancient methods of crop rotation, irrigation, mulching, composting, fallowing, shading, silviculture and other methods of soil enrichment and preservation are world renown. The multi billion dollar Australian sugar and banana industries, for example, owe their prolific varieties and hardly genetics to Melanesian people of Papua New Guinea who cultivated them for several thousand years before European settlement in Australia. The west have adopted some of our agrarian methods and written text books about them, while we still quietly practice and subsist by them to this very day.

    Our Lapita and Obsidian civilizations dating back over 6000 years are in the process of being discovered and talked about by other people. There has not been any sustained or systematic study carried out across Melanesia for the purpose of establishing the Melanesian agrarian civilizations in terms of other comparable civilizations existing at that same period of time and in terms of our own legitimate ancient way of life and civilization that existed like others in the Middle East, Asia and Southern Americas. We intuitively know this of ourselves and yet in true Melanesian nature opt not to parade ourselves as objects of zoology or relics of laboratory anthropology, but rather live our lives, as we did for thousands of years, just chewing our beetle nut humbly and looking on as the world fusses by.

    As science for the time being has it, we have been living in Papua New Guinea for at least 70,000 years, about the same time certain Aborigine people are thought to have migrated to the continent of Australia where these two land masses were still supposedly joined. The Aborigine came through what is now Papua New Guinea to go on to Australia to evolve largely as an inhabitant of a dry and arid contingent. Those who remained or arrived in latter waves, in time became known as fuzzy haired people of darker pigmentation- Melanesia. Thus the connection between the Melanesian and the Aborigine, particularly the northern sub-tropical and savannah dweller is closer and stronger than one probably realizes. Our ancestors probably saved each other from drowning, shared one raft, and possibly fished or even hunted together for survival.

    Our traditional societies have been held together with complex value systems interwoven over time into a culture of sharing and caring, barter, trading and fair exchange of goods, which ensured to this day that our societies stood the test of time and endured the rigors of modernism and its almost sub-human and capriciously utilitarian mode of existence called individualism.

    We are an ancient and yet transient people embodying the past and living the future. We are time travelers who like birds have flown from the past since the beginning of time and space and have never ceased flying. We live the essence of this every day of our lives, a people of history living today in yesterday’s future.

    In the Trobriand Islands of Eastern Papua, better known by some as Malinowsky’s Island of Love, being served a meal of yam and fish cooked in coconut juices in a Lapita pot is a daily ritual for some. Yet this relic of pottery has travelled hundreds of nautical miles, and literally fed toddlers and tribes along the way for thousands of years. The hands that felt the loamy texture of the clay from which it was molded have long gone to join the ancestral spirits in some far away land where the birds sing a different tune. The fires that lit its kiln have long gone cold. Still generations of our people have traded this pot and have eaten from its depths, as we do today. The taste and fragrance of foods cooked in the boughs of mother earth itself is like feasting from the hand of God himself. A cast of thousand iron, copper or aluminum pots cannot match the earth’s own yield, reflecting our own fragrance back to us, feed us while we live and ever so ready to take us and hold us in the depths of its womb, when we die.

    More recently, in the last 500 years, it was our forefathers who found many a European explorer hungry and lost in our waters with their strange looking tall ships. We either sequestrated them, or in most cases happily provisioned them and sent them on their way. The Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish had prolific charts of our waters well before Captain Cook’s great grand mother was conceived. The Chinese trade in our birds of paradise plumes and trepang, caused them to sail our waterways with their Macassan intermediaries in the early 1400s, well before most Europeans had any idea the world was indeed round. In the first century after the death of Christ, the Arabs invaded northern India with Islam and took it across Siam just shy of our door steps. Whilst Indonesia remains the largest Islamic country in the world today, had the constant Hindu and Muslim frictions not occurred within India to distract the Muslims, a greater part of Melanesia may well have been Muslim, at least the Islands and coastal parts of today’s Papua New Guinea.

    We are not less nor are we more. Rather, we are we, an ancient people of families, tribes, villages and islands, who bound together, are nations, and we have taken our rightful place among the great fraternity of nations. We are Papua New Guinea, we are Solomon Islands, we are Vanuatu, we are Fiji, we are Melanesia, and we the Pacific people. At the same time custom dictates that we acknowledge our brothers and sisters living under sufferance in Torres Strait, in West Papua and New Caledonia, and our Polynesian cousins to the East and our Micronesian neighbors to the North. As inclusive people by nature, we are also embracing of others who have come to live and love our islands and have made them their home.

    The Pacific is our home, our heritage, and our inheritance. It is our past, our present and our future.


    In my last two installments I have discussed the merits of ‘mate-ship’ and ‘fair go’ as Australian values, from a Melanesian perspective. I described their humble nautical origins and essential veracity from convict mariner’s perspective, and how Howard attempted to rally out of the survival catch-cries of convicts in cramped, crowded and disease infested hulls and decks of early convict ships, a set of values that would become the rite of passage for a modern state and its people.

    What has also become increasingly clear in these egalitarian notions of “mate-ship” and “fair go” from Howard’s Australia Day speech in 2007, is the underlying admission that everybody is not having a fair go in Australian post-convict society. This is certainly true in the case of Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, refugees and other minority groups now in health, education, social services, social justice, criminal justice, human rights, social equity, and the list goes on. IN these they are not treated like mates, and accorded the basic minimum in the notion of fair go.

    Australia has one of the worst social justice and human rights records in treatment of its indigenous citizens of any country in the developed world, and the magnitude of oppression meted out to them is right up there with history’s hand on Jews, Kurds, Armenians, Tibetans and closer to home the East Timorese, and the West Papuans in Indonesia, to name but some.

    This dismal human rights record is further exacerbated by successive governments, both Liberal and Labor, who treat boat people cum refugees with contempt and brand them as “illegals”. The treatment meted out to boat people who are fleeing injustice and turmoil in their own countries is nothing short of criminal in itself. I don’t know of any instance when it has been made a criminal act for an individual or a family of oppressed persons to flee persecution, and in some cases possible death, and seek a better life in another land. This is particularly so if, for instance, these are people from areas like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

    In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia parades itself as the liberator, to bring the hope of democracy to these countries by waging war against them, to liberate them.

    In what appears to be a noble quest, which initially started, in Iraq, as a quest to rid the world of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Australia is partly responsible for slaughtering, or causing to be slaughtered, well over a million people in under ten years, bombed to rubble the cities and villages of Iraq and destroyed a way of life for tens of millions of people. The WMD basis for the invasion of Iraq has now been discredited as a huge lie by the US government and its Coalition of the Willing (to lie and cover up). There were no WMDs, and the US knew about this, but chose to lie to the whole world.

    Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa recently announced that he is prepared to sue, and put on trial the then US President and then British Prime Minister for war crimes against the people of Iraq. He is taking issue with the US and the UK governments because of the blatant lie that the US and the British governments told the world to give them license to kill and destroy a nation. Bishop Tutu says that was absolutely un-Christian conduct on the part of US and UK.

    In Afghanistan, so far, in a bid to rid the world of Taliban-ism Australia has participated in the slaughtering of well over 300,000 people. The number of people slaughtered is increasing every day, and is justified on the basis of the Coalition partners wanting to give these people the noble and wonderful gift of democracy.

    Looking at the number of deaths caused by such invasion, you have to ask, Is democracy so noble that it has to be paid for by the blood of innocent children, mothers, fathers and grandmothers?

    When Afghan people flee their homes and turn up at the doorsteps of Australia to be part of this democratic utopia, this paradise of freedom, they are either allowed to drown at sea or captured and imprisoned either in Australia or in some remote Pacific location such as Manus Island, where they will have no access to Australian media and Australian Courts. Even the once independent Australian media has been compromised. With the active encouragement of their government, the Australian media has joined the chorus in is seeking to demonize genuine refugees by calling them illegals, queue- jumpers, or wealthy middle-class Arabs, Iraqis or Afghans bribing boat captains and crew in Indonesian ports to claw their way into Australia.

    It is a curious fact that apart from the Aborigine landowners of the Australian continent, the Convict settlement of Australia giving birth to the nation state of Australia is by people who arrived illegally, and uninvited. They were the first boatpeople. They were the first illegals. They have no better standing or claim to Australia than others who come to Australia subsequently by boat. Yet they seek to haul their offensive layers of lies and trickery before us in Melanesia, masquerading them as government, and as just laws by just governments, to give them dignity beyond their true status, all the while living off the fat of Aborigine lands.

    The slaughter of ancient Aborigine nations throughout Australia, the shifting of tribes away from their homelands, the taking of children and the creation of internment camps, were all organized by the British under what they believed to be correct legal premises. Such premises never made allowance for the law of the land (Aborigine law) prevailing at that time to determine the rightness or the wrongness of the early boatpeople trespassing in Australia, or the legality of their convict taking of Aborigine lands, their continued existence on Aborigine soil, or systems of government imposed on Aborigine soil.

    It has been stated that this has to be the most fundamental foundation, the mother of miscarriage of justice, upon which the Australian society as we know today is founded upon. To this day, without proper recognition of this wrong, without just and fair recompense to the Aborigine tribes of Australia, the government of Australia and its institutions- these many a layered lies, these organized organs of oppression, are all organized around and based upon a felony. The very notion of its existence is a continuous act of criminality. White Australia has taken what the Aborigine never gave.

    It is true white Australia has not in recent times carried out raiding parties on Aborigine communities with guns and bayonets as it did in massacre parties of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It does not have to. It has set up a system of government and welfare that annihilates a people all the same.

    The current human rights record of Australia toward its indigenous people is such that there is very little hope in sight for these people who currently fall way below the poverty line and way below any internationally accepted standards and indicators in terms of health, education, sanitation, shelter and social and criminal justice. Just go out to Alice Springs on a summer’s night by the old river course and you will see played out before you this substandard ritual of deprivation and subjugation that has become an acceptable way of life. Today, many NGO groups are calling upon the Australian government to increase the dole so that people can simply afford a loaf of bread every day.

    In country towns like Nowra, just South of Sydney, once bustling with orchards and dairy farmers, today flooded with former indigenous dwellers of inner city Redfern, descendants of Bennelong, forced from their place because Howard’s Australia didn’t want Olympic visitors to see Indigenous people living in squalor in city slums of Sydney. They line up the dole queues of dysfunctional Nowra, a town where you can even smell death and despair in the breeze knifing up the main street of Nowra today.

    In Walget, a country town in Western New South Wales, there is 99% unemployment of Indigenous people. These people are third, fourth and fifth generation indigenous unemployed, who are mostly illiterate, given birth to children who form a whole new generation of dysfunctional and illiterate people, addicted to substance abuse and every other abuse imaginable. Almost 95% percent of the indigenous youth in Australia have little or no chance of advancement to University, let alone completing High School certificate. The health-care and sanitation standards among indigenous Australia are third world in comparison to what most white folk live in and take for granted. For many remote indigenous communities all around Australia a quick audit of basic human rights compliance will reveal that Australia, as a First World Developed country, has failed miserably in its treatment of its black people.

    Australian families treat their pets in suburbia better than their government treats the original landowners of Australia. This is a sad indictment on a country that is seeking to bring health, education, law and order, equal opportunity and other rights advocacy to the Pacific. It has no solid foundation to work from in terms of real successes with its own black people. Australia practices symbolism with Indigenous people, but is not serious about addressing the real injustices, discrimination, prejudice, inequality and race based social injustice.

    Take for instance; some 20 years ago in over 95 Aborigine Deaths in Custody cases reported by the Einfeld Royal Commission of Inquiry (in each case recommending prosecution of members of the various white Australian Police for causing the deaths), to this day not one single white Australian policeman cited has been charged.

    That is hardly what one would call a fair go is it? Considering for a moment that for over eleven of those 20 years John Howard was the Prime Minister of Australia, how he could explain the fact that he did nothing about Aborigine deaths in custody, and the clearly detailed findings of the Einfeld Report is a mystery.

    Rudd went slightly better in making Pat Dodson, Indigenous agitator and then Counsel Assisting Justice Marcus Einfeld in that Inquiry, Australian of the year in 2009. Sadly enough Rudd conspicuously omitted to address the causes for Dodson’s life of agitation such as the findings of that Inquiry which remains to be acted upon by the Federal Government of Australia to this day. Is it any wonder why Dodson was not particularly excited about the occasion which other indigenous people either saw as meaningless political platitude or a clever Mr Rudd trying to curry favor with a possible source of sustained agitation? Dodson used the opportunity to call for justice in education of the young indigenous people which he correctly surmised as carrying the hope of the emancipation of the Aborigine.

    Einfeld, on the other hand, has been singled out by white conservative Australia for $75 traffic fines, and deliberately vilified and hung out to dry for daring to prick the conscience of a nation that would rather not be reminded. He serves as an example and warning to Judges and judicial types who choose not to back the right horse; the system will get them sooner or later, and it is all legitimate of course. The messenger being shot, the message he sought to convey appears to have been lost in the sands of time with his enforced infamy.

    In a recent case of a Palm Island Aborigine death in police custody case, the man died of broken ribs and a torn liver, within half an hour of being taken into custody by police. The Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions attributed the death to an “accidental fall” and concluded that the police had no case to answer.

    This decision was totally contrary to earlier findings of a detailed Coronal Inquest that suggested serious foul play by the police. How does a person ‘accidentally’ die of four broken ribs, a ruptured portal vein, a liver almost cleaved in two, a black eye, bruising to his forehead and back of his head, bruising to the upper part of his back and on both his hands, all taking place in a police station where a very fit and disproportionately large policeman had earlier in as much as confessed to a ‘fight’ between himself and the deceased on a videotaped police interview? The Policeman earlier confessed to falling on the victim, and was later allowed to change his story to falling beside him.

    How does a slightly built man, who was slightly inebriated but happy moments earlier, whistling and singing ‘accidentally fall’ and sustain such diverse number of injuries, most of which could not be sustained or explained either scientifically or clinically by a single fall from a stand up position, irrespectively of whether he was facing up or downward? The events and the incongruous findings which smacks of funny business in Australian Justice System are well documented by Chloe Hooper in her book entitled ‘The Tall Man’.

    The predominantly white police force in Queensland, as a sign of solidarity and mate-ship, threatened to boycott police services to Aboriginal communities in protest over the subsequent prosecution of the Palm Island based white Police Officer investigated for the death of the Aborigine man.

    The collective boycott by the Police was a heart-warming demonstration of true “mate-ship,” you might say. However, what about the Aboriginal community of Palm Island and the next of kin of the deceased man? Don’t they have a right to a “fair go” in terms of justice; or is it the case that justice has become the exclusive preserve of race, the select, and the powerful and the rich, but ever elusive to the poor Indigenous minority?

    How can a man happily inebriated and singing ‘who let the dogs out’ in one moment finds himself arrested the next moment and dead in police custody from serious injuries, all within a space of 30 minutes of being arrested. His crime necessitating the arrest was that he was singing. The cause of death was that he fell down.

    Cameron Doomadgee was a slightly built man, and as such, how he could fall in such a way to bruise his whole body, simultaneously give himself a black eye, and absolutely smash his liver into two halves against the wall of his vertebra, without any help from the big white policeman who arrested him is a mystery. We can only surmise that it must have been the greatest fall ever since the great fall of Lucifer, the father of all liars!

    What about the case of David Hicks, 5 years incarceration without any charges in a foreign prison? Hicks, an Australian who confessed to training with terrorists, was allowed to languish in a foreign prison by then Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, without any due process of law. Nowhere was the spirit and values of “mate-ship” and “fair go” shown in the case of Hicks. Whatever happened to democracy and the rule of law that requires a fair and speedy trial, let alone the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a proper court system?

    What is the content of mate-ship and fair go in a legal democracy if the minimum requirements of due process are not? If Alexander Downer, standing next to Howard when he espoused the values of mate-ship and fair go in that 2007 Australia Day speech, as Foreign Minister, could not see the practical outworking and application of these values to an unfortunate David Hicks in a US prison, what hope is there to expect any resonance for these values in greater Australian community?

    Recently, after sustained media scrutiny and when it became political suicide in an election year to keep Hicks in Guantanamo Bay, Downer was forced to relent. He asked the US to release Mr. Hicks to an Adelaide prison for his own political interests, which the US promptly did.

    Why did Downer take 5 torturous years to do this? You have to wonder about the basic value system and moral constitution, if any, of leaders of a country who engage in such elaborate policy gymnastics with human lives, and about the system of democracy that allows such to go unsanctioned.

    You have to wonder about the general ethos of the population of Australia, whether they have lost their humanity, like salt that loses its saltiness. Did Hicks somehow became a lesser human being, or lesser Australian, that he was deliberately abandoned and discarded by his own Government to be openly tortured by another government under a penal system that was declared illegal, even by the much venerated US Supreme Court, and the people of Australia would not even raise one eyebrow?

    It is curious that most of the judges on the US Supreme Court were appointed by successive Bush (father and son) administrations but they were disturbed enough to find it judicially profane to endorse the then President’s antics in Guantanamo. If Australia believes in the rule of the law in a democracy, then the ruling of the US Supreme Court should have bothered both John Howard and Alexander Downer concerning Hicks. .It obviously did not. What is the content of ‘fair go’ and “mate-ship” in a modern democracy if it does not consist of due process for the likes of Hicks, and the likes of boat people arriving on the shores of Australia?

    The then Federal Labor Opposition in Australia, now in government, stood back and cheered to the tortured screams of man like Hicks, Habib and others in Guantanamo. It was certainly a funny way to sow the seeds of mate-ship and fair go for both Howard and Downer.

    What could possibly be at the heart of this generation of politicians, both Liberal and Labor, across the full spectrum of Australian politics that compels them to instantly abandon the values of democracy, human rights and due process, let alone mate-ship and fair go, and summon such capacity for callous indifference? They could almost hear in Canberra the screams of anguish from the torture of their own citizens in Guantanamo, and yet chose to tune out, and acquiesce to the work of the American torturers and their government. You cannot help but ask, ultimately, to what greater good, and to whose gain?

    President Obama since coming into office, with better judgment, declared Guantanamo shut. Had Australian politicians possessed any real sense for rights of human beings, they could have offered guidance and counsel to the much erring Bush Administration earlier in the piece. Regrettably that was not to be. With the onset of Obama Administration’s call on Guantanamo to be quietly phased out, we have to ask what now becomes of persons held unreasonably without trial and tortured over many years without any real cause. Have these people ceased being human? How does one subsequently guarantee these people a fair trial let alone recompense and restore the innocent that have been psychologically and financially destroyed?

    What has become of the condition of man that he abandons his state of enlightenment, the gains of the last 200 years, and takes on the cloak of profanity, of a wayward and misguided being, and re-traces his footsteps into that long forgotten darkness of the Stone Age and the Middle Ages from which we have evolved?

    The essential quandary which Howard’s Australia has painted itself into with the mariners’ catch cries is that if “mate-ship” and “fair go” do not find their outworking in human rights, justice, fairness and due process for boatpeople (including access to Australian Lawyers and Australian Courts which comes from being processed on Australian soil), then Howard’s values are but hollow platitudes. Australia will be a country devoid of any real values if these phrases crafted out of Convict Mariners’ survival catch cries, these so called “values,” cannot be humanely applied to the Indigenous population of Australia or the current refugees arriving in boats.

    Australia has no basis to treat these new arrivals as criminals or illegals. It has every basis to treat them as refugees, and process them according to the normal international rules under the UN Refugee Convention, which it is obligated to apply.

    The Australian government is legally and morally obliged to accept and process the boat people on Australian soil, treat them fairly and accord them respect and due process, because it and its people (apart from Aborigine people) are not in a higher, better or more legal position.

    Alexander Downer will be judged by history and nature for his part in the Hicks case. As for Hicks, he stands a judged and condemned man whether in or out of prison, and will never know whatever happened to mate-ship, fair go and due process; let alone democracy and freedom the causes for which the West has waged war against Afghanistan and Iraq and continues to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people. He will never forget as long as he lives that his own government abandoned him to another government to be tortured and treated inhumanely. He, along with Mahmud Habib and others, will remain an emblem and a reminder to every Australian child of what their government is capable of doing to them when they are at their most vulnerable.

    For the Pacific countries, especially the Melanesian States, Australia’s human rights record and its treatment of its Indigenous people is a real measuring stick for realizing that, no matter how much Aborigine blood money Australia spends on the Pacific (and in Canberra in the name of the Pacific), Australia has no real values to guide it as a nation. It has little or no practical or policy success in dealing with its Indigenous people, especially in education, health, economic advancement, social justice and equality.

    If Australia does not understand and care for its own Indigenous people, with successful and humane policies that work for the Indigenous people, how can the Pacific people, especially Melanesians, expect that anything good would come out of Canberra for the Pacific, and in particular for Melanesian people?

    How can Melanesians trust a White Australian Government that does not deal fairly and equitably with its own black people?

    How can Melanesian landowners and resource owners trust Australian Companies and the Australian Government who have stripped the black people of Australia off their lands, their resources and their way of life? How can we trust a nation of people with no values, whose only affinity is to dollars and cents?

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