WSJ: Australia Takes Policeman’s Role In Strife-Ridden Island Nations

Not sure what is meant ‘by they need us’ ? Do the
people living in these islands not have the right to see to their own
affairs, and determine their own future? Did the Aborigines need the
people who came to colonise and play havoc with their land?

Perhaps what ‘they need us’ really means is the western elite, in the
guise of the Australian Policeman, is after more land and the
indigenous people can once more give up their way of lives, a way of
life that in most ways is superior to the way we in the West are more
or less forced to live (many don’t like it and resist)

Note that the policing is apparently stopping militia, but there are
reports of the Australians treating mistreating the indigenous people
in the Solomon Islands, beating them up, stripping them of their
clothes, (which goes against their culture) – I know the ADF treat many
of the Timorese with disdain in 2006 ( I watched them do it and wrote a
human rights report on their behaviour).

Is bombing and killing people acceptable? Seems it is if the ‘west’ or
their friends do it. Did Westerns not fight each other when nation
states were being formed?

What gives the ‘west’ the’ right to police countries other than our
own? Think the clue is in ‘Strategic position’, which of course was
one of the reasons the green light was given by Ford and Kissinger
to Indonesia to invade Timor-Leste (formally East Timor)to be
invaded. Its also one of the reasons why Australian forces were
deployed to Timor-Leste in 2006.

Failed state, what does that mean, the state does not comply to
‘western’ norms? The failed states listed below are ones that have
never been free of ‘western’ aggression. How is a state supposed to
function under circumstances where the ‘western elite’ play out their
power games, oil and resources grabs on land that does not belong to
them.

Lidia Tindle
Tyneside East Timor Solidarity

-Begin forwarded message:

Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2008 16:32:46 -0400
From: JoyoNews2 (by way of John M Miller
) To: east-timor@lists.riseup.net
Subject: WSJ: Australia Takes Policeman’s Role In Strife-Ridden Island
Nations

The Wall Street Journal

July 28, 2008

Australia Takes Policeman’s Role In Strife-Ridden Island Nations

Region’s Superpower Intercedes, Stirring Cries of ‘Occupation’

By Yaroslav Trofimov

MBAMBANAKIRA, Solomon Islands — Dressed in blue shorts and mirrored
sunglasses, Constable Tony Bourne says he’s the only Caucasian
resident in 80,000 square miles of jungle.

Though technically a foreigner, the Australian officer chases local
rapists and thieves. And, unlike the local cops who assist him, he
can carry a gun.

Mr. Bourne is one of hundreds of Australian police enforcing law and
order not only in the Solomon Islands, but many of the independent
island-nations dotting the South Pacific. “They need us,” he says,
patrolling Mbambanakira aboard an all-terrain vehicle.

Mr. Bourne literally embodies Australia’s controversial new role: the
regional sheriff, policing impoverished and often strife-ridden
island-states that range from midget atolls like Nauru to
California-sized Papua New Guinea.

Australia is the undisputed superpower in this part of the world,
dwarfing some two dozen neighboring island-nations in population,
wealth and military might. It is also the region’s main provider of
economic assistance, to the tune of almost $1 billion a year. “The
Pacific is Australia’s priority area — it is our backyard,” says
Duncan Kerr, Australia’s Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.

Australia’s involvement has already produced tangible benefits,
taming bloody violence and spurring trade and development. But it is
also stirring a nationalistic backlash amid complaints of
neocolonialism. In a speech before the United Nations General
Assembly last year, the Solomon Islands’ then-foreign minister
complained of Australian “occupation” of his country.

Indeed, the Solomon Islands — Australia’s neighbor just across the
Coral Sea — is where the backlash is most evident. It is playing out
most prominently in a tussle over the fate of one man: Julian Moti,
the Solomon Islands’ former attorney general and a fierce critic of
Australian activism.

His saga involves secret military flights and offers of asylum. It
led to the ouster of one Pacific nation’s prime minister, and nearly
unseated another.

The drama is now before an Australian court, where Mr. Moti is
defending himself against charges of having sex with a child. In an
interview, Mr. Moti denied the charges, saying he’s the victim of
Australian racism.

Australia’s hands-on approach in the region was shaped by the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which demonstrated how failed states
like Afghanistan or Somalia can breed terrorism and international
crime. Before that, “there was a fairly casual view about the
strategic issues of the Pacific islands,” Mr. Kerr says. “Basically,
what happened there didn’t matter too much.”

Since the late 1990s, the Solomon Islands — a former British
protectorate once known as the Happy Isles — has been wracked by
ethnic violence. Ignored by the outside world, the nation of 500,000
had descended into civil war as ethnic militias massacred civilians,
dumped severed heads in markets in the capital city of Honiara, and
raided hospitals to bludgeon patients of rival ethnicities.

So in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq, Australia assembled
its own coalition of the willing: It teamed up with New Zealand and a
few other small South Pacific nations, and sent some 1,400 troops and
hundreds of police officers to the Solomon Islands.

Dubbed the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, or
Ramsi, the Australian-led effort was granted wide-ranging authority
and immunity from local laws by the Solomon Islands Parliament. Ramsi
quickly disbanded the ethnic militias and disarmed the Solomon
Islands’ fractured police force. It also arrested prominent gunmen
and took control of key levers of power, such as law enforcement and
the prison system.

To this day, many Solomon Islanders see Australian control as the
only guarantee of continuing peace, particularly in remote parts of
the central island, Guadalcanal, where the jungle still harbors
militia diehards who occasionally maraud and burn villagers’ crops.
“The people are still very afraid of militias, and we want
Australians to be here,” says Richard Chakena, who lives near Mr.
Bourne’s Mbambanakira outpost.

Buoyed by its success in the Solomon Islands, Australia secured an
agreement later in 2003 from Papua New Guinea to deploy a large
police force in that mineral-rich nation of six million people, which
was rocked by violence of its own. Papua New Guinea, an Australian
colony until 1975, is separated from Australian territory by just a
few miles of water.

In following months, Australia sent forces to other islands as well,
helping restore order in East Timor, Nauru and Tonga. In each case,
Australia got the permission of the local government to intervene.
Papua New Guinea and Nauru were also used to house offshore detention
facilities for illegal migrants who tried to sneak into Australia.

In addition to simple policing, Australia also focused on rooting out
corruption and bad governance in the region, which Australian
officials have taken to calling “the arc of instability.” Australia
placed its own civil servants directly into senior government
positions of several Pacific island-states. Uncooperative nations
were threatened with a cutoff of Australian aid, usually a major
component of their economies.

“There used to be a popular view that newly independent countries
should be left alone to enjoy their independence. Well, this view has
changed now,” says Alexander Downer, who shaped Australia’s policy as
its foreign minister until December. “The Pacific is an area of
strategic importance for Australia. It won’t accomplish anything for
us to just to sit back and keep sending checks to these countries.”

Mr. Downer dismisses the notion that the policy doesn’t square with
respect for the sovereignty of neighboring nations. He describes many
of the region’s elected leaders as “some clowns ripping off taxpayers
for generations while keeping their countries in penury.”

It didn’t take long for resentment against Australia to brew. In
2005, Papua New Guinea’s veteran prime minister, Sir Michael Somare,
was stopped at a security checkpoint while transiting the Brisbane
airport, and forced to remove his shoes. A furious Sir Michael
demanded an apology, saying the measure violated diplomatic protocol
and was “an insult to the leadership in our region.”

Australia’s government refused to apologize, setting off
anti-Australian protests in several cities in Papua New Guinea. A few
months later, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court struck down the
agreement to deploy Australian police in the country. Most of the
Australian force withdrew.

In the Solomon Islands, meanwhile, gratitude for stopping the
bloodshed began to wither in the capital city of Honiara, a
ramshackle expanse of rutted roads and peeling cinder-block buildings.

In April 2006, as the Solomon Islands’ Parliament met to elect a new
prime minister, the issue of foreign influence was front and center.
Protests against the chosen candidate — rumored to be beholden to
foreign logging interests — degenerated into clashes between
Australian forces and rioters armed with machetes. Honiara’s
Chinatown and the city’s biggest hotel were sacked and burned.

After the riots, lawmakers changed their minds and picked another
prime minister: Manasseh Sogavare, a veteran politician with
nationalist leanings.

In an interview, Mr. Sogavare says he holds “some very strong views
about national sovereignty.” He soon named Mr. Moti, a prominent
lawyer and outspoken critic of Australia’s government, as attorney
general — replacing a white Australian incumbent. “I wanted somebody
who’s willing to work for our government, and not for the Australian
one,” Mr. Sogavare says.

Mr. Moti, born in Fiji to ethnic Indian parents, happens to be a
naturalized Australian citizen himself. But he says he has long
identified with Pacific islanders’ struggle against Australia’s
“white supremacist and colonial agenda,” and that he was eager to
help Mr. Sogavare curb Australian influence.

Australia was not amused.

In September 2006, while Mr. Moti was in transit from India to
Honiara to start his new job, he was arrested in Papua New Guinea’s
main airport. According to the warrant, issued on Australia’s request
and executed by local policemen who worked with a handful of
Australian advisers, Mr. Moti had had sex with a 13-year-old girl in
the republic of Vanuatu back in 1997.

Mr. Moti calls the accusation a blackmail attempt by the alleged
victim’s father, his former business partner. The father, in court
proceedings in Vanuatu, said that blackmail was not a motive.
Attempts to reach the father were unsuccessful.

The charges against Mr. Moti had been thrown out by Vanuatu courts
years earlier, partly because of contradictory testimony. For
instance, the alleged victim wrote in her statement that he possessed
three testicles, according to court documents cited by the Solomon
Islands government. A medical examination at the time concluded that
Mr. Moti had two, according to the documents, which were submitted to
Australia through diplomatic channels amid the controversy.

Australian prosecutors, however, determined that Mr. Moti could be
charged again, under a 1994 law prohibiting Australian citizens from
sexual contact with minors anywhere in the world.

Mr. Moti’s arrest stoked political tensions across the region. Papua
New Guinea refused to extradite him, with its prime minister lashing
out at Australia for plotting the lawyer’s capture behind his back.
Vanuatu said the case was closed. The Solomon Islands offered Mr.
Moti political asylum — if he could get there.

A few weeks later, Mr. Moti did manage to slip out, in the dark of
night, on a clandestine Papua New Guinea military flight. Once back
in the Solomon Islands, however, he was immediately re-arrested by
the Australia-led Ramsi police force there, and charged with entering
the Solomon Islands without a passport.

Australia, outraged by official aid given to the fugitive lawyer,
slapped sanctions on both countries, escalating the crisis. Papua New
Guinea’s prime minister was nearly unseated because of an
Australian-backed investigation into his role in Mr. Moti’s escape.
And in the Solomon Islands, Mr. Sogavare demanded that Australia’s
role in Ramsi be curtailed.

Soon thereafter, Ramsi police broke into Mr. Sogavare’s own office,
looking for evidence against Mr. Moti.

Mr. Sogavare, however, stood firm and Mr. Moti was sworn in as
attorney general last July. It was a short tenure: Australia kept
demanding his extradition even after Australian elections in November
brought to power a new government that took a more conciliatory tone
toward neighboring countries.

The standoff ended in December, when key Solomon Islands lawmakers
turned against Mr. Sogavare and ousted him as prime minister. A new,
pro-Australian government promptly fired Mr. Moti as attorney
general, and deported him to Australia. If convicted of child-sex
charges, he faces 17 years in prison. He is currently free on bail.

“Solomon Islands is a sovereign nation, but we need help,” says
Samuel Manetoali, who holds the police and national-security
portfolio in the Solomon Islands’ new government. “Australia doesn’t
need us, but we need Australia.”

Across the region, Mr. Moti’s case is being closely followed. One
recent afternoon, several dozen people huddled under a grass roof in
central Honiara, listening on the radio as Mr. Moti’s issue was
raised again in Parliament.

“Moti understood our culture and was clever enough to defend us from
the Australians,” said 71-year-old Paterson Radukana. Nearby, Mike
Lesa, 50, agreed. “Australia is bullying us,” he said. “It always is.”

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517 responses to “WSJ: Australia Takes Policeman’s Role In Strife-Ridden Island Nations

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