[Marxism] A union discussion about sanctions on Fiji

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Dec 10 18:29:45 MST 2006

A member of the Association of University Staff here at Canterbury
University (Christchurch, NZ) who is also a law professor just sent the
email below to the AUS organiser on campus, who then circulated it
around the AUS branch committee of which I'm a member.

Below the email is my response.  All names have been removed.

Sent: Monday, 11 December 2006 11:44 a.m.
To: AUS organiser (subsequently circulated around AUS branch committee)
Subject: Don't put democracy on hold for a rugby game

Dear Friend,

I am sure you know of the catastrophe that has occurred in Fiji with the
ousting of the democratically elected government and its effective
replacement with a military dictator. 

The government of New Zealand has rightly condemned this action as
utterly repugnant and put in place a number of sanctions and should be
congratulated on taking a strong stand.

However, the government has not banned the Fiji Rugby Sevens team from
attending the Wellington Rugby Sevens in February. This is disappointing
as history shows high profile sporting sanctions can play a significant
role in diplomacy. While it is accepted that the refusal to grant visas
to the Fiji team may lead to the loss of the Sevens event and the
considerable revenue, this should not deter New Zealand from taking a
stand in the matter. The New Zealand government needs to know that we as
citizens are prepared to take steps to protect democracy in the Pacific
even at a cost.  While Bainimarama put his coup on hold for a rugby
game, we should not do the same with democracy.

There are a number of actions you can take:

Forward this email on to your friends both within New Zealand and
Email or write to the Minister for Sport and Recreation Trevor Mallard
with a brief statement of your view of the government position on the
matter at tmallard at ministers.govt.nz; 
Do not attend or watch the Wellington Rugby Sevens event and especially
do not watch any game in which Fiji is playing. 
I hope that in doing this we can send a signal to the government and to
the Fijian military regime that the people of New Zealand support
democracy in the Pacific.


My reply (I might add that I mentioned Tonga to point up the NZ govt's
hypocrisy, not because I would support NZ sanctions on Tonga's feudal
overlord anyway.)

Re: email from XXXXXXXXX

I'm not so sure about this.

If the NZ government is so keen on democracy in the Pacific it seems odd
that it has never imposed sanctions on Tonga, which has had a feudal
dictator for decades.  Or how about Israel, where an entire population
was dispossessed and has had no rights for nearly 60 years?

About a quarter of the population in Fiji are currently living below the
poverty-level, the sugar industry is facing massive downsizing with a
large number of jobs to be lost and the economy is quite fragile.  I
don't see that the NZ and Australian governments imposing sanctions are
a help to the ordinary people of Fiji.

So far as I am aware, there has been no call from the trade union
movement within Fiji for sanctions either, although perhaps the fairly
corrupt government that Bainimarama ousted in his coup would like
sanctions.  Anyway, it is quite different from the situation in South
Africa under apartheid where the leadership of the liberation movement
and most black organisations were calling for sanctions.  These
sanctions are a unilateral measure applied against the whole population
of Fiji without any request from the Fijian people.

In terms of the sports stuff, it's bad enough that the netball champs
aren't being held in Fiji, but to also try to exclude their sevens
players from the NZ round is terrible.

The NZ government sanctions looks less like a concern for democracy and
more like a NZ government doing what NZ governments have always done in
the Pacific - wave the big poo-bah stick.

I might also add that given the government's increasing (and basically
quite racist) restrictions on immigration from the Pacific, they're the
last people to give anyone in the Pacific lectures on freedom.  

Philip Ferguson




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