Time of op­por­tu­nity comes out of the AN­ZAC Win­ston help

Fiji Sun - - Comment - MAIKA BOLATIKI Feed­back: maikab@fi­jisun.com.fj

Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston has come and gone. The world knows of the great dev­as­ta­tion it caused us. But it also brought some un­ex­pected pos­si­ble ben­e­fits.

That’s in quicker re­build­ing of of­fi­cial and mil­i­tary re­la­tions be­tween Aus­tralia and New Zealand on the one hand, and Fiji on the other. New Zealand and Aus­tralia – along with many oth­ers - sped to help as the ter­ri­ble dam­age done by Win­ston be­came ap­par­ent. Their planes, ships and ser­vice­men and women were quickly in the country bring­ing much needed sup­port and re­lief ef­forts. No­tably for the worst af­fected re­moter ar­eas, the sav­agely hit is­lands and vil­lagers of Koro and Vanuabalavu. Hu­man­i­tar­ian aid as­sis­tance ren­dered by Aus­tralia and New Zealand showed that de­spite re­cent dif­fer­ences they had a heart to un­stint­ingly help Fiji.

Any rem­nants of the soured of­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship from 2006 were put aside. To un­der­score their sup­port their For­eign Min­is­ters - New Zealand’s Mur­ray McCully and Aus­tralia’s Julie Bishop – both vis­ited the country. Mr McCully said: “When there is an ur­gent need for hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port every­body in this neigh­bour­hood un­der­stands that you just knuckle down and deal with those needs and that’s what we’ve tried to do and I know that’s very much ap­pre­ci­ated and ev­ery­one I met in Fiji told me that.” The di­rec­tor of the Macmil­lan Brown Cen­tre for Pa­cific Stud­ies at Can­ter­bury Univer­sity, New Zealand, Steven Ratuva, said Cy­clone Win­ston had re­in­forced re­gional sol­i­dar­ity.

Of course, the peo­ple-to-peo­ple re­la­tion­ship be­tween Aus­tralians, New Zealan­ders and Fi­jians has never wa­vered. Th­ese warm ties are un­break­able no mat­ter what the Aus­tralia and New Zealand politi­cians and me­dia el­e­ments might say.

But at a po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary level long­stand­ing links were torn apart be­cause of the way the Aus­tralian and New Zealand politi­cians, diplo­mats and bu­reau­crats re­acted to the 2006 takeover. They tried to dam­age us at many lev­els over many years. Some of the things they did will take a long time to for­get. But out of Win­ston has come an op­por­tu­nity to faster re­set the post-elec­tions re­la­tion­ship.

Amidst all the cur­rent good­will much will still, of course, de­pend on at­ti­tudes in Can­berra and Welling­ton.

Both at po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic lev­els. And by their diplo­mats on the ground in Suva. If they treat Fiji as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion and an equal – and do not in­ter­fere in our af­fairs – there can be many sun­nier days ahead. Out of the ad­ver­sity of Win­ston and the Aus­tralian and New Zealand re­sponse to this has come that op­por­tu­nity. Let’s hope it is taken by Can­berra and Welling­ton and built on. Fi­nally, as they be­gin to head home we thank es­pe­cially the men and women of the Aus­tralian and New Zealand mil­i­tary. Their role – in­clud­ing work­ing with the men and women of our mil­i­tary - has been out­stand­ing. The legacy of this is not just in what they did, but in op­por­tu­ni­ties now all round.

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