The National – Thursday, December 23, 2010
SECRET US diplomatic cables, released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, have revealed high level discussions between the US and New Zealand about the likelihood of a civil war in Papua New Guinea six years ago.
According to the leaked documents, the discussion took place on Oct 6, 2004, between US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific James A. Kelly and New Zealand foreign minister Phil Goff at the Pacific Islands Forum in Apia, Samoa.
“Goff, in response to Kelly’s query, noted that the government of Papua New Guinea will need continued pressure to conform to the Dec 31 deadline for a UN observer mission in Bougainville.
“Goff stated that there was no suggestion of civil war erupting in the country, but the infrastructure there remains inadequate.”
Another cable from the US embassy in Wellington in 2006 raised concerns about “undemocratic trends” in the Melanesian Spearhead Group of nations, led by Papua New Guinea.
The leaked document showed New Zealand foreign affairs officials telling their US counterparts about an “arc of instability” – referring to Melanesian countries – as “close as we come to failed states in our region”.
In yet another, Washington was warned that the Chinese army (PLA) was creating political instability in the Pacific Islands, that it was outspending New Zealand by “wide margins” in PNG.
The documents also mentioned conflicts between the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (Ramsi) and the Solomon Islands government and PNG during Julian Moti’s term as attorney-general in the Solomon Islands until his deportation.
It stated that the New Zealand government feared the incident, which involved PNG flying Moti to the Solomon Islands as potential flashpoints, could cause the Melanesian countries taking a “us vs them” stance at a Pacific Islands Forum meeting.
“This could prevent the PIF from endorsing Ramsi’s work and erode the mission’s ability to operate.”
Moti told The Solomon Star newspaper this week that the WikiLeaks documents had proved how notorious the US and its Pacific puppets were.
Many of the leaked classified cables, between 2004 and 2008, were also copied to the US embassy in Port Moresby and other regional US missions.
One cable, dated June 13, 2006, said that while New Zealand’s concerns in Melanesia were principally about governance and security issues, in Polynesia, the worry was about lack of economic development, demographic challenges, the threat of HIV/AIDS and land ownership issues.
It highlighted the difficulty of promoting good governance where institutions of democracy might be incompatible with cultural structures (eg Solomons and PNG) where there is not a strong sense of statehood, and where loyalties are at the sub-state level (such as provincial governments) or to particular institutions (such as police).
It said that Andrew Ladley, director of the institute of policy studies, school of government, Victoria University of Wellington, a legal scholar focusing on democracy in Pacific, had similar views.
“Ladley asserts, for example, that election processes in many Pacific countries are based on deeply ingrained patron-client relationships and institutionalised bribery.
“Legislators do not seek reelection to office but, rather, treat their terms in office as one-time opportunities to loot government coffers and reward friends, Ladley said, resulting in high legislator turnover – more than 80% in PNG and between 60% and 70% throughout the Western Pacific.”