News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The western Pacific may be headed for one of its periodic outbreaks against Chinese: (penned back in 2005) Solomon Islands Minister for National Planning, Fred Fono said the region should be mindful of the influx of Asian people, specifically Chinese coming into the region and taking over businesses that should be operated by locals.
"I shared a lot of support by other regional ministers that they are seeing the trend in their countries,” Mr Fono.
“In the past you hardly see Chinese business people taking over retail and wholesaling businesses but now you travel anywhere in the region you see Chinese businesses operating retail trade stores that are supposed to be operated by local people.”
This isn't the first time this sort of ugly rhetoric has appeared in the Pacific, where Chinese expatriates form a large part of the small business community. Like any merchant diaspora, the Chinese often face resentment from locals, which has sometimes found a sympathetic ear in government. In Tonga, for instance, Chinese merchants were banned from one noble's district in 2000, and later that year, the government responded to a wave of anti-Chinese hate crime by deporting 600 shopkeepers.
These days, it seems that the western Pacific is undergoing another wave of economic nativism prompted by slow growth. In some respects, this is being addressed by economic protectionism, such as Vanuatu's proposed bill to restrict a wider category of businesses to citizens. In the Solomons and other places - such as Papua New Guinea, where anti-Chinese riots occurred last October - it's also fueling the perennial resentment of expatriate Chinese businessmen. If the minister's statements are seen as a green light by the citizens and police, things could get ugly fast.
Taiwan's Tacky Tactics In Tarawa - Politician admits receiving US$80,000 The games that Taiwan and China play in competing for recognition by Pacific Islands governments have had some light thrown on them by documents surfacing from Kiribati. The documents and an account by a go-between, Tarawa resident Brian Orme, of how he delivered "bags of cash" from Taiwanese officials to recipient Kiribati politicians reveal how Taiwan buys the loyalty of governments from its enemy, China. ...
While the Taiwanese trade office in Suva (an unofficial embassy since Fiji was intimidated by China against recognising Taiwan) dismissed as "ridiculously untrue" accounts of Taiwan's financial intervention in Kiribati's elections, Dr Tong confirmed that in the course of nine months, from September 2002 to June 2003, Taiwan, through its Suva representative, Fu-Tien Liu, gave him cash totalling US$80,000. He did not handle or receive the money personally. The cash was managed by his campaign manager, an Irishman now naturalised Kiribati citizen, Brian Orme.
At the first exchange, Orme was told there were "no strings attached." But by June 2003, on the eve of the second and final presidential elections in Kiribati, Taiwan through Liu, insisted that Dr Tong signed a memorandum of understanding first before receiving his third and what was to be the final cash payment.
"Recognising the importance of the development of mutual friendship and cooperation between Taiwan and Kiribati and based on the principle of equality, sovereignty and mutual benefit," reads the introduction of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), a copy of which was given to Islands Business by Orme.
It reads: "If the Honourable Dr Harry Tong or his party's candidate wins the presidential election which is scheduled to take place on July 4, 2003 or other designated date, he will ensure the Government of the Republic of Kiribati implements this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and establish full diplomatic relations with Taiwan/ROC at the shortest time possible after the presidential inauguration of the newly elected President of Kiribati."
Chinatowns in Oceania (Wikipedia entry): Biff- not mentioned is that, "As late as 1966, the government of the Solomon Islands debated deporting [all Chinese]." - Ethnic America: A History p. 133, Thomas Sowell).
On January 2, 1976, the Solomons became self-governing, and independence followed on July 7, 1978, the first post-independence government was elected in August 1980.
Following the 1997 election of Bartholomew Ulufa'alu the political situation in the Solomon's began to deteriorate. Governance was slipping as the performance of the police and other government agencies deteriorated due to ethnic rivalries. The capital of Honiara on Guadalcanal was increasingly populated by migrants from the island of Malaita. In June 2002, an insurrection mounted by militants from the island of Malaita resulted in the brief detention of Ulufa’alu and his subsequent forced resignation. Manasseh Sogavare, leader of the People's Progressive Party, was chosen Prime Minister by a loose coalition of parties. Guadalcanal militants retaliated and sought to drive Malaitan settlers from Guadalcanal, resulting in the closure of a large oil-palm estate and gold mine which were vital to exports. New elections in December 2001 brought Sir Allan Kemakeza into the Prime Minister’s chair with the support of a coalition of parties.
Kemakeza attempted to address the deteriorating law and order situation in the country, but the prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness, widespread extortion, and ineffective police, prompted a formal request by the Solomon Islands Government for outside help. With the country bankrupt and the capital in chaos, the request was unanimously supported in Parliament. In July 2003, Australian and Pacific Island police and troops arrived in the Solomon Islands under the auspices of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). A sizable international security contingent of 2,200 police and troops, led by Australia and New Zealand, and with representatives from about 20 other Pacific nations began arriving the next month under Operation Helpem Fren. Since this time some commentators have considered the country a failed state.[1]
SOUTH PACIFIC:'Fear of Domination Sparked Anti-Chinese Riots': The racial riots have been described as the worst of its kind since independence, 27 years ago. Local Melanesian ethnic groups, that have been fighting each other, have now united to attack Chinese businesses...
There are about 2,000 ethnic Chinese living in Honiara in a population of 50,000, but most of them are naturalised third or fourth generation Solomon Islanders descendents of workers brought in during the colonial era as labourers, cooks and laundry boys for British administrators and plantation owners. Over the years, they worked hard to build the retail stores and other businesses and today dominate both the wholesale and retail sectors.
In neighbouring Fiji, there is a parallel. Ethnic Indians, brought in by British colonials as indentured labourers, mainly to work the sugar plantations, ended up as a major influence in the economic and political life.
Commenting on the riots in an article published in the ‘Solomon Star,' leading civil servant George Manimu, observed that people have resented their leaders giving preferential treatment to foreigners, especially Asians, in such areas as trade, logging, and fisheries making the locals foreigners in their own country. "Business areas, often referred to as reserved for nationals, have also become dominated by Asian entrepreneurs," he said. The ‘'actions of the people (the riots), although criminal, reflects the release of bottled up frustrations and anger that they could not contain any longer"...
"Generally, these Chinese communities are well established in the community and into their third and fourth generations and, most probably don't have direct ties back to China. The issue therefore is the identity and status of people who came from elsewhere, but continue to look Chinese, of course, but they're Pacific islanders of a different descent."
From the Happy Isles of Oceana: Paddling the Pacific by Paul Theroux (pp 154~163) [copyright 1992]: A definite sense of the world is elsewhere, I wrote in my notebook in Honiara. My first impression was of a place so ramshackle, so poor, so scary, so unexpectedly filthy, that I had begun to understand the theory behind culture shock - something I had never truly experienced in its paralyzing and malignant form. The idea that this miserable looking town could be regarded as the capital city seemed laughable....
It was not only hideous, it was expensive. Nearly all the food in Honiara's stores was imported - from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and America. It is often possible to gauge the prosperity of a place by looking at the central market. Honiara's central market was pathetic - a few old women selling little piles of blackened bananas and wilted leaves and some tiny flyblown fish.
"If I were king, the worst punishment I could inflict on my enemies would be to banish them to the Solomons," Jack London wrote in his Pacific travel book, The Cruise of the Snark....
The Solomon Islanders in Honiara were among the scariest looking people I have ever seen in my life - wild hair, huge feet, ripped and ragged clothes, tattoos on their foreheads, ornamental scars all over their faces, wearing broken sunglasses. They loped along in large groups, or else idled near the stores that played American rap music and look for all the world like rappers themselves.
Yet as time passed and I shopped for expedition food and asked directions and bought maps and generally hung around, this impression softened. The town had been a village that the [Second World War] had turned into a capital; it had only existed since the war, less than 50 years. Knowing this, I did not regard the place with less horror, but I came to realize that these wild looking people were friendly and approachable.

It seemed to me grotesque but typical that the wrinkleproof executives in this Japanese company were taking advantage of this poor barefoot country, robbing them of one of their few valuable commodities and staple foods, fish.
The minister said, "Solomon Islanders are too kind." He looked out the window at the patched and broken roofs of Honiara. "But when we lose patience - then, you will see."
"What will I see?"
"We will ask questions."
"Don't ask questions. Threaten them, close them down, freeze their assets" I said. "Or why not demand that they allow you to send a delegation to Japan to start a business there?"
I could just imagine the welcome they would get in Japan, these black bushy-haired Solomon Islanders, with bones in their noses and raised welts and scars of Xs cut into their foreheads and cheeks. Even an unscarred minister like Kemakeza would be treated as though he was subhuman and offered shiny trinkets in return for his country's natural resources of timber and fish. And what laughs of derision would greet the Islanders request to start a business in Nippon: Mi Laik opim kwiktaim kampani bilong bisnis
Solomon Islands A Two Hundred Million Dollar Damage Bill - Leong himself lost a 140 room hotel, the Pacific Casino Hotel and a Casino building, at an estimated cost of US$8.5 million. When interviewed by Pacific Magazine, he declared tearfully, "I don't know whether I 'm going to continue to invest in the country, because I had spent about 60 to 65 million dollars on my investments. That was destroyed in less than 10 hours and now I have nothing left.
"And also I have 600 staff with me and you know what will happen now, they all got no jobs," he continued. "Within the next two weeks they all will suffer and their children will have nothing."
Leong appealed for an end to the destruction. "Please don't harm us anymore," he said. "We are Chinese, but most of us are also Solomon Islanders. We are all friends so please don't harm us anymore, otherwise we will all go home.
"One thing I want to let everybody know is that most or all of the Chinese do not (get) involve(d) in politics," he pointed out. "They are just business people, not trying to control government. Solomon Islands people control the government and parliament."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive