The Guardian 1 June, 2005
Anti-colonial resistance will grow
Resistance to the Howard government’s plans to create an Australian colonial empire in the Pacific will take many forms over time. Last month in Papua New Guinea it took the form of street protests and a judicial ruling. PNG’s Supreme Court found that the Enhanced Cooperation Program, under which Australian police and government officials went into PNG and Bougainville, was unconstitutional. More than 150 Australian police were stood down and sent home.
The program, which was forced on PNG after bullying by the Howard government, gave Australian police immunity from prosecution under PNG law and gave the Australian officials substantial powers in the PNG public service. The Supreme Court ruled that the authority of the country’s police commissioner and public prosecutor, and the rights of citizens to seek redress, had been undermined by the immunity given to Australian personnel. The position of the Australian bureaucrats was severely downgraded.
Before the Court decision more than 300 PNG police gathered in Port Moresby to protest against the presence of the Australians.
The interference in PNG’s internal affairs began two years ago when the Howard government sent its representatives to PNG to dictate the use of Australia’s $330 million aid program, claiming that it was being abused by “corrupt officials”. In response PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare said he was fed up with hearing that PNG and other Pacific nations were corrupt and had poor governance.
He said of the aid, “Yes, review it. If they want to remove it, remove it for God’s sake.” He added, “Corruption is far worse in countries like Australia where huge corporations are closing down and billions of dollars are involved in corrupt dealings.”
Increasingly there is and will be a growing anger at the Howard government’s neo-colonial ambitions, which include a pan Pacific union dominated by Australia. This union would entail Pacific nations adopting the Australian dollar, amalgamating key services, the setting up of a regional unit “to fight transnational crime and terrorism”, and a central regional bank and currency, all controlled by Australia.
Already Australian troops are occupying the Solomon Islands, deployed there in July 2003. There is no timetable to bring an end to that occupation, which the Howard government glibly calls “cooperative intervention”.
The Solomons are a prime example of what is behind the Howard government’s moves. The 2000-island archipelago is rich in undeveloped mineral resources, including lead, zinc, nickel, gold, bauxite and phosphate, as well as considerable timber resources. Wherever the Australian military goes in the Pacific it will be followed by the rapacious corporations, in the case of the Solomons, mining and timber transnationals.
Though colonial diktat by Australia in the Pacific is certainly not new (in 1994 the then Keating Labor government was demanding Pacific nations implement “public sector reform and private sector development”), the current developments reflect a changed international situation, in which US and other imperialist powers are experiencing greater resistance to their plans.
Under cover of the bogus war on terrorism two countries have been occupied with the most horrific and disastrous results. It is along the same lines as the US claiming to be bringing “freedom and democracy” to Iraq and Afghanistan that the Howard government is carrying out “cooperative intervention” and “enhanced cooperation”.
At the time of the invasion of the Solomons, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer stated, “Outcomes are more important than blind faith in principles of non-intervention, sovereignty and multilateralism. Sovereignty in our view is not absolute.”
The occupation of Pacific island states, whether by force or in some cases through the acquiescence of compliant governments, is also part of the policing role Australia plays as US deputy sheriff in the region. The nations are intended to be used as military bases with a focus towards Asia, and in particular socialist China, which is the ultimate target of US imperialism in the region.
Resistance movements in the Pacific island states against bullying and colonial occupation by Australia will grow. As the former Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare warned Solomon Islands parliament as it debated whether to allow in Australian forces in 2003: “This honourable house is deliberately used as a puppet for overseas agendas. It will be nothing short of re-colonising this country.”