The following article appeared in today’s edition of the Fiji Sun and Solomon Star It was written by me in my capacity as a human rights philosopher, researcher, activist and student from the perspective of one who has suffered and continues to suffer the indignity of racial discrimination in his own country.
As in the Solomon Islands, my research points to the politicization of the Australian Federal Police by the Howard Government as one of the root causes for the continued marginalization of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As in the Moti case, the Australian Government with its vast resources can assassinate via a tame and facile Media any group or individual that comes within its ‘cross hairs’ this has been the case with Moti, this has and continues to be the case with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
As we approach end-game in the long running Moti Saga, now is the appropriate time to take pause and reflect on the political machinations that resulted in the Attorney-General of a sovereign state finding himself in a third country, Australia, and facing the same charges arising out of the same accusations which the independent courts of another sovereign country, Vanuatu, had already heard, determined and thrown out more than 13 years ago.
On August 3rd and 4th in the High Court of Australia, Fiji-born former Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti QC reaches the final stage in the appeal process, instigated by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (“CDPP”) after Queensland Supreme Court Judge Debra Mullins ordered the permanent stay of the child sex tourism prosecution against Moti.
Australia’s High Court will finally decide the fate of an Australian citizen who the Australian Government has officially always regarded as “too independent and anti-Australian for our liking” – the real crime that is officially concealed by the regular revival of the long-dismissed Vanuatu charges each time Moti was nominated for an official post in Solomon Islands. As Moti himself provocatively remarked in an interview with the Fiji Sun earlier this year, the Australian Government has always considered him “a four letter word.”
The actual reasons behind the Australian Government’s pursuit of Moti have little, if anything, to do with justice for his alleged victim and everything to do with Australia’s neo-colonial ambitions in the Pacific. For confirmation of this assertion one need look no further than to the alleged victim herself.
On 26 December 2007 (the day before Moti was kidnapped from his home in Honiara and despatched to Brisbane), the woman who the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) has recruited as the alleged “victim” of the child sex tourism charges against Moti sent an SMS message to her AFP “minder” in Brisbane, Federal Agent Sally MacDonald. That message was reproduced in its entirety in MacDonald’s sworn statement filed in the Queensland Supreme Court. It was an ultimatum to the AFP that unless the Australian Government met her demands to relocate her and her entire family to Australia and place them in a witness protection program she would:
“… denounce that I may have been used as a tool by the Australian Government for political and neo colonial reasons … The aim of all this was to put in the Government of your choice in the Solomons. Consequently I lost everything.”
This text message raises a number of significant issues. The first is the obvious implication that the author herself, by her own admission, has been used as a political pawn by the Australian Government to further its own interests in the Pacific. The other and equally important issue, is that the language used in this text message is rather sophisticated, perhaps too sophisticated, for a young woman living on a remote Pacific island who has admittedly never had any formal education. This brings into question the veracity of the original allegations against Moti and the issue of who drove those allegations in the first place.
After reading about the above text message, which has been raised as an issue by Moti’s defence team, I decided to inspect the court file relating to Moti’s appeal for myself. The content of that file raises a number of significant issues, not the least of which is the motivation behind the Australian Government’s pursuit of him.
Amongst the many damning documents in the court file supporting Moti’s allegation that the motives behind his prosecution are far from altruistic and genuine is a minute written by Federal Agent Peter Bond, AFP’s Senior Liaison Officer in Honiara.
The minute, dated 11 July 2007, was written by Bond to highlight to his superiors in Canberra the potential implications for Australia associated with the swearing in of Moti as Attorney-General of Solomon Islands on 10 July 2007.
Among those implications, Bond highlighted that Moti was likely to “amend the Facilitation of International Assistance Act … to either curtail RAMSI’s powers or expel RAMSI from the country.” Bond further noted that Moti as Attorney-General would facilitate the removal of the RAMSI-approved Solomon Islands’ Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer and the RAMSI-approved Director of Public Prosecutions Ronald Talasasa. What is palpably missing from Bond’s list of concerns is any reference to justice for the alleged “victim” of the sexual misconduct allegedly perpetrated by Moti in 1997.
What becomes crystal clear when the text message from the alleged “victim” to AFP Agent MacDonald is read in conjunction with AFP Agent Bond’s minute is that Australia’s pursuit of Moti has little or nothing to do with child sex tourism and everything to do with the politics of power and Australia’s neo-colonial ambitions in the Pacific. Moti became Australia’s obstacle as his ideological influence grew in Melanesia.
It was in an attempt to protect Moti from becoming a victim of Australia’s neo-colonial ambitions in the Pacific that the then Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare, in a letter to the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to PNG dated 2nd October 2006, granted Moti political asylum. In that letter (which was also copied to Papua New Guinea’s High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands), Prime Minister Sogavare also noted that he believed “… that the Australian Government’s pursuit of Moti is a retaliatory act of punishment for our recent expulsion of Mr Patrick Cole as Australia’s High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands.”
While the above mentioned documents lend an undoubted flavour to the assertion that Australia’s prosecution of Moti is political and driven by Australia’s neo-colonial ambitions in the Pacific, the hypocrisy of the Australian Government’s pursuit of Moti and the cynical way it has treated the Solomon Islands justice system is borne out by the exchange of correspondence between Australian officials based in Honiara and their Canberra superiors.
The importance of Moti to Australia is further evidenced by the circulation list accompanying these exchanges which include the Australian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Parliamentary Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Justice and Customs and the Attorney-General and all their underlings. In fact everybody who was anybody in the Australian Government was copied on anything to do with the Moti matter.
The contents of these exchanges reveal the legal complications that were dramatized, known and understood by Australia during its earlier attempts to extradite Attorney-General Moti from Solomon Islands shortly after he was flown there in October 2006 by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
Apparent in these exchanges is the role played by Nathan Moshinsky QC, the RAMSI-appointed Solomon Islands Solicitor-General. Moshinsky obviously resented Moti’s elevation but was also professionally troubled about the legalities of extraditing Moti to Australia. His concerns stemmed from two core issues that rendered Moti non-prosecutable and, therefore, non-extraditable: dual criminality and the Solomon Islands statute of limitations. What was canvassed amongst the corresponding parties was how they could structure and process their extradition request in a way that would by-pass the requirements of Solomon Islands law and the sovereign authority of the Sogavare Government.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty’s instruction (quoted in the Australian media at the time) to his subordinate AFP officer, Shane Castles (who was then stationed in Solomon Islands as its Police Commissioner) that Moti be “deported forthwith” to Australia was a far more preferable and politically palatable option for Australia.
Each of the scenarios that were ‘tested’ in these exchanges was found to be either legally flawed and/or subject to legal challenge by Moti in Solomon Islands. Any challenge by Moti would prolong the extradition process while incorporating the added risk of exposing the true nature of Australia’s extradition request. Support for this assertion can be found in the diary of AFP Agent Bond, which is also on the court file.
Reading Bond’s diary entries in conjunction with documented plans for Moti’s extradition in October 2006 amply demonstrates that Australia was merely paying ‘lip service’ to the Solomon Islands legal code regarding the proposed extradition of Moti, while it manipulated the political situation in the background.
A key feature of all neo-colonial and occupation administrations is that they appoint their own people to key political and administrative posts and from these positions, manipulate and manage the political outcomes that are most beneficial to their continued presence in the occupied territories. Australia is no different.
One of the key players in the Moti Affair was former Solomon Islands Solicitor-General Nathan Moshinsky, another Australian. What most Solomon Islanders may not realize is that Moshinsky was sub-contracted to the position of Solomon Islands Solicitor-General by a RAMSI-controlled/financed company, GRM International Pty Ltd (“GRM”).
On 17 March 2006, Moshinsky wrote to the Officer-in-Charge, ACE Insurance, stating that he was an employee of GRM International Pty Ltd and signed off on that letter as “Nathan Moshinsky QC, Solicitor-General.”
Situations like this can only give rise to conflicts of interest. I am reliably informed that in the case of Moshinsky, this conflict became apparent when he gave advice to the Solomon Islands Government in his capacity as Solicitor-General regarding the obligation of his employer, GRM to pay tax in Solomon Islands.
Moshinsky had opined that even though it was a corporate entity and not exempted as a “member” of the “Visiting Contingent” under the RAMSI statute, GRM was not liable to pay tax in the Solomon Islands. That advice was contrary to the one earlier expressed by the Legal Draftsman in the Attorney-General Chambers. At the very least this is a conflict of interest, but the conflict goes much further and deeper than a mere opinion about liability to pay tax.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Sir Albert Palmer, the Chief Justice of the Solomon Islands, is also another RAMSI-approved appointee. While the Moti matter was a live issue in the Solomon Islands, Chief Justice Palmer’s daughter was attending high school in Adelaide, South Australia. One of his functions as Chief Justice was to interview applicants for RAMSI-funded legal positions. The interviews for these positions were usually conducted in Australia. To conduct the interviews Chief Justice Palmer would fly to Australia on a regular basis, stay in hotels, receive an Australian per diem; and while travelling in and through Australia RAMSI (through GRM) would provide him with free air tickets, hotel accommodation, meals and daily allowances to visit his daughter in Adelaide.
While prima facie there appears nothing wrong with this, the arrangement so described has the potential to create a subtle form of indebtedness or ‘beholden-ness’. A regular Australian per diem paid in Australian dollars combined with return business class airfares, hotel accommodation and meals would, in the eyes and hands of even the most senior of Solomon Islands officials, create a situation where the RAMSI benefits would be worth more to the official than his or her salary. This creates what can only be described as a ‘culture of beholden-ness’ and skews loyalties. It is a subtle form of corruption. Nothing less and probably more.
On 28 September 2006, Moti commenced his fateful journey from India to the Solomon Islands to take up his position as Attorney-General of Solomon Islands. En route to Honiara from New Delhi he was unlawfully detained, arrested and subsequently imprisoned in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. At no time prior to Moti’s ‘interception’ in Port Moresby did the Australian authorities notify either the Government of Solomon Islands or Moti about their objection to his appointment as Attorney-General of Solomon Islands, or their plan to extradite him to Australia. It was these circumstances that formed the background to Prime Minister Sogavare granting Moti political asylum on 2 October, 2006.
On 4 September 2007, the Solomon Island’s Government formally rejected the Australian Government’s formal request for Moti’s extradition to Australia. The reasons given by the Sogavare Government for their rejection of the extradition request read in part:
“I am fortified in my opinion regarding the unjustness of the Australian investigation and prosecution of our Attorney-General by the failure of the Australian authorities to interview Mr Moti QC and 9 other persons identified in my questionnaire who have relevant knowledge concerning the case. The standard Australian explanation for such gross investigatory failures is that “it is an operational decision in relation to the conduct of an investigation as to whether to interview and when” and also “there was no reasonable opportunity to interview Mr Moti QC before the arrest warrant was issued.” These answers contradict the facts and show that the AFP has deliberately avoided interviewing any person who could show that there is no criminal case against our Attorney General.”
Further, in his reasons for refusing Australia’s request to extradite Moti, the Solomon Islands Minister for Justice, Honourable Isaac Inoke Tosika MP noted “… that if Attorney General Moti QC were extradited to Australia, he would be prejudiced at his trial or punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his race, religion, nationality, or political opinion.” Thus reaffirming Moti’s entitlement to protection as a political asylee or refugee in Solomon Islands.
Under international law a refugee is granted certain rights. Those rights include protection against being forcibly returned to the country of persecution if he still holds genuine fears for his life, liberty and safety by reason of his race, religion, nationality, or political opinion. Moti holds and continues to hold those fears. Since he was kidnapped from Solomon Islands and forcibly returned to Australia on 27 December 2007, Moti has been locked up in prison, continues to have his liberty restricted and remains “unemployed and unemployable.”
In complete defiance of established legal precedent and exhibiting many of the characteristics one would expect to find in a ‘culture of beholden-ness’ Chief Justice Palmer ruled on 24 December 2007 that:
“Whilst [Moti] has been granted asylum by the Sogavare Government his rights as an asylee were directly connected to his appointment as the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands. His appointment in turn as the Attorney-General is held at the pleasure of Government. His right as an asylee therefore must be subject to the continuation of his appointment as the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands…”
I have been unable to locate any authority which would support Chief Justice Palmer’s contention that refugee status can attach to anything other than a natural person in their own right as a human being. Isn’t the grant of asylum and refugee status really about human rights? How it can be argued that refugee status can attach to a person because of their official position and extinguish at the cessation of their tenure in that position defies logic and law! No wonder the Chief Justice’s dictum was promptly appealed by Moti to that country’s highest court. Moti’s unlawful expulsion denied him his right to have that appeal heard and determined by the Solomon Islands Court of Appeal at its next sitting in April 2008.
The shadow of the ‘culture of beholden-ness’ does not stop there. On 27 December 2007, Moti was served with a deportation order issued by the Solomon Islands Government. The order was served on Moti at 2 p.m. Solomons time, after which he was forcibly removed from his home and escorted by police directly to the airport and placed on a plane scheduled to leave Honiara for Brisbane at 3:10 p.m. on the same day.
Under Solomon Islands law, a prospective deportee is allowed seven days within which to file an objection to a deportation order with the Solomon Islands High Court. Any deportation not executed in compliance with legislative requirements and formalities would be unlawful. This was well known and understood by the Australian authorities who coordinated Moti’s unlawful deportation from Solomon Islands.
In an entry in his diary made on 24 December 2007, AFP Agent Bond wrote: “7 days to appeal the deportation.” Moti was denied his legal right to challenge or appeal the order, a right that was well known by the AFP who conspired with the RAMSI-controlled, newly-installed Sikua Government to deny Moti his rights both as a deportee at Solomon Island’s law and as an asylee at international law.
In his Statutory Declaration sworn on 21 June, 2009, Solomon Islands Police Officer Selwyn Akao stated that:
“It was well known among the Solomons police that Australia had organised the deportation [of Moti]. We talked about how now Australia would be satisfied. We all believed they orchestrated the whole operation.”
Ironically enough, the RAMSI Treaty (signed by Australia, Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations on 24 July 2003) spells out what are Australia’s legal obligations as a “contracting party.” Under Article 10.1, the Australian-led and financed Visiting Contingent “shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the laws and regulations of Solomon Islands are observed and respected.” If that was the insistent basis for Australia’s intervention in Solomon Islands and its continuing reign there, Moti is right to ask why is he here in Australia?
Among the raison d’être for the creation of RAMSI was to promote “capacity building” in Solomon Islands within the ‘rule of law’. How can Australia or its neo-colonial enforcer, the AFP via RAMSI, claim to be operating within the ‘rule of law’ when they deliberately orchestrate the circumvention of a foreign sovereign independent state’s laws for domestic political and neo-colonial purposes?
Not only did Australia circumvent (or perhaps, deliberately ignored, would be a more appropriate term) Solomon Islands laws to facilitate the unlawful deportation of Moti; Australia cynically maintained the façade of operating within the ‘rule of law’ in maintaining its public intention of extraditing Moti from the Solomon Islands, whilst manipulating, in the not-so-concealed background, the domestic political situation and judicial process in Solomon Islands to facilitate Moti’s kidnapping and expulsion.
The sole reason behind Australia’s decision to prosecute Moti is because he threatened the status quo in the Pacific, a threat that challenged Australia’s neo-colonial interests. As for Moti’s unlawful deportation, it was nothing more than a disguised extradition, undertaken after Australia realized (following earlier awareness of its flaws in October 2006), that its grounds for seeking Moti’s extradition to Australia were flimsy at best and the prospects for success, questionable.
On the point of Australia’s imperious conduct in the Solomons, it is interesting to consider the statement given by the Honorable John Patteson Oti MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, External Trade & Immigration for the Solomon Islands to the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on October 1, 2007:
Our peoples’ gratitude to Australia and New Zealand for financing the deployment of their nationals to police our crisis with the help of a small contingent of personnel from neighbouring Pacific Islands nations is oft-expressed and genuine. However, as our fellow Pacific Islands states can readily appreciate, our sovereign right to determine the terms on which the Government of Solomon Islands will permit our continued occupation by the Visiting Contingent cannot be undermined by any member of the United Nations. The long neglect of our internal problem by the UN followed by the hasty conclusion of the regionally-based multilateral agreement which led to the despatch of the initial Visiting Contingent of Australian, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands forces brings ongoing controversies concerning their continued existence and eventual exit back to the UN’s doorsteps. Viewed from the perspective of Chapter 8 of the UN Charter, the nature of the arrangements and activities embraced by the 2003 agreement as well as their practical application and operation since then appear to transgress Article 52 on the basis of apparent inconsistencies with Articles 1 and 2 of our Charter.
Howsoever dressed and rationalized, intervention and occupation allow “assisting” nations to spend and earn substantial revenue for their supporting businesses and industries. Mine is too nationalistic a Government to become captive to the fortunes which justify our perpetual retention under siege. My Prime Minister, fellow Government Ministers and Parliamentarians as well as our Attorney General remain unmoved by Australian resistance to our attempts to reclaim our sovereignty and independence. Consistent with our obligations under Article 54, we shall keep the Security Council fully informed of the activities undertaken under the 2003 agreement and seek its assistance in reducing the financial burdens which Australia and New Zealand needlessly bear under the current arrangements. As members of this Assembly know only too well, those who pay the piper call the tune. Our experience of the Australian-designed “co-operative intervention” package demonstrates the need for greater UN involvement in the leadership of future regional peace-keeping operations”.
Minister Oti’s words have proven prophetic. It is no secret that the speech was written by Moti himself when he was Attorney-General of Solomon Islands. The treatment afforded Moti by the Australian Government proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Solomon Islands is indeed a nation in need of reclaiming its sovereignty from Australia.
As an Indigenous Australian I can say from cold, hard experience that the only thing that focuses the attention of Australia’s political and business elites is the opportunity to make a free dollar at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights. So it has been in Australia, so it will be in the Pacific. As the Moti case clearly demonstrates, those who oppose the selfish interests of Australia’s political and business elites in the name of sovereign rights and indigenous justice run the risk of becoming sacrificial lambs on Australia’s altars to Mammon.