On 2nd May, 2012 the Vanuatu Daily Post reported that Private Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Clarence Marae had been arrested at Sydney International Airport by the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) whilst accompanying Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Meltek Sato Kilman Livtunvanu to Israel on a diplomatic mission.
Following his arrest, Mr Marae was charged with conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth, contrary to section 86 (1) and 29D of the Crimes Act 1914. The allegations underpinning the charges relate to an incident or a series of incidents which occurred more than ten years before.
What should be of paramount concern to all of the Pacific’s Indigenous people and what has clear echoes in the AFP’s now discredited treatment of Mr Julian Moti QC, the former Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands, is the high-handed manner in which the Australian Government and the AFP treat the Indigenous people of the Pacific, including their political and beaurocratic leaders.
In a statement issued from the office of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister on 1st May, 2012, the Prime Minister stated that:
…the Prime Minister’s Office was totally unaware that Marae still had an outstanding issue with the Australian Federal authorities.
Prime Minister’s Office would however like to echo the sentiments forwarded to the Australian Government via a diplomatic note protesting the manner in which the Prime Minister and his delegation were forcibly diverted from the international transit area of Sydney Airport to the Customs area under Australian Government jurisdiction so that the warrant could be served on Mr Marae.
The statement also stressed that this was a public embarrassment to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu and stressed that the Vanuatu Government is reviewing its options and has sought legal advice on the manner in which Marae’s arrest was orchestrated by the Australian Federal authorities at the Sydney International Airport, as it is suspected that in disallowing the delegation to go directly to the international transit lounge the actions may have infringed on international diplomatic protocols set out in international conventions ratified by both Australia and Vanuatu.
In fact, and typical of AFP arrogance when dealing with Indigenous people, the AFP have refused to enter into dialogue with Vanuatu over the issue, resulting in the Vanuatu Government issuing a statement on 9th May, 2012 giving the AFP 24 hours to close its liaison office, otherwise officers would face arrest for failing to ”take into account the decision of the Vanuatu government’‘.
Again, with strong resonances with the Moti affair, in 2004, Vanuatu’s then Foreign Minister, Barak Sope, wanted to throw the AFP out over allegations of spying and meddling with domestic politics. In May 2011, Australian lawyer and senior Australian Litigation Advisor to the Attorney-General of Vanuatu Ari Jenshel was expelled from Vanuatu by its government after it accused him of espionage.
Mr. Jenshel was made to leave after the Australian government was warned he faced imminent arrest over his activities as senior adviser in the office of the Attorney-General in Port Vila.
Among claims being investigated by the police in Vanuatu are that sensitive government documents have been copied and sent to the Australian Government in Canberra.
Mr. Jenshel, who is a former Australian Defence Force lawyer seconded to Vanuatu five years ago as part of an AusAID program, says any adverse findings against him by the Vanuatu police will be based on fabrications.
Some of the documents allegedly copied relate to talks between leaders of Pacific countries including Vanuatu, aimed at developing a closer working relationship with Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
The other documents Mr Jenshel is suspected of accessing, copying and sending to Canberra are confidential Vanuatu Government business and legal affairs, relating to taxation policy.
Could these documents relate to Project Wickenby? Project Wickenby is a cooperative partnership between the ATO, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, with support from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Government Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Specifically to Project Wickenby, Mr Marae is an alleged associate of Victorian accountant Ian Henke, who was jailed in March 2011 for a multimillion-dollar tax avoidance scheme working through Vanuatu. Is this why Mr Jenshel was expelled and Mr Marae arrested?
Moti and Marae acts of neo-colonial racism?
The question goes begging – if Mr Marae were accompanying say, the Prime Minister of Britain or the President of the United States or indeed the President of Indonesia on a diplomatic mission rather than the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, would the AFP have acted in such a high-handed manner? The answer, is probably not. Similarly, if Mr Moti were the Attorney-General of one of the aforementioned countries, would he have been treated in the way he was by the AFP? Again, the answer is probably not.
The difference is that Australia sees the Pacific as being nothing more than its colonial domain, a domain which Australia governs through direct police/military intervention (known in the 19th Century as Gun Boat Diplomacy) and/or a few shekels of silver pressed into the hands of those Pacific ‘leaders’ prepared to sell out their own people to a racist and corrupt Australia in return for the crumbs from Australia’s table.
Australia has tried to justify its neo-colonial interventions in the Pacific by arguing that it was bringing stability to the so-called ‘arc of instability.’
…The so-called ‘arc of instability’, which basically goes from East Timor through to the south-west Pacific states, means that not only does Australia have a responsibility in preventing and indeed assisting with humanitarian and disaster relief, but also that we cannot allow any of these countries to become havens for transnational crime, nor indeed havens for terrorism…
There is no official list of member states in the Arc, however it has traditionally been accepted to include South-East Asian and Oceanic nations such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Indonesia and Fiji.
What Australia is really doing in the Pacific is using the tragic events which unfolded in New York on 11 September, 2001 as a pretext to economically colonize the Pacific for its own commercial ends.
In the words of former United States President Woodrow Wilson:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.
Actions speak louder than words. The actions of the AFP in both the Marae and Moti affairs speak volumes about the attitude of white Australia to the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific.