EARLY LAST WEEK, THE OUTSPOKEN African clergyman Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial in the International Criminal Court for lying about weapons of mass destruction.
Millions of people believe that the war in Iraq was not fully justified by the evidences. Bush and Blair’s so-called preemptive strike on Iraq, not only left many intriguing questions but challenged stability and undermined respect for international bodies such as the UN and numerous treaties.
Tutu is a no nonsense preacher, both inside the church and elsewhere. The Nobel Peace Prize winner refused to share a platform with Tony Blair last week at a leadership summit in Johannesburg. His action sent shockwaves throughout Africa and the rest of the world.
Here in Papua New Guinea, the Gillard-O’Neill Manus collaboration emerged as a truly Pacific solution to Australia’s asylum seeker (‘boat people’) problem.
Many people in PNG are asking why a new prime minister, who promises to fight corruption head-on, decided to put a ban on international media covering this story on Manus.
Is there anything sinister to hide? Of course not! Then what is the fuss all about?
The issue of re-opening the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus, a suggestion by Hillary Clinton at the recent South Pacific conference in Rarotonga, is highly controversial and would probably contradict PNG’s commitment to the ‘Look North Policy’, designed to balance its foreign relations between China and the West.
The United States is strengthening its troop presence in northern Australia (Darwin) and, of course, Lombrum would be a step little closer to Beijing.
The preponderance of power held and enjoyed by the US after the Cold War is under threat as power politics takes a new shape in a rapidly globalising world. The rise of China is dominant. The world is no longer uni-polar with the US as the sole “international policeman".
Does China matter for PNG? Yes, because, as Hillary Clinton has said, "Wherever we go, China is at it, above it and under it".
Clinton was referring to the PNG-China resource deals. The US accuses China of ‘creeping’ into the PNG LNG project. It demonstrates that our region has now become the playground for power-balancing games.
Now, if Australia is the US deputy sheriff in the Pacific and responsible for the so-called Arc of Instability, where does this leave PNG?
Is the Manus asylum centre deal part of a solution or part of a problem? It does challenge the PNG-China relationship in a big way. Beijing will not let this go unchallenged, mind you, as the region awaits its next move.
Beggars cannot be choosers, it is said, and PNG chose to agree with Australia’s desired arrangement on keeping asylum seekers fenced in on Manus. There are power-plays implications.
Our dependency on foreign aid does hurt at times but Papua New Guineans do need to be assured of two things, both with asylum seekers and the US aspirations for Lombrum.
Firstly, what is at stake for Governor Charlie Benjamin and his Manus islanders?
Secondly, how will O’Neill play his cards rationally when he is sandwiched between two regional giants seeking global dominance?
National security and state sovereignty are fundamental to any country’s national interest and PNG must uphold these at all times.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu proved to the rest of the world that he does not compromise his values with short-term diplomatic talk that suits only the elites.
Samuel Roth is a lecturer of international relations and politics at Divine Word University. He has taught for 10 years in PNG and in Japan where he did his Masters degree. Samuel will provide PNG Attitude readers with a regular commentary on foreign affairs