TRIBUTE series



Peace hopes rise following the meeting between the two Korean heads

The situation in Fiji at this time seems to be more complicated than ever. The problem at the moment is whether the military regime can maintain a balance between a backlash by supporters of George Speight and efforts of the ousted regime of Mahendra Chaudhry to regain power.

And the latest developments include the imprisonment of Speight and his followers on an island off Suva against a backdrop of growing violence by his supporters.

There was also Chaudhry’s visit down under in July where he discussed the situation with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. It is presumed that Chaudhry was seeking Australia’s support for his reinstatement. Australia and other Commonwealth countries did support the ousted regime and also imposed sanctions on the rebels.

India too has issued similar warnings reflecting its concern over the future of the Indian community in Fiji. The commanding position of the Indian community partly explains the recent uprising by Speight and his endeavours to install an ethnic Fijian regime.

Over in Zimbabwe, tensions continue with the prospect of a collision between the three parties involved.

The players include President Robert Mugabe and his followers; the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which performed impressively at the recent election and added a new complexion to the situation; and the Commercial Farmers Union representing white farmers and their interests. Meanwhile, regardless of the opposition, Mugabe has announced a plan to acquire 3,000 farms immediately. This represents a defiant increase from the 800 earmarked earlier, and marks a serious confrontation between himself and the opposition.

Another element has arisen with the condemnation by the nonaligned group at the UN about proposed US legislation aimed at suspending aid to Zimbabwe. It condemns the proposed legislation as a violation of the principles of nonalignment and the UN Charter.

This was an endorsement of a declaration made earlier by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which referred to the US proposal as interference by a foreign power in the internal affairs of a member state.

The action at UN level adds an international dimension to the problem but how it will generate a solution is the key question. The imminent conflict between white farmers and the black majority, which Mugabe has fomented by his actions, could unleash racial tensions outside Africa and have repercussions on the Commonwealth.

Nonetheless, in this prevailing scenario of regional tensions, a few hopeful signs have appeared.

One was the declared readiness of the Indian government to engage in peace talks with the Kashmiri militants in the context of a ceasefire declared by the main rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen. The talks began in August 2000 and the Indian Army suspended its counterinsurgency operations in the light of this development.

Though Pakistan is not included, the talks are a positive step towards peace moves in the currently tense and embattled region. As if to match this peace process, the Prime Minister of Nepal Girija Prasad Koirala also visited India in July with a view, as he said, to bring ties back on track.

The other good news is from the Korean Peninsula where a joint declaration for peaceful coexistence signed by the two Koreas in June is being faithfully implemented. This took the form of an agreement to establish liaison offices in the historic village of Panmunjom, which was the scene of the truce that ended the Korean War. Henceforth, liaison officers in Panmunjom will further the implementation of the peace process.

Other peace measures were also discussed at the recent meeting between the two sides and included a visit by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, a joint celebration of National Liberation Day on 15 August and planned reunions of families from both sides from 15 to 19 August.

These are very healthy signs of an ongoing momentum in the implementation of the agreement, which opens a new chapter in the Far East.

Needless to say, it is the outcome of combined efforts by Russia, China, the US and Japan that effected such a settlement – and in a sense, created a new world order although only time will tell whether peace will eventuate on the Korean Peninsula.