Friday, January 30, 2009

Taiwan scandal could be costly

By ANTHONY SIL in The National

MEDIA reports on the alleged Taiwan-Papua New Guinea dollar diplomacy scandal is of grave concern.

If true, it has not only relegated PNG’s diplomatic practices to the whims of subversive elements, but has also brought into question the country’s “One-China policy”.

PNG has benefited much from this policy through development aid and direct investments.

To some observers the scandal only propagates an evolving norm of frivolous attitudes and self-interests of some PNG diplomats.

Unfortunately, past scandals have not been properly addressed by the Government and the departments concerned.

For the people of PNG, this alleged scandal militates against national interests. The public can only despairingly talk of having to see another diplomatic blunder, like “a dog going back to its vomit, every time a PNG plenipotentiary is sent abroad.

Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), 1961 states: The establishment of diplomatic relations between states, and of permanent diplomatic missions, takes place by mutual consent.

This simply means that only a State bestowed with the principles of “sovereignty” under International Law, namely, non-intervention, equality and immunity can engage in diplomatic relations.

In my opinion, Taiwan is an integral part of China.

The ongoing struggle by the Taiwanese people to be politically independent is a domestic matter for the government of China.

It was ill-conceived for PNG representatives to covertly negotiate with Taiwanese counterparts.

Unless China allows, Taiwan is not a “State”.

PNG’s act in essence amounts to interfering into China’s internal affairs.

Any State by virtue of its sovereignty has the right to give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan irrespective of China’s stand.

But it is inconceivable and a “shot in the foot” for PNG to covertly give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan whilst concurrently flagging the “One-China Policy”.

Or does the PNG Government plan a diplomatic shift from China to Taiwan?

Arrangements of diplomatic representations between States in the post-WWII era take place overtly within the framework of the Vienna convention.

For example, Articles 3 to 5 provide for the functions of diplomatic missions, formalities of accreditations and recognition of types of representations.

Diplomatic relations are governed by International Law, treaties, conventions and acceptable practices based on the principles of “sovereignty” and only applicable to states.

The initial willingness of PNG negotiators to covertly arrange for Taiwan’s diplomatic recognition derogates from the intent and spirit of the VCDR.

If indeed PNG does give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, the country would very likely be slapped with economic sanctions by China. Our PNG negotiators seem to have ignored such basic analysis of costs and benefits.

On a broader level, we need to look at the benefits and challenges posed by China’s pre-eminence in world politics.

America’s “financial-meltdown” has sent rippling effects across the world, especially the industrialised West and the developing and developed Asian countries.

Whilst China is to some extent facing the turbulence, it has shown admirable degree of resilience in the way it has managed its domestic and foreign policies.

China is becoming a global economic power.

Its presence in the Pacific has been greeted with befuddled reaction by Australia and the US where security is concerned.

Pacific Island countries, including PNG, must exploit opportunities to gain economically with China and diversify from it.

South Pacific regional trade dynamics, whether bilateral or multilateral, will no doubt continue to be influenced by China’s involvement as a pivotal infusion for expansion.

China is one of PNG’s major development partners apart from Australia, Britain, European Union and Japan.

Our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, therefore, needs to be more vigilant in the way it manages its diplomats and others entrusted to deal with China.

The PNG-Taiwan dollar-diplomacy has no substance of national interests other than to serve the interests of a few.

More than 30 years ago, a gentleman by the name of Harold Nicolson once said: “The policy of cabinet can only be rightly executed by man of experience, integrity and intelligence; by man of resource, good temper and courage.

“A man above all, who is not swayed by emotion or prejudice, who is profoundly modest in all his dealings for they guarantee moral ascendancy, truthfulness, precision.

“A man who is guided only by a sense of public duty and who understands the value of cleverness and the virtues of reason, moderation, discretion, patience and tact.”

These qualities are indispensable prerequisites for the exercise of diplomatic profession even in this age of information technology and private competition.

Most PNG diplomats, politicians and senior public servants in relevant departments entrusted to negotiate internationally are doing a fine job.

The diplomatic blunders created in the recent past including the current Taiwan scandal have been caused by few individuals.Let us not lose face again. Diplomats must put the country first. Not their self-interests.

Note: The writer is a lecturer in International Relations and Diplomatic Practices and Procedures at the University of PNG.



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