Regional MSG Police Unit Eyes International Peacekeeping Market

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Fiji to lead force ‘branding,’ pursuit of ‘lucrative’ UN contracts

By Winston Tarere

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 12, 2012) – The Melanesian Spearhead Group Police Formed Unit (MSGPFU) will piggyback on Fiji’s experience to build a brand name that can be marketed successfully on the multimillion dollar global peace-keeping market.

Peacekeeping has over the years contributed on average around 10 to 15 million U.S. dollars – which is equivalent to approximately 1 to1.5 billion Vatu (dollar for dollar value) – annually to the Fijian economy.

Fiji’s experience in international deployments to hotspots around the globe has made peacekeeping the third biggest foreign exchange earner for its economy after sugar and tourism.

Its creation by the MSG leaders early this year comes as no surprise as member countries as well as the MSG Secretariat stand to enjoy substantial financial benefits from this political decision.

While the overarching objective of the PFU is to respond to security issues within the region and globally, the practical motive behind it is a foreign exchange earner for the MSG member countries.

Fiji’s Assistant Police Commissioner, Isikeli Vuniwaqa is currently in the country to develop the logistical and administrative framework of the MSGPFU so that it aligns with the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations standards. Inspector General Vuniwaqa has years of experience in overseas mission duties with the disciplined forces in his own native country.

The revenue comes in terms of wages or mission subsistence allowance (MSA) for peacekeepers as well as hiring of equipment. Apart from the MSA, the UN also pays an allowance to peace keepers equivalent to around US$40 per month.

When the MSG starts deploying its forces, the United Nations will hire the use of all arms, communication and other equipment on the inventory list of the sending countries and the wages for law enforcement officers through the MSG Secretariat as the deploying agency.

The nitty-gritty of how much goes into the purse of the MSG Secretariat and how much contributes to the national revenue of member countries will be sorted later.

However, increase in global conflicts makes the demand for peace the single most important precondition for economic development. It means that peacekeeping missions make their largest single contribution to development by helping to restore and keep peace. In the absence of peace and security, there is no incentive for people to undertake productive investments in legal economy as the likelihood of return on investment is minimal.

Hence the formation of a regional force is a long-term asset for the MSG to cater for increased demand for peace in parts of the world that are being ravaged by war.

But the key to making it a successful political decision is if the MSGFPU is marketed as a professional and effective brand with a slight edge over other countries vying for the lucrative UN contracts. The MSGFPU will compete with other countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, Canada, Australia etc. who have the latest weaponry and greater resources to deploy large contingents to other parts of the world.

The MSG will rely on Fiji’s decorated and reputed experience – built over decades of performance since World War II in the Solomon Islands, the Malaya Campaign, Lebanon, Sinai Iraq etc. – to marshal it into an efficient and professional force, and a high end product.

However, cases of human rights violations by the disciplined forces within the MSG and especially in Vanuatu – such as the coroner’s report on the handling and killing of prisoners in legal custody – could be detrimental to the success of the whole project. Fiji is currently relying on its reputation alone to ward off an assault by Australia and other countries campaigning for the UN to remove Fiji from its peacekeeping missions in the field, as a protest against the Bainimarama regime.

If members of the disciplined forces in Vanuatu Solomon Islands and PNG continue to disregard procedures and the rule of law, then it might hamper the chances of the MSGFPU securing UN contracts. This means the UN will only look to Fiji with its experience to provide peacekeepers.

Increased level of cooperation within the MSG region on issues of security and sharing of intelligence provides the basis of future cooperation that may even include Fiji using the MSGPFU to beef up its existing peacekeeping operations in Iraq and Sinai.

The Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) which comes under the umbrella of the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) puts Vanuatu in a unique position to deploy both police and military personnel into the MSGFPU.

Experience in East Timor, Sudan, Bosnia, Bougainville, Solomon Islands and other hotspots is a bonus for Vanuatu but it also needs to polish its reputation domestically so that its participation is not met with resistance by western lobbying, for its removal due to human rights violations and any unprofessional conduct by its discipline forces.

The MSG Police Formed Unit will be the ‘crème de la crème’ of law enforcement officers from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji.

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