Dec 17, 2018 Last Updated 6:44 PM, Dec 16, 2018

ICE AGE

METHAMPHETAMINE has raised the red flag higher as more raids and discoveries take place in the hub of the Pacific.

Border control agencies and police fear the islands are not only a transit point but also a manufacturing one for the drug’s growing domestic market.

The United Nations regional representative for the Office of Drug and Crime for South East Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas, said they had been following the latest arrests in Fiji and Tonga with a lot of interest and warned that the Pacific islands were not ready to face an explosion of such a drug pandemic.

Methamphetamine, more commonly known as ice, is manufactured in the laboratory using an elaborate process that involves cooking, causes sleeplessness for days on end and gives a false sense of reality.

Its health, mental and associated social problems across the globe have come with a big bill for governments and it was spreading to our shores.

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As French President Emmanuel Macron visited Australia and New Caledonia in May, France consolidated its standing across the Pacific. President Macron strengthened defence ties with the Turnbull Government, reinforced anti-independence sentiment in New Caledonia and charmed Forum island leaders at a climate dialogue in Noumea. Meanwhile, President Edouard Fritch won a convincing victory in local elections in French Polynesia, while Wallis and Futuna is mounting a bid to upgrade its status within the Pacific Islands Forum, from observer to associate member. Islands Business correspondent Nic Maclellan surveys these shifts across the francophone Pacific.

Strategic ties to Australia For some time, Australian governments have seen France as a valuable partner in the Pacific, bolstering the ANZUS alliance against growing influence from China and other “non-traditional” partners. As he welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron to Australia last month, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made it clear that he sees France as a long-term ally in the Pacific.

“France is a Pacific power,” said Turnbull. “It is a Pacific nation and its significant presence in the region can only bring benefits to Australia and to the region more broadly. We welcome that and we’ll continue to work closely with France in our region.”

Emphasising “joint sacrifices on the battlefield,” from World War I to Iraq and Syria, Prime Minister Turnbull argued: “Australia and France are forces for good in the world.”

The two leaders signed a “Vision Statement on the Australia-France Relationship.” The new partnership focusses on global rather than regional concerns, dominated by the South China Sea, North By Nic Maclellan Macron the ‘arms dealer’ aboard HMAS Canberra in Sydney Harbour. Photo: Defence Department Korean nuclear proliferation, military deployments in Iraq and Syria, cyber-cooperation, and partnerships in technology, counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing.

This enhanced cooperation is focussed on defence and security across the wider Indo-Pacific region. The concerns of the Kanak and Maohi peoples rank relatively low and there was no talk of decolonisation during the many public ceremonies.

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No viable private sector for 10 countries

Some Pacific Islands countries are so geographically challenged that they will always depend on aid and at least 10 will not have a viable private sector, facts that need to be accepted and understood before expectations are heaped on development in the Pacific region.

And donors who support these countries with aid money could try to be more sympathetic of that, said director general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Dr Jimmie Rodgers, as the organisation celebrates its 40th year of existence this year, servicing 22 countries in the Pacific and supported by four of its six founding members. SPC turned 40 on February 6 and it marks the year with an independent review of its role in regional development, considered a significant undertaking as the results are going to determine how best the organisation can respond to the priority of its members.

Its members in the Pacific are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. While hundreds of millions in aid funds are pumped into their economies each year— mostly to finance development—these small countries are beset with challenges that often make it difficult for them to translate those funds into development.

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