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Opinion: Forum’s moral failure for Melanesians

During the recent crisis over the appointment of Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s new Secretary General (former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna), much public debate occurred over the supposed “gentlemen’s agreement” to share the leadership between Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.

There was little debate about the great regional challenges that actually face and defined Forum’s leadership.

Once upon a time, the stopping of French nuclear tests in the Pacific, was such an issue that united all Pacific countries.

Economic integration in the Pacific via the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Pacific Agreement of Closer Economic Relations (PACER) then took center stage.  But this issue has dwindled away as fairly empty agreements led by Australia and NZ were signed by all the countries, except the two largest (PNG and Fiji) who really needed to be part of the agreement to make it meaningful.

But to any knowledgeable international observer, there are three shocking omissions from the dialogue that need explanation: the genocide of West Papuan people, the suppression of the Kanak call for Independence in New Caledonia and the abject failure of Pacific peoples to identify with the plaintive pleas by the First People of Australia for full recognition.

One common threat in all these three issues is that the people suffering are all Melanesian people.

The second common thread is that the oppressors of these people are major donors with Forum Secretariat and some Pacific countries: France, Australia and Indonesia.

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