Mar 07, 2021 Last Updated 9:29 AM, Mar 6, 2021

And now there are 18

New Caledonia and French Polynesia join forum

BURIED in the communiqué of the 47th Pacific Islands Forum, at item 30, is a single sentence: “Leaders accepted French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full members of the Pacific Islands Forum.” It’s a momentous change. Since its founding in 1971, the Forum has been an organisation of independent and sovereign nations. But during their annual retreat last month, Forum leaders decided to welcome two non-selfgoverning territories, still colonised by France, as full members.

There were 16 members in the regional organisation at the start of the Forum in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. Now there are 18. But this fundamental decision was made with limited ceremony.

The consensus of Forum leaders was forged despite calls by leading Kanak and Maohi independence activists to defer any decision. The lack of any explanation or declaration in the Forum communiqué reflects ongoing concerns amongst some member states, worried about unforeseen consequences and other territories that might seek membership.

After the announcement, Philippe Germain, President of the Government of New Caledonia, told Islands Business: “It’s really a great thing for New Caledonia, for it will certainly allow us to participate in discussions about the management of our region in all sectors:not only the environmental questions that are worrying the whole world, but also issues of economy, health, education and governance.”

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Hollow words

Does Obama mean what he says

DESPITE his recent call for a world without nuclear weapons, the United States under President Barack Obama is about to embark on a trillion-dollar modernisation programme. This will ensure that the US will be nuclear armed for decades to come. And in the Northern Marianas, the US is about to build a massive military training complex on a tiny atoll from which it launched the aircraft which caused 144,000 casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Obama administration is reportedly developing new nuclear missiles with smaller yields and better targeting – “more usable” nuclear weapons – and has boycotted all attempts to negotiate a global prohibition of nuclear weapons. Global research shows that the United States and Russia maintain roughly 1800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.

In total, nine countries together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. And it was against this backdrop that Obama last month visited Hiroshima – the first US President in history to do so – and called for a world free of the weapons which wreaked havoc on the city and ended effectively World War II. Anyone who has visited Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and its museum will be struck by the devastation caused by the bomb carried from Tininan Atoll aboard the B-29 Superfortress Bomber, Enola Gay, 71 years ago.

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Battle for justice

Churches call for fair settlement

AT the heart of the cry for justice in the Pacific is the damage to property and life caused by the region’s former and current colonial powers. The church has historically been part of the fight for justice, addressing the issue at an international level. Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, speaks to Islands Business about the struggle.

IN 1974 the Pacific Conference of Churches’ and its partners began efforts to bring justice to a region affected by nuclear testing. Seven years earlier, the Young Women’s Christian Association and the Students Christian Movement in Suva, Fiji’s capital, convened a meeting on nuclear testing on Mururoa.

Two years later a large march took place in Suva against nuclear testing and after a further five years the PCC Executive Committee passed resolutions in opposition to tests in the region. Among those in Fiji who stood against nuclear testing at the time were so-called radicals like Amelia Rokotuivuna, Vijay Naidu and Suliana Siwatibau. Later they would become recognised leaders in political studies, governance and social justice. But it was the fight against the injustice of nuclear testing which was their proving ground. But close to 70 years since the United States’ first Pacific nuclear test on Bikini in 1946, church members have been forced to live with the legacy of this menace.

In those 70 years the world’s superpowers – the US, Great Britain and France – have conducted tests with blatant disregard for human life and the environment. This unwanted activity has maimed Battle for justice Churches call for fair settlement The Region generations of Pacific people and hundreds of European servicemen and their families.

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Blast from the past

70 YEARS ON Fallout of America’s bomb in the Pacific remains

WHEN Barrack Obama stood in the centre of Hiroshima, Japan, in May, the moment was hailed as a moment in history.

The global media extolled the event as recognition of how never again must the world reach a situation when mass destruction is brought to bear on the citizens of this planet. Commentators spoke of the need for acceptance and the absence of an apology from Obama to the people of what is now one of the United States greatest allies.

The New York Times quoted Japanese college student Rio Monzen whose grandfather was a bomb survivor. “He always kept saying, ‘I hate that the United States has done such an awful thing,’ ” Monzen told the New York Times. Monzen was disappointed the president did not offer an apology for the bombing but that he was still grateful for the visit. “I hope that sometime in the future, they will start to realise that this was not the right thing,” he said.

While the world focussed on Hiroshima and the great injustice inflicted on the people of that city, less than 4000 kilometres away, the people of the tiny Pacific atoll of Bikini continue to seek justice.

This was Ground Zero for United States nuclear testing from 1946 to 1958. Records show that the US detonated 23 nuclear devices at seven sites located on the reef, inside the atoll, in the air, or underwater in those 12 years. They had a combined fission yield of 42.2 Mega-tonnes as part of Operation Crossroads. 

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The Region in BRIEF

Tuna Day

THE Parties to the Nauru Agreement and the Pacific Small Islands Developing States celebrated World Tuna day at the United Nations last month. It was the first time the event was celebrated at the UN since World Tuna Day was declared in 2011 by PNA ministers. PNA Commercial Manager, Maurice Brownjohn, said: “We are very pleased to see more and more organisations from industry, government, civil society and the UN celebrate World tuna day each year. “This special event at the UN is the nexus between sustainable development and the conservation and sustainable use of the tuna and other marine resources in it.”

Tourism Expo

THE Fijian Tourism Expo 2016 was held at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Denarau More than 550 people attended the opening of the expo which was attended by 149 international buyers from 19 countries, including Fiji, 112 exhibitors and sellers with 111 booths, 15 international media and 20 local media from 11 media outlets participating at the expo.

Vanuatu video

A DOCUMENTARY series has documented the life Vanuatu mountain people during the colonial era and after over 30 years of Independence. The Last New Hebrideans is a series of documentaries featuring the mountain people of South Espiritu Santo through the eyes of Charles Sumbe who is a presenter at a local FM station in Vanuatu. Through the PACMAS Innovation Fund, Slone Fred and Island Sun Pictures were able to film The Last New Hebrideans, a series of documentary with 10 episodes and a duration of 21 minutes each.

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