Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa sounded a warning to the heads of Pacific’s maritime forces to be mindful of the current geo-political interest and attention towards the blue Pacific region.
She made the remarks as she officially opened the 6th South-West Pacific Heads of Maritime Forces Meeting in Apia on Wednesday.
Samoa plays host to the conference this year and meeting proper starts today.
“Your meeting this week will provide a further opportunity to consider matters of common interests, and concerns to our blue Pacific region, and to strengthen relationships and partnerships, already forged amongst the maritime forces throughout the Pacific,” said PM Mata’afa.
“”In particular, it should provide a platform to discuss how COVID-19 has changed and how we can better inform effective joint responses to address the challenges that we face, as well as events and issues that test our regional security, peace, and stability.”
Mata’afa urged the participants to be mindful of the region’s current geo-political situation.
This, according to Mata’afa, is creating a “crowded and complex geo-political landscape” for the Pacific people and its regional architecture.
“It underlines the need for an integrated and comprehensive security architecture incorporating an expanded concept of security that is reflected in the Boe Declaration on Regional Security,” she said.
“A stable and resilient security environment provides the platform for achieving our region’s development aspirations, and partnerships are very important in this regard.
“There is a clear need to leverage our strong relations with our global partners to build back better post-COVID-19 and to address the challenges of climate change and regional security.
“Samoa shares very close relations and cultural ties with all Pacific Island countries as our region becomes an increasingly contested space. There is a greater reason that our national and regional stability are key in our joint efforts to maintain peace and security, prosperity and well-being for all our Pacific people.
“We have not been alone in our efforts in this regard, and I wish to acknowledge the generous support and generosity of our partners to strengthen the capabilities of our countries including support for enhanced maritime surveillance needs and enforcement operations to defend against regional maritime security threats such as illegal fishing and transnational crimes.
Guided by the theme, ‘Our Blue Pacific Partnership, and Coordination of Resources Post-COVID’, Prime Minister Mata’afa articulated how honoured and priviledged the host nation was to have all the Heads of Maritime Forces from across the Pacific in Samoa for such an important meeting.
The South West Pacific Heads of Maritime Forces meeting was first held in 2017.
The idea was mooted by then New Zealand Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral John Martin who retired in 2018. At the inaugural meeting in Auckland between New Zealand and its Pacific defence forces, safety in the region was on the agenda. The meeting was held in the spirit of friendship and kinship and Rear Admiral (retired) Martin said the purpose of a collaboration was to acknowledge all countries share the responsibility for maritime security in the Pacific.