While PNG promotes APEC big money, youth are building grassroots resilience

The countdown to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea is well underway. As the PNG government finalises preparations for this high-level meeting next month, instability is growing from pressing development issues. But, reports Pauline Mago-King of Asia Pacific Journalism,  some of the youth are committed to strengthening their country’s resilience.

The reoccurring theme in bridging various social gaps remains to be sensitisation for young people.

For Papua New Guinea, issues ranging from gender relations to health have worsened over the years, making them a norm for the people.

While the PNG government buckles down for the APEC summit, polio has emerged, tuberculosis persists due to multidrug resistance, and violations of human rights are ever-present as in cases like that of the Paga Hill villagers struggle.

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Papus New Guinea’s progress may seem obscure. However, this should not overshadow the mobilisation of young Papua New Guineans at the community level.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), around 60 percent of young people under 25 account for PNG’s population 8.5 million.

The disproportionate percentage of young Papua New Guineans calls for more engaging avenues that will translate into overall development at community levels.

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Executive director of UNFPA Dr Natalia Kanem says the investment in young people’s capabilities, as well as creating opportunities for them, will build peaceful, cohesive and resilient societies.

Cultural settings
Equally important, these opportunities require sustainability so that they are also contextually relevant to PNG’s diverse cultural settings.

As the PNG government focuses on “unlocking” its economic potential, the mobilisation of youth largely rests with non-governmental and faith-based organisations such as The Voice Inc., Equal Playing Field, Youth Against Corruption Association – to name a few.

Last month, PNG’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato told the United Nations General Assembly that the “government recognises the importance of putting in place the building blocks needed to enable inclusive and participatory development.”

He added that it was their priority to create employment opportunities that would match the needs of Papua New Guinean youth.

Concrete action in this area, however, remain bleak, particularly in light of 500 procured APEC-vehicles, outbreak of preventable diseases and drug shortages in hospitals around PNG.

As such, the work of various organisations to equip youth in shaping civic affairs is paramount.

Education at the grassroots level, along with platforms to communicate the acquired information, provide a bridging factor for youth to spread “sensitisation” during a time when governance is questionable.

Changing mindsets
This can be seen in movements such as the newly homegrown project SKILLZ PNG.

Last month, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) PNG in partnership with adolescent health organisation Grassroots Soccer, launched SKILLZ.

The project uses soccer as a vehicle for at-risk youth “to overcome their greatest health challenges… and be agents for change in their communities”.

The same way one manoeuvres a soccer ball, the same can be done in life when it comes to health and gender risks. Image: Pauline Mago-King/PMC

Grassroots Soccer Master trainer Nicole Banister says the project gives participants the platform to express themselves.

“It was incredible for me to see how some of the shyer participants really blossom throughout the training. They really found their voice in terms of facilitating, working with their peers, praise openly and build personal connections across organisations, different sexes, different ages and cultures – all of which are important to build a community in PNG.”

For a country like PNG, SKILLZ offers a continuum of care for youth to combat prevalent issues such as gender-based violence.

In addition, it provides a conducive environment for youth to develop a better understanding of PNG’s health system and their own health needs.

Training of coaches
Over a period of two weeks, 20 youth participants from varying backgrounds underwent SKILLZ PNG’s “training of coaches” workshop.

SKILLZ PNG participants during a session. Image: YWCA PNG

To an outsider, this workshop may seem just any other ordinary event.

It is, in fact, a necessary movement for young Papua New Guineans especially when high levels of violence can provide a sense of “disillusionment”,  as stated by The Voice Inc.’s chairperson, Serena Sumanop.

For Joshua Ganeki, a 27-year-old participant, SKILLZ PNG gave him a chance to do something purposeful.

Having graduated from Port Moresby Business College in 2014, he found it difficult to secure employment and thus resorted to doing odd jobs, and then eventually volunteering with YWCA.

His passion for helping young people led him to SKILLZ PNG and prompted a self-reflection on gender expectations.

Rights, responsibilities
“One thing I learnt is our society has gender expectations, especially for women and that is wrong. We need to break these norms and become equal team players and partners in life.

“SKILLZ PNG is trying to make us more aware of our rights, responsibilities as men and women.”

For others such as 21-year-old Kevlyne Yosia, the training strengthened her confidence in being an agent of change.

“Back in year 11, my class was having a discussion on politics and a male classmate told me that my place was in the kitchen so I have no place talking about such things. It made me feel bad because I knew other women are told the same thing.

“But it also made me stand my ground that I have a right to voice my opinion, and so do other women,” said Yosia.

She added that the training enabled herself and others to realise that support and appreciation for genders is essential in fostering healthy relationships.

Development goals
While projects such as SKILLZ PNG are vital, so are their alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

For YWCA PNG, its work with Grassroots Soccer has empowered more youth to be SDG champions in a political climate that is self-serving.

SKILLZ PNG’s coverage of goals such as “good health and wellbeing”, “gender equality” and “partnership for goals” means that more young people will feel empowered and equipped to participate in civic engagements.

Although this project has seen only one group graduate onto becoming coaches in their communities, Grassroots Soccer master trainer Alex Bozwa said: “I’m incredibly optimistic for the work that these people will be doing with other young people.”

SKILLZ PNG is currently limited to the capital of Port Moresby but it is a positive step towards leveraging Grassroots Soccer’s large success in the African continent, so that youth on a national level can also participate.

In the meantime, hope remains in young people like Kevlyne Yosia.

“I want to see a better PNG, where I can feel safe as a woman.”

Pauline Mago-King is a masters student based at Auckland University of Technology and is researching gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. She compiled this report for the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies course.

Twitter: @iamatalau04

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40 luxury Maseratis for PNG, but little effort put into climate change

Papua New Guinea has shown unwavering commitment to next month’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit with its controversial purchase of 40 Maserati luxury sedans. While preparations for APEC take priority, climate change plans are in crisis, reports Pauline Mago-King of Asia-Pacific Journalism.

Early in March, Papua New Guinea began its chairmanship of next month’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit by receiving many senior officials for the opening set of planning meetings.

The lead-up to the APEC summit, expected to become a key opportunity for PNG to unlock its economic potential, has been inundated with talks on trade and investment.

As the smallest and poorest member of APEC, Papua New Guinea has framed its chairmanship as an opportunity to cash in on the digital revolution and its benefits in connectivity and employment.

READ MORE: PNG government faces mounting pressure over Maserati splurge

The chair of APEC Senior Officials, Ambassador Ivan Pomaleu, underlined PNG’s participation in APEC as “leverage” to maintain its domestic policies according to the group.

“The work that has come out of APEC has allowed investors to come on shore and be part of our business community. You really need to think in terms of what sort of structural reform and ease of business activities we’ve been doing and that have made it possible for new investments in PNG. Those are pegged on important APEC principles.” Pomaleu told APEC Bulletin.

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He added that conversations surrounding connectivity, particularly in sustainable development and climate change, were important to PNG.

A month before the summit, however, this agenda has seemingly been neglected with the import of 40 Maserati Quattroporte luxury sedans to be used by APEC leaders.

One of the controversial Maserati cars that have arrived in Papua New Guinea for APEC 2018. The market value is about re[orted;y about K229,000 (NZ$110,000) each. Image: EMTV NewsCondemned purchase
The revelation of the PNG government’s purchase of these vehicles, which range in cost between $209,000 and $345,000 in Australia, has been widely condemned as an example of poor governance at a time when the country faces pressing health, education, law and order, and environmental issues.

While PNG’s APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko has told media that the costs of the Maseratis will be recovered via prospective buyers, this remains to be seen.

A common sight of Papua New Guinean villagers travelling by canoe. Image: Sally Wilson/Pixabay Creative Commons (CC)

While the minister has not disclosed the initial costs of both the fleet and cars, PNG has unveiled plans underway to build a 400 million kina (NZ$180 million) coal-powered plant – a far cry from its attentiveness to sustainable development.

According to the Post-Courier, a memorandum of agreement has been reached “to build a coal-fired power plant in Lae”, Morobe province.

Although this agreement is a step towards meeting the energy needs of Lae consumers, it takes PNG two steps back in its commitment to mitigating climate change.

PNG’s gravitation towards cheap, non-renewable energy such as coal signals a complete disregard of its pledge to the Paris Climate Agreement.

PNG is already experiencing the effects of climate change which can be seen in the need to relocate Carteret Islanders and the dwindling access to clean drinking water, to name a few issues.

Defiant action
Despite these effects and coal being a key driver of climate change, Energy Minister Sam Basil is defiantly going ahead with building the electricity plant.

According to The National, Basil said that PNG had “been denied that right (to burn coal) for a very long time”.

He added that “big nations are not reducing [coal emission]”, thus PNG needs a quota for burning coal to provide cheaper electricity which would subsequently lead to more jobs.

Chris Lahberger from the anti-coal group, Nogat Coal PNG, told Radio NZ that this move was uneconomical despite the developer Mayur Resources’ claims of increased employment and investment in a sustainable research institute.

Although PNG is not the only developing country to have resorted to coal as a source of low-cost electricity, it does have a responsibility to its people considering the Climate Investment Fund’s investment of $25 million.

As reported by Devex, this funding is the largest with a focus on delivering “transformational change in addressing the current and future threats from climate change and related hazards in” PNG.

A snapshot of the Climate Investment Fund’s assistance to PNG indicates a key focus on building resilience in the agriculture sector along with the mitigation of climate extremes.

Climate accountability
Consequently, this begs the question of accountability in climate change aid as plans like the Mayur Resources’ coal-fired power plant are counteractive.

There is a pattern of financial aid being confined to large institutions and governments while communities suffer, as noted by Caritas New Zealand director Julianne Hickey.

“We’ve heard time and time again from the Solomon Islands through to Tonga, to Papua New Guinea, that it is not reaching those who need it most and those who’ve done the least to cause the issues of climate change,” Hickey told Radio NZ.

Apart from PNG’s plan to burn coal for electricity, it has an alarming rate of illegal logging which has adverse effects for its indigenous communities.

According to Global Witness, “tens of thousands of Papua New Guinean people are having their land stolen by their own government”.

PNG’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, however, refuted this claim in an interview with Radio NZ.

He emphasised that the PNG government has taken appropriate measures with regard to the illegal logging and that a policy is underway via the Minister for Forests.

Summit talking point
Looking at climate change efforts as a whole, the minister added that it is a talking point for the APEC summit.

“It’s one of the key issues there, and what we’re doing and how the world can connect. That’s why we’ve asked the rest of the Pacific Island countries, their leaders to come so that each of them can tell their story in their own way to the leaders of the world… because the impacts of climate change are unique to each country. It’s not the one and the same.”

Talking point or not, PNG’s implementation efforts are lacking and greater accountability is required of the government.

If PNG’s absence from the High Ambition Coalition is anything to go by, it indicates poor governance to the Papua New Guineans feeling the impact of climate change.

With Fiji and the Marshall Islands leading the way in climate change efforts, PNG’s status as “big brother” not only wanes but projects corruption at its very core.

Pauline Mago-King is a masters student based at Auckland University of Technology and is researching gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. She compiled this report for the Pacific Media Centre’s Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies course.

Twitter: @iamatalau04

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Tukuitonga goes into battle on behalf of Pacific for WHO position

Dr Colin Tukuitonga, a New Zealander of Niuean descent and proposed by New Zealand, was given resounding support for his nomination from Pacific countries. Image: AUT

By Sri Krishnamurthi

Health challenges in the Pacific Islands require acute and immediate attention from the World Health Organisation, says Dr Colin Tukuitonga, a New Zealander of Niuean descent whose nomination was proposed by New Zealand.

Dr Tukuitonga goes into battle this week for the position of WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, in a struggle which takes place on October 8-13 in Manila, Philippines.

He is up against three others – Dr Narimah Awin, proposed by Malaysia; Dr Takeshi Kasai, proposed by Japan; Dr Susan Mercado, proposed by the Philippines – at the nomination which will take place during the 69th session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.

READ MORE: Background on the WHO issue

“I know what needs to be done,” he says emphatically.

“Without a doubt it is our turn, not just for climate change but other health challenges such as Non-communicable diseases (NCD) (diabetes and heart disease) child health, polio in Papua New Guinea, and the list goes on.”

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He says it is a position that needs fresh thinking and new leadership in keeping with good governance rather than being bogged in the mire of bureaucracy.

Already Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea have publicly indicated they will vote for Japan.

‘More of the same’
“Voting for Japan is a vote for more of the same. The candidate is a long-term staff member of WHO,” says Dr Tukuitonga.

“WHO Western Pacific Region (WPRO) needs change and transformation, lift impact, get value for money, improve transparency and accountability. The region needs diversity in leadership.”

Dr Tukuitonga is guarded against talk of the money-game buying votes in the process.

“Only in so far as offers made by Japan to small islands, such as a new airport extension in Solomon Islands,” he says, and quickly adds “New Zealand is meeting most of the costs of my campaign”.

His expectation is that all the Pacific Island countries will back him – at least when it comes to voting from the second round onwards. However, he expects that he has done all the work he could to convince countries to vote for him.

“It is hard to say which way countries will vote, but all Polynesia, plus Micronesia, plus Nauru and New Zealand, Australia, France and the United Kingdom have indicated support for me,” he says.

“Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji have signalled support for Japan.
Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have made public statements supporting Japan.
We are told Vanuatu and Fiji also (supporting Japan), but it is not public.”

Nomination backed
It was only last year that the Pacific Island countries backed his nomination for the regional director’s position, and he is left wondering what the difference is now.

“They (Pacific Island Countries) approached me to stand back in October 2017. We can’t win without remaining united, where is the regionalism? Where’s the Pacific way?” he asks.

And Dr Tukuitonga answers the question himself.

“I suppose it’s an issue for Pacific leaders.

“Do we believe in our ability to influence global and regional affairs? Do we have the skills and talent as a region, rather than being viewed as passive, poor and dependent? Can we truly harness our collective power?

“Solomons benefited from RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands), and now this! Where’s the solidarity? Is there a future for regionalism? Is regionalism a fact or a fallacy?” he asks.

In the meantime, Dr Tukuitonga must gird his loins for battle and at stake is the championing of the Western Pacific region.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He is attached to the University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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Memo NZ: ‘Get on the right side of history’ over West Papua

Vanuatu says New Zealand should get on the right side of history and support West Papuan self-determination. However, reports James Halpin of Asia Pacific Journalism, Indonesian diplomacy with its Pacific allies Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are defiantly undermining Pacific “solidarity” on the issue.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu has called on New Zealand to get on the right side of history when it comes to West Papua.

Reaffirming President Salwai’s remarks at the UN General Assembly late last month, Regenvanu told Asia Pacific Report that the “people of Vanuatu have never had the opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination, which is an unalienable right under international law, and they must be given that opportunity”.

Vanuatu was one of three countriesfour less than in 2016 – whose leaders gave UN strong messages in support of West Papuan self-determination.

READ MORE: Background to the 1969 Act of Free Choice

ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNALISM STUDIES – APJS NEWSFILE

Independence for Vanuatu was achieved from the co-colonisers France and the United Kingdom in 1980.

West Papua had been a colony of the Dutch New Guinea but was annexed by Indonesia after a paratrooper “invasion” in 1962 followed by a UN-supervised vote in 1969 described by critics as fraudulent.

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Asked why Vanuatu has taken the lead in advocating for West Papua, Regenvanu says:

“We take this position because of our historical solidarity with the people of West Papua – we were once together and the struggles as colonies trying to become independent; we achieved ours and we will not forget our brothers-and-sisters-in-arms who have not got theirs.”

Forum failure
For President Salwai and Regenvanu, the recent Pacific Islands Forum was a failure at gaining Pacific support for West Papuan self-determination.

“We are disappointed at the position of Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia to vocally oppose self-determination for West Papua. We are pleased that most other countries support self-determination, however.”

Regenvanu also criticises New Zealand for not following the advice that it gives to Pacific Island countries.

New Zealand should, “actively support with actions on this issue the ‘international rules-based order’ it is always promoting to PICs”.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group, which shares an ethnicity with the people of West Papua, has also failed at achieving solidarity over the issue.

“PNG and Fiji have strong ties to Indonesia and work actively to ensure the MSG does not address the issue.”

End colonialism call
President  Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas introduced the issue of West Papua to the UN General Assembly this year.


President  Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas addressing the UN General Assembly about West Papua. Video: UN

“For half a century now, the international community has been witnessing a gamut of torture, murder, exploitation, sexual violence, arbitrary detention inflicted on the nationals of West Papua perpetrated by Indonesia.”

“We also call on our counterparts throughout the world to support the legal right of West Papua to self-determination.”

For President Salwai, it is an issue of justice and equality for the people of West Papua,

“I would like to get back to the principles in the charter of the United Nations to reaffirm that we believe in the fundamental rights of human beings in dignity and worth of the human person and in equality of rights between men and women and nations large and small.”

President Salwai has been the flag bearer of West Papuan self-determination. His aim is for West Papua to be placed back onto the decolonisation list under the UN charter.

However, President Salwai was supported by two other Pacific leaders, Marshall Islands’ President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, and Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu.

Sopoaga said: “The United Nations must also engage with the people of West Papua to find lasting solutions to their struggles.”

Constructive engagement
President Heine staid that Pacific Island countries supported constructive engagement on the issue.

At the 2016 UN General Assembly, seven countries stated their supported for West Papuan self-determination. These were: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Palau.

Decolonisation has become an important part of foreign relations in the Pacific with the New Caledonian independence vote on November 4.

After hundreds of years of European colonisation, the UN has provided a platform for and facilitated the self-determination of indigenous peoples across the world.

The Indonesian delegation denounced Vanuatu at the UN General Assembly just days ago. The Indonesia delegation used the entirety of their second right of reply in the general debate to deplore Vanuatu’s support for West Papuan self-determination.

“Although being disguised with flowery human rights concern, Vanuatu’s sole intention and action are directly challenging the internationally agreed principles of friendly relations between state, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” UN General Assembly Vice-President Muhammad Kalla said on behalf of his country.


UN General Assembly Vice-President Muhammad Kalla giving his speech. Video: UN

He said: “Like any other country, Indonesia will firmly defend its territorial integrity.”

The Indonesian representative, Aloysius Taborat, said: “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the cardinal rule in the relation among nations and in the United Nations”.

However, critics say Indonesia’s handling of West Papua’s vote in the 1969Act of Free Choice “was rigged” so that West Papua would vote to join Indonesia. Therefore, many see hypocrisy in Indonesia’s words, including in their reputation over press freedom.

Human rights abuses are a common occurrence in West Papua, according to human rights organisations. Simply raising the West Papuan flag can result in 15-years imprisonment.

James Halpin is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies course at AUT. He is filing articles in the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper.

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Climate change advocacy calls for more ‘action’ response to Ardern’s UN plea

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently addressed the UN General Assembly about the reality of climate change in the Pacific, and the threat inaction holds for the island nations. Maxine Jacobs reports for Asia Pacific Journalism that while climate and energy commentators welcome her leadership, they call for an even stronger “action” approach.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s challenge to United Nations members last month to reflect on the impact climate change is having on the Pacific has been welcomed by social justice advocates.

But they would like to see the rhetoric matched by even stronger action to give the world its “best shot”.

The Prime Minister spoke of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands as the Pacific’s most at risk nations which have contributed least to global emissions but are facing the full force of their consequences.

ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNALISM STUDIES – APJS NEWSFILE

“Our actions in the wake of this global challenge remains optional, But the impact of inaction does not,” she told the UN.

“If my Pacific neighbours do not have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?”

Ardern said that in the South Pacific there was a reality of rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather events and negative impacts on water supply and agriculture.

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“For those who live in the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic, or even arguable.

‘Grinding reality’
“We can talk all we like about the science and what it means … but there is a grinding reality in hearing someone from a Pacific island talk about where the sea was when they were a child, and potential loss of their entire village as an adult.”


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s speech at the United Nations. Video: UN

Although New Zealand represents less than 0.2 percent of global emissions, the Prime Minister then vowed to “play our part” in continuing to decrease in emissions and support the global climate change battle.

Goals have been set of:

• 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2035;
• zero emissions by 2050;
• a halt on offshore oil and gas exploration permits;
• a green infrastructure fund to encourage innovation, and
• a 10-year plan to plan one billion trees.

“These plans are unashamedly ambitious [but] the threat climate change poses demands it.”

Real commitment
A few days before her address to the UN in New York, the Prime Minister announced a $100 million increase to its global climate finance – an increase from $200 million, which will be spread in $25 million blocks over four years.

The Prime Minister said the additional funding would focus on practical action, helping Pacific states to build resilience and adapt to climate change.

“The focus of this financial support is on creating new areas of growth and opportunity for Pacific communities. We want to support our Pacific neighbours to make transition to a low carbon economy without hurting their existing economic base.”

The Prime Minister said she planned to bring greater attention to the impact of climate change alongside Pacific leaders and ensure global awareness of the cost of inaction.

“We recognise our neighbours in the Pacific region are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“We have a responsibility to care for the environment in which we live, but the challenge of climate change requires us to look beyond our domestic boarders.”

Communications accounts manager for the Ministry for the Environment, Karen Goldsworthy, says two thirds of the global climate funding would be going towards Pacific nations to help adapt to their warming climate.

“We recognise that New Zealand alone cannot fix the challenge climate change poses to our region: it is a global problem that requires a global solution.

“New Zealand will continue to work actively to contribute to an effective global response to climate change through which Pacific resilience improves … and lose work more widely to encourage ambition through our leadership.”

A global model
Renewable energy and climate change consultant Dr Bob Lloyd, a former director of energy studies at Otago University, says New Zealand’s commitment to climate change is a show of leadership to the rest of the world of what is achievable.

Lloyd called New Zealand a small-scale model of what can be achieved on a global scale, however this issue is one which cannot be resolved by one small nation.

“It’s up to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Europe and unfortunately the US to bring their emissions down.

“The big dilemma at the moment is that a lot of the poor countries want to increase their emissions and they’re not going to consider bringing their emissions down unless the big countries bring their emissions down first.

“The other onus is on the rich countries to actually help the poor countries come down, which means they need to transfer money to them to achieve their goals.”

Lloyd said the extra $100 million from New Zealand towards the global climate change fund was a good effort but would not have a huge impact. To achieve emissions reductions, developing countries would need trillions of dollars.

“The amounts of money which are needed just for the Pacific region – which are tiny compared to the rest of the world – are enormous,” he said.

Putting over ideas
Although Lloyd, a self-proclaimed pessimist, thinks the world would not be able to outrun climate change he does not want to stop people from giving it their “best shot”.

“Without some countries trying, then the poorer countries and other countries will give up completely, so I think it’s extremely good that Jacinda is putting these ideas over and they’re trying to help as much as possible.

“She’s doing a remarkable effort. It’s also enthusing government. I was pleasantly surprised at how much influence Jacinda and the Labour Party is having on both New Zealand and internationally.”

Dr Kevin Clements, the foundation professor of Otago University’s National Centre for Peace  and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) and current director of the Japan-based Toda Peace Institute, says the Prime Minister’s plea for climate change awareness has powerful emotional and normative appeal, but at the end of the day it is a numbers game.

“Every little bit helps. New Zealand’s voice on its own isn’t going to change Donald Trump or the behaviours of the major US multinational companies, but on the other hand it’s all part of creating a normative order which acknowledges the centrality of climate change and what it’s doing to us.”

Dr Clements says the Pacific is feeling the brunt of global emissions and has little capacity to do anything about it. However, the moral weight of New Zealand and the South Pacific can help larger nations become more proactive.

The Prime Minister advocating for climate change issues humanises her, says Dr Clements, but she needs to be stronger to be seen as a serious political leader on these issues.

“She really needs to make sure she’s coupling her soft power appeal and her own personal charisma with some hard-headed arguments and evidence based research so she is seen both as a wonderful human being but equally as a hard-headed negotiator on the issues that matter.”

Maxine Jacobs is a postgraduate student journalist on the Asia Pacific Journalism Studies course at AUT University.

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Listen to Pacific ‘voices’ or climate will spark conflict, say advocates

Policy makers, academics and NGO representatives discussed the urgent issue of climate change in the Pacific, where many communities have been forced to relocate. However, Michael Andrew of Asia Pacific Report, found that participants in last weekend’s workshop believe the Pacific voices of those most affected must be heard if conflict is to be avoided.

The gap between policy and people was a key topic at the last week’s Climate Change and Conflict in the Pacific workshop when experts from Western and Pacific countries gathered to share stories and studies.

The Auckland event – hosted by the Toda Peace Institute and the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) at the University of Otago – sought to bridge the gap by connecting Western, scientific policies with the deeply spiritual customs and beliefs of Pacific life.

Workshop facilitator and Toda director Professor Kevin Clements, who is also founding director of NCPACS, says it is an opportunity to understand Pacific perspectives and respond creatively to an existential threat.

READ MORE: The climate change workshop and policy papers

ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNALISM STUDIES – APJS NEWSFILE

“We in New Zealand and Australia have a deep responsibility to listen,” he says.

“If we don’t understand the Pacific way of thinking, we will begin to undermine relationships in unanticipated, unconscious ways.”

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Relationships were a major theme throughout the workshop, with many participants affirming the unique relationship Pacific people have with their land.

Vanua philosophy
Fijian teacher Rosiana Kushila Lagi says the traditional Fiji philosophy of Vanua reflects the absolute interconnectedness between people, land and sea.

Working in Tuvalu, Lagi is engaging communities to use the principals of Vanua to mitigate the destruction caused by climate change. The behaviour of animals, plants and the weather are all useful indicators of environmental change and can be used to prepare for extreme events.

However, she says many communities are losing this traditional knowledge when they are physically separated from the land, something that also contributes to a loss of identity.

Participants of the Climate Change and Conflict in the Pacific workshop in Auckland last weekend. Image: Lynley Brown

Tuvaluan minister Tafue Lusama shared a similar perspective, stressing the importance of traditional knowledge in the Tuvalu way of life.

“Indigenous knowledge is the way we focus our relationship to everything, to the land, to the sea, to each other and to all living things,” he says.

“It is our way to communicate with the clouds, birds, plants, animals; this includes communicating with the spirits of our ancestors.”

With an average height of 2m above sea level, Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to the affects of climate change. Rising sea levels not only threaten property but also food and water sources.

Storm surges
Storm surges can sweep inland, flooding deep-rooted crops like taro and coconut and contaminating fresh water reservoirs.

Yet for many communities who have already relocated, the struggles of adjusting to a new home can be just as harsh.

Discussed at the workshop were the people from the diminishing Carteret Islands, who in recent years have been relocated to land donated by the Catholic Church on mainland Bougainville.

Managed by grassroots organisation Tulele Peisa, the initiative sees every family given a hectare of land on which they can live and grow crops for trade and sustenance.

While the relocation project has been considered successful, there are concerns for the Cataract Islanders living in a region recovering from a bloody civil war over the Panguna copper mine. Even today, violence is widespread.

According to Volker Boege, a peace and conflict academic who has worked extensively in the region, there have been reports of attacks on the Carteret Islanders and their property.

He says this has a lot to do with tribal competition over limited land, much of which is customary.

Establishing relationships
“Before the relocation, Tulele Peisa put in a lot of work establishing relationships with the Bougainville community and engaging in discussions with the chiefs. Nevertheless, land is scarce,” Boege says.

“The policies don’t take into account the complexities between the indigenous people and the fighting that can occur between tribes when relocated.”

Despite predictions that the Carteret Islands will be completely underwater by 2040, he says some of the people are choosing to return home from Bougainville.

For these people giving up home, identity and starting a new life in a foreign land is simply too much to ask.

While other Pacific communities are on the list for relocation, there was a commitment among the workshop participants to factor in the values, customs and wishes of both the relocating and the receiving communities into any polices moving forward.

Future collaboration between the many organisations present would also allow an inclusive, dynamic approach where information could be easily shared from the top down and vice versa, connecting the grassroots to the researchers and policy makers.

Ideal outcome
For Paulo Baleinakorodawa, this was an ideal outcome of the workshop. As operations manager of Fiji-based NGO Transcend Oceania, he has worked extensively with relocated and relocating communities, resolving conflict and trying to make the process as peaceful as possible.

However, he says that plans for cross-organisation collaboration have stalled prior to the workshop.

“I was hoping that coming in here I would find an opportunity to actually push that into more actions,” he says.

“It’s been wonderful because there has been a lot of information, a lot of networking and commitment from people that are actually doing something about climate change.”

“And so now Toda, Transcend Oceania, the Pacific Conference of Churches, and the Pacific Centre for Peace Building are going to be partnering together to continue that project.”

While climate change and its affects will only continue to worsen, the workshop was an encouraging show of unity and compassion that will be needed if further suffering in Pacific is to be prevented.

Most importantly, it opened an essential conversation in which the many different voices could be heard.

“This is only the beginning of that conversation,” says Baleinakorodawa.

Michael Andrew is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Professor Kevin Clements facilitating the Climate Change and Conflict in the Pacific workshop. Image: Michael Andrew/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Rights violations, censorship threatens EU-Vietnam deal, says watchdog

Vietnam’s human rights record could jeopardise an upcoming free trade deal with the European Union, according to Human Rights Watch. Asia-Pacific Journalism’s Jessica Marshall reports.

A global human rights watchdog claims that Vietnam’s human rights record could jeopardise a free trade deal with the European Union.

A warning letter by Human Rights Watch, dated September 17, sent by 32 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) was addressed to the EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström.

It called for a “push for robust progress in Vietnam’s human rights record ahead of the possible ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA)”.

“. . . loose provisions on national security have been widely used to suppress peaceful dissent and jail scores of human rights defenders. . .,” the letter said.

READ MORE: Vietnam censorship extends to popular, official news website

ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNALISM STUDIES APJS NEWSFILE

The letter claimed that there was a need for a series of targets that the country should meet before the agreement was handed over to the European Parliament for its approval.

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The ratification of the EVFTA agreement is slated to happen at the end of this year and would rid the country of at least 99 percent of customs duties paid on exports into Europe.

Censorship has lately become a growing concern.

Censoring reality
The words Bachelor: Vietnam contestant Minh Thu uttered to Bachelor Quoc Trung on the episode which aired on September 21 said: “I went into this competition to find love, and I’ve found that love for myself, but it isn’t with you. It’s with someone else”.

While participating in the competition over time, Thu had fallen in love with another woman, fellow contestant Truc Nhu, and they left the programme together.

“In Vietnamese pop culture, there’s a lot of people that are rumoured to be LGBT or people that hint at it. . . So to see a moment that’s unequivocal, where someone is saying that they love someone else . . . I think it’s going to be very powerful to young people,” says the shows story producer Anh-Thu Nguyen.

At this point in the history of Vietnam, few are willing to come out of the proverbial closet – in more ways than one.

Despite this, censors allowed the confession to air almost completely, a move surprising many viewers and commentators.

Vietnam, a Communist country since 1976, has seen much censorship over the years and its culture, it appears, has been no different.

Bachelor: Vietnam, currently in its first season, has faced issues of potential censorship since its inception. According to the show’s executive producer, Anh Tran, it was difficult to sell to networks.

Many of the traditional parts of the United States’ version of the show had to be edited or cut out entirely to avoid censure from censors.

The rose ceremony, for example, has to be carefully edited to avoid showing a line-up of women vying for a man – the main plot point for the show.

Mai Khoi, the woman who has been dubbed as Vietnam’s own Lady Gaga or Pussy Riot and who recorded the controversial number Dissent, was detained and “interrogated for eight hours”. Image: Hanoi Grapevine

Censorship of culture
Vietnam is ruled by the Communist Party, and censorship is seemingly common in the cultural realm as singer Mai Khoi could attest.

In March, the woman who has been dubbed as the country’s own Lady Gaga or Pussy Riot, was detained at the airport, and “interrogated for eight hours”.

Copies of her latest album, Dissent, were confiscated, she claimed in a Facebook post.
She has written songs about the women’s movement and LGBT rights. She also ran – unsuccessfully – for public office in the country. She now performs in secret in her own country.

The country has been a Communist nation since the 1960s, and censorship has long been a part of that.

Last month, Reuters reported that a court had jailed an activist for 12 years in prison and a further five years’ house arrest.

Nguyen Trung Truc, 44, was – according to a statement given by police – among a group called “Brotherhood for Democracy” in 2013. The group, police said, conducted “anti-government activities” with the aim of creating a system of “multi-party democracy” in Vietnam.

‘Hurt the prestige’
A second man, Bui Manh Dong, 40, was convicted over his comments on September 28.
Police said that Dong had “hurt the prestige and leading role of the [Communist] party and the state”.

Dong, and one other man, Doan Knanh Vinh Quang, were accused of encouraging people to protest against government policies or write posts that were critical of the government.

Vietnam has a high level of social media use among its citizens yet the country’s Communist government has introduced a new law which, according to Amnesty International, would force tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook to hand over data from their users.

“This decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression in Viet Nam,” said Clare Algar, international director of global operations for Amnesty International, in June.

“With the sweeping powers it grants the government to monitor online activity, this. . . means there is now no safe place left. . . for people to speak freely”.

Last year, it was reported that the country had built up a force of “cyber-troops” to tackle what they call “wrongful views”.

Jessica Marshall is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies course at AUT. She is filing articles in the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

China isn’t the real threat to liberal democracy – ‘we are’, say academics

Analysing China … Dr Stephen Noakes (from left), Dr David Williams (host), Professor David Matas and Barry Wilson talking to the audience at the University of Auckland last week. Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

The Chinese government is accused of illegally harvesting the organs of Falun Gong members. However, a leading academic says that China isn’t the real threat – Western countries are themselves, reports Rahul Bhattarai of Asia Pacific Journalism.

Leading academics warn that the “problem” with China is not the Chinese Communist Party but that Western self-censorship is “killing” its liberal democracy.

“China is not the real threat there, we are, we are the biggest threat to liberal democracy in New Zealand,” says Dr Stephen Noakes, senior lecturer in politics and international relations and Asian studies at the University of Auckland.

“Every time we self-censor, when we choose not to speak out, when we chose to keep quiet for fear of not getting a visa, or not getting a trade deal … But since we, through our obsequiousness towards China are a potential threat, we can also be the cure,” he told a  public seminar last week.

READ MORE: Why China fears the Falun Gong

ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNALISM STUDIES NEWSFILE

Lawyers and political scientists gathered at University of Auckland (UOA) last week to discuss the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies about fundamental human rights and freedoms, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Organ harvesting
China has been under fire globally for its alleged unauthorised organ transplants from members of the Falun Gong community.

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Though the initial position of the Chinese government was that all the organs were donated, “this was at a time when they [China] didn’t even have donation systems… and they did not have an organs distribution system,” said Professor David Matas, lawyer, author and professor of immigration and refugee law at the University of Manitoba.

While all organs were being found locally and the transplant volume was small, after the prosecution of Falun Gong began, the transplant volume “shot way up,” he said.

China became the leading producer of transplantation in the world, second only to the United States.

Research conducted in 2006 by Professor Matas and his colleagues concluded that “the organs were coming from the practitioners of Falun Gong”, he said.

As a result of his report, the Chinese government quickly shifted its stance and said that “everything that was coming from prisoners sentenced to death and then executed, before their execution they decided to donate their organ as an atonement for their crimes,” said Professor Matas.

Foreign lobbying
In New Zealand strong lobbying from the Chinese Embassy prevented an exhibition of the Chinese spiritual organisation  Falun Gong to be set up in Auckland City.

Lawyer Barry Wilson, president of Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, said he had spent an enormous amount of time at the Auckland City Council trying to persuade them to allow the Falun Gong stand and the demonstrations for the protection of Falun Gong to remain.

“We were up against very strong lobbying from a Chinese Consulate and the Chinese Embassy which did not want that exhibition there,” he said.

The Chinese constitution of 1982 contained the civil liberties that are observed in democratic countries – “freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom from arbitrary arrest,” he said.

When Xi Jinping became president, he also brought his “clearly expressed opposition for liberal values”.

“In his speeches he has spoken of the dangers of the liberal ideas like civil liberties, constitution rights, the dangers they pose for Communist Party rule,” he said.

In China, there is no separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature – “courts and judges are subject to political direction,” he said.

Ruling by law
“What China needs is lawyers as cogs in its economic development machine, but it needs lawyers to rule by law, not keep the rulers in check through the rule of law,” he said.

Wilson said: “They [Falun Gong] are always interesting… its organisation and its events well deserve support.”

China has also been using various means to infiltrate foreign countries to exercise its soft power on them – the Confucius Institute (CI) is one such organisation, says director Doris Lui in her documentary movie, In The Name of Confucius. 

The documentary claimed CI was an “infiltration organisation”.

The Chinese government founded the institute in 2004 to teach foreigners the language and culture of China.

The documentary has been a strong critic of the CCP over its alleged violations of human rights, particularly against the Falun Gong community.

In August, the free screening of the movie was set to air in University of Auckland, but the airing was withdrawn at the last minute.

The University of Auckland, University of Canterbury and University of Wellington in New Zealand have ties with CI.

The CI, which is controlled by the Office of Chinese Language Council Internationl (Hanban) prevents its teachers from teaching Cantonese or Hokkien.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Climate change and security big focus for Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru

Climate change is a major worry to the Pacific Islands and it was the major talking point at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) earlier this month. Barbara Dreaver of Television New Zealand, who was detained and questioned in Nauru, talks to Sri Krishnamurthi of Asia-Pacific Report.

Two significant events happened at the 49th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) earlier this month – climate change and ratification of the Boe agreement (a regional security pact that succeeded the 2000 Biketawa agreement), says Barbara Dreaver, a veteran journalist with 20 years’ experience covering the Pacific.

Dreaver made headlines herself by being detained and questioned for four hours after interviewing an asylum seeker from a detention centre on Nauru.

The centres were declared a forbidden area when Nauru approved journalists’ accreditation for the forum on September 3-6.

APJS NEWSFILE

READ MORE: Climate change, at the frontlines

Initially, Nauru revoked Dreaver’s accreditation but reinstated it, so she could cover the forum proper, and she did not allow it to detract from doing her job.

Climate change is a growing burden for the Pacific and was the key discussion point at the forum.

-Partners-

Central to this is the demand by the Pacific Island countries that the United States return to the Paris climate agreement of 2015.

In short, the Paris Agreement is an ambition to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C – and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C – as called for by the smaller island states at the forum.

Plea to the US
“Pacific leaders have also called on the US to return to the Paris agreement,” says Barbara Dreaver.

The call comes on the back of US President Donald Trump announcing his intention in June 2017 to withdraw. Under the agreement, the earliest possible withdrawal date for the US is November 2020, although moves have been afoot for the US administration to withdraw from the agreement.

Climate change has become such an important problem for Pacific Island nations that it had to take centre stage at the forum.

“Yes, this was the main thrust of the forum. The leaders have formally requested the United Nations appoint a special adviser on climate change and security and they have also called on the UN Security Council to appoint a special rapporteur to produce a regular review of global, regional and national security threats caused by climate change,” Dreaver told Asia Pacific Report.

Most of the controversy at the forum centred around Nauru, which was once a phosphate-mining mecca now virtually stripped dry and reduced to playing an off-shore role as a detention centre for asylum seekers to Australia.

Nauru is set to receive nearly A$26 million from Australia in Official Development Assistance  in 2018-19, which is almost a quarter of its gross domestic product.

“The money Nauru receives from Australia is valuable to this cash-strapped nation. It’s not only in cash terms – buildings have been improved etc. For Nauru, while it’s a headache, it’s also a godsend,” says Dreaver.

Sensitive refugee discussions
Sensitive discussions around the detainees did take place under muted conditions and away from the media, she noted.

“The discussion around the detainees on Nauru took place in the bilaterals and only at a general level.

“There was some sensitivity given it’s a domestic issue for the most part and Nauru had made it clear it did not consider it part of the forum – even if others did.

“It should be noted that the bigger non-government organisations like World Vision or Amnesty, which would have brought up the issue at side events [civil society discussions)] were refused visas to Nauru.”

Incarcerated children on the island, kept in conditions widely considered inhumane, hardly rated a mention at the forum.

“The children on Nauru are staying put – I understand there are now approximately 109 of them,” says Dreaver.

An Australian decision
New Zealand did discuss the potential resettlement of some of the asylum seekers but were told it was an Australian decision.

“Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister) discussed it with Nauru at the bilateral discussions but at the end of the day, if Australia doesn’t agree with the transferral of refugees to NZ it won’t happen. The decision is not the Nauru governments’ to make,” says Dreaver.

That was not to say New Zealand did not have a contribution to make at the PIF, even though one commentator in New Zealand likened Pacific countries to “leeches”.

“Most of New Zealand’s contribution was behind the scenes. For example, like some of the other member countries it had input on the Biketawa Plus or Boe Declaration,” she said.

“New Zealand’s presence must not be underestimated… the only times a New Zealand Prime Minister has not attended a forum has been when it has been close to an election.

“While fellow leaders have always publicly expressed their understanding, they have also made it clear New Zealand is missed and it doesn’t go down well.

“New Zealand is strong on fisheries in the region and its input in this area is strong,” she says on a food source that is dear to the heart of all Pacific Islanders.

Climate change priority
Again, there was no getting away from climate change and the security of the region, as Dreaver points out.

“Yes, the Boe declaration was ratified (named Boe as this is name of the President of Nauru’s [Baron Waqa] village where it was signed).

“The leaders had to go back to the table in the evening as Australia had some concerns over the language about climate change which other leaders describe as the single greatest threat to the region.

“There is a strong agreement for resources for cash-strapped nations, particularly in the area of cybercrime – it’s expected New Zealand and Australia will provide specialist and technical knowledge to help small island nations combat this,’’ Dreaver says.

Progress was made at the 49th sitting of the Pacific Islands Forum despite it being held in the controversial venue of Nauru.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He is attached to the University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

USTKE fights for Kanak rights in defiance of ‘dishonest’ referendum

As New Caledonia’s November 4 referendum on independence approaches, both pro and anti-independence groups are ramping up their campaigns. But, as Michael Andrew reports, some groups are choosing not to participate, arguing that the referendum is “unfair and dishonest”.

For many Kanaks, the upcoming independence referendum is a chance to reclaim control of New Caledonia, or “Kanaky”, and establish a new independent nation in the Pacific.

For pro-independence labour organisation USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers), however, the November 4 referendum is undemocratic and should be treated as a non-event.

On a visit to New Zealand this week, Leonard Wahmetu, general secretary of the mines and metals section of the USTKE, said his organisation and its political arm, the Labour Party, would not be participating in the referendum as it had been tailored to favour an outcome of remaining with France.

READ MORE: Lee Duffield’s Asia Pacific Report series on New Caledonia and the referendum

APJS NEWSFILE

Referring to the period preceding the 1988 Matignon accord – the first step in France’s promise of eventual sovereignty for the Kanaks – Wahmetu said that the demographics of Kanaky were significantly altered when the French government encouraged mass migration from mainland France, eroding the Kanak’s voting majority in subsequent referenda.

Although participation in the November 4 voting excludes anyone who came to live in the territory after 1998, Wahmetu argued that the referendum’s credibility had been comprised by those historical events.

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“The vote is not sincere, it is not honest, it is not true,” he said.

Sylvain Goldstein of France’s CGT and Leonard Wahmetu of USTKE … New Caledonia’s referendum’s credibility has been compromised by recent historical events. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Discrepancies in the roll
The referendum voting roll has also come under scrutiny, with the USTKE and other pro-independence parties claiming many Kanaks have not been included.

According to an RNZ Pacific report, pro-independence groups feel Kanaks should be automatically included on the roll, but the electoral law states that voters must register to cast a ballot.

Wahemtu argued that the vague and complex administrative process makes registration difficult for Kanaks, many of whom can’t access the documents to prove their eligibility.

According to Australian academic and journalist Dr Lee Duffield, a research associate of the Pacific Media Centre, this lack of familiarity with the Western democratic process may also be a reason why many Kanaks believe the referendum is stacked against them.

“French conservative parties and Caldoche interests are the most at home with persuasive negotiation, lobbying, campaigning and advertising. The Kanak system is more community based and not so at home with modern-day politicking,” he said.

However, he did stress that the French government had made access to the roll very open for Kanaks, citing an instance where a Kanak who had been living abroad for a long time was allowed to enrol.

Despite its stance of non-participation, the USTKE is staunchly pro-independence and has fought emphatically for Kanak workers’ rights since the early 1980s, when it was a key component of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS).

1980s protest action
During that period, anti-colonial sentiment was high among Kanaks, mainly due to France’s harsh policies of military action and assassinations to repress the indépendentiste movement. Violent protest in response was not uncommon.

After the tragic 1988 massacre on Ouvéa Island where 19 FLNKS militants were killed after taking a group of gendarmes (district police) hostage, the French government was forced to seriously consider the Kanaks quest for independence and the negotiation of the Matignon Accord ensued. After having signed it with the FLNKS, the USTKE detached from the FLNKS in respect of the separation of trade unionism and politics.

It continued its campaigning for Kanak workers’ rights alongside the Confederation of Labour (CGT), the largest workers’ union in France.

While the CGT supports the indépendentiste movement, it respects the USTKE’s decision not to participate in the referendum.

CGT’s Asia Pacific director of the international department, Sylvain Goldstein, explained that regardless of the referendum, the aim of the USTKE was not to evict the French, but rather achieve a more inclusive and prosperous society.

“There is not a will to end relations with France, not at all. It’s more to rebalance the rights and consider everything that needs to be considered for a better situation and open up to Pacific neighbours,” Goldstein said.

For the USTKE, a better situation would also include fairer representation and employment for Kanaks, especially in the lucrative nickel mining industry.

Promises eroded
Despite the industry being one of the largest in the world, Kanaks are grossly under-represented; something that Leonard Wahmetu said went against promises laid out in the Matignon Accord.

“There was an agreement that a lot more Kanak people will be trained to have more responsibility. Now only 50 are involved in the mining because they give the training to the people from mainland France,” he said.

Yet even skills and expertise are often not enough to guarantee employment in an industry that Wahmetu claims, is rife with discrimination.

“Even if the young people are well trained they cannot find a job because they are Kanak,” he said.

Environmental protection is another key aim of the USTKE, which would see mining companies and other multinationals held to account for their impact on Kanaky’s natural resources.

According to Sylvain Goldstein, unauthorised expansion by mining companies can imperil the natural environment, leading to conflict with Kanak tribes who have a duty to protect the land.

Protester blockade
This has occurred most recently in the town of Kouaoua, where protesters have blockaded the SLN mining company in an effort to protect endemic oak trees. The mine has since been shut down, reports RNZ.

For Leonard Wahmetu, this kind of activism is exactly what’s needed to exact change in a system where the democratic processes are not fair or impartial.

While the USTKE and the Labour Party will still be working in the political arena for policy changes and fairer electoral rolls, he stresses the importance of strong action.

“Political pressure and protest go together. We can’t just talk in the office, we must protest out in the field,” he said.

“Without this we wouldn’t be heard.”

Michael Andrew is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

New Caledonian trade union representatives visit Auckland University of Technology this week … pictured are (mid-rear) Leonard Wahmetu, general secretary of the mines and metals section of the USTKE union; Sylvain Goldstein (to his left), CGT Asia Pacific director of the international department of France’s CGT, and (far right) NZ’s First Union representative Robert Reid. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media