Thursday, April 7, 2016

1) Indonesia strengthens ties with South Pacific nations

2) The rise of Pacific power: From small island states to large ocean states


1) Indonesia strengthens ties with South Pacific nations

Kamis, 7 April 2016 18:10 WIB | 568 Views

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and his delegations recent trip to Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) demonstrates Indonesias commitment to forging strong bilateral relations with South Pacific countries.

The Indonesian delegation arrived in Suva, Fiji, on March 30 for a visit aimed at boosting bilateral relations between Indonesia and Fiji.

Minister Pandjaitan paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama, held a bilateral meeting with Fijis Minister for Agricultural, Rural, Maritime Affairs and National Disaster Management Ina Seriaritu, and a luncheon with Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

The minister extended financial assistance worth US$5 million to help the victims of the Winston typhoon that hit Fiji in February and delivered a letter from President Joko Widodo to Prime Minister Bainimarama. 

In addition to the financial aid, Indonesia also sent US$3 million worth of goods for the victims of the typhoon.

The minister remarked that Indonesia will deploy engineer troops to help reconstruct Queen Victoria School in Lawaki.

"In early May, the TNIs (Indonesian Defense Forces) engineer troops will arrive. We will also send 100 units of hand tractors to help develop agriculture here," Pandjaitan noted.

"I have conveyed to Prime Minister Bainimarama and Foreign Minister Kubuabola that we will be consistently present in the region," the minister pointed out.

Minister Seriaritu hailed the aid and cooperation offered by Indonesia.

He said Indonesia was a key player in the Asian and Pacific region, and the countrys success in disaster management and mitigation had received international recognition.

However, he hoped that the two countries would intensify cooperation in other crucial fields such as education, agriculture, economy, and food security.

As part of the delegations agenda, Indonesian Chairman of the General Election Commission Husni Kamil Manik signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation for the management of general elections with his Fijian counterpart.

In the meantime, during the meeting with Foreign Minister Kubuabola, Pandjaitan expressed Indonesias keenness to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Kubuabola remarked that the government of Fiji had proposed upgrading the membership status of Indonesia in the MSG from an associate member to a full member to strengthen the nations position in the group of Melanesian countries.

Special staff of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry on strategic issues Djauhari Oratmangun, who was a member of the delegation, noted that Fiji was Indonesias good friend in the South Pacific region.

In the context of the MSG, Fiji is among the countries to have supported Indonesias bid for full membership of the group, Oratmangun stated.

A similar support was also expressed by the PNG government when Minister Pandjaitan and his delegation had visited Port Moresby on April 1 after concluding their trip to Fiji. 

Indonesias application to become a full MSG member was being processed, and thereafter, the way to obtain the full membership status would be opened, PNG Foreign and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato said following a bilateral meeting with the Indonesian delegation.

PNG will host the 21st Summit of the MSG in 2017. 

During its 20th Summit held in Honiara in the Solomon Islands on June 26, 2015, Indonesia had obtained the associative member status.

At the bilateral meeting, Pato stated that the constructive and open talks covered various cooperation opportunities including in the fields of economy, investment, trade, and energy, particularly LNG, and flights connecting the two neighboring countries. 

"The model of cooperation we have discussed covers many fields ranging from culture and trade to military cooperation. We also discussed a plan to cooperate in liquefied natural gas (LNG), palm oil, and intelligence. Basically, this cooperation is aimed at narrowing any differences between the two countries," Minister Pato said.

They also discussed cooperation between the two nations police and military, especially to guard the border areas.

PNG, which will host an APEC Summit in 2018, is eager to take a cue from Indonesia on ways to organize a major international meeting.

The two countries have signed 11 memoranda of understanding and three agreements to strengthen bilateral partnership based on mutual respect, he said.

"We will also learn from Indonesias rich experiences in democracy, and we (PNG and Indonesia) will move together and work in tandem," noted Pato, who was accompanied by PNG Trade Minister Richard Mare and National Development Planning Minister Charles Abe.

In the meantime, Minister Pandjaitan remarked that the two delegations also discussed cooperation in immigration affairs, trade, and the development of the palm oil industry.

"The Indonesian trade ministrys delegation and business mission will visit PNG in late April this year. Our relations are becoming closer," Pandjaitan affirmed.

At the invitation of PNG Prime Minister Peter ONeill, President Joko Widodo visited Port Moresby on May 11-12, 2015, to strengthen bilateral cooperation in economic, trade, investment, and infrastructure construction fields.

The two leaders also agreed to increase the value of bilateral trade beyond trading activities in the border areas that reaches US$4.5 million per year.

To boost Indonesian diplomacy in the South Pacific region, Minister Pandjaitan proposed an appointment of an Indonesian special envoy to the South Pacific region.

The special envoy is also expected to help enhance communication between Indonesia and the governments and people of the countries in the region. 

Indonesia will be consistently present in the South Pacific by sending ministers to 16 countries in the region, according to Pandjaitan.

"Diplomacy is important and we should be aggressively explaining to states in the South Pacific about the conditions and situation in Indonesia including what we have been doing in the area of human rights," he pointed out.

Citing as an example, he said a number of parties in the South Pacific region think that Indonesian people of the Melanesian race only inhabit the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Indonesia has at least 11 million people of Melanesian race, spreading among other things in the provinces of Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), he said.

In fact, the majority of Melanesians are living in Indonesia, approximately 80 percent of them, Kacung Marijan, director general of culture at the Ministry of Education and Culture, said while Indonesia organized Melanesian Cultural Festival in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, on October 27-30, 2015. 

To promote cultural pluralism existing in countries having a Melanesian population, the festivals theme was "Celebrating the Cultural Diversity of Melanesian World".  

The Indonesian government hoped that the festival to help improve the public understanding of the Melanesian race, and strengthen cooperation among Melanesian countries.(*)


2) The rise of Pacific power: From small island states to large ocean states
8:24 pm GMT+12, 31/03/2016, Fiji

By Matisse Walkden-Brown  

The Pacific region consists of 24 island states scattered across a quarter of the earth’s surface - a vast area of some 30 million square kilometres. By description alone, the vast area should command the respect and attention of the international community.  
The countries make up almost 10 percent of United Nations votes and are invaluable players in the geopolitical arena. The Pacific bolsters national security for many of the world’s biggest powers, allowing them to maintain a military presence in the region. It also hosts trade routes, provides access to deep-sea mining and floor mapping, and remains a major seafood source for the world.
In spite of this, global powers have long treated Pacific Island nations as inconsequential. Colonialism in the 1700s brought influenza and other diseases; in the mid-1800s islanders were stolen and forced to work in the plantations of larger neighbouring countries, like Australia. The Pacific was still subject to United States and French self-interests only 60 years ago, when islands were used as sites for their deadly nuclear weapons tests.
Nowadays, in a hangover from colonisation, industrialised countries continue to hold a great amount of leverage in the Pacific region while doubling as major aid donors. Australia, New Zealand, the US, China, Taiwan, Japan and Indonesia have vested interests throughout the Pacific in a range of sectors, including fisheries, infrastructure development and telecommunications. Global superpowers have evolved and adopted a gift-giving and resource-taking role throughout the region.  
However, the era of the Pacific countries being passive recipients is quickly drawing to a close. Pacific leaders have begun to subtly shift this deeply embedded political dynamic to restructure their foreign relationships. They are creating more political power for themselves, and regaining control over their precious natural resources.
In 2007, Pacific leaders signed a declaration for region-wide management of their fisheries resources. This increased financial returns from the industry, while also strengthening conservation measures. Decades prior to that change, a vast majority of the fisheries business, including processing, took place in Asia, US and Europe - locking the Pacific Islands out of the profits from their own resources.  
This declaration sent a message to foreign governments and companies that the Pacific would no longer politely stand by while their fisheries were exploited and wiped out. As a result, the Pacific tuna fisheries industry is now more regionally driven, and in the hands of Pacific governments. Furthermore, the collapse in January 2016 of a decades-old regional treaty with the US on tuna fishing rights has allowed Pacific governments more control over their tuna industry.
Pacific Island nations have also begun to push back against the control that Australia and New Zealand wield over the Pacific Island Forum, which for decades has been the main intergovernmental platform for the region. At the 2015 PIF Leaders Meeting in Port Moresby, Kiribati’s then President Anote Tong publicly criticised Australia and New Zealand, saying that development aid could no longer be used as a puppet string for the Pacific while survival from climate change threats were not being addressed.  
“What we are talking about is survival, it's not about economic development... it's not politics, its survival. I think they need to come to the party, if they really are our friends then they should be looking after our future as well.”- President Anote Tong of Kiribati, 2015.
In 2013, Pacific nations - except Australia and New Zealand - met for the first time as the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF) to talk about sustainable development without international influence.  
The PIDF last year produced the stand-out ‘Suva Declaration’, a document articulating the authentic concerns of Pacific Island states over climate change ahead of the United Nations Paris climate talks. It called for a more ambitious global emissions reduction target than a similar document from the Pacific Island Forum, reflecting the seriousness of the climate crisis for low-lying Pacific nations.  
Before Paris last year, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, reminded Pacific delegates to the climate talks to press global superpowers on their climate responsibilities, and to do so with a refreshed and more powerful Pacific approach.
“The industrialised nations are putting the welfare of the entire planet at risk so that their economic growth is assured and their citizens can continue to enjoy lives of comparative ease. All at the expense of those of us in low lying areas of the Pacific ... I won’t be going to Paris wearing the usual friendly, compliant Pacific smile. In fact, I won’t be going to Paris in a Pacific frame of mind at all. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the other island leaders, I will sternly remind the industrialised nations of their obligations and press as hard as I can for the adoption of the recent Suva Declaration.”  - Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji, 2015.
Furthermore, this month, we saw long-overdue muscle-flexing from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), one of the tiniest countries in Micronesia. In a display of courage, RMI is currently taking on some of the world's biggest nuclear powers - Britain, India, and Pakistan - in an unprecedented legal case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Generations of Marshallese, past and present, have suffered the severe after-effects of dozens of nuclear tests conducted in 1940s and 1950. RMI are now trying to hold the world’s nuclear weapons states accountable for failing to act on nuclear disarmament.
As the rise of Pacific power strengthens region-wide, a class action suit by Pacific Islanders against fossil fuel corporations is set to be filed in Fiji towards the end of 2016. Led by civil society, the case intends to address human rights violations occurring across the Pacific due to the climate crisis. It will seek to prohibit the further extraction of fossil fuels by the ‘Carbon Majors’ - those corporations responsible for causing and perpetuating the ongoing destruction of earth.  
Pacific nations are at the forefront of many global challenges, the most urgent being climate change. The Pacific has united and ignited change in the past, altering international regulations around nuclear dumping, radioactive waste, laws of the sea and driftnet fishing. It can be done again.  
 Pacific Islanders do not have to relinquish their beaches to fossil fuel companies, their marine life to offshore political deals and their human rights to corrupt corporations. The Pacific has a say in the fate of its people and it is finally speaking up.
Matisse Walkden-Brown is the Head of Pacific Net, Greenpeace.  


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