NEWS AND VIEWS
The Chairman, Mrs Chris Luxton
below for HE
Chris Luxton introduces Katya Göbel
Rev Akuila Yabaki
(Presented at the 28th AGM 23rd May 2009)
A very warm welcome to you all on this glorious day in the Penthouse suite which has to be one of the best views over London.
The urbane and accomplished Michael Walsh our former chairman, is a very hard act to follow, I hope you will forgive my manifold and manifestly obvious inadequacies, errors and omissions .
I’d especially like to welcome:
— Mr John Dauth, our Keynote Speaker, the High Commissioner for Australia, who will give our keynote address later in the proceedings. We are grateful to our Diplomatic Liaison Officer, Roger Barltrop for issuing the invitation on our behalf. Mr. Dauth took up his appointment to UK last September, having previously been High Commissioner to New Zealand, for two years and, prior to that, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN for five years. He is of course no stranger to the UK – you will I’m sure have spotted on our notice of Meeting that he is a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order – awarded in recognition of personal service to the Royal Family, an honour bestowed by The Sovereign - not on the advice of the Prime Minister. From 1977 to 1980, Mr Dauth worked on secondment to Buckingham Palace as Assistant Press Secretary to HM The Queen and as Press Secretary to HRH The Prince of Wales. After that he held a number of positions in Canberra. There are glowing reports of Mr. Dauth on Wikipedia – quoting articles in the Australian: “Career envoy wins plum London post….” Nor is he a stranger to the Pacific: His nearly four decades in the diplomatic service have taken him not only to Nigeria, Pakistan and Iran, as well as the South Pacific, where he was consul-general in New Caledonia in 1986-87.
Mr Dauth has entitled his address:, “Changes in Australia’s Approach to the Pacific?” and we look forward very much to hearing about the Pacific Partnerships – with the Solomons and Kiribati, announced by PM Rudd at the Pacific Forum Summit held in Port Moresby earlier this year – adding to others previously signed with Papua New Guinea and Samoa. I suspect Mr. Dauth may well counter the somewhat jaundiced view expressed in the Solomon Star last September in an article headed, “What’s so new about Rudd’s Pacific Policy.”
— HE Ms Jean Kekedo, High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea, who will join us later. HC Kekedo gave the keynote address last year. Jean is indefatiguable, and I must especially thank her for giving up her precious Saturday two weeks running. It was a great privilege for PNGCP to have High Commissioner and her family, with us at Westminster Abbey last Saturday for Evensong, a tour of the Abbey and afternoon tea, very kindly hosted by the Dean of Westminster.
— Mrs Elizabeth Said representing the Tonga High Commissioner
— A special welcome to two of three Chevening Scholar, both from Papua New Guinea: Dr Pilly Mapira, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Mr. Mellie Samson, who has travelled up from the University of Kent, in Canterbury.
— It’s especially good to see council member Vernon Scarborough and the family, following his recent illness.
2009 has been designated The Pacific Year of Climate Change, which has become a life and death issue for the Island States. Many of you will have been following on U-Tube the sad story of the Carteret Islanders, 1500 of whom relocated to Bougainville Island thus becoming the world’s first climate change refugees. When in Nov. 2008 PNG PM Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare was asked by the Lowy Institute for International Policy to speak about issues and challenges facing the region, his obvious topic was Climate Change. He said: “We live it. Symptoms and evidence are there for everyone to see. He carried on, “…they include, but are not limited to:
— Bleached coral reefs that are starving our fisheries
— Atoll based communities that are disappearing under the rising waves
— Mosquitoes that are moving up mountain ridges and killing children
— We find beaches eroded and suffocated by the swelling seas and
— Mighty trees, once high upon the beach, now drowned, felled and sinking below the surface….”
The Chief found no easy answers, cited the problems and ended by making a plea for bold leadership on both sides of the economic divide. “…Together we must reconstruct our value frameworks…..new environmental service markets must support tropical countries striving towards sustainable development, by generating environmental capital from ecosystem services that humanity has been exploiting for free – and ended, “By saving the forests…maybe humanity will relearn to save ourselves!”
He spoke prophetically – just one year on from Cyclone Guba, many thousands were displaced when heavy storms and sudden flooding on 8th December last hit part of PNG’s northern coastline and islands all the way down to the Solomon Island as well as parts of Micronesia. High Commissioner Kekedo in this country lobbied the diplomatic community and, as in 2007 when asked to rally to the support of Guba victims, they were generous indeed. Not a lot has changed since the cyclone struck and communities, especially coastal villages in Oro Province, are still receiving food aid.
So far as I can see (errors and omissions excepted – yes I was in the Lloyd’s Market before working for the Church) there has been one coronation in the Pacific in the past year - in Tonga – last August 1st – again on U-Tube we watched the wonderful spectacle of King George Tupou V in the Free Wesleyan Centenary Church, Nuku’alofa – presided over by Anglican Archbishop Jabez Bryce (known to a number of us) in his retirement year.
Since the last AGM, your Council has met four times and, if the programme has not been altogether hectic, we have hosted a variety of successful and interesting events.
The November Social happily described as The Penthouse Party by our PR team, ably led by Tom Hughes and Dr Margaret Taylor was a winner – and much enjoyed by all who attended. Agnes Henson, ever a high profile speaker on the sinking islands of the Pacific (we hope very much she will speak for us this year, on Climate Change (what else) and if she does it will be the Edwin Smith Memorial Lecture.
Last year’s Edwin Smith Lecture which took place at Westminster Hall, courtesy of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in early December was by Meg Munn (formerly Parliamentary Under-Secretary and Minister responsible for the Pacific, with the attention grabbing title, “Has the UK forgotten its friends in the Pacific?” She concluded that the UK needs to have a continued diplomatic presence in the region, and should be looking not just at bilateral relationships, but how the UK can work on regional issues. She added “We should build on the strengths in the relationships that NZ and Australia have with their Pacific neighbours. Full text available on our PISUKI website: Earlier in the year Ms Munn had spoken in Melbourne on “Challenges and Opportunities facing the world…not just the Pacific.
In February, in the West London, easily reached recently refurbished St. Philip’s Church, Earls Court Road, our Treasurer John Wilson educated those of us with tunnel vision directed at one particular part of the Pacific by means of a power point presentation “New Pattern of Islands – the Changing Face of the Pacific” including pictures of 15 island states – and we hope he will repeat this presentation later in the year for the benefit of those unable to be present. John informed us that he had managed to visit all the Pacific Islands once, and some of them twice, or three times in recent. John is, as you will know a legal eagle, and spends much of the wee small hours drafting legislation for the island nations.
He spoke from the heart contributing from the floor in a lively debate at our most recent event in late April (Ridding Fiji of the Coup Cycle – Winners and Losers) when we were privileged to hear - mostly off the record - from the Rev Akuila Yabaki Executive Director of the Suva based Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) and co-founder of the Pacific Islands Society. The Society’s inaugural meeting was held at his church in 1981. It was wonderful to have Akuila with us once again. The focus of news this year of course has been almost entirely Fiji, and many of you are far better informed than I am. I quote again from the Lowy institute, from a policy brief, issued by the Myer Foundation – Fiji: The Flailing State. The Director said: “Fiji President Iloilo’s abrogation of the 1997 constitution has entrenched a military dictatorship in Australia’s backyard. Commodore Bainimarama’s dominant leadership of the interim government and his exclusion of dissenting voices will exacerbate and accelerate economic decline in Fiji and cause unprecedented hardship to Fiji’s population. The economic implications threaten the whole Pacific Islands region, and challenge Australia’s capacity to demonstrate regional leadership.” Jenny Hayward Jones the Program Director, advanced a view on What should be Done, and I leave John Dauth to give us his views on Australia’s response to a policy conundrum.
I have no more time for further Pacific News. So please forgive me if I have overlooked an area or island of particular interest/concern to you. In brief, there has been an election in Vanuatu, when Edward Natapei (who I had the privilege of meeting at a South Pacific Anglican Consultation) in 2002, was elected PM on 2nd September last at Tagabe.
Gratifyingly, Solomon Islands (wracked for five years by ethnic tensions in which hundreds were killed, and at least 20,000 driven from their homes) is starting to mend and only last week, South Africa’s former Anglican Archbishop, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu opened the Truth & Reconciliation Commission in Honiara. I hear from a spy in Beijing that the détente between China and Taiwan is a very important development, signalling a possible end to the recent competition for diplomatic recognition. (Taiwan has 6 of the 14 island states) and thus the prospect of both countries’ aid programmes becoming more aligned with those of Australia, New Zealand and the EU.
The ecumenical movement, Women’s World Day of Prayer, takes place on the first Friday of March each year. This year (I could hardly believe we were so lucky) the focus and service was written by the women of Papua New Guinea. I am fond of saying that an important part of my function as PNGCP secretary is raising awareness about the church and amazing country that is PNG. I found it awe inspiring that 5,000 services were held in England Wales alone doing just that – some of them of course had to make do with a man, and some of us –HC Kekedo and myself included - dashed about speaking at several services….
In March, the FCO hosted a seminar entitled (you’ve guess it) The Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities. Council members attended, and we look forward to reading the papers.
Reverting to PISUKI Council Members, would especially like to say how delighted we are that Agnes Henson and the KTA (I quote Roger Barltrop) danced before the Queen (for six minutes she tells me) on Commonwealth Day in March. And it was all on Twitter!!
Last but far from least I owe a debt of gratitude to our Vice-Brian Macdonald-Milne who has uncomplainingly chaired meetings when I have been unavailable and John Wilson, our Treasurer (who will give you our financial report) both of whom have taken minutes. Brian is himself visiting the Pacific, including PNG this autumn. Most important of all, our long-time Editor of Outrigger, Tom Hughes, who did most of the work the Penthouse Party last year, and much for today – as always – achieves 85 summers tomorrow. Our love and thanks to him and Pam, and all the family.
(Presented at the 29th AGM 22nd May 2010)
Welcome to our keynote speaker.
of the German based, Pacific Networking in Europe (PNE)
Some of you will remember ECSIEP,
I’ll keep this brief as we are looking forward to hearing from Katja. First I am delighted to tell you that HE Sir Frank Kabui, the recently appointed Governor General of the Solomon Islands kindly agreed to become a Patron of PISUKI, in company with the Governors General, of Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu, the President of Vanuatu, and the Beretitenti of Kiribati.
I am however, very sorry to report the death of Edith Blake, former Hon. Treasurer, who died in February. Edith was a long-standing member, together with her late husband, Ken, who was also a former Treasurer. She was made an Honorary Member last year for her services to the society. Her last few years were very difficult with the worry of caring for Ken, and her own health problems seemed to worsen rapidly after Ken’s death. Our condolences to Sue and Judith and the family.
Also, sadly and unexpectedly, a former Chairman, Roger Barltrop, CMG, CVO on 6th December. Latterly Roger was Diplomatic Liaison Officer and a co-opted member of Council. We owe him a great deal, and I do not think I am alone in missing his wise Council. Roger had a remarkable career, and I hope it may be possible to provide links from our website to the obituaries which appeared in The Times and the Telegraph. Quoting the Times: Roger Barltrop was a career diplomat who represented Britain throughout the world. Among his postings were: Southern Rhodesia during the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI); Ethiopia during the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie; and Fiji in the late 1980's when the formerly tranquil South Sea island state was thrown out of the Commonwealth. Some of us were able to attend his funeral at Hurstpierpoint on 18th December, in heavy snow. Roger’s widow, Bojana, has joined the Society in her own right; she was with us for the Meg Munn climate change event at the House of Commons in January, and has expressed a wish to join us whenever possible, but sent regrets for today.
As reported last year, 2009 was designated The Pacific Year of Climate Change - a life and death issue for the Island States, and I quoted Papua New Guinea’s PM Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in an address to the Sydney based Lowy Institute in 2008, in which he rightly said, “We live it” but found no easy answers. Lord May, again addressing the Lowy Institute two days ago, remarked: “Although it is beyond dispute that the burning of fossil fuels is thickening Earth’s greenhouse gas blanket, there remain some uncertainties about the severity of particular adverse consequences and the time-scales for manifestation.”
Many have commented on the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in Dec.09, on which the eyes of the world were fixed – most activists attending were disappointed and dismayed, and others have told us that the world may not be warming. Many church organisations were represented: the Anglican Franciscans, the Society of St Francis, were chaplains to the Conference, and the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, addressed the House of Lords in January, quoting not only Ed Milliband, but also the Noble Baroness Lady Thatcher: speaking in 1989: “We are the Trustees of this planet, charged today with preserving life itself…with all its mystery and all its wonder. May we all be equal to that task.”
The November Social Pacific at the Penthouse was a joyful occasion, when we were joined by no less than five of the Chevening/Commonwealth Scholars currently in UK. 2nd Secretary at the Papua New Guinea High Commission, Cephas Kayo, and his wife Carol (now returned to PNG with the family) kindly provided overnight accommodation for some visiting London for the first time.
Agnes Henson was once again our cheer leader, when we were entertained by Island groups, and a good collection (£747) was made for the Samoa Tsunami Appeal of the British Red Cross. At least 129 people died and 30,000 were affected on island in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga after a tsunami, triggered by an earthquake, struck on 29th September.
On December 7th at the request of the British High Commissioner in Port Moresby, HE David Dunn, PISUKI hosted a small tea party for Mr. James Tanis, President of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville (ABG) who was visiting Britain as a guest of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and was accompanied by Mr. Dunn. The purpose of the visit was to share UK experience in conflict resolution and governance in devolved administrations, as well as enhancing UK/Papua New Guinea relations. Mr Tanis, a former member of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), is one of two presidential candidates in the elections for the 2nd Bougainville Government currently taking place. The other candidate (some say the hot favourite) recently Ambassador to Beijing, is Mr. John Momis. A former Catholic priest, Mr Momis was the Member for Bougainville in the PNG House of Assembly for 27 years. In 2005 he lost the Bougainville presidential election to the late Joseph Kabui. Mr Tanis finished third in the first election for President for 2005, behind Mr Kabui and former Governor John Momis.
In January, as noted above, the Society was very pleased to host a joint talk at Westminster Hall, courtesy of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) by Meg Munn MP and Colin Challen MP entitled: The Pacific: did Copenhagen provide a lifeboat?
Ms Munn (a former Parliamentary under-secretary at the FCO with responsibility for the Pacific) had led a group of parliamentarians, which included Mr. Challen, on a CPA visit to examine the impact of climate change on four small island nations. Some of the queries raised will no doubt come up again today.
In February, in the West London, at St Philip’s Earls Court Road, we were privileged once again to hear – again mostly off the record - from The Rev Akuila Yabaki Executive Director of the Suva based Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) and co-founder of the Pacific Islands Society, who updated us on the vexed situation in Fiji: his talk was entitled: Human Rights and Legal Challenges in Fiji – which are considerable. I leave you to read the masterly summary put together by our PR team, Tom Hughes, and his able assistant, Margaret Taylor, who has taken over as Editor. Warm thanks to them both, and to John Wilson, our Treasurer, and his wife Phylis, who provided excellent pancakes, it being Mardi Gras!
Some of us were privileged to attend Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey in March when, I must tell you that the Wilsons’ daughter, Elena, was flag-bearer for Tuvalu.
In this country, we have a new coalition government, and a new Foreign Secretary, William Hague. The new Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, is someone committed to practical action in the developing world, including we hope the Pacific. (The Prime Minister and his family worship at St Mary Abbots, one of the churches in my Parish in Kensington.) Your officers have already drafted a letter to Mr Mitchell at DifD, voicing Pacific concerns.
Warm thanks to you everyone for attending and to Council Members and friends who have helped in any way this year. Tenkyu tru!