Pacific Islands Forum chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has launched a broadside against the United States and China, urging them not to bring adversarial competition to the Pacific stating the Pacific is a ‘region of collaboration’ not for competition.
Brown made the powerful statement in Rarotonga as the island nation prepares to host the annual Pacific Forum Leaders meeting this week.
Issues on the agenda include the Fukushima water discharge, the endorsement of the implementation of the 2050 strategy, Climate change, gender declaration and the final decision on the appointment of the next Forum Secretary General.
He said geopolitics is becoming a divisive force in the Pacific due to super power rivalry between U.S and China trying to exert their influence in the region.
“We are a region of collaboration. We will work with whatever development partner is willing to work with us.
“The assumption that Pacific Island countries don’t know what they’re doing is starting to sound very insulting and getting to the stage of being offensive in some cases,” said PM Brown while welcoming the Pacific media in Rarotonga on Thursday.
He told regional media to give prominence on issues affecting the Pacific raised by Forum Leaders instead of focusing on ‘celebrity politicians’ from Western countries.
This week, U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is leading the USA delegation as part of the Forum Dialogue Partners.
“We have seen the geo-politics in our region and the perceived influence of the U.S to combat the influence of China. They are not hearing the Pacific voices. We are here trying to look for opportunities to lift the economic prosperity of our people to participate in a growing economy.
“In 2012 when we hosted the Forum Meeting here which was one of the most attended by one of our dialogue partners, the U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came here.
“That meeting when Hillary turned up the whole focus was sucked up by the United States.
“All the meeting that was generated was about Hillary Clinton and the USA, the focus of what we wanted our voices, our decisions and choices was made to look second place.
“What we want is that our Pacific voices be heard and not that of ‘celebrity politicians’ who will come to our country. We know who they are will want to take the oxygen out of this meeting,” Brown said.
Brown also stressed although differences arise between Pacific countries on certain issues they don’t see eye to eye on it, it doesn’t mean they are divided.
“We are strong independent individual countries. The ability to respect the decision of a country should not be cause for division within our region, said PM Brown.
He said the media plays a pivotal role in ensuring the Pacific voices and the regional narratives are heard.
“The narrative that we want to set is the narrative that is heard by the rest of the world and not by celebrity politician.
“I think it’s important to understand that what our development partners may see as areas of national security, are not necessarily what we see as national security priorities.
“For us, national security priorities are economic security, they are climate security.”
“When I speak about our voices and the role of the media, I would hope sincerely that our media does listen to our voices, and project our voices as we say it. Because the media plays a critical role in ensuring that our voices are heard,” said PM Brown.
The Forum chair said his role is to ensure the independent sovereignty of Pacific countries is protected and their collective strength can be managed in a way that provides benefits for all of their countries.
“It is the choice that our countries make independently as a sovereign independent state- these countries are 40, 50 60 years old, they are young in terms of geo national age of our countries.
“Our leaders of today most of them now have grown up in a country that was free from colonialism, so we have a new generation of leaders in the Pacific, and they want to make sure, that their people, their interests are represented properly and openly,” PM Brown said.
Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna when welcoming the media said tracking the Forum Leader stories across the many platforms, they represent really helps power the collective mana of our Pacific Islands Forum family.
“Together with our CROP partners, what you are achieving together as a Pacific Media family in Rarotonga will help to pave the way for future Forum Leaders meetings.
“This is excellent news for newsmakers and the people we serve, making it the best news for us.
“Whether it’s the Teieniwa Vision, the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, or the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific continent — each and together, you all play vital roles in keeping us all informed and engaged with the happenings here in the coming week.
“Your networks and collegial support of each other, especially in the innovative Reo o te Pasifika, or Pacific Voices programme launched last night, captures the theme behind the 52nd Forum.
“You are our Voices, Our Choices, Our Pacific Way in action.
“Welcome to another Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Media Workshop—I will –we will — be watching you!” said SG Puna.