Happy, smiling faces everywhere, and assault on media too

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Last week was definitely a memorable time for us all.

It was when we played host to the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting right here in Apia, where as the Forum’s Chairman, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, was without a doubt the man of the moment.

Indeed, there is no denying that his very presence had ensured the convention would become uniquely successful, as it’d turned out to be.  What’s more, there was infectious peace too with happy, smiling faces everywhere.

When he launched that World Bank report aimed at accelerating economic growth in the Pacific region, Tuilaepa announced the idea was geared towards increasing both jobs and incomes around the region.

He said “the report hopes to create more than 500,000 new jobs, and increase incomes by more than 40 percent, for people in most Pacific Island countries by 2040.”

He then pointed out that the report was being launched jointly “with World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific, Victoria Kwakwa.” 

He said: “Pacific Possible is not just another report, but an analytical piece of work that governments, like ours, will use as a platform for policy discussions and reforms, that will deliver real outcomes for our people.”

He also said: “We are working hard to take the tourism sector in Samoa to the next level -- the analysis in Pacific Possible is something we can draw on -- in our discussions to help make this possibility a reality.”

Now the question is: What is he talking about here?

When he said: “We are working hard to take the tourism sector in Samoa to the next level”, can we ask: What level is he talking about now?

Indeed, “how many levels is Tuilaepa’s government planning to raise Samoa’s tourism sector to, in order for it to be in a position to create more than 500,000 new jobs, and increase their incomes by more than 40 percent by 2040?”

It would be good to know.

All we’re being told is that so far, according to “Pacific Possible”, which is a Pacific Island organization that has taken nearly three years in the making, is staffed by non-governmental organizations, academics and individuals across the region, and their final, complete report identifies four significant transformative opportunities, for increased prosperity for Pacific countries, together with a set of recommendations for minimizing the economic impact of the biggest challenges, facing the Pacific Islands over the next 25 years.”

Now please don’t get me wrong!

My question is: Who is the genius who’d put together this conglomeration of words and quite meaningless ideas, knowing well that no one with a sane mind would be able to make any sense out of them all?

Still, what are these biggest challenges, anyway?

According to Tuilaepa, “they include new source markets in tourism; greater labour mobility between Pacific countries, Australia and New Zealand; improved information communications and technology affordability and access, and higher incomes from more sustainable use of fisheries.” 

And then there is “climate change and natural disasters, as well as non-communicable diseases, which have been highlighted somewhere as the two greatest threats.”  

Still, there is hope.

Said Ms. Victoria Kwakwa: “Tourism, ICT, labour mobility, and sustainable fisheries, are the key sectors analyzed in Pacific Possible, that represent the greatest opportunities for governments, to turn possibility into reality.”

She also said: “By focusing policy reforms and investments in these key areas, they can deliver the greatest benefit for most people.”

Now is that so? Indeed, what is she talking about here?

Still, once again, with its meager resources and quite fickle economy, how can Samoa possibly cope?

Indeed, now that the United States of America, has assured Pacific leaders that it “will maintain its leadership in the fight against climate change,” well then, that is definitely news we should be thankful for.   

According to the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Susan Thornton, who attended the Pacific Forum last week, “her country had not withdrawn from the Paris climate accord, (not) just yet (anyway).”

She also said “the US government is still working through the details, with regards to their status on the Paris Agreement.”

And then “in 2015 America signed the Paris Agreement under President Barack Obama.

“However, earlier this year, U.S. President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw.

 “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said at the time.

Now Ms Thorton said: “The announcement angered the Pacific nations, who are at the forefront of the impact of climate change.”

During last week’s meeting though, Ms Thorton offered a different view.

She said: “I think what the President has said was that the U.S. is going to maintain its Paris Agreement.”

The President also said: “We are going to maintain our leadership on the reduction of green house gas emissions, and other environmental and climate related efforts.”

He went on to say: “We have a lot to be very proud of in the United States, and we have managed to show that you can reduce your green gas emissions, and still keep the economy going. We have reduced emissions considerably over the last ten years.” 

Now Ms Thorton pointed out: “So I don’t see a contradiction between maintaining our engagement in the Pacific.

“Of course, the Pacific Islands have expressed concerns about climate change, and the effects of climate change on them, which we’re very sensitive to.”

Ms Thorton then assured of the US’s commitment to the Pacific region, saying: “We’ve heard a lot of comments, but I think the United States is going to remain engaged on the issue of climate change, as we have programmes in the region that are bilateral.

“We also have a seat on the board of the Green Climate Fund and have contributed a billion dollars to the fund.

“We’re going to remain active, while we continue to look at the effects and implications of the agreement, and what we’re going to do about our status in the agreement.”

And lastly, let’s talk briefly about the story titled “Pacific leaders asked to stop assault on media at Forum,” that was published in the Weekend Observer, on 9 September 2017.

The story said that during the traditional welcoming ceremony, attended by Pacific island leaders, a journalist was trying to take a photo of the ceremony when she was manhandled by a policeman, Monica Miller, the Chair of the Rarotongan-based Pacific Freedom Forum, wrote.

She went on to say: “It was upsetting to hear that a colleague, trying to capture Samoa’s traditional welcoming of Pacific island leaders, was manhandled by a policeman.”

She then revealed that as “local and overseas journalists were edging up to the back corner of a tent where some delegates were seated - to get out of the rain - a police officer grabbed the journalist by the arm and tried to pull her out of the shelter.”  

And then questioning the officer’s action, Miller wrote: “Why the need for force? A camera woman being manhandled by a plain clothed policeman amounts to assault.”  

She then called for the incident to be investigated, and for the officer to be disciplined.  

She said: “P.F.F is concerned that it seems every year, forum organizers treat members of the news media with disdain, and even hostility.”  

As it turned out, the journalist is question is Heidi Yieng Kow; she is from French Polynesia.

Ms Miller said the police assault on Heidi Yieng Kow, took place against a background of decades of complaints, about the mistreatment journalists at the forum.  

She also said an assault on a journalist by a police officer is a “new low”, adding that the officer in this case could have politely asked the camerawoman to move along.  

Ms Miller said: “We are the Fourth Estate, the eyes and ears of more than 30 million people, across the world’s largest region.”  

She also said: “Pacific leaders have long called for media to do better than parachute journalism - to move beyond coups and cyclones – and yet when foreign and local media turn up to cover the region’s top meeting, they are often treated poorly.”

Yieng Kow first started working in Tahiti media in 1999, her LinkedIn profile says.Before that, she worked in France and later in the La Reunion islands, before returning to French Polynesia, in 2002.

Since then she has been writing and filming stories for 15 years.

Asked for a comment, Yieng Kow was polite.

She told Ms Miller:  “I’m sure I came across an exception! Most people are super nice.”

She has class, Yieng Kow.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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