Pacific Elders’ Voice urges Pacific Leaders to take a decisive stand on AUKUS

Pacific Elders’ Voice urges Pacific Leaders to take a decisive stand on AUKUS

By Rashika Kumar
Wednesday 12/04/2023
[Photo: File]

The Pacific Elders’ Voice is urging the Pacific Islands Leaders to take a decisive and ethical stand on the submarine deal between Australia, United Kingdom and the United States which signals greater militarisation by joining Australia to the networks of US military bases in the Northern Pacific and is triggering an arms race, bringing war much closer to home.

The Elders consist of the former President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Hilde Heine, the former President of Palau, Thomas “Tommy” Remengesau, former President of the Republic of Kiribati, Anote Tong, former Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, former Member of U.S. Congress & President of the University of Guam, Robert Underwood, Ambassador and former Fijian Government Minister, Kaliopate Tavola, and former Professor at the University of the South Pacific, Konai Helu Thaman.

In a statement signed by the Elders, they say this not only puts the region at greater risk of a nuclear war but the real environmental impacts arising out of any incident will be huge.

They say they are of the view that the Pacific Islands Forum demand Australia clarify what the benefits of AUKUS are to the region and what elements of this will impact on the Pacific Islands.

The Elders say the Pacific must also discourage countries like New Zealand, home to many Pacific Islanders, from resisting the lure to join this military alliance.

They say this not only goes against the spirit of the Blue Pacific narrative, agreed to by all the Forum member countries last year, it also demonstrates a complete lack of recognition of the climate change security threat that has been embodied in the Boe and other declarations by Pacific Island leaders.

The Elders say the staggering $368 billion allocated for the AUKUS deal also flies in the face of Pacific Island countries which have been crying out for support for climate change and the fact that not even a significant fraction of this figure is available for the region to deal with the greatest security threat, shows a complete lack of sensitivity to this key Pacific priority in Canberra, London, Paris and Washington.

They say when there is money available for such military expansionism, surely the region’s pressing existential threat from climate change also deserves this focus and substantive investment.

The Elders say while the Australian Government and its allies are emphasising 'no nuclear weapons' will be carried on these expensive submarines, this claim will never be verified because of the US Policy to not confirm or deny if nuclear weapons are on board any submarines that enter the Pacific and it does not talk about the disposal of nuclear wastes that will be generated by the operation of the nuclear-powered submarines.

They stress that they do not condone Australia’s deliberate exploitation of a loophole in the Treaty of Rarotonga which permits the transit of nuclear-powered craft such as submarines and they condemn DFAT’s recent arguments that the stationing of B-52 bombers in the Northern Territory does not constitute “stationing” in breach of the Treaty of Rarotonga.

They also condemn the United States’ failure as the only major nuclear weapons state to ratify the three protocols to the Treaty of Rarotonga.

The Elders say we only have to remind ourselves of the nuclear legacy in our region, including over 315 nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands, Australia, Kiribati, Johnston Island and French (Occupied) Polynesia.

They say they have been assured of technology safety before, but as the cracks on the Runit nuclear dome in Marshall Islands demonstrate, there can be no guarantee on the long- term management and regulation and the impacts of the two recent major nuclear reactor accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima, and many others before cannot be overlooked.

They further say the region is rightly, strongly opposed to Japan’s proposal to discharge waste water from the Fukushima reactor into the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Elders’ Voice say they are particularly keen to ensure the Pacific provides a united and forceful voice particularly to Australia, our largest development partner in the region and signatory of the Rarotonga Treaty.

They say Australia is also a signatory to all PIF Declarations and the ‘2050 Strategy of the Blue Pacific Continent’ adopted at the Forum meeting in Suva last year, and recognises that the most urgent security issue for the region is climate change.

The Elders are urging Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to follow through on his pre-election commitment to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and become more aligned with a region concerned with nuclear justice for all survivors and affected communities and embrace the goal of nuclear weapons-free world.

In response to AUKUS, the President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau says our people were victims of nuclear testing, and we still have the trauma.

The Pacific Elders’ Voice add the Pacific must continue to emphasise that paramount amongst the broader geopolitical and security challenges in the region is the climate security issue.

No time frame given for the salvage operations of RFNS Puamau
No timeline has been given on how long the salvage operations for the RFNS Puamau will take as the Fiji Navy has started the de-fuelling process in Fu...
11 hours ago
Chance for a reset
As Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka reflects on his position post the extraordinary events of the last two weeks his options may appear intoxicating, ...
11 hours ago

Committee silent on 7-year tax holiday to Fiji Water – Chaudhry
Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says it is surprising that the 2023 Fiscal Review Committee which has submitted a range of taxation ...
11 hours ago

Fiscal Review Committee wants departure tax to be increased
The Fiscal Review Committee is recommending a staggered implementation of the departure tax to $170 from 1st April 2025 and $200 from 1st April 2026 ...
11 hours ago

Govt not considering 30% pay increase for teachers – Prof. Prasad
A 30 percent increase is not something the government is considering for teachers. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman ...
15 hours ago

Excitement builds up as Hibiscus Festival coming back after 5 years
Excitement is in the air as Suva braces to hold the mother of all festivals, the Miss Hibiscus Festival which will be held after a lapse of 5 ...
16 hours ago

fijivillage Straight Talk with Vijay Narayan
Latest Videos

Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations

CFL radio frequencies
Crisis within FijiFirst relating to the termination of 17 MPs who voted for salary increases
A crisis has erupted within the FijiFirst party relating to the termination of 17 members of parliament who supported the government's motion to ...
5 days ago

Pre-Budget 2024-2025
Pre Budget 2024-2025 budget recommendations and an insight of what people on the ground wish to see in the National Budget
7 days ago

Sayed-Khaiyum case on alleged payment of Saneem's taxes without proper approval
It is alleged that between the 30th of June, 2022 and the 12th of July, 2022 in Suva, whilst being employed in the civil service as the Acting Prime ...
8 days ago