Blue Pacific continent an increasingly contested space, says Samoan PM

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi. Picture: SAMOA OBSERVER

SUVA, 08 JUNE 2018 (PACNEWS) — The Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielagaoi has strongly asserted the need for Pacific nations to protect their interests – particularly the vast Pacific Ocean and its resources – from ‘big powers pursing strategies to widen and extend their reach, inculcating a far-reaching sense of insecurity.’

“Our Blue Pacific continent is fast becoming an increasingly contested space, he said while addressing a public lecture at the University of Otago on Leadership and the Blue Pacific Identity Thursday.

The Samoan Prime Minister said Pacific countries need to be reminded of the potential of the Blue Pacific identity.”

“As the Blue Pacific, we have a powerful voice that we can take beyond our immediate region – to voice the concerns and interests of the Pacific around the world. That is why we have learnt to engage pro-actively in every opportunity that comes our way, said PM Tuilaepa.

He said, “Friendly relations Pacific nations have with some partners are construed by others as compromising and obtrusive – prompting neighbours to speak up for us to ward off the influences we are supposedly to naïve to recognise.”

“By the same token, we are given alternatives that reflect the interests beyond altruism and conversion of the poor.”

“An upgraded port, for example, may bring greater connectivity and opportunities for growth in some ways, but could it represent a ceding of sovereignty in other ways?

“The reality is stark – we are seeing invasion and interest in the form of strategic manipulation, said the Samoan leader, who is current chair of the Pacific Islands Forum.

PM Tuilaepa urged other Pacific Leaders to seriously think about what they need to do to make a difference for their people and for the world.

He said Pacific Leaders have taken global leadership on climate change and need to do the same for the Pacific Ocean and its resources.

“We need to promote our values premises on peace, stability and security.

“Our geographical isolation and insularity no longer shields or protects us from the increasingly complex and dynamic security challenges – transnational crime, nuclear proliferation, challenges to sovereignty and humanitarian crisis.

PM Tuilaepa said the Pacific should not be influenced by economic dependence but strengthen domestic cohesion, develop resilience and rethink their governance pathways.

Pacific Leaders are again taking regional and global leadership in protecting Ocean resources through the Blue Pacific identify to reinforce shared ownership of the Pacific Ocean and its connection with the livelihoods of Pacific peoples.

“This calls for inspired leadership and a long-term commitment to maintaining a string and collective voice and action on issues vital to our Blue Pacific continent such as we have done for current ocean governance arrangements, establishing a ban on driftnet fishing, lobbying for a stand-alone SDG14 on Oceans and Seas and reaching global consensus on the Paris Agreement, said Tuilaepa.

These are examples of that highlight the value the Pacific Islands Forum has placed on the international rules-based order for protecting and promoting the development and security of the Pacific Ocean.

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