LETTER TO THE EDITOR

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May 25, 1999

FROM: fdewittg@worldnet.att.net TO: hulsena@ewc.hawaii.edu CC: srpruett@aol.com SUBJECT: A Footnote to (SPC) History

The May 18 newsletter (Pacific Islands Report) reported that President Clinton would name a woman from Hawaii as "Representative" to the Pacific Community. However, there is no such position. When the South Pacific Commission (SPC) was established the "Commissioners" from the five or six metropolitan countries met regularly to discuss policies in the region. Later, the South Pacific Conference was created to provide more involvement by the Islanders. Over time, the Conference evolved into the final decision maker for the technical assistance organization.

At the Conference at Rarotonga in 1968, I believe, this was formalized (somewhat extra legally) in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

As I recall, the MOU called for countries to send a representative (lower case), but not to name permanent Commissioners or Ambassadors. The Planning and Evaluation Committee, which included all states and territories, was created to review the work plan. The Committee of Representatives of Participating Governments (CPRG) consisted of the sovereign states that had adhered to the Canberra Agreement (Samoa did; Tonga did not). The CPRG, therefore, was the successor to the Commission.

The term SPC came to be used to refer to the organization as a whole and to the Secretariat, headed by a Secretary General.

At the 1983 Saipan Conference, another MOU created the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA), giving equal status to all members (really stretching legalities), at least in the work of the SPC. (The French had always blocked such a notion; their silence as the role was called alphabetically caused consternation in the US Delegation, at least in me.)

Most countries were represented at the Conferences by their Permanent Foreign Secretary or equivalent, or sometimes by another government secretary or Minister. The first independent nation in the region, Western Samoa, adhered to Canberra and continued to name official "Representatives" after the Rarotonga MOU, although most countries just accredited delegations around the time of the Conference. The US Representatives (two alternates were also appointed) ranged from businessmen and political figures familiar with the region to some who had no background. Once the State Department obtained the appointment for the US Ambassador in Suva, but the only duty was to attend the annual Conference, not the CPRG/CRGA meetings. The US delegation was led by the regional AID director from Suva. No one had noticed that the position of Representative had disappeared.

During my tour on the Pacific Islands desk (82-85), I wrote a memorandum to remove the positions from the "Plum" book of Presidential appointments. No one was eager to tell the White House it had three less patronage slots. I had thought the memorandum was accepted and I was surprised to see another appointment made. Of course, the President does name non USG employees to US delegations and names special ambassadors to whomever he wishes, but there is always an office somewhere for that purpose. A US Mission to the UN is where the US Representative has an office. There is no "Mission" to the Pacific Community either in Noumea or Washington.

At the Conferences, surrounded by Minister and Permanent Secretaries who worked full time on the region, it was impossible for the US to be represented effectively by someone from outside the USG. Moreover, readers may draw their own conclusions whether such practice was taken as a slight. It was expensive. The "Representatives" drew no salary, but did receive per diem, first class airfare, and additional staff had to be sent to support them.

SPC is now the Pacific Community and perhaps the situation has changed. I would be grateful to anyone who would care to update or comment.

Steven R. Pruett SRPruett@aol.com US Department of State (Retired)

Fred D Goodell 47-188B Hui Akepa Place Kaneohe, HI 96744

Tel 808-239-2346

fdewittg@worldnet.att.net

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