OPENING THE WORLD TO THE PACIFIC: ROBERT KISTE

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By Craig DeSilva

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (August 1, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---The world’s narrow view of the Pacific Island region was made ever more evident in recent months in the way the media, in particular the Hawai‘i press, covered the May 19 political coup in Fiji.

That was the message given by Professor Robert Kiste, director of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i-Manoa, to an audience at an East-West Center program entitled "U.S.-Pacific Relations in the New Millennium."

Kiste said the challenge this century will be to break down the derogatory view of the Pacific that is often times reflected in media reports.

He said even the media in Hawai‘i, the closest state to the Pacific Islands, had some problems in reporting the political turmoil in Fiji and the Solomon Islands with accuracy and insight.

"One recent article that appeared about Fiji likening their plight to Hawaiians was off the mark in the local press," he said.

However, he noted the importance of Japan, China, and Korea in their role as aid donors in the region.

"They are competing for presence in the Pacific," Kiste said. "You can’t go through the Pacific without seeing projects funded by Asia."

Kiste said that interest is sure to continue in the future.

He said Americans are not aware of the Pacific region as a whole.

"We forget in the United States that 83 percent of the people in the Pacific are Melanesian," he said. "And Melanesia is off the map in many respects for Americans."

"We think of Polynesia and Micronesia. But the big nations are Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Fiji.

"And each of the five nations in Melanesia have had their problems: the independence struggles of Vanuatu, the recent problem in Fiji and the Solomon Islands."

Kiste noted problems plaguing the region as a whole, including government corruption, out migration, education, and population control.

However, he said you don’t have to look far for the bright spots.

"It’s a dynamic region," he said. "We’re on a threshold of a new era."

Hawai‘i institutions need to play a role in being a part of the region, he added.

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