NEW ZEALAND’S JOHN KEY REKINDLES ‘PACIFIC WAY’

Commentary

NEW ZEALAND’S JOHN KEY REKINDLES ‘PACIFIC WAY’

By Savea Sano Malifa APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 5, 2009) – Last week in Samoa, Prime Minister John Key made a wise political move. By offering a free ride for Pacific leaders to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, he artfully invoked the Pacific spirit of friendship.

He has skillfully reactivated without even a whiff of a fuss the now near-moribund philosophy called "Pacific Way" where in the past, regional and political problems had been ironed out under a mandate based on friendship, trust and mutual respect. What’s more, Mr. Key’s gesture will have surely made his guests accepting of him as a good neighbor they can depend on and trust, and indeed, a true son also of the South Pacific.

Among Mr. Key’s guests on Air Force Boeing 757 were Samoa’s PM Tuilapea Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Tonga’s PM Dr. Feleti Sevele, and the leaders of Kiribati and Vanuatu. It’s been said that after the plane had picked up Dr. Sevele in Tonga, it flew on to Apia where it picked up Tuilaepa.

Interestingly enough, the arrangement conjures up stories handed down about family reunions in the old days. Except that instead of an airplane then it was a fautasi or long canoe going from island to island picking up relatives and guests for a reunion months up ahead.

Which is precisely the spirit of family and friendship Mr. Key’s timely gesture of generosity and sharing has rekindled. It’s a spirit very much needed in today’s troubling South Pacific where some of our leaders are too preoccupied with their greed for power they are deaf to the urgings of their conscience.

What’s happening in Fiji is a case in point. Now expelled from the South Pacific Forum and the Commonwealth, Fiji is isolated and ignored by the free world. And so as the punitive ramifications from an ensuing trade embargo Fiji is facing from the free world start to bite, the real suffering at home begins.

So what might military dictator Frank Baniamarama be thinking now? Does he think there’s method in Mr. Key’s gesture of friendship being shown to Pacific leaders nearby? Indeed, there is. He is twisting the blade as if to impress being with friends is far better than being with enemies.

As the man responsible for Fiji’s ostracism from the freedom-loving democratic world where the unwritten rule of helping-thy-neighbor in times of crisis reigns supreme, Baniamarama is surely a shunned pariah among leaders of that world today.

So will he continue to ignore the need for democratic rule and allow the innocent in Fiji to continue to suffer? Let’s bear in mind however that as dictators come and go people remain.

Encouragingly enough for Mr. Key’s New Zealand however, the recession there seems to be heading the other way; meantime life in general is returning to normal.

Today, the public’s confidence is returning; they are showing much eagerness to forge ahead once again. So that as the future is looking bright for all New Zealanders, it’s time for Pacific Island people calling New Zealand home to belt-up, cheer-up, and move forward with the rest.

And then there’s rebel MP Hone Harawira who appears to be still struggling with his racist paranoia developed since distant puberty. When he will be able to overgrow his silly, childish hangover, we cannot possibly know.

What everyone knows though is that he has publicly apologized to New Zealand for describing Pakeha in an email as "white motherf****ers". Now perhaps that’s a good start.

However how a Member of Parliament can do something as outrageous as this one can only suggest there’s something utterly wrong in the head – either it’s empty or it’s filled with something alien and unthinkable.

In any case, whether his apology is genuine matters not. You can’t keep showing the world you’re a devout racist and then expect everyone to believe you’re genuine when you say: "I’m sorry." We only hope the word responsible is the first thing such jokers see when they wake up one morning close by.

This episode though is just as comical and it is racially destructive.

Mr. Key put it in a nutshell when he said the comments in question were "racist, hurtful and have set back race relations in New Zealand".

Come to think of it, it’s such a terrible shame they came from a sitting MP!

As for the Maori literary hero Witi Ihimaera and his plagiarism fiasco, well, sadly enough he’s hero no more. All the way from back then I’ve been admiring his talent while growing up with his books, becoming indoctrinated with his Maori mana, marveled at the consistency of his contribution to literature, and then last week when his alleged plagiarism arose, the heart sank; since then those books have been removed from the shelves.

You realize nothing destroys trust more irrefutably than what you believe is a blatant abuse of that trust, which is something for Pacific Islanders making New Zealand their home to think seriously about. Honesty, after all, is still the best policy.

Savea Sano Malifa is editor-in-chief of the Samoa Observer.

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