Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, the Category 5 storm that slammed into Fiji on February 20, was the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere and the second strongest ever in the world, with wind speeds approaching 300 kilometres an hour. At least 44 people were killed, and thousands left homeless, deprived of livelihood and at risk of water- and mosquito-borne diseases.
The tasteless joking between immigration minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the threat of rising sea levels to Pacific Islands — caught on a microphone after the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting — sums up the Australian government's attitude to the victims of its climate inaction. The 46th PIF leaders' meeting in Port Moresby ended without reaching agreement on a united position to take to the Paris climate summit later this year. Pacific Island leaders could not convince Australia and New Zealand to agree on more ambitious targets.
Marchers in Honiara in support of West Papua’s bid to join the MSG, June 19. The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) granted the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) observer membership during a summit meeting in Honiara on June 26. It also upgraded Indonesia’s membership from observer to associate.
“The rising sea levels caused by global warming threaten the very existence of some of our neighbours,” Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF). “Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands ― and are already swamping the coastal areas of many Pacific nations, including Fiji.”
Many see Australia as a small power dependent on British and then US power for protection, but it is important to note that Australia has its own imperialist agenda it pushes the Pacific region. From the late 19th century to today, Australia's ruling class has been finding ways of extending its influence on nearby countries. It has even succeeded, if only temporarily, in gaining colonial possessions. This began even before federation in 1901, as the new capitalist class, having accumulated capital from the gold rushes in the mid-19th century, was looking for outlets for investment.
The West Papuan independence movement's hopes of of gaining a foothold in the international community were set back when foreign minsters visiting West Papua pledged non-interference with Indonesia. Last June, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit met in Noumea, New Caledonia, and discussed a membership application from the West Papua National Council for Liberation (WPNCL). The summit postponed the decision until a ministerial delegation visited West Papua to determine the legitimacy of the group and to assess the situation in the occupied country.
The following statement was issued by the family of Mere Samisoni, arrested by the Fijian military regime, and later released on bail on January 3. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org . * * * The family of award-winning Fijian businesswoman and former MP Dr Mere Samisoni has been warned by her lawyers she might be charged with conspiracy by the country’s military rulers when the courts reopen on Tuesday.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released the statement below on November 9. * * * The rights of Fijian workers have deteriorated further following the start of a draconian decree that effectively bans collective bargaining. ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Essential Industries Employment Decree, which came into full effect yesterday, denied workers of many fundamental rights, including to freely organise or collectively bargain.
About 1400 nurses in Fiji, who began a strike on July 25, were joined on August 2 by thousands of teachers and other public servants, resulting in at least half of Fijis 20,000 public sector workers being on strike.
Following a decision by Fijis interim government to cut public servants pay by 5% and reduce the retirement age from 60 to 55 years, a range of unions have conducted ballots for strike action. The Fiji Public Service Association and the Fiji Nursing Association voted in favour of the strike and the Fiji Teachers Association will soon conclude its ballot. On March 30, more than 90% of Fiji Post and Telecommunication Employees Association members voted in favour of a strike. Public Service secretary Taina Tagicakibau claims the governments decision is non-negotiable and that any strike action would be illegal and result in job losses. The military has also threatened to intervene if the strike goes ahead.
The deputy commander of Fijis military has threatened public sector unions including the Fiji Public Service Association, the Fiji Teachers Union and the Fiji Nurses Association that it will intervene to stop a planned strike against a 5% pay cut and reduction in the retirement age from 60 to 55. According to Fijilive.com on March 17, Teleni said that it will enforce the Public Emergency Regulations, which restrict strikes and public gatherings. He also declared that workers would lose their jobs if they joined the strike. The March 23 Fijionline.com quoted Fiji Nurses Association general secretary Kuini Lutua as saying her union would continue to fight until the government withdraws the proposed pay cut. Currently I have 98 per cent of support from members of the association and when we plan to go on strike nothing will stop us.
The Fiji Womens Rights Movement is protesting the March 13 promulgation of the Water Authority of Fiji Bill, which according to public service and public sector interim minister Poseci Bune will provide more effective management of water, including opportunities for competition in the provision of water and facilitating the corporatisation of the Water Authority of Fiji. Opposition to water privatisation sprang up last July when organisations including the Fiji Human Rights Commission protested the inclusion of five major private sector figures in a nine-person committee established to prepare a charter on water and sewerage. In a March 15 statement, FWRM executive director Virisila Buadromo said that Water is a basic human right, and we are very worried about the commercialisation of this essential resource. We are appalled that water, as essential to life as air, will be treated like a business especially in light of clear community concerns on the issue.
On December 5, after weeks of speculation, the commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama announced that he had overthrown the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in Fijis third military coup in the past 20 years. On January 4, the military restored the powers of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, so that he could swear in an interim government with Bainimarama as PM.