Archive for July, 2012

Via Island Sun (Solomon Islands)

“We (Ma’asina) are trying to find solutions whereby we can specifically help the people of Malaita. This is because the contributions that have been done by Malaitans in the past, it was the whole nation that benefited from them.”


THE MALAITA Ma’asina Forum (MMF) is considering the establishment of a commercial bank for Malaita people. This followed a number of issues, which MMF feels the national and provincial governments have utterly overlooked in terms of development in the province.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday, newly elected president of MMF Charles Dausabea explained the proposal had arisen because the Solomons’ development path was not working for the Malaitan people.

“Therefore, as sons of the Malaitans, we (Ma’asina) are trying to find solutions whereby we can specifically help the people of Malaita. This is because the contributions that have been done by Malaitans in the past, it was the whole nation that benefited from them.”

He claimed that Malaitans’ share of the economy is imbalanced nowadays, despite the contributions and wisdoms of their fathers.

“The executive has finally agreed to set up a Malaita bank for Malaita people,” Dausabea said in May. “We have made a new decision that we will be more focused on the development approach including the well-being of the Malaita people.”

He added that this idea was to give Malaitans the opportunities to access finance and for them to be involved in the domestic economy of Malaita. Malaita people in rural areas would be able to access finance.

“In this way, the people of Malaita can experience the benefits of their direct contribution towards our local economy which will in turn have a huge impact on the national economy.”

However, before the intention could be made a reality, the technical committee appointed will be engaged to carry out a feasibility study and run awareness to the people in Malaita regarding the initiative.

Speaking on behalf of the appointed research team for the project, Martin Housanau said in order to have a strong national and Malaitan economy, “we must have our own financial institution.” Housanau added that it is also through the involvement of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that the country will be able to have a strong economy, but that currently there was a lack of finance for SMEs.

Housanau said establishing a Malaitan financial institution would allow all economic development projects in Malaita including Auluta, Bina Harbor and Waisisi to be funded.

“Not only will it be able to fund the big projects which Ma’asina claimed not have seen any tangible progress in, it can also help those Small Medium Enterprises in Malaita which can directly contribute towards their domestic economy,” Housanau said.

The Technical Committee team leader also said the initative would increase employment opportunities.

Housanau said the proposal would not progress unless there were positive outcomes from dialogues between the Forum’s executive with the relevant authorities and the people of Malaita.

Meanwhile, MMF President Dausabea acknowledged and thanked the forefathers of the Malaitan people whose “contribution towards the development of Solomon Islands are the pillars the country is standing on, even today”.

By Marama Davidson 
(Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou)

An indigenous perspective has much to offer Aotearoa as we search our nation’s soul for a better way.

As Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa, my tūpuna already had a longstanding connection to this land many centuries before the European colonials arrived to our shores. We went from being the dominant peoples of this land with our own distinct living systems – to a minority collective of people living under infrastructures which oppressed and removed our own. This process of historical and ongoing colonisation, alongside our ancestor connections, is part of what makes us the indigenous people of Aotearoa.

In 2010 New Zealand finally (sigh) endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  (Declaration). This Declaration is the culmination of over two decades of rigorous debate among native/indigenous peoples from around the world. The United Nations said it was “a landmark declaration that brought to an end nearly 25 years of contentious negotiations over the rights of native people to protect their lands and resources, and to maintain their unique cultures and traditions.”
So I celebrated our State’s eventual endorsement in that bittersweet ‘better late than never’ sort of a fashion. My main mihi at the time was for the many natives who had literally given their blood to this affirmation of indigenous rights. There had been much ado over almost every single word in this document – indeed the saga of the letter ‘s’ being placed at the end of the word ’People’ in the Declaration title is worthy of a documentary in itself.

Given NZ’s initial and staunch opposition to the Declaration and a general history of Crown refusal to honour Tangata Whenua sovereignty – I always knew it would be up to us to give this landmark moment any enduring teeth. What I think is useful for Aotearoa is to truly investigate the indigenous worldview that such a Declaration aims to protect, as an essential part of our community fabric going forward. 
Article 3 of the Declaration says: 
“Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Recent political polling suggests that there are enough people questioning the current political, social and economic approaches being adopted for our nation. I think now is a good time for us to bury ourselves in some fundamental discussions around what a better nation would look like and how indigenous self-determination can play a vital part in that. As the current world market free-trade capitalist approach is being called into question, we are starting to look seriously at alternatives. Um – over here!
While it is true that Iwi and Hapū ourselves need to un-learn and re-learn some stuff, there is still enough to start working on with some viable options for honest collective health. For a start our reliance on global financing could lead us up the creek as is happening to other economies. As a little country tucked away in the Pacific, we could look strongly at protecting our unique environmental riches as a fundamental part of economic sustainability. Never mind Tino Rangatiratanga for Iwi – how about we understand that our government is slowly relinquishing its own authority to overseas imperialist economic powers!
The Declaration lends support for indigenous leadership on this very environmental resource protection in Article 26:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

In the above article the definition of ‘protection’ and ‘development’ of resources is diverse among Hapū. But I believe we have a unique responsibility to ensuring our long line of indigenous mokopuna get to play and fish in clean seas and beaches, hunt/eat and heal from bushy forests, breathe in fresh air, drink clean water and marvel at the unspoiled beauty of all of that. But here’s the thing – everyone else’s descendents will reap that protected environment too.

On the “sustainable living” push.
Yes we also have to do the hard yards to minimise our current absurd energy use and seek alternatives to illogical fossil fuel exploitation. Again I see the Declaration supporting all opportunities for us to turn our habits towards the wisdom of our tūpuna. There was a time when we could do it – live sustainably. There are a number of articles that emphasise the retention, development and evolution of our world views and knowledge to get us back towards that place of existence.

Of course the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be campaigned for alongside He Whakaputanga 1835 Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Waitangi and the current route for NZ’s Constitutional Transformation. The Declaration also stands as part of a whole host of international human rights documents under the United Nations framework. We must insist that the Declaration be considered in conjunction with and in full support of all of those discussions. It is up to us to assert the ‘practical effect’ of the Declaration that our Prime Minister crudely tried to play down at the time of government endorsement. It is the very practical effect of upholding the rights of this Declaration which I strongly believe has promise for Aotearoa and all the peoples in it!

I have focussed on only a few examples of how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an instrument of strong advocacy for how our nation can more positively develop from here. The beauty of the Declaration is that it is there for all of us to invoke. Previously I have talked about us not confusing Māori whakapapa for Māori advocacy. The adverse is also true. I have had the privilege of getting to know many a non-indigenous person living on this land who feels the essence of what our native truth is capable of. So the Declaration can help carve out that common ground among different peoples and can also be a catalyst for Tangata Whenua to re-inhabit our own ways of thinking and being. A starting point is for more of us to engage in the discussion around indigenous rights and responsibilities at all.

By Martyn Namarong

 “Economic independence of a nation produces true political independence of a nation state. Political independence is only a facade if the nation is not economically independent. Economic independence is the control of the wealth of a nation by a majority of its citizens. Thus, in any context, Economic Independence means local ownership of resources and the means of production for the utilization of natural wealth (aka our natural resources)”

One of the fundamental ideas behind the creation of nation states is the right of a people to self determination. It is about a people being in charge of their destiny. The idea of a People being FULLY in charge of their own affairs is expressed in the word SOVEREIGNTY.

Sovereignty of a People expresses itself as:

– Political Independence

– Economic Independence

– Cultural and Societal Independence

What do each of these mean?

Political independence in its fullness finds itself in the way Political Power is exercised by the Citizens of a Nation State. In order for Citizens to exercise these powers, they must have greater political capital than any organization, institution or foreign influence. A nation State in which its Citizens have less Political Capital than other third parties, is not a politically independent state.

I have decided to use political capital as a marker of true political independence as it expresses who has greater influence on the agenda of a nation’s highest legislative entity – Parliament.

Declarations of Independence and the creation of Parliaments are mere symbols of the desire of a People to have full power and authority to execute decisions about the destiny of their nation.

Parliaments and Constitutions are symbols of Authority. Ultimately, though, the exercise of Authority or the execution of powers is determinant on whether the Authority has the resource capacity. If the Authority has its own resources, it exercises its own Powers. If the Authority has its resource needs supplied by a third party (e.g mining companies), its Powers are exercised merely as the will of the third party.

If the Authority has its needs supplied by its people, then it expresses the will of the people.

If one looks at the relationship between resource ownership or wealth and the exercise of political power, one understands that Political Power is based upon the ownership of wealth. In other words, economic independence of a nation produces true political independence of a nation state. Political independence is only a facade if the nation is not economically independent.

In any context, Economic Independence, means local ownership of resources and the means of production for the utilization of natural wealth (aka natural resources). Local ownership is crucial to having the General Will of the People being expressed through a Political Authority.

If resources within a political boundary are owned and exploited by foreigners or a few elite, the Political Authority or Government reflects the will of these parties. In instances where the “state” owns the resource, the Government’s decisions reflect the will of those who create the enabling mechanism for exploiting the resources. Therefore, whoever controls the wealth of a nation controls the state.

If the exploiters are state apparatuses then the government decisions reflect the will of those in power. If the exploiters are private individuals or companies, then the power relationship is relative to how much private investment went into the exploitation. The greater, the private investment, the greater the power the private investor has in the relationship.

All Governments need resources to exercise their power. It is therefore in the interest of Governments to ensure that they have a sustainable and reliable supply of resources. If the state owns and supplies its own resource needs, then the state promotes its own interests. If citizens supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of its citizens. If corporations supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of corporations.

In today’s context, governments also have resources supplied in the form of loans and foreign aid. The state would obviously listen to the suggestions of these parties as well. Even Churches and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who indirectly supply resources by playing the role of the State, undermine political independence.

As a stated earlier, political independence is the exercise of the general will of the citizens by their government. As soon as the government diverges from this paradigm, the people lose political independence. Political independence however, is founded upon economic independence. Economic independence is the control of the wealth of a nation by a majority of its citizens.

Economic independence is a necessary precursor for the creation of a politically independent nation. A nation for the people and by the people is only possible where the people are in charge of the economy of the nation.

By Serafina Qalo, The Fiji Times

ROKO Tui Cakaudrove Ro Aca Mataitini believes a healthy lifestyle lasts a lifetime. And with the introduction of the Cakau Green program, his team is set to promote healthy living in the province.

The program, which requires the villagers to be vegetarians for one week out of every month, is expected to begin this year.

“Some villagers have already started following the program which is aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle amongst our people,” Ro Aca said. “I believe fruit and vegetables which can be planted in our own backyard are enough to supply our healthy menu.”  

Ro Aca’s favourite shopping centre is the market. “Whenever I go to town on Saturdays to do shopping, I always visit the market for fresh fruits and vegetables. I prefer the market for fruits and vegies so I hardly ever go to the supermarket to get them. And he often eats fruits for dinner. “If I don’t have any fruits at home then I turn to boiled vegetables and I am just enjoying a cheap yet very healthy meal.”

Now he’s taking his own diet out to the villages to promote the importance of healthy living. “Our health depends on the choices of food we eat so choosing wisely when it comes to preparing menus for our families’ matter,” Ro Aca said. “So this program is to help our people in the province eat healthy, live healthy and live a longer life.

“The Cakau Green program only involves vegetables and fruits. There is no inclusion of meat in it and that is any type of meat.”

Preventable diseases, diabetes and obesity are some of the health issues growing in the Pacific as we abandon our traditional – incredibly healthy – diets for unhealthy store food and fast food. “Non-Communicable Diseases have been a major cause of death in the country and claiming lives at a very young age.” Ro Aca said.

Apart from the healthy vitamins and nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide, Ro Aca has certainly saved money from keeping a vegetarian diet for a week every month. He spends less than $50 a week on groceries. In addition, eating fresh fruits and vegetables saves time used for cooking, and adds energy to your day. “The vegetables and fruits are not only healthy but lighter compared to meat. So with this, I am able to do my work and even do extra work in the day because I don’t feel sleepy or too heavy to move around from a big meal.”

The Cahau Green program has so far been promoted in villages on Taveuni, with visits to Vuna, Lavena, Naselesele, Qamea and Somosomo. The healthy lifestyle awareness program was also be taken to the districts of Natewa and Tunuloa. Ro Aca said villagers welcomed the idea of voluntarily having a vegetable diet once a month.

“We are promoting healthy living for our people and we will continue to work with district reps and village headmen to promote the healthy living program,” he said. “We are not forcing anyone, we just hope that people realise the importance of living a healthy lifestyle as it is for their own benefit.”

Four Solomon Islanders recently set out on a fact-finding mission to Papua New Guinea to learn from their experiences in mining. In Bougainville they discovered many believe that ‘real development’ does not come from mining but from hard work and control of their own natural resources. 

By Stephen Suti Agalo and Patrick Pikacha

The Solomon Islands is blessed with rich natural resources in our forests, oceans and rocks. We know these resources are the key to unlocking the development potential of our islands and delivering essential services to our people.

But experiences from the past decades of logging have demonstrated that if we are not careful our resources can be exploited without any development to show for it.

The vast majority of landowners involved in logging for a short period lived in hotels and drove nice cars and boats.

Now they are back in a leaf house, paddling a canoe and struggling for school fees. Now our forests are all gone but where are the schools? Where are the hospitals? Where did the money go?

In Bougainville we observed the devastation left after mining led to a war that killed over 15,000 people.

However now the Bougainville economy is growing and the region is being developed not from mining but from agriculture.

The unique geology and volcanoes that makes Bougainville and the Solomons good for mining also makes the soil very fertile and ideal for agriculture.

Through hard work Bougainvilleans are earning money and developing their island from copra, rice, cocoa and vanilla.

Many people told us that with the agriculture and small scale panning of alluvial gold they now have more money available at the family level than they did when the multi-billion dollar copper mine was operating.

They explained to us that money gained from mining is whiteman money and only good for short term whiteman things like hotels and fancy food, but money we earn from sweat and agriculture is real money that leads to real development.

*Extracted from the article ‘Delegation returns from PNG with lessons on mining’, Solomon Star July 2, 2012. Full article here:

Via UVA Today:

“Being Arapesh is there, but hidden or in the background. I would like to be able to take off this modern mask. It would be a big deal to me to connect these different worlds.”

Most of the people who spoke Arapesh when University of Virginia linguist Lise Dobrin conducted field work in Papua New Guinea about 15 years ago have died of old age. Their children no longer speak the language, and their grandchildren have almost no knowledge of their ancestral tongue, she said.

But Arapesh has a chance to live on through a digital archive Dobrin has created with the help of U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and an emerging collaboration with some middle-aged and younger Arapesh.

Dobrin, an assistant professor of linguistics in the College of Arts & Sciences’anthropology department, began the archive in 2005 and is focusing on it this year with support from the institute’s residential fellowship. The “Arapesh Grammar and Digital Language Archive” also has support from the Documenting Endangered Languages program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation.

Papua New Guinea, half of a Pacific island and slightly larger than California, lies north of Australia. One of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth, it is home to more than 800 languages, none of which traditionally was written down.

What is lost when a language falls into silence? A treasure trove of cultural information that has been passed down from generation to generation, Dobrin said. Endangered languages have properties only the speakers know, such as classifications of the natural world, for example.

In addition, there is a lot to learn from diverse systems of oral expression. Dobrin first went to Papua New Guinea in 1997 to study the system of noun categorization of Arapesh for her University of Chicago dissertation. Despite all of the strides in research, scientists and scholars still only partly understand language, she said.

From 1998 to ’99 in the village of Wautogik on the northern coast, she recorded Arapesh conversations to document speech patterns. She used a portable analog stereo cassette recorder and lavalier microphones to record villagers telling stories, talking about how they did things in everyday life, such as gardening, and describing events like First Communion. The fledgling Internet was of no use to her then.

Many Arapesh villagers today use Papua New Guinea’s lingua franca, Tok Pisin, as their medium of communication in daily life. Tok Pisin comes from the English “talk pidgin,” pidgin being the term for communication developed between people with different languages. English is taught in schools.

Since the 16th century, several European nations have occupied parts of New Guinea; the eastern half gained independence from Australia in 1975. As in other developing countries, younger Arapesh have moved to cities, become educated and stayed to work, sending money home to the rest of the family. And thus, Arapesh has become endangered in four generations.

Dobrin’s work is also getting the people themselves involved. “Many Papua New Guineans are now global citizens, but they want to learn their ethnicity,” she said. When a group of urban Arapesh who use Facebook stumbled upon the Arapesh archive, they reached out to Dobrin, saying, in effect, “Can you help us learn our language?”

Last month, Dobrin brought together a dozen people to discuss the best ways to make Arapesh, and possibly other endangered languages, available online to the tech-savvy generation and to connect far-flung villagers to one another. Worthy Martin and Daniel Pitti, co-directors of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and a few other professors and graduate students working on other language projects, met here. Emmanuel Narokobi, an Arapesh man, participated from Papua New Guinea via Skype.

Narokobi, who has an information technology business, said he is eager to relearn his Arapesh language.

“Being Arapesh is there, but hidden or in the background. I would like to be able to take off this modern mask,” he said. “It would be a big deal to me to connect these different worlds.”

In a country of 6 million, the technological device spreading most quickly seems to be the mobile phone, Narokobi said. The number of cell-phone users has surpassed 2 million, but that still leaves twice as many people without them. Even fewer have access to the Internet on a computer.

Dobrin is working with Narokobi and other urban Arapesh to determine what information would be most useful to them. The community-based addition to this research and the effort to “mobilize the materials” is part of a trend in linguistics, she said, to expand the preservation of endangered languages with information and materials that communities want.

“I feel like I’m holding this treasure – their culture – in a safe for them,” Dobrin said. Although the challenges are steep, she has begun a long-term reciprocity with the Arapesh to help preserve their way of life, enabling them to re-draw a sense of identity without limiting their ability to live in the modern world.

*You can access the Arapesh Grammar & Digital Language Archive here.

Radio Australia last week reported that Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu, had placed a tabu on another section of its coast in response to declining fish stocks.

Speaking to Radio Australia, Chief Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said overfishing and illegal fishing meant there was not enough fish to meet the demands of the island’s hospitality industry – about 1,000kg of fish per week.

According to the ABC, the tabu bans commercial fishing, and places certain areas off limits – even to subsistence fishermen – for six months.

Reportedly, “a similar tabu is already in place around the island’s south western tip”.

Traditional tabu areas hold an important role in fishing conservation in Fiji. Invoking a tabu remains the dominant local form of marine conservation, for “small, inshore, or coastal tabu areas overseen by individual villages and opened periodically at the discretion of the village chief”. In many villages, tabus have become the basis of more modern approaches to conservation, including establishing marine protected areas.

For example, the Locally-Managed Marine Area Network (LMAA) seeks to use deeply embedded understandings of the importance of tabu to ensure the success of its modern approach to marine conservation.

“This type of traditional temporary tabu typically results in increased harvest at the end of the closed period. However, to maximize the beneficial effects of a tabu area, recent studies indicate that longer or permanently closed areas are best,” the LMAA says on its website.

“Today, tabu areas in Fiji are being set up with the joint agreement of the chiefs and the people, unlike in the old days when a chief dies. The tabu imposed after the death of a chief now serves to reinforce the modern tabu area.

“The tabu applies only to a portion of the fishing ground (about 10-20%), leaving the rest for community members to harvest for their consumption or livelihood, with the objective of enhancing the productivity of the open harvest areas.

“The creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) or reserves – modern versions of the tabu system – has followed the traditional rites, with formal declaration and ceremonies performed, traditional marking of the closed area, and notification of neighbouring users.”

According to this website, Fiji now has about 177 MPAs, most managed by local villages.

Similarly, the newly placed tabu on Vanua Levu’s eastern coast is just one part of a broader strategy to tackle the problem of declining fish stocks.

Tui Cakau told Radio Australia the landowners would also meet with fisheries officials to work out how to police the coast more effectively.

As he said, the act of invoking a tabu defined his people’s stance on the issue very clearly:

“It’s just a matter of us putting things in black and white,” he said.

Fiji’s Fisheries Department recognises the initiative can work because it has public support, given it is community-driven. It also helps Fisheries deal with a problem they don’t have enough resources to tackle alone.

The tabu is an example of how Pacific cultural traditions adapt to ensure people can maintain harmonious relationships with the world. Initiatives based on traditional customs work because they are part of a people’s inherited cultural worldview. People are more likely to support and be engaged with an initiative if it respects their understandings of their integrated relationship with the environment and all living things.

What are your thoughts about using the tabu for modern conservation?

By Catherine Wilson

Part Two

Painting by PNG artist Jeffrey Feeger (photo by Claire Kouro)


In 2011 the National Informal Economy Policy was launched to promote “the informal economy as the ‘grassroots expression’ of the private sector and a partner in the formal economic system of Papua New Guinea.”

The policy advocates growth of, and greater civil participation in, the informal economy, regardless of gender, urban or rural location, and ultimately socio-economic inclusion for all involved.

Strategies to empower workers include an enabling regulatory environment, financial inclusion through microfinance and provision of improved infrastructure, facilities, education and training, social protection and political representation. Thus, it is hoped to link “the economies of rural and urban areas and to reduce inter-regional, as well as inter-personal, income inequalities.”

At Gordons Market, where there is currently no power, public water supply, inadequate sanitation and refuse management, vendors would like to see changes.

“I would like to see improvements, especially more benches for vendors and power supply,” said Miriam, from Babiko village, who works at the market with her mother and two sisters.

“We would also like to see good services for road transport, as sometimes when public transport is not available, we are not able to get to market in time to sell enough.”

The size and resilience of the our agricultural economy is testament to the initiative and creativity of people and communities at the grassroots, but putting in place promised state reforms is vital to its development and long term future.

“The informal economy in the agricultural sector is a booming industry,” Maria Linibi, president of PNG Women in Agriculture Development Foundation, claims.

“Women in PNG are entrepreneurs and make do with what resources they have, such as markets, transport, even if it means walking long distances with heavy loads on their backs to the nearest available means to earn some cash,” Linibi said.

“But there is,” she added, “no proper marketing infrastructure and other facilities in place to facilitate and support the informal sector to boost and sustain its effectiveness.”

Market vendor, Nikil, took pride in saying: “We do everything ourselves.”

NRI’s Nalau Bingeding said that substantial PNG-based agricultural research and its effective application, addressing restricted and expensive transport options and developing appropriate technology to prolong the life of perishables, would bring prosperity to smallholders and food gardeners.