Clark & Urwin Make Friends With Pacific NGOs
From Scoop Co-Editor Alastair Thompson on Assignment in Papua New Guinea and the Solomons
NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark Arriving at the Sir John Guise Indoor Sports Center
When Helen Clark decided at the last minute to attend the closing celebrations of the Sixth Pacific Civil Society Forum Meeting on Monday, Scoop was the only NZ media present to record the occasion in pictures, audio and video.
During her visit Ms Clark was presented with a detailed submission from the Free West Papua movement, and urged to discuss the issue of West Papua with her colleagues at yesterday's leaders summit in Madang. (Note: Scoop will report on the outcomes from these talks later today.)
She was then entertained by a group of West Papuan Pikanini child dancers.
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The Pikanini dancers perform for Ms Clark & Conservation Minister Chris Carter - Mrs Vassilifiti Jackson is at the far right of the official party and the NZ Council For International Development's Rae Julian is at the far left.
Earlier in the evening the West Papuan delegation presented a petition to Pacific Forum Secretary General Greg Urwin calling upon the forum to West Papuan representatives to accorded observer status at the forum.
Listen to the Civil Society meeting with Greg Urwin (16 mins)
Helen Clark and Chris Carter
To say that Ms Clark was greeted warmly by the representatives of civil society at their closing function would be a significant understatement.
The first speaker in what turned out to be a very lengthy introduction for Ms Clark was Mrs Vassilifiti Jackson from Samoa.
Mrs Jackson remarked that she sincerely hoped that Ms Clark would remain Prime Minister of New Zealand for ever. Later, as Ms Clark left the building Mrs Jackson sung a rendition of Pokarekare Ana in her honour.
Listen to a clip of Pokarekare Ana (40 secs)
Listen to the introduction to Ms Clark by Mrs Vassilifiti Jackson (2.5 Mins)
Official Pacific Island Forum recognition of the meeting of civil society groups began at the 2003 Pacific Island Forum meeting in Auckland.
NZ Aid now assists in funding the meeting, and the Pacific Island Forum Secretary General Greg Urwin is charged with first attending the meeting in an official capacity, albeit briefly, and then presenting its communiqué to the leaders during their retreat.
This year the gathering of around 60 members of NGOs from around the Pacific region was held from October 21-24, immediately before the Forum and included a sizable contingent of NZ representatives.
Its communiqué calls for among other things official observer status recognition for West Papuan representatives, rejection of the PACER trade agreement proposals (effectively a proposed extension of CER to the Pacific), and a freeze in all other free-trade negotiations until there has been a, "transparent and objective assessment if the actual and potential impacts on Pacific Island Countries and local communities; full consultation and public understanding."
MFAT Officials in the PM's Party watch proceedings from side of the hall.
Of all the Pacific Leaders Helen Clark has been the most consistent supporter of the civil society gathering.
In Apia last year she also attended the closing ceremony of the gathering with the Samoan Prime Minister. Organisers in Port Moresby had been hugely looking forward to her coming but did not know till the very last minute whether it would be possible.
In Port Moresby Helen Clark was in the end the only Pacific Leader to visit the event.
Helen Clark is presented with a bilum
After being performed to by the Pikanini child dancers Ms Clark was presented with a bilum – a traditional Papua New Guinea bag and then made a brief speech in which she acknowledged the role of critical debate from civil society in the political process.
Listen to Ms Clark's comments (5 mins)