Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi is among leaders from around the world who are in the Republic of Nauru this week to attend the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations.
Tuilaepa, who is also the Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum Meeting, is accompanied by his Good Lady, Gillian Malielegaoi, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo and other government officials.
Tuilaepa joins Australia’s Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Federated States of Micronesia’s Peter Christian, Foreign ministers of the Georgian breakaway states of Ossetia and Abkhazia and New Zealand‘s Pacific Peoples’ Minister, Aupito William Sio, as key guests.
Tuilaepa congratulated Nauru.
“It has been no mean feat given the achievements, the struggles and the challenges that have come about as an impact of the globalised world we all, as small islands developing countries are part of,” Tuilaepa said.
“I extend to you all warm congratulations from the Government and people of Samoa. After all Nauru is the second country in the Pacific to become independent in 1968 and the world’s smallest independent republic.”
“Nature bestowed gifts in your land and sea which were very much yearned for by other bigger island countries without too many natural resources. But while ‘smallness’ has advantages we as small islands developing countries certainly face ‘big’ issues.” (see Tuilaepa’s speech in full on page 7)
Nauru is set to host the Forum Leaders meeting this year.
The 31st of January marks the day Nauru gained its independence from Australia. This week, the island is celebrating the occasion in a grand way with many dignitaries from the around the world there to pay their respects.
But Don Wiseman of Radio New Zealand reports that questions remain about just how independent Nauru is after all this time.
The Director of the Pasifika Centre at Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, says back in 1968 and for some time after, the decision to seek independence from Canberra seemed a very good move for the people of Nauru.
Nauru became for a period one of the richest countries in the world, but he says this changed once the phosphate started to run out. “Infrastructure for one was not maintained and the economy took a down turn and the problem is of course is that Nauru doesn’t really have anything, except for the fish to export,” he said.
“And it has faced some growing political problems and instability. It had some constitutional support from Australia, which gives the aid to Nauru that props it up.”
A former Nauru M.P. now living in New Zealand, Roland Kun, says the 50th anniversary is a big deal and it’s right that the people are marking the occasion, but he agrees the island remains economically reliant on Australia.
“Nauru is also hosting the offshore processing centre for asylum seekers in partnership with Australia and that is bringing in a significant part of the economic base of the country at present.”
“Unfortunately, as that happens, I am of the view that a large part of the development work on the island has fallen on the wayside.”
RNZ Pacific sought comment from the Nauru President Baron Waqa who has largely refused to speak with foreign media over the past four years. His office said he was too busy this week.
Opposition M.P. Riddell Akua was happy to comment, though he says the celebrations don’t interest him much.
He says while Nauru back in 1968 was keen to get control of its phosphate resource, successive governments, including ones he has been part of, have failed to manage this properly.
“In hindsight after the 50 years of independence we didn’t improve on what we had before, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of a new constitution, in terms of more balance, sharing the same wealth, sharing the work duties.
There are people suffering under different government.”
New Zealand has had a strained relationship with Nauru for several years since the suspension of some of its aid package to the island over concerns about the independence of the judiciary.
Aupito Sio says New Zealand is now trying to rebuild the relationship.
“I have just finished meeting with the president of Nauru, President Waqa, and their minister of finance and looking at strengthening that relationship going into the future. We have gifted Nauru two million dollars as a gift to the Nauru Intergenerational Trust Fund.”
Aupito says he was taken on a tour of the areas mined for phosphate and he says it is like a grave field.
He says Nauru needs top soil to try and re-habilitate the area. The Nauru government is seeking international help for this.
In the meantime, after the official celebration, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his delegation made their way to visit the Samoan community in Nauru.
Proud milestone for Republic of Nauru
Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi
Prime Minister of Samoa
Remarks at Nauru’s 50th Year of Independence
Celebrating 50 years of Independence is indeed a milestone to remember in the history of Nauru.
It has been no mean feat given the achievements, the struggles and the challenges that have come about as an impact of the globalised world we all, as small islands developing countries are part of.
I extend to you all warm congratulations from the Government and people of Samoa.
After all Nauru is the second country in the Pacific to become independent in 1968 and the world’s smallest independent republic. Nature bestowed gifts in your land and sea which were very much yearned for by other bigger island countries without too many natural resources. But while ‘smallness’ has advantages we as small islands developing countries certainly face ‘big’ issues.
The involvement of the Republic of Nauru at the United Nations and particularly as the Chair of the Association of Small islands states (A.O.S.I.S.), has ensured coverage of issues of critical importance to us all as Small Island states, such as global warming, rising sea-levels, nuclear testing, Development and Measures designed to combat international terrorism. Small as you are, Nauru continues to actively support human rights and self-determination in this Blue Pacific continent that we share stewardship of.
Your efforts in the transport sector as a member of the Micronesian group that co-operate on transport and trade links has helped improve air services to some of the smaller island countries. It is a step forward in bridging the isolation of our countries. Samoa and Nauru became the first Pacific Island countries to ratify the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (P.I.C.T.A.), Trade in Services (T.I.S.) Protocol on 17 April and 20 August 2013 respectively.
Samoa and Nauru continue to work closely and maintain cooperative and cordial relations not only in issues of mutual concern in the international and regional arena, but also in cultural affairs and sports.
Both Pacific Island countries are also current members of the Pacific Islands Forum. Samoa is the current Chair and Nauru will assume the chair of the 49th Forum Leaders meeting in September this year. Nauru was the Chair of A.O.S.I.S. during the 2014 S.I.D.S. Conference hosted by Samoa and is the current Chair for the Pacific Small Island Developing States group. Despite being the smallest U.N. member, Nauru has been an active voice on key S.I.D.S. issues.
Samoa and other Pacific neighbours have lent a helping hand in the building of institutions and capacities in Nauru. Senior Samoan public servants were contracted to serve in the Nauruan government in the areas of civil aviation, financial systems and law and justice. I am happy to note a former Supreme Court judge Lesatele Rapi Vaai from Samoa is now serving in the same capacity for Nauru.
Private sector firms from Samoa have also won contracts in the construction area.
My government has also hosted a number of Nauruan public servants to do work attachments particularly in the area of financial management reforms within the Ministry of Finance. Similarly, with the support of S.P.R.E.P, environmental modelling experts from Samoa visited and assisted Nauru in the launch and application of the 3D model which would help Nauru establish and manage their natural resources including conservation sites. There is no better way to assist each other than the application of south-south cooperation among Pacific countries.
A small Samoan community already exists in Nauru, and I have had the pleasure of meeting them during my short but memorable time in Nauru – this is evidence that people to people links are already and will always be an established part of our societies.
Mr President, Samoa again congratulates your government and people of Nauru on the 50th anniversary of Independence. We extend to you our sincere thanks for the invitation and our best wishes for the next fifty years particularly as we stand together to weather the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. Soifua.