Congressman Faleomavaega today met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who testified for the first time before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In response to comments from the Congressman, Secretary Clinton requested his direct advice and support in dealing with the crisis in Fiji and developing a more comprehensive U.S. policy toward the Pacific region; she also signaled her support for greater autonomy for West Papua, a position long advocated by the Congressman.
In his opening statement, Faleomavaega congratulated Secretary Clinton for her admirable work on behalf of the United States and in confronting many of the world’s most daunting challenges.
Faleomavaega went on to state that “having just returned from Fiji for discussions with the interim prime minister and many other key leaders… I submit that the situation in Fiji is more complex than it appears… [and the United States] has had no coherent policy toward some sixteen pacific island nations; very indicative of the fact is that we have not had USAID presence in the Pacific region for many years now.”
“And for too often and for too long Madam Secretary, in my view, we’ve permitted Australia and New Zealand to take the lead even when Canberra and Wellington operate with such a heavy hand that they are counterproductive to our shared goals,” Faleomavaega added.
“It makes no sense, Madam Secretary, for the leaders of New Zealand and Australia to demand early elections just for the sake of having elections in Fiji while there are fundamental deficiencies in Fiji’s electoral process, which gave rise to three military takeovers and even a civilian-related takeover within the past twenty years – along with three separate constitutions to govern these islands. I totally disagree with the nasty accusations that the leaders of New Zealand and Australia have made against Fiji given the fact that it’s more complicated than it appears.”
In response to Faleomavaega’s statement, Secretary Clinton said that the United States needs “to have a more comprehensive approach, an American approach to these islands. And I would welcome your advice about that... With respect to Fiji, I would welcome your advice about Fiji… And I will invite you, we’ll have the State Department follow up and we’ll bring you in and we’ll talk more broadly about the Pacific Island region.”
Faleomavaega requested that “the Administration review the political status of West Papua, and the extent to which the government of Indonesia has implemented and included the leadership and the people of West Papua in the development and administration of the special autonomy law… [and that] the Administration also hold Indonesia accountable for continued human rights abuses in West Papua.”
In response to Faleomavaega’s concerns over West Papua, Secretary Clinton said West Papua, “does need to be supported in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia. We support some of the steps that have been taken, and to realize that, we will include our concerns in our dialogue with Indonesia because we understand the delicate nature of what is at stake there, that it is part of sovereign Indonesia, but it deserves more support, respect, and certainly protection from any human rights abuses.”