Castro’s Cuba & Somare’s PNG – Where’s the Connection?
There was a little significant event that occurred from the 16 September and ended on the 18 September 2008 and which understandably went thoroughly unnoticed by the PNG media due to our 33rd independence celebrations. In fact – it was hardly picked up by most of the major media outlets outside of Cuba although Australia and China did briefly report on the matter.
The event? The First Cuba-Pacific Islands Ministerial Meeting at the Palco Hotel in the Cuban capital of Havana.
The Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported that the three day talks were aimed at “deepening the cooperation between the isolated central American nation and the Pacific island states” – of which included the President of Kiribati Anote Tong, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu Apisai Lelemia, the foreign ministers of Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, and the permanent representatives of Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, Micronesia and Papua New Guinea to the United Nations.
These senior government representatives from around the Pacific make up the 10 South Pacific states that the Republic of Cuba maintains diplomatic relations with and young people from those pacific countries have studied in the Caribbean nation since 2006 – all of which are on scholarship and are training to be doctors.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque inaugurated the First Cuba-Pacific Islands Ministerial Meeting and in his welcome speech Perez said that it was necessary to perform transformations in the world in order to pass on to future generations a world of respect, peace and development. He also warned of the danger of climate change and called to seek cooperation agreements among the small nations in order to face natural disasters.
The meeting tackled cooperation in areas like health, sports, and education and also analysed common challenges among insular countries, such as climate change, how to face natural disasters, and the food and energy crisis. The representatives also toured sites of scientific and social interest.
One of the more interesting points of the ministerial meeting occurred at the closing of the conference when the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Apisai Lelemia, and speaking on behalf of the visiting delegations, expressed his satisfaction at the general consensus of participating delegations on the need to reform the United Nations.
Lelemia also urged all participants to speak as a bloc in all international forums and went on to praise the strength with which Cuba faces the economic, financial and trade blockade imposed by successive US administrations for almost half a century.
He added that the island-states of the Pacific region support the UN resolution that, for the past 16 years, has condemned this blockade and has demanded its immediate end.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque stressed that, although all the countries of the South face similar threats and challenges, it is the small developing island-states the ones that suffer the most when faced by negative phenomena such as climate change and the world food crisis.
Perez Roque went on to to say:
“Cuba is a country that is under an economic blockade and which does not have financial resources to share with you. However, we offer you our most valuable treasure: our human capital”.
Participants in the event agreed to hold the second meeting of this kind in 2011 in Havana and also to hold a meeting of Foreign Ministers next year in the venue of the United Nations in New York. They also agreed to create a working group to monitor the implementation of the main agreements of this first meeting.