The saga of The Missing Cups of Indomie

Equality must be real & practised with respect

| Academia Nomad

Sitiveni Rabuka (left), prime minister of Fiji, visiting Taneti Maamau, president of Kiribati, in January. Both leaders are seated as a mark of equality and respect. Rabuka later confirmed that Kiribati had agreed to return to the Pacific Islands Forum (Sitiveni Rabuka, Twitter)

PORT MORESBY - When Kiribati left the Pacific Islands Forum after the Forum (including Australia and New Zealand) failed to honour a gentleman’s agreement to let its leadership rotate to a Micronesian nation, it was Fiji which brought Kiribati back into the fold.

After becoming prime minister late last year, he went to Kiribati and, along with his delegation, sat on the grass in the sun.

He  invited the travelling Fiji media to do the same, and ask Kiribati for forgiveness on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Rabuka single-handedly brought Kiribati back, not by rationalising or arguing but by adhering to the Pacific Islands way of apology - showing remorse and respect by sitting on the grass in the sun.

There had been earlier appeals to Kiribati from the Forum but the Micronesians refused. They were even readying to form their own regional organisation.

Rabuka saved the unity of the Pacific Islands Forum in the face of destabilising geopolitical competition so foreign powers could not use the division for political gain.

In the face of geopolitical rivalry, it is just sensible to understand we can gain more as a united region than as loose individual units in this vast ocean.

After Kiribati, Rabuka came to Papua New Guinea, visited governor-general Sir Bob Dadae and sat on the floor. Again he made sure his travelling delegation did the same.

Sir Bob, symbolic representative of a rapidly diminishing and irrelevant colonial power halfway across the world, sat on his chair.

Apparently, no reciprocity was felt necessary for our fellow Melanesian leader.

Because King Charles III sits on his throne, a symbol of his superiority, it seems his representative must sit on a chair.

The gentleman sitting on the floor in this photograph is Fiji's prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka. The gentleman seated on a chair looking bewildered is PNG's governor-general.

Kabuni    This gentleman sitting on the floor is the Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.

Even if this is not what the governor-general was thinking at the time, it appears to be an act of superiority. Sir Bob and his advisors are out of touch with our own Pacific Islands reality.

We have become detached from the Melanesian concepts of respect and reciprocity.

I’m Melanesian, when our guest sits on the floor, we sit on the floor as a way of saying ‘we are equals’.

It’s a polite way of making the guest comfortable in our home, or in this case our country.

Of course you wouldn’t do that if you consider yourself as the King’s representative, would you? Not necessary to be polite laka?

Why is it that we are so impressed by Western ways? Do we really love chairs better than our woven Pacific Islands mats?

We are supposed to understand that equality is a Melanesian value of great consequence.

It is a value clearly superior to the hierarchical values of a colonial power that raised the Union Jack in Hanuabada in 1884 and declared Papua a British protectorate.

When Papua New Guineans were elected in majority to the first House of Assembly in 1964, taking over from the white-dominated Legislative Council, the colonial Australian Administration retained veto power.

It was not until 11 years later, upon Independence Day on 16 September 1975, that Papua New Guineans through their mainly Indigenous representatives were able to make their own laws under their own Constitution.

But our Head of State was still the Queen of England. And her son remains in that role.

Yes, that’s the type of institution we think is still relevant by keeping the office of the governor-general, the King’s representative, in PNG.

We seem to think it necessary to remember the past injustices of the colonial powers by keeping a head of state in England and his royal representative in PNG.

So when a fellow Melanesian, elected by his people, sits on the floor as a mark respect, we keep the King’s position secure in a chair as a mark of superiority.

To say the least this was insensitive on the governor-general’s part.

Equality should be a tangible value that can be observed in practice, not just a hollow word signifying nothing.


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Lindsay F Bond

Equality is the topic that needs a full presentation across national borders and for Pacific Islands friendship.

Equity is another topic for people within PNG, in accordance with the PNG Constitution.

As a person who identifies as having a lesser ability in hearing, it is not equality to which I aspire but the value of residing in a nation that has equity as a goal for its sovereignty.

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