on Pacific Environment
DECLARE NUCLEAR-FREE STATES, SAYS LINI
PROFILE: DONNA HOERDER talks to one of the leading
Pacific environmental and indigenous rights campaigners.
EVERYBODY has something they dream of or hope for. If there was one thing
Motarilavoa Hilda Lini hopes for, it is that “each Pacific country declare
themselves a nuclear free state”.
Ms Lini replaces Lopeti Senituli of Tonga as director of the Pacific
Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC). Her three-year term started on the April
10 this year.
For this middle-aged, family woman and a strong supporter of indigenous
people and organisations working toward independence is important. Ms
Lini says PCRC was set up primarily to look after issues relating to indigenous
people, like decolonisation, land rights and sovereignty. Although over
time, they have come to deal with other issues such as human rights abuse.
Journalist: Her plan as director is to look at the reasons for
inaugurating PCRC. Especially in terms of the part that there are still
indigenous people fighting for independence like Bougainville, East Timor,
Tahiti, Guam, New Caledonia and Rapanui.
This 46-year-old ni-Vanuatu has been a journalist, a programme officer
with the former South Pacific Commission (now Secretariat of the Pacific
Community), and was a member of Parliament. She spent four years as a
journalist for the liberation movement before deciding to do a journalism
diploma at the University of Papua New Guinea. She said it was the only
course offered at that time in journalism.
“I decided to get that journalism diploma because independence was approaching
and I knew everyone would want to see your academic qualifications.” On
the standard of journalism in the region, Ms Lini said journalists try
their best, but to be effective they have to have resources and commitment.
One problem with the media is that “it is controlled by other people
and journalists are not able to report on some issues.”
Although journalists do a lot of work, she thought there wasn’t enough
training. This is because most Pacific countries have only one radio station
or one newspaper. There is no opportunity open to actually put what journalists
have learnt into practice and become an experienced journalist, she said.
Being Fr Walter Hilda Lini’s sister was not easy to dodge politics. She
believes her brother’s political achievements influenced her to move from
journalism to politics.
“The fact that my brother was the leader of the liberation movement,
I believe pulled me into politics.”
“The tide at that time in Vanuatu was that everyone became involved.
“The whole family was pulled in and participated in the struggle for independence,”
During her 10 years in the Vanuatu Government, Hilda Lini held a number
of portfolios. Her first portfolio was as Minister for Health, Rural Water
Supply, Population Policy, Rights of Children and Traditional Medicine.
She later became the Minister for Justice, Culture and Women.
She has also been the only female legislator in the Vanuatu parliament.
Apart from governmental positions, Ms Lini was an adviser for the Vanuatu
National Council of Women, vice-president for the International Peace
Bureau and the spokesperson for Tuvanuatu Kominiti, which is a national
network of indigenous chiefs.
In 1990, Ms Lini was given the Tenth Vanuatu Anniversary medal. For her
resistance to the use of nuclear weapons, she was awarded the Sean MacBride
Peace Prize, by the International Peace Bureau in 1993.
In 1998, Ms Lini was given the prestigious title of 1998 Woman of the
Year by the American Biographical Institute. Having actively participated
in the development and implementation of the people’s charter for a Nuclear
Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) and being a member of the NFIP Steering
Committee, Ms Lini is not a new face for PCRC. The NFIP Steering Committee
established PCRC as the secretariat for the NFIP movement.
Church funds: PCRC is funded by church related non-government
organisations in Europe, Canada and the United States. Some countries
in the world have declared themselves nuclear- free states, like Belarus.
But only two Pacific countries have declared themselves nuclear free
— Vanuatu and New Zealand. Palau was the only other country that wanted
to declare itself nuclear free.It fought for a nuclear-free state by drafting
a nuclear-free constitution. But the United States managed to make the
Hilda Lini believes that one day the Pacific will achieve nuclear freedom,
but it depends on the commitment of each Pacific Government.
“If we declare ourselves nuclear free states then we can talk about
a nuclear free Pacific.”