Wansolwara News

Vol. 5 No. 2
June 2000

Page 9

on Pacific Environment

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,” she says.

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 constitution ineffective.

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.”

File created: 3 June 2000
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