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Forum chair PM Tuilaepa congratulates Nauru

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi is among leaders from around the world who are in Nauru this week to attend the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

Tuilaepa, who is also the Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum Meeting,joins Australia’s Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Federated States of Micronesia’s Peter Christian, Foreign ministers of the Georgian breakaway states of Ossetia and Abkhazia and New Zealand‘s Pacific Peoples’ Minister, Aupito William Sio, as key guests.

Tuilaepa congratulated Nauru.

“It has been no mean feat given the achievements, the struggles and the challenges that have come about as an impact of the globalised world we all, as small islands developing countries are part of,” Tuilaepa said. 

“I extend to you all warm congratulations from the Government and people of Samoa. After all Nauru is the second country in the Pacific to become independent in 1968 and the world’s smallest independent republic.”

“Nature bestowed gifts in your land and sea which were very much yearned for by other bigger island countries without too many natural resources. But while ‘smallness’ has advantages we as small islands developing countries certainly face ‘big’ issues.”

Nauru is set to host the Forum Leaders meeting this year.

The 31st of January marks the day Nauru gained its independence from Australia. This week, the island is celebrating the occasion in a grand way with many dignitaries from the around the world there to pay their respects.

The Director of the Pasifika Centre at Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, says back in 1968 and for some time after, the decision to seek independence from Canberra seemed a very good move for the people of Nauru.

Nauru became for a period one of the richest countries in the world, but he says this changed once the phosphate started to run out. “Infrastructure for one was not maintained and the economy took a down turn and the problem is of course is that Nauru doesn’t really have anything, except for the fish to export,” he said.

“And it has faced some growing political problems and instability. It had some constitutional support from Australia, which gives the aid to Nauru that props it up.”

A former Nauru MP now living in New Zealand, Roland Kun, says the 50th anniversary is a big deal and it’s right that the people are marking the occasion, but he agrees the island remains economically reliant on Australia.

“Nauru is also hosting the offshore processing centre for asylum seekers in partnership with Australia and that is bringing in a significant part of the economic base of the country at present.”

“Unfortunately, as that happens, I am of the view that a large part of the development work on the island has fallen on the wayside.”

Opposition MP Riddell Akua was happy to comment, though he says the celebrations don’t interest him much.

He says while Nauru back in 1968 was keen to get control of its phosphate resource, successive governments, including ones he has been part of, have failed to manage this properly.

“In hindsight after the 50 years of independence we didn’t improve on what we had before, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of a new constitution, in terms of more balance, sharing the same wealth, sharing the work duties.

There are people suffering under different government.”

New Zealand has had a strained relationship with Nauru for several years since the suspension of some of its aid package to the island over concerns about the independence of the judiciary.

Aupito Sio says New Zealand is now trying to rebuild the relationship.

“I have just finished meeting with the president of Nauru, President Waqa, and their minister of finance and looking at strengthening that relationship going into the future. We have gifted Nauru $2 million (US$1.4 million) as a gift to the Nauru Intergenerational Trust Fund.”

Aupito says he was taken on a tour of the areas mined for phosphate and he says it is like a grave field.

He said Nauru needs top soil to try and re-habilitate the area. The Nauru government is seeking international help for this.

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