Monthly Archives: November 2017

‘NEW FLAGS FLYING: PACIFIC LEADERSHIP’ BY IAN JOHNSTONE, MICHAEL POWLES

‘New Flags Flying: Pacific Leadership’ is a book edited by Ian Johnstone and Michael Powles. It documents the political history of fourteen Pacific Island nations.

NEW FLAGS FLYING

Summary

After ruling the Pacific Islands for a hundred years, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA decide to grant independence to most of the states.

The change from being colonial subjects to self-governance turns out to be harder than anyone could have predicted. Local politicians try their best to lead their countries into this new chapter in history.

Review

Politics is not an easy subject to broach. It is often mundane and not very ‘accessible’ to an ordinary person not particularly interested in affairs of state and diplomacy. But this book deals with it in the most engaging way possible. Ian Johnstone and Michael Powles created a gripping read you, quite honestly, are not able to put down.

First and foremost, I have to praise the language, which is simple, uncomplicated, and easy to understand. The authors could have used fancy (and rather mystifying) political jargon and inundated us with professional terms and expressions, but then the book wouldn’t be intelligible to all people. It would be a title addressed exclusively to experts. I am glad that Ian Johnstone and Michael Powles chose a different path and decided to aim the volume at general audience who simply would like to familiarize themselves with the political history of the region.

‘New Flags Flying’ provides considerable insights into a time when Pacific Island states were undergoing colossal changes. Recounted by leaders who were a main force in shaping the events, the book is a scrupulously honest depiction of the countries’ journeys to independence or self-government. Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Tofilau Eti Alesana, John Webb, Sir Tom Davis, Dr Ludwig Keke, HM King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Hon. Young Vivian, Sir Michael Somare, Hon. Solomon Mamalon, Sir Peter Kenilorea, Hon. Bikenibeu Paeniu, Sir Ieremia Tabai, Fr Walter Lini, Kessai Note, John Haglelgam, Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi, Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, and Dame Carol Kidu share their personal experiences of taking their people into a very uncertain, at least at that time, future. The stories they tell – very emotional and thought-provoking – disclose not only the hopes and ambitions they had but also the struggles they had to face. Because no other part of our globe is more vulnerable to challenges and difficulties than Oceania; just as no other part of our globe demonstrates more resilience and ability to cope than those little islands do.

The interviews are accompanied by comprehensive commentary, background information, chronological summaries of significant events, and old photographs, which make the book even more interesting to delve into.

Now, although the title will be a fascinating read for every person who loves the Pacific Islands, for the Islanders themselves it should be of extra special value, as it contains lessons they can and ought to draw from. Why not use the past to improve the present and shape the future? Pacific policymakers should have this book sitting on their desks.

‘New Flags Flying’ is a great piece of literature. I can only congratulate the editors on the job well done and tell you that their work is definitely worthy of your time and attention. I could not recommend it more!

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PACIFIC’S POLITICAL PAST

‘Meeting each other at those conferences gave leaders the chance to compare notes about their controlling powers: Australia, ready to grant independence; Britain, keen to do the same for all its colonies; France, anxious to keep control of its territories and delay self-government in the Franco-British Condominium the New Hebrides; New Zealand, itself part of Polynesia, ready to combine self-government with continuing support for its former colonies; and the United States, determined that the other colonial powers should decolonise but equally determined to keep control of most of its Pacific possessions.’

‘Through the 1960s and 1970s, the United Nations was an important source of encouragement and support for Pacific territories, most of whom were among the world’s last – and, some might claim, most poorly prepared – to achieve self-government or independence.’

‘Some leaders would have been happy to continue under colonial rule. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, sometimes a titled English gentleman, sometimes a high chief wholly committed to traditional ways, acknowledges in chapter six that he had no sense the colonial period was ending because “we were part of the Queen’s regnum; we were happy – why should we change things? (…)’

‘Other leaders were more philosophical. Sir Ieremia Tabai of Kiribati and Bikenibeu Paeniu of Tuvalu give the clear impression of accepting as a fact of life that Britain was departing.’

‘Self-determination and independence were just the first steps in empowering Pacific peoples. The early leaders faced many varied challenges. The colonization of no two Pacific countries had been alike.’

Ian Johnstone,‎ Michael Powles; ‘New Flags Flying: Pacific Leadership’