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Positive impact of ACP-EU meeting
I devote this diary to two particular issues I feel strongly about this week. They are in connection to the positive feedbacks that have transpired from the fine effort by the country to host its biggest ever international meeting since 1980. I end with a brief word on the safety of school children on the road, following the tragic death of that schoolgirl at Teouma on the eve of the international meeting.
Firstly, the reports we have been getting in relation to our superb efforts to host so many international dignitaries attending the 37thAfrica-Caribbean and the Pacific and EU (most commonly referred to as the ACP-EU) meeting in the capital last week cannot be more pleasing to the ears. As a ni-Vanuatu, it is highly uplifting to know that despite the odds stacked against us economically, Vanuatu can truly be proud of itself for delivering when required at the highest level.
If anything it shows our strong determination and will power to succeed and do just about anything regardless of our perceived ‘smallness’. It shows that we can achieve great things especially when we pool what little resources we have and work as a unit towards a common cause. Such was the spirit of our founding fathers, despite what could be considered was a daunting challenge of uniting a scattered islands of people with diverse cultures, language and often warring tribes.
For me, it is this spirit that has been lacking for sometime in the national scene resulting in many of the let downs we have witnessed by certain groups and elements within the Vanuatu society. If only we could extend such an attitude when it comes to our national affairs, one wonders what progress could be achieved if we put away all our differences and worked genuinely for the common good of our people!
We heard of reports of everyone working in earnest to prepare for the 300-plus international guests from all over the world to land in Port Vila. And in receiving them, we have treated them to our very best. I am sure many of the delegates will never forget the experience when they return to their respective countries.
For those of us who were not able to be physically present to experience the excitement and rub shoulders with some of the powerful within the ACP-EU family, just the positive atmosphere reportedly on display during the one-week meeting makes us truly proud.
Amidst all the gloom and doom of the modern era, once in a while it is good to show the world what a real paradise Vanuatu is— tucked away in the corner of the South West Pacific ocean. The Caribbeans are often touted as possessing some of the finest in terms of natural beauty. Vanuatu, I believe, has more than that because its visitors do sense and feel it when they set foot in our islands. The beauty of our country is that our attitudes and friendliness are genuine—one that comes from within the heart and never artificial.
Our colleagues from Africa must have been delighted to experience the warmth and hospitality of our people. Given the size of the African and European continents, Vanuatu is no match for their wealth and political clout, yet our willingness to put up our hands to host the event must be commended. The people behind the successful hosting of our guests deserve all the plaudits. Congratulations!
The only negative I can point out here would be our tendency to plan short term instead of planning for the long term so that such events can become a regular occurrence. For too long we have let such opportunities pass by because we have either under-estimated our strengths or lacked the needed facilities and technical abilities.
Let us hope that by bringing such high profile dignitaries to our shores will do us a world of good, not only in gaining more recognition and respect from our international peers but also boosting our trade and investment opportunities. No country is independent anymore these days. I am sure the organisers did their best to showcase everything Vanuatu has to offer in terms of tourism, trade and business opportunities
The one commodity that has suffered immensely since the 2002 EU blanket ban has been Kava. This was one commodity that held so much promise for the future of many of our rural population until the ban. Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s call for “greater understanding” between member states of the EU and the Pacific in relation to the ban on Kava and to restore market access should be commended. But words alone are not enough. They must be followed up with concrete efforts from the Kava producing nations— pulling the strings at the highest level.
In talking about Kava though, there is still not enough supply out there for if or when the ban is eventually lifted tomorrow. Port Vila’s demand alone is often difficult to meet. It means we have not devoted enough energy into developing our key commodities in order to take full advantage of our trade relations. Finance is our real concern at present. Servicing our debts and balancing our payments should be paramount in order not to compromise the needs of future generations. We hope that when they assume responsibility over their own affairs, they should be able to take it on from where this generation has left off. It would be a failure if we did not do so, or worse, loaded them with burdens they did not fully deserve.
The second issue I would like to raise is in relation to the safety of our children on the roads. Firstly, I extend my deep sympathy to the Pentecost family that lost their precious child to a moment of madness from the bus driver dropping off the schoolgirl that afternoon at Teouma. It saddens me that yet another innocent child has had to pay the price for our lack of forward planning and lax attitude towards upholding basic traffic rules. There are far too many drivers in Port Vila these days who do not understand the level of responsibility they have on their shoulders when providing a service for passengers. It is worse that one hardly hears about drivers having their licenses suspended for serious breaches of traffic rules because it means the same culprits will be driving around the next day.
I cannot imagine the pain and suffering the family have had to deal with. My heart felt sympathy once again to them for their loss, even though I do not know them personally. It is about time authorities started doing something about enforcing basic traffic rules while parents take a bit more responsibility by ensuring the safety of their children when they send them to school. For such a rapidly expanding area like Teouma, communities would do well to demand proper services from the authorities concerned that ensure pedestrian safety. To do this there must be proper stops in every major centre. This business of dropping off people at just about anywhere because it is convenient to customers must stop! People do like to have the bus stop outside their homes but it is one major cause of these fatal accidents. It is worse in Port Vila. Buses stop just about anywhere they feel like it and because there are no proper pedestrian crossings, risks for traffic accidents can be increased tenfold.
I wonder how much the bus driver would have lost in revenue if he took a bit more time by getting off his seat for a bit of a stretch and walked the kid to safety instead of just letting her to get off herself? This is certainly not the first time a kid (or an adult) has been killed in such a manner because of some thoughtless bus driver not taking necessary precautions to ensure their customers are safe. I wish some of them came out to places like Australia to see how public transport service providers treat the old and the young. After all, they are providing a service to customers who pay them their salaries and ensure they make a living.
>>The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the Vanuatu Daily Post