The three-day alternative to APEC was pau even before President Barack Obama had touched down in Hawaii.
But the message to Asia-Pacific economic leaders from those who participated in the Moana Nui summit was clear: Stop predatory capitalism and start letting indigenous peoples determine their own fate.
After a full day of panels covering issues like globalization, natural resources, and the impact of free trade agreements like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, dozens of people gathered on the steps above the University of Hawaii‘s Hawaiian Studies Department Theatre and together chanted a statement of their shared vision:
We the peoples of Moana Nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the comodification (sic) of life and land as represented by by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements.
We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom.
E mau ke ea ‘o ka ‘aina i ka pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
A mama Ua noa (The prayer is said)
The statement was hand written and had clearly been revised, evidence that the group had been wrestling with how best to express itself.
Those discussions of geopolitical and economic issues included people from the United States, Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia on Friday afternoon alone. On Thursday other topics were covered.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership was chief among the issues. Within the last 24 hours, Japan had announced it intended to join the negotiations for what could lay the groundwork for a wide-ranging free trade agreement.
Panelists railed against the proposal.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen‘s Global Trade Watch in Washington D.C., said the TPP would be the equivalent of NAFTA for the Pacific Rim. She said the goal of such agreements is to lock citizens into a “corporate vision” of the world.
“Developing countries should have the right to choose the direction of their future course,” explained Yasuo Konda of the People’s Action Against TPP in Japan.
Some criticized Obama for constant compromises with Republicans in Congress. Others decried rising student debt, and a moderator said young people want to study liberal arts rather than math and science because they don’t want “to be just a cog in a machine.”
There was even a brief mention of deep-sea mining for rare minerals.
After the discussion, Department of Hawaiian Studies Director Jon Osorio led conference attendees in song. He explained Friday was the anniversary of Queen Liliuokalani’s death, and said those still loyal to the throne will continue to fight for indigenous rights.
The singing and the statement and the gathering on the steps were the culmination of the multi-day summit, but it’s not the end of the line for the movement. Osorio said he’ll be heading to Stadium Park in Moiliili Saturday at 4 p.m. to march to Waikiki to take the message to world leaders at APEC, and asked others to join him.
“We do not want you to leave this place without understanding that we have made a commitment here,” Osorio said. “All of us have made a commitment here that this is going to continue, and it’s not going to stop until, until we’ve ceased to be.”
Watch Moana Nui chant its statement of position at Friday’s gathering:
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