Hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs;
Subject: “New beginnings: Foreign policy priorities in the Obama Administration”
Chaired By: Representative Howard Berman (D-Ca);
Witness: Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton;
Location: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
REP. BERMAN: (Strikes gavel.) The time of the gentleman has expired. The gentleman from American Samoa, the chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee, Eni Faleomavaega, is recognized for five minutes.
DEL. ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA (D-AS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madame Secretary, I want to congratulate you on your appointment as secretary of State, and commend you for the admirable work you are doing to address our most daunting problems around the world.
I think your decision to visit Asia on your first overseas trip sent precisely the right signal about the importance we place on the Asia Pacific region and our commitment to our treaty allies in Japan and Korea, and our intent to re-engage the ASEAN countries and our plans to foster a positive, constructive dialogue with the People’s Republic of China.
Madame Secretary, thank you for joining us today, and thank you for your tireless efforts in serving our country. For the sake of time, I’m submitting a series of questions for the record, and would appreciate your written responses.
These two questions, Madame Secretary, are not trick questions, but today, I’d like to ask you about two matters of particular concern to this member: the current situation in Papua, West Papua, in Indonesia, and the current crisis in Fiji.
First, will the administration review the current political status of West Papua and the extent to which the government of Indonesia has implemented and included the leadership and the people of West Papua in the development and administration of the special autonomy law? And will the administration hold Indonesia accountable for continued human rights abuses in this region of the world?
Second, having just returned from Fiji for discussions with the interim prime minister of Fiji and with the other community leaders of Fiji, I submit that the situation in Fiji is more complex than it appears. I commend our current U.S. ambassador’s efforts to continue the engagement with the leaders of the interim government.
And unfortunately, in my view, Madame Secretary, for too long, we’ve had no coherent policy towards some 16 Pacific island nations — very indicative of the fact that we have not had USAID presence in the Pacific region for, how many years now? And for too often and for too long, Madame Secretary, in my view, we’ve permitted Australia and New Zealand to take the lead even when Canberra and Auckland operate with such a heavy hand that they are counterproductive to our shared goals.
It makes no sense, Madame Secretary, for the leaders of New Zealand and Australia to demand early elections for the sake of having elections in Fiji when there are fundamental deficiencies in Fiji’s electoral process which gave rise to three military takeovers and even a civilian-related takeover within the past 20 years. These people are having to live off the — with three separate constitutions.
Basically, Madame Secretary, that’s the gist of my two questions, West Papua in Indonesia and the crisis in Fiji. I think — I totally disagree with the nasty accusations that the leaders of New Zealand and Australia have made against Fiji, given the fact that it’s more than what it appears. And I would appreciate your response to those two —
SEC. CLINTON: I really appreciate your question.
I think your specific questions are embedded in a larger problem, is that we do have these 16 island nations, many of whom are among our staunchest allies. Palau, for example, has voted with us in the United Nations; its young men go off to war under the American flag. So we need to have a more comprehensive approach, an American approach to these islands. And I would welcome your advice about that. I think it’s very important, Representative.
As to West Papua, we believe that it does need to be supported in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia. We support some of the steps that have been taken and — to realize that. And we will include our concerns in our dialogue with Indonesia, because we understand the delicate nature of what is at stake here, that it is part of sovereign Indonesia, but it deserves more support, respect and certainly protection from many human rights abuses.
With respect to Fiji, I would welcome your advice about Fiji, because, you know, our coverage of what’s going on from our ambassador and, as you point out, from Australia, New Zealand in particular, does paint a picture of turmoil and chaos and anti-democratic behaviors by the ruling parties. So what we want is to restore democracy. We want a functioning democracy in Fiji that can deliver for its people. And if you have advice as to how we can pursue that, I would welcome it.
And I will invite you — we’ll have the State Department follow up and we’ll bring you in and we’ll talk more broadly about the Pacific island region.
DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.