| MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE 31st August 2020
.. Minister Reynolds insistence on sending Australian Navy to Hawai’i a risk to public health
.. Sending troops overseas for war practice is hardly essential business in a global pandemic
On the final day of RIMPAC, the US Navy’s war training exercise in and around Hawai’i, it has emerged that 16 other participating countries withdrew from the training due to the threat of COVID-19. Only ten countries have ended up participating, including Australia.
“It is deeply frustrating that Minister Reynolds insisted on sending the Australian Navy into an area which entails risk to public health, to prop up the United States’ continuing global aggression,” said Ms Annette Brownlie, co-convenor of the Pacific Peace Network and Chairperson of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN).
In response to an open letter signed by peace groups, activists, academics, Reynolds stated that RIMPAC was essential. Her statement, however, ignored the continued devastation brought by US militarism in the islands.
“Knowing that at least 16 nations withdrew their participation in this year’s RIMPAC, it’s extremely disappointing to know that Senator Reynolds and the Australian government would risk putting Hawaiʻi’s people in danger and would be complicit in the ongoing destruction and devastation of Hawaiʻi’s lands and waters in the middle of a global pandemic. There was an opportunity to do better and to be better and they missed it,” said Ms Brownlie
“Although RIMPAC has been reduced to a ‘sea only’ exercise, we know that it still requires support staff onshore at the Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam. The US Department of Defence has reported 54,124 cases of COVID-19, along with 80 deaths, and we would have thought cancellation would be the only sensible choice.”
“Sending troops overseas for war practice is hardly essential business in the time of a global pandemic”, stated Ms Brownlie.
“We support the people of Hawaiʻi who have been opposed to RIMPAC since it started in 1971 and who have been, and will continue telling the United States and all other participating countries to leave and stop polluting their lands and waters.”
“COVID-19 can signify a turning point for peace, as has been heralded by the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres, demanding an international ceasefire as we unite to deal with the virus. The peoples of the Pacific are ready to establish a demilitarized zone respecting the environment and upholding indigenous sovereignty.”
“We do not see our future tied with the military of the US or China. Instead, we must work for a free and independent Pacific”, said Ms Brownlie.
“We envision a healthier world without international military exercises, and the threat of escalating conflict which they engender. It is appalling that Australia joined RIMPAC in 2020. We urge the government to permanently cancel participation in RIMPAC, along with other military exercises practising for war, including the 2021 Talisman Sabre exercise in Queensland.”
Contact Annette Brownlie, Co-convenor Pacific Peace Network; Chairperson IPAN +(61)431 597 256
IPAN Media Liaison: Kathryn Kelly, contact +(61)417 269 984