Protest sends message
Liz Remmerswaal from World Beyond War Aotearoa New Zealand organised a Cancel Rimpac peace gathering at Haumoana Domain recently. Reporter caught up with Liz to find out more about the event and why it was held.
What is RIMPAC and how long has NZ participated in it?
RIMPAC is a war-training exercise led by the US Navy based in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. It happens every two years. It includes 26 countries, about 25,000 troops and myriad weaponry. New Zealand resumed participation in 2012.
Have you held other peace gatherings before?
We gathered in 2017 for Hiroshima Day in conjunction with the Napier Cathedral’s Environment Justice and Peace group, whose members were part of creating Napier as a Nuclear Free City in the 1980s. We are now planning a gathering on Sunday, August 9, to mark the 75th anniversary of the first dropping of nuclear bombs. We have also held several potluck functions at people’s homes, including one with kuia Pauline Tangiora of WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), and shown several peace films.
How long has World Beyond War Aotearoa New Zealand been going?
I started co-ordinating the group here almost three years ago. I am also on the international board of WBW and a convener of the Pacific Peace Network, and have attended conferences in Toronto, Alice Springs, Darwin, Prague, and Ireland, where I have met some wonderful international peace activists who I work with now. Pretty early in the piece I was lucky to win the Sonja Davies Peace Award which gave me funding to study Peace Literacy in the US, which was when I was asked to head up WBW in NZ.
How many people turned up at the gathering?
It was raining cats and dogs on the day so we abandoned our plans to go on the beach and met instead at Matt’s cafe in Haumoana. In the end there were about a dozen of us.
Who participated in the webinar which you hosted?
People from all over the world including the United States, Hawaii, Guahan/Guam, Australia, Philippines and Aotearoa.
Why is it important to keep the pressure on the governments to pull out of RIMPAC?
First because of the global risk of Covid-19, as land-based activities are still needed. Secondly, because it’s dangerous to be in such a close alliance and at the beck and call of Donald Trump and his warmongering colleagues. Another aspect is that many soldiers return home with PTSD and there is not enough good treatment for them out there. At the same time we have an inquiry going on into the NZDF’s actions in Afghanistan.
How many countries are still participating and how many have pulled out?
Israel and Chile have pulled out due to concerns re Covid, with so far 24 countries remaining, to be confirmed.
Why should NZ distance itself from RIMPAC?
We need to redefine security, NZ has no enemies and the wellbeing of our Pacific neighbours should be our first concern.
Can you comment on this description of RIMPAC from the website? “RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.”
For decades New Zealand governments have said there is no direct military threat to this country nor are our armed forces large enough to deter any military aggression. Therefore we need to reframe how we view “security”, away from outdated narrow military security concepts, and to transition away from maintaining combat-ready armed forces to civilian agencies that meet the wider security needs of all New Zealanders and our Pacific neighbours.
Fisheries and resource protection, border control, and maritime search and rescue could be better done by a civilian coastguard with inshore and offshore capabilities, equipped with a range of vehicles, vessels and aircraft that are suitable for our coastline, Antarctica and the Pacific.
How would you describe the peace gathering?
It’s always blissful to be around peace people who care much about creating a peaceful and just world as I do!
For more information contact Liz on 027 333 1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Remmerswaal is a former Hawke’s Bay Regional councillor 2007-2013, and co-founder of Baywatch Environment Group and Cape Kidnappers Protection Society, and lives in Haumoana.
Liz Remmerswaal from World Beyond War Aotearoa New Zealand