Noumea, New Caledonia
I was one of the organisers of the Victorian Peace Network (VPN) that brought 150,000 people onto the streets in Melbourne Australia (VPN went the evening before the global day, to catch the Saturday newspapers and inspire other cities in Australia – we knew it would be big).
But on the actual day of 15 February, I was in Noumea, capital of the French Pacific colony of New Caledonia, attending a rally was organised by the Confederation of Kanak and Exploited Workers’ Unions (USTKE).
It’s vital to remember that this was a global protest – there was significant opposition in the Pacific islands region to the invasion of Iraq. In February and March 2003, the cameras focussed on the marchers in major cities, as millions rallied in Melbourne, London, Rome, Madrid and more. But protest rallies were also held in the capitals of small island nations in the Pacific. Numbers were certainly smaller than the mass rallies in the northern hemisphere, but the protests highlighted the global nature of opposition to the attack on Iraq.
In New Caledonia, behind banners saying “No to the war in Iraq” and “Solidarity with the Palestinian people”, over 500 people gathered at the Noumea waterfront, marching through the city to the French High Commission. Posters in the crowd said it all: “Bush Assassin”, “Non a la Guerre” (No to war), and “Bush fait la guerre et la monde y raque” (Bush makes war and the world pays for it).
On Friday 14 February 2003 – Saint Valentine’s Day – members of the Fiji Anti-War Movement (FAWM) carried flowers for peace to the Suva embassies of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
In Apia, Samoa, the women’s organisation Mapusaga o Aiga organised a rally for world peace, concerned over violence against women and children in Iraq, Palestine, Israel and other conflict zones around the world.
There was also a rally in Dili, the capital of East Timor – a small island nation ravaged by 27 years of Indonesian occupation, which only obtained its independence in May 2002. About 150 people assembled at Borja da Costa and marched to the US, British and Australian embassies. East Timor suffered more than 200,000 deaths after Indonesia’s invasion in 1975 – an invasion aided and abetted by the Western powers involved in the occupation of Iraq. We are everywhere.