Open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Say no to RIMPAC military exercises

RIMPAC: The world’s largest international maritime exercise is scheduled to take place in the Pacific in June.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

8 April 2020

Tēnā koe Prime Minister,

We are writing to urge New Zealand’s withdrawal of participation and support of RIMPAC, the world’s largest, US-led military exercise due to begin in June.

RIMPAC includes over 26,000 troops from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam. Prior to the global spread of Covid-19, New Zealand had planned to send in excess of 300 troops.

Given the global Covid-19 pandemic, it is irresponsible to send New Zealand soldiers to interact with local communities in Hawai’i and to interact with soldiers from dozens of other nations. There is every probability that soldiers will transmit the virus, exacerbating the spread and imposing heavy tolls on vulnerable communities.

At present the nuclear-powered US Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is evacuating 2700 troops, due to Covid-19 infections, onto the island of Guam, where soldiers will be housed in hotels or other private facilities putting further strain on the community where there have already been three deaths from Covid-19. On Thursday, two sailors assigned to separate San Diego-based military vessels tested positive for the disease. This is just a prelude to the spread of Covid-19 within armed forces across the globe.

As important as the Covid-19 issue is to RIMPAC this year, it is not the only reason why New Zealand should not be there. RIMPAC is primarily intended to cement US military domination of the Pacific. As a participant, New Zealand is contributing to this military showcase of imperial violence and ecological destruction in places such as Hawai’i and Guam.

We know the threats brought by militarisation are many, one being the increase in sex trafficking of indigenous children in Hawai’i. It is just one of the aspects of RIMPAC that repeats the reckless spread of disease used to erase indigenous communities by military voyages in the Pacific over generations.

The New Zealand public never agreed to be a part of the US-led alliance, and our values stand at odds with the abuse of our Pacific neighbours caused by RIMPAC. In 2018, RIMPAC used humanitarian aid and disaster relief to cloak these exercises in a veil of legitimacy. This language seeks to obscure the very real death and destruction caused by these same militaries across the globe.

In light of the appeal from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, endorsed by the Pope, for a global ceasefire and to instead focus on combating Covid-19, it is especially inappropriate for the NZDF to participate in such extravagant war preparations as RIMPAC 2020.

New Zealand has the chance now to be a global partner and a model for other countries by choosing not to participate. New Zealand should completely withdraw from RIMPAC, this year and every year.

We look forward to your confirmation that New Zealand will not be participating in RIMPAC 2020.

Thank you.

Ngā mihi mahana,


Roger Fowler QSM
Chair, Mangere East Community Centre

Dr. Emalani Case
Lecturer in Pacific Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Helena Cook
Programme Director
Pasifika Pathways
Victoria University of Wellington

Te Ara Whatu

Dr Lorena Gibson
Senior Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology
Victoria University of Wellington

Teanau Tuiono
TeAo Pritchard
Co-founders, Pacific Panthers

Alice Te Punga Somerville
Assoc Professor, Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Studies
University of Waikato

Ocean Mercier
Assoc. Prof. Māori Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Jenny Taotua
Senior Pasifika Transition Adviser
Victoria University of Wellington

Dr. April K. Henderson
Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Emma Powell
PhD Candidate in Pacific Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Sadat Muaiava
Lecturer in Samoan Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Tim Corballis
Lecturer, Science in Society
Victoria University of Wellington

Herbert Bartley
Creative Director Pacific
Toi Rauwharangi, Massey University

Dr Dylan Taylor
Lecturer in Sociology
Victoria University of Wellington

Murray Horton
Anti-Bases Campaign

Peter Brunt
Art History
Victoria University of Wellington

Nathaniel Lennon Siguenza Rigler
PhD Candidate in Pacific Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Walter Kawikaka’iulani Aipa
Native Hawaiian living in Aotearoa

Kassie Hartendorp
Community Organiser, ActionStation

Anne Waapu
Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu

Tarapuhi Vaeau

Gerard Hehir
National Secretary
Unite Union

Mike Treen
Global Peace and Justice Auckland

Valerie Morse
John Anderson
for Peace Action Wellington

Eliana Darroch
Sam Vincent
for Auckland Peace Action

Dr Maria Peach

Sean Mallon

Robyn Dann

Maire Leadbeater

Dr. Nayantara Sheoran Appleton
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Science in Society
Victoria University Wellington

Amanda Thomas
Lecturer in Environmental Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Tauiwi mō Matike Mai Aotearoa

John Minto
National Chair
Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

Edwina Hughes
Coordinator, Peace Movement Aotearoa

Sam Ritchie
Maire Christeller
Annabel Willow Bennet
Health Sector Workers Network Aotearoa

Dr Kate Dewes ONZM
Director, Disarmament and Security Centre

Dr Arama Rata
Senior Research Fellow, University of Waikato

Max Harris

Dr Evelyn Marsters
Co – Director New Zealand Alternative

Thomas Nash
Greater Wellington Regional Councillor

Nina Hall
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Johns Hopkins SAIS & Co-Founder of New Zealand Alternative

Kaya Sparke

Janfrie Wakim
Palestine Human Rights Campaign

Hone Harawira
Leader, MANA Movement

Megan Hutching
for Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Aotearoa Section

Richard Jackson
Professor of Peace Studies
University of Otago

Gia Ngatai-Smith

Fiona Clements
Environmental Justice Ōtepoti

Megan Brady-Clark

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