TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Kiribati to return to the Pacific Islands Forum
Prime Minister Rabuka’s recent visit to Kiribati looks to have paid off. President Maamau of Kiribati has advised Rabuka (in his capacity as chair of the Pacific Islands Forum) that his country is ready to rejoin the regional organisation.
The regional leadership is expected to convene in a special meeting during March, to be held in Fiji. At that time, the chair will pass to Prime Minister Mark Brown of Cook Islands. The annual Leaders’ Meeting will be held in Rarotonga later in the year.
A potential stumbling block to the resolution of the ‘Micronesian Five’ stoush has been averted with current Secretary-General Henry Puna providing a clarification of his comments that he would like to continue in the role. Whilst in Honiara, he confirmed that he will finish up as Secretary-General next year as per the Suva Agreement.
Pacific responds to Ardern resignation
The surprise announcement by Jacinda Ardern that she was stepping down as Prime Minister of New Zealand sent ripples across the region.
Numerous leaders from national politics, regional organisations, and civil society were quick to thank her for her service to the Pacific. In addition to her advocacy on issues of climate change, she was also lauded for the example and inspiration she provided for women’s leadership in the region.
Prime Minister Hipkins’ appointment of Carmel Sepuloni as the new Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand has been greeted with much appreciation. Ms Sepuloni has both Tongan and Samoan heritage. She is the first Pasifika person to hold the position of Deputy PM in New Zealand.
We are yet to know whether this change in leadership will have any impact on Pacific policy and engagement in Wellington. New Zealand will hold elections in October.
Other Pacific News:
In Papua New Guinea, Sir Bob Dadae has been re-elected as Governor General. There was much disappointment that Winnie Kiap did not secure this position to become the first woman to hold that office in PNG.
In Vanuatu, the iconic Chiefs’ Nakamal has been destroyed by fire. Residents are in shock at the loss of a building that holds great social and cultural significance for the country. Australia will provide forensic expertise to support a police investigation into the incident.
Marshall Islands is expecting a massive increase in funding from the USA as part of the renegotiation of Compact arrangements. Meanwhile activists have called on the US government to apologise to the Marshallese people for historical nuclear testing.
Samoa is maintaining its suspension of participation in labour mobility schemes as domestic employers struggle to find workers to fill positions.
The Partners of the Blue Pacific have met in Hawai’i. A joint statement reveals that the workshop was to increase the members’ understanding of maritime domain awareness and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the region.
Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead for the Griffith Pacific Hub.