Parliament sits in Fiji
Parliament is sitting this week in Fiji and we are getting more of a sense of the ‘new normal’ that comes with the coalition government led by Prime Minister Rabuka.
Any concerns that the Opposition would be lacklustre without the input of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum were laid to rest by a blistering attack on the government by Fiji First’s Voreqe Bainimarama. He accused the Coalition of being immature and pursuing a divisive ethno-nationalist agenda. However, some of his comments, which were an attack on the President, appeared to go too far.
The Rabuka government has reiterated its intention to reinstate funding to the University of the South Pacific and the PM has said he plans to meet with Vice-Chancellor Pal who returned to the country at the weekend.
Steps to improve media freedom in Fiji are also high on the new government’s agenda.
Vanuatu makes important foreign policy moves
Foreign Minister Jotham Napat has announced that his Ministry will develop a new foreign policy to be released within 100 days. Napat wants this policy to be one that positions Vanuatu as an equal partner rather than ‘subservient’ and said that the policy needs to provide for his country to engage proactively with relevant geopolitical trends.
As chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Vanuatu is keen to see the issue of membership for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) resolved. This has been a thorn in the side of the grouping for several years. The ULMWP has a secretariat in Port Vila and its representatives have been lobbying the Kalsakau government to progress this issue.
Foreign Minister Napat has suggested that he will visit Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea to secure high-level agreement prior to a Leaders’ meeting to be convened in Port Vila later this year.
Other Pacific News:
As part of ongoing talks relating to the renewal of Compact funding arrangements, the Federated States of Micronesia has secured a major funding commitment from the USA. The agreement will see FSM receive US$7 billion over a twenty-year period.
Samoa has taken on the chairing of the Alliance of Small Island States. This powerful bloc represents 39 island countries across the globe with a strong focus on issues of sustainability and addressing the impacts of climate change.
In Solomon Islands, the premier of Malaita, the most populous province, has been unseated in a motion of no confidence. Whilst much commentary presented this as the result of Chinese interference, the reality is located much more in the realm of domestic politics.
A Pacific Islands Forum delegation, led by incoming PIF chair, Prime Minister Mark Brown of Cook Islands, has visited Japan. The parties agreed to maintain ‘intensive dialogue’ about the contentious issue of the discharge of treated wastewater from Fukushima into the Pacific ocean.
A New Zealand pilot has been kidnapped in West Papua. The West Papua Liberation Army (WLPA) has confirmed that they are holding Phillip Mertens and that he is safe. The WLPA says it is seeking to negotiate with New Zealand authorities in relation to his release.