Air Vanuatu goes into liquidation

After weeks of speculation and year if not decades of financial woe, Air Vanuatu is now in the hands of liquidators. All flights have been suspended, which has left many people stranded within the country as well as in Australia and New Zealand. Virgin Airways and Fiji Airways have reacted quickly to provide extra capacity to ease backlogs of people wanting to get in or out of the country.

It is another blow to the tourism industry, which is still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 border closures, and twin cyclones in March of last year.

Meanwhile, the political fallout has begun. On Monday, the new leader of the Opposition, Gracia Shadrack, announced that he was lodging three criminal complaints against PM Charlot Salwai with one of them relating to handling the Air Vanuatu issue. However, the Minister for Finance, John Salong, maintains that Air Vanuatu has the government’s support.

Former Prime Minister of Fiji behind bars

In what has been a spectacular fall from grace and power, Josiah Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, former coup leader and Prime Minister of Fiji, is now in jail.

The former PM was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment having been convicted of perverting the course of justice. Former Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho, was sentenced to two years in prison at the same hearing, having been found guilty of abuse of office.

Previously Bainimarama looked to have escaped prison time. But a prosecutorial appeal to the High Court saw that position reversed.

The conviction and sentence mean that Bainimarama is ineligible to stand for Parliament until 2032, so this is likely the end of a controversial political career. It remains open to Mr Bainimarama to appeal. Meanwhile, the Fiji First party has maintained that Bainimarama remains their President.

Other Pacific News

In New Caledonia, cars and buildings have been torched in Noumea. This comes further to a day of deliberations about changing the electoral rolls, which is seen by many who are pro-independence as a way of undermining their political base.

In Bougainville, tensions persist between the Toarama-led autonomous government and the PNG government as to how the issue of independence will be handled by the national Parliament. Both sides are seeking to appoint a moderator to move things along.

The Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters, is undertaking his second Pacific tour to New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. His delegation includes representation from the Parliamentary Opposition.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, has travelled to Tuvalu to meet the new Prime Minister, Feleti Teo. They have reconfirmed the Falepili Union that was announced late last year. Extensive development support for Tuvalu was announced during the visit.

Media freedom rankings released by Reporters Without Borders indicate that Fiji has improved markedly in the last twelve months, going from 89th in the world to 44th. Conversely, the ranking for PNG dropped from 59 to 91.


Dr Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead for