Gender based violence causes outcry in Papua New Guinea

Recent high-profile cases of gender-based violence have caused an outcry in Papua New Guinea. There have been heated discussions on social media, protests by citizens, and calls for leadership and action from the government.

The tragic and harrowing story of Jenelyn Kennedy who was allegedly murdered by her partner has galvanised community and political responses. In addition, those who have worked in this area for many years have pointed to the need to address some underlying societal attitudes to how women are treated by men and how intimate partner violence is viewed by all, including other women.

The Prime Minister, James Marape, has called for an end to a culture of silence in PNG. He has urged members of the community to report instances of domestic violence to the police, whether as victims or witnesses.

Social impacts of COVID-19 recorded in Fiji

An alliance of civil society organisations in Fiji have reported significant social impacts resulting from the economic slowdown as a result of COVID-19.

The Fiji CSO Alliance for COVID-19 Humanitarian Response comprises eight organisations that work across numerous sectors. They report that they are dealing with increased reporting of violence against women, estimating the uptick to be in the order of 200%. They are also being called on to provide increased support by way of food parcels to vulnerable families.

Other issues of concern they have documented are an increase in thefts of crops from gardens and farms, deteriorating mental health among people who have lost their jobs, and a rise in the number of teenage pregnancies.

The CSO Alliance has called for an increased level of response from the government to address these issues. They note that things are particularly concerning in the Western Division around Nadi, the tourism hub of Fiji.

Date fixed for the next referendum in New Caledonia

After some uncertainty, it has now been confirmed that the referendum on whether New Caledonia should remain a colony of France or become independent will go ahead on October 4th. This is a delay of almost a month from the original date of September 6th.

Pro-independence groups were in favour of delaying the referendum to November. Their concerns are around it coming too close to the municipal elections, which have just been completed. These have themselves been delayed since March because of the Covid-19 impacts.

This year’s referendum is the second of a possible three that can be held under the Noumea accords. In 2018, just under 57% of those who participated in the poll voted for the territory to remain in French hands.

Opposition party in Fiji no longer suspended

In Fiji, the Registrar of Political Parties has lifted the suspension order against the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA). SODELPA is the largest party in the Opposition of the Fiji Parliament.

The Registrar of Political Parties, Mohammed Saneem, has ruled that he is now satisfied that the breaches which had led to the suspension have been rectified.

However, serious rifts remain within the party. Ms Emele Duituturaga has been approved as the party’s General Secretary by the Commissioner. But a Board meeting of the party on Saturday was boycotted by a number of members. The group, led by former party leader Sitiveni Rabuka, had sought to have the previous Secretary General Adi Litia Qionibaravi reinstated.

The continuing rift makes the prospect of a new party being formed more likely, which will be welcome news to the governing Fiji First party ahead of the elections in 2022.

New President in Kiribati sets out agenda and priorities

In Kiribati, President Maamau has been setting the scene for his term in office. This comes after he was returned to the presidency further to the recent elections in his country.

Despite much of the outside coverage seeking to locate this election within the context of a Taiwan-China tussle, President Maamau has asserted that local issues and concerns were voters’ primary concerns. He has also rejected claims that members of staff at the Chinese Embassy in Tarawa were actively supporting his campaign.

In a rare and wide-ranging interview with ABC’s Pacific Beat, the President has defended both his decision to switch back to diplomatic relations with China last year and his own policy announcements that many have queried in terms of how they can be funded. They include doubling the purchase price of copra and providing cash payments to people who are unemployed.


Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.