TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Chinese Foreign Minister visits region
State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, is on a tour of the Pacific islands region. Over a period of ten days, he will visit eight countries. On Monday he hosted a hybrid meeting of the China-Pacific Islands Foreign Ministers meeting, the second of its kind.
Whilst, Minister Wang and his delegation are collecting a good number of bilateral agreements along the way, attempts to secure a multilateral trade and security deal appear to have stalled. Further to Monday’s meeting, it was advised that the proposed agreement had been withdrawn for now. Chinese officials have said that they will do more work to secure consensus among the Pacific partner countries.
Of some concern during the visit has been restrictions on media access. Not only have some media been unable to get access to press events, but in some cases, journalists have been told that no questions can be asked.
Australian Foreign Minister has made first visit to the Pacific
Late last week the newly installed Foreign Minister of Australia made her first visit to the Pacific. Senator Penny Wong spent two days in Fiji. During her visit she gave a keynote address at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. She also had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama (who is also Fiji’s Foreign Minister).
Senator Wong fielded a number of questions from the media after her address on Thursday. They raised issues that will be challenging for the Albanese government’s ‘new era’ of Pacific engagement. In particular, we can expect that the government’s climate policy will be challenged during the forthcoming meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders.
Prime Minister Bainimarama described his meeting with Senator Wong as having been ‘wonderful’. The fact that the new Foreign Minister visited in her first week in the job was well noted in Fiji and elsewhere in the region.
Vanuatu declares a climate emergency
Vanuatu has become the third Pacific island country to declare a climate emergency, following Marshall Islands and Fiji.
The Vanuatu Parliament passed the 17-point resolution on Friday. Prime Minister Bob Loughman did not pull any punches in his speech, asserting that “we are in danger now”. He said that his country has a responsibility to push nations responsible for climate change to take more responsibility and action.
The Leader of the Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu, tweeted that point two of the declaration states that “climate change is now undermining the fundamental human rights of present and future generations of Vanuatu’s people.”
This comes as part of Vanuatu’s “diplomacy push” ahead of the next General Assembly of the United Nations. Vanuatu will push for a resolution to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice about the protecting the rights of nations that are vulnerable to climate change.
Leader of the Opposition suspended indefinitely from Parliament
Harmony in Samoan politics has been short lived. Last week, the Leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was suspended without pay by the Parliament
This was further to a complaint made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, that the former PM and the Secretary of his party, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, had brought the Parliament into disrepute having been convicted of contempt of court.
The motion to accept the report recommending an indefinite suspension was moved by the Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’fa. Tuilaepa was not in Parliament to speak against the motion. He was in isolation having recently returned from overseas. The Speaker denied a request to defer the debate on the motion.
Meanwhile the former Attorney-General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale, has commenced a lawsuit against the Prime Minister further to her sacking in September of last year.
Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.