COVID-19 resurges in French Polynesia

In French Polynesia, the number of COVID-19 cases has surged once more. In recent days the number of cases reported has been 1000 plus. There have now been more than 400 deaths in the French territory since the pandemic began.

There are concerns that this recent uptick in infections and deaths is linked to the visit to French Polynesia by President Emmanuel Macron and his entourage during July. The number of cases recorded in the month following his visit exceeded the total in the pandemic period leading up to that date.

Authorities in Papeete have called on the French government to send more medical personnel to the territory to deal with the caseload, saying that health resources are being swamped by the demand.

Parts of French Polynesia are currently in lockdown in an attempt to curb transmission of the Delta variant.

Bougainville marks 20th anniversary of the Peace Agreement

It is twenty years since the Bougainville Peace Agreement came into effect. It ended a prolonged civil war and marked the commencement of a peace process across the province. This culminated in a referendum in 2019 in which almost 98% of the population voted for Bougainville to become independent from Papua New Guinea.

In a statement to mark the occasion, Ishmael Toarama, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, said that the Peace Agreement had formed the basis of the road to Independence. He noted the work that the governments of PNG and Bougainville have done since 2019 in developing a roadmap to give effect to the results of the referendum.

President Toarama also highlighted areas where more work is needed. He identified several “outstanding issues” including “intergovernmental finance arrangements, the drawdown of powers and the joint autonomy review”.

Pacific countries ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

A number of Pacific island countries have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

This comes as the world marks the International Day Against Nuclear Tests. The Pacific’s nuclear legacy continues to be a focus for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). It is of particular importance to members such as Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and French Polynesia.

In his remarks to a webinar on the issue, the Secretary General of the PIF reflected that opposition to nuclear testing was a “key political driver” for the establishment of the group 50 years ago.

In a statement from the Chair of the PIF, PM Bainimarama of Fiji called for a just resolution to the outstanding issues that arise from the Pacific nuclear legacy. He reiterated the call of Forum leaders in 2019 for all PIF members to sign and ratify the TPNW.

Indonesian authorities accused of defying court order during West Papua trial

Indonesian authorities have been accused of defying a court order issued during the trial of West Papuan independence activist, Victor Yeimo.

The court had ordered that Mr Yeimo be hospitalised as a matter of urgency, but his supporters say that this has yet to happen.

Yeimo is facing charges of treason and incitement relating to his alleged role in a 2019 protest against racism which deteriorated into rioting.

Meanwhile, New Zealand officials have confirmed that they have raised ongoing concerns about human rights abuses in West Papua with the Indonesian government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that the concerns relating to Victor Yeimo have been raised during regular engagements with Indonesia.

Human rights groups are seeking further action in relation to the Yeimo case and the issue of human rights abuses in West Papua more generally.


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

Correction: last week’s column incorrectly stated that para-athletes from Vanuatu had withdrawn from the Tokyo games because of difficulties associated with Australian quarantine and border controls.