Combating COVID in PNG and Fiji
COVID-19 outbreaks are ongoing in both PNG and Fiji.
Whilst in PNG the numbers of new cases and hospitalisations appears to have stabilised, there are concerns that a slowdown in testing may be masking the true extent of community transmission. The total number of cases in PNG has now exceeded 12,000. Whilst the vaccine rollout has commenced, there are still numerous reports of reluctance to take part, including among frontline health workers.
In Fiji, the number of cases continues to rise. There are currently 36 active cases in the country and a further death has been recorded, taking the total to three. Of the active cases, the majority are instances of community transmission. In several cases, investigations are still underway to determine the source of the transmission. The government is maintaining a strict curfew and a number of arrests have been made for breaches.
Ongoing drama in the Samoa elections
In Samoa there is no sign of an end to the uncertainty after the recent general elections.
In the latest twist, the Head of State, Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, announced that he was revoking the results of the April poll and that there would be another election on May 21. This has led to a further legal challenge by the FAST party, which has declared this decision to be unconstitutional. The HRPP party, which formed the previous government, has welcomed the announcement.
There is confusion among the Samoan population as they wait for decisions from the courts, which are likely to play a critical role in whatever comes next.
Further controversy has arisen in relation to claims that the caretaker government is considering shutting down access to Facebook and other social media in the lead up to the next elections should they go ahead.
Bomb blast in Honiara highlights a lethal legacy
One person was killed, and three others were injured when a World War II shell exploded in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
This is the second fatal explosion to have occurred recently in Solomon Islands. Two volunteers who were involved in clearing and disposing of munitions were killed in an explosion last September.
The incident has highlighted the issue of ordnance left behind after the end of World War II. There have been renewed calls for the US, Japan and other powers to put more resources into removing bombs and other ordnance that they left behind.
This is a problem that exists elsewhere in the Pacific islands region, including in the Marshall Islands and Palau.
There are concerns that with increased pressure on land for agriculture and/or building development there may be more incidents such as those seen recently in Solomon Islands.
Pacific Resilience Facility prospectus launched
The prospectus for the Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF) is to be launched this week. The PRF is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and has been led by the Forum Finance and Economic Ministers.
The launch of the prospectus comes in the lead up to a global pledging event to be held later this year. A target of US$1.5 billion has been set for capitalisation. However, speaking at a media conference, the Secretary-General of the PIF, Dame Meg Taylor, said that there was a need to be realistic about financing expectations in light of the global economic situation.
The PRF niche is to address climate adaptation financing needs that are currently not served by existing mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund. Whilst the focus is on providing support to communities and marginalised groups, the PRF will work through national government systems.
Tensions rise in West Papua
Tensions have risen again in West Papua. Despite the lack of access to the region for international journalists or human rights observers, a number of reports have been received relating to escalations of conflicts between indigenous Papuans and the Indonesian authorities.
The current situation appears to be centred on Puncak. Further to the killing of an Indonesian army chief by the West Papua National Liberation Army. This prompted the Indonesian government to deploy large numbers of soldiers to the region. Many people have fled their homes in fear, taking refuge in the jungle.
Most recently, a prominent activist, Victor Yeimo, was arrested for treason further to his having been involved in organising protests in 2019.
In 2019, the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum called for a visit to West Papua by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. However, this has yet to take place.