TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Fiji elections this week
The much-anticipated general elections will take place in Fiji on 14th December. At the time of writing there is a blackout period in place which commenced at 12 am Monday 12th December. This prohibits any campaigning, including by way of displaying signs or posters. It also bars all media outlets from reporting on anything connected with political campaigns or interviewing candidates.
The Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, has made it very clear that he will be policing the black-out period with meticulousness. Fiji media reported that there had been four complaints of the blackout period being breached on Monday.
Saneem has also taken issue with reporting by the Australian national broadcaster, ABC. In a media conference late last week, he claimed that their reporting had sought to smear his office and the conduct of the elections.
There are 97 observers in Fiji for the polling period.
Australian politicians visit the region
A bipartisan delegation of Australian politicians is visiting the Pacific islands region this week. The delegation is led by the Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong and the Minister for the Pacific and International Development, Pat Conroy. They are accompanied by their Opposition counterparts: Senator Simon Birmingham and Michael McCormack.
The delegation will visit Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. It is the first bipartisan visit to the region since 2019. Reintroducing these bipartisan visits was an election promise of the Albanese government.
The visitors will meet with political leaders and others from civil society, including church leaders. Before leaving Australia the delegation members spoke of the importance of this trip to give them an opportunity to listen to Pacific voices and learn about their priorities.
Bougainville and Solomon Islands talk trade
Officials from the Autonomous Government of Bougainville have undertaken a trade visit to Solomon Islands. This marks the first ever trade talks between Bougainville and Solomon Islands. It is a significant milestone in the work Bougainville is doing to effect its independence from Papua New Guinea.
The visit was facilitated by the government of PNG, and they will remain part of future talks on trade between Bougainville and Solomon Islands. This is in line with existing agreements and legislative arrangements. The objective is to establish a Trade and Investment Framework between Solomon Islands and Bougainville.
President Toarama of Bougainville reflected on the close ethnic and trading ties between his people and their neighbours in Solomon Islands. He has said that he will be exploring more opportunities for trade and investment at home and abroad to establish economic independence for his people.
FLNKS eyes International Court of Justice option
It is still unclear what the next steps will be in relation to the future of New Caledonia.
Meanwhile, Roch Wamytan, President of the New Caledonia Congress, has been visiting his Melanesian neighbours. In Vanuatu his delegation met with the government and the secretariat of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), of which the FLNKS is a member. On leaving Vanuatu Wamytan said that the FLNKS will examine the option of seeking an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice as to the validity of the 2021 referendum. This will require a UN resolution to be passed with a majority.
Wamytan and his delegation also travelled to Solomon Islands where they met with Prime Minister Sogavare. Sogavare was briefed on the proposal to put a resolution to the UN to seek an Advisory Opinion. He gave his support during the talks and requested that the MSG Secretariat do further work on this.
Tess Newton Cain is a Principal Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.