TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Large earthquake hits Papua New Guinea
An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale has struck eastern Papua New Guinea, with its epicentre located in a remote area northwest of Lae.
There have been reports of damage to houses and other buildings. Power supplies have also been disrupted. A number of injured people were flown to Madang for medical treatment. So far the confirmed death toll is very low. However, given the remoteness of the location where the earthquake hit, it is not yet clear what the full extent of the damage or injury is.
In 2018 a major earthquake hit the Highlands region, around Hela and more than 100 deaths occurred. As with this most recent event, much of the damage was sustained in remote villages with limited communications.
Prime Minister Marape has made a statement assuring people that assistance is on its way to the affected areas.
Solomon Islands elections delayed
Despite criticism from within his own country, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has pushed through a bill to amend the Constitution. The effect is to delay the elections that were scheduled for next year.
During the Parliamentary debate in relation to the passage of the bill, Sogavare expressed his displeasure at the publicity surrounding the offer of financial assistance that had been made by the government of Australia. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has confirmed the funding is not tied to the elections being held this year.
Whilst it is true that officials from Solomon Islands knew that the Pacific Games would be held in the same year as the elections when they bid to be hosts, some have argued that the impacts of COVID-19 are so substantial as to make having both of these events in one year too great a burden for the bureaucracy to deliver.
Vanuatu heading for a snap election
In Vanuatu the Supreme Court has upheld the dissolution of Parliament. In a decision that was handed down on Friday, Chief Justice Lunabek denied the claim of a group of former Opposition MPs that the advice to the President from the former government was unconstitutional.
The former Opposition Leader, Hon Ralph Regenvanu announced on Friday that a decision as to whether there would be an appeal would be made after his group had reviewed the written judgment of the court.
Meanwhile the Electoral Commission has released the timetable for the snap elections. The people of Vanuatu will go to the polls on October 13th, which is around 18 months ahead of schedule. Several candidates have already been announced.
Vanuatu currently has no women MPs. The early elections may have an impact on preparations that individuals and parties were making in anticipation of a 2024 poll.
Pacific countries respond to the death of Queen Elizabeth II
As news of the death of the Queen spread over the weekend, several reactions have come from Pacific leaders and from others in their communities. The British monarch is the Head of State in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
The Prime Minister of PNG, Hon James Marape confirmed that there will be no Parliamentary business in PNG until after the Queen’s funeral. Along with other Pacific leaders, he will travel to London to attend the funeral and meet with King Charles III. This means he will be absent from PNG for this year’s Independence celebrations.
Across social media, people from many Pacific island countries have been sharing photos and stories of times that they met the Queen or anecdotes they have been told about when she visited their countries in years gone by.