COVID-19 raising serious questions in Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, the number of COVID-19 cases is continuing to rise. Health authorities have converted sports facilities into isolation wards. As health workers become infected the government is considering employing retired nurses and final-year nursing students to plug the gap. The government has extended a curfew (6:00pm-6:00am) for a further two weeks.

Meanwhile, some serious questions have been asked as to how the virus got out of quarantine. There are allegations that a government MP, Tony Iauko, had entered quarantine facilities for social reasons and then close contacts of his travelled elsewhere in the country. The Deputy Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau, has also been accused of leaving quarantine without appropriate medical authorisation. The Leader of the Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu, has lodged a police complaint regarding these matters. He has also called on the Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, to resign.

Media tensions in PNG as elections approach

A dispute over editorial priorities at EMTV in Papua New Guinea has become protracted and has now escalated. It has prompted some to question whether the organisation will be able to cover the upcoming elections appropriately.

The controversy started with EMTV running stories about a controversial Australian businessman, who was facing criminal charges. This led to a senior journalist, Sincha Dimara, being suspended. EMTV staff walked off the job in support of Ms Dimara and were subsequently sacked. Ms Dimara, a journalist with over 30 years’ experience, was working to have the newsroom staff reinstated. However, she herself was then sacked late last week.

The situation has prompted expressions of concern from across the region, including from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance in Australia. As PNG prepares to hold national elections later this year, the role of a free and independent media is of particular significance.

Pacific Elders Voice speak out on the recent IPCC report

A leading group of Pacific island elders has released a statement in response to the findings of the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Pacific Elders Voice includes people such as Dr Hilda Heine, former President of Marshall Islands, Enele Sopoaga, former Prime Minister of Tuvalu, and Dame Meg Taylor, former Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum.

In this statement, they reiterate that Pacific island countries, especially the low-lying atoll countries see climate change as an existential threat. They call for greater action when it comes to climate finance, including in relation to loss and damage. They warn that the current war in Ukraine should not become a distraction from what needs to be done to rapidly decarbonise the global economy if the Paris target of 1.5 degrees is to be achieved.

Pacific Islands Forum appoints expert panel

The Pacific Islands Forum has appointed an expert panel to advise them in relation to the Japanese government’s intention to discharge accumulated treated water that has been stored since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Japan intends to commence discharging this water into the Pacific ocean from next year. Japan’s claims that the water is safe have been supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

During last year’s meeting of Japanese and Pacific leaders (PALM 9), this was a matter of concern by the Pacific leadership. The appointment of this panel of global experts is part of the dialogue process that is underway.

This highlights the importance of the nuclear legacy within the region. It comes at a time when Japan is increasing its engagement with Pacific island countries both bilaterally and as a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue together with India, Australia and the US.


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