Kiribati attempts to deport suspended High Court judge

The Rule of Law was in sharp focus in Kiribati last week. At the centre of the furore was David Lambourne who has previously served as a puisne judge of the High Court. Lambourne had returned to Tarawa August 1st on a visitor’s visa and had been assured he would be able to obtain a work visa.

However, on Thursday of last week, he was awoken by authorities who informed him that he was to be deported to Fiji for allegedly breaching his visa conditions. Lambourne’s lawyers obtained an order from the Court of Appeal to prevent the deportation, but the government sought to have him leave. It came down to the steadfastness of Fiji Airways whose pilot refused to uplift Lambourne, who was not leaving willingly.

The issue is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal at the end of this week.

COVID-19 reaches Marshall Islands and resurges in FSM

Marshall Islands has gone from having had no community transmission of COVID-19 to having thousands of cases reported in and around Majuro. The Omicron BA.5 variant has proved to be highly contagious. Within five days of the outbreak having been confirmed, around ten per cent of the population of the capital has tested positive. Although inter-island travel has now been stopped, several cases have been reported on outlying islands. Sadly, two deaths have been reported. A “State of Health Disaster” has been declared.

In the Federated States of Micronesia, a surge in cases was seen about two weeks ago although these are not the first infections to be reported there. It did not prevent a reopening of the borders in that country. However, there have been restrictions on domestic travel to prevent the disease from spreading to Chuuk, which has been COVID-free.

Marape returned as Prime Minister

The 11th Parliament of Papua New Guinea convened last week. Having elected a Speaker―Hon Job Pomat―the MPs went on to elect a Prime Minister. James Marape was elected unanimously by the 97 MPs in the House. Peter O’Neill left the chamber before the vote was held.

The elections processes have not finished, although there are now only a handful of seats to be declared. O’Neill had attempted to have the Parliamentary stopped by the courts. Whilst that application was denied, the Court has advised that this would be considered in the context of the substantive matter, which is whether the sitting was legal.

It is expected there will be a significant number of legal challenges to the election results in the coming weeks.

Marape has appointed an interim five-man cabinet. Several people who have ministerial experience were not returned, which may have an impact on how the full ministry shapes up.

Political upheaval looms in Vanuatu

In Vanuatu, a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Bob Loughman has been lodged. The Opposition claims they have 30 MPs in their camp, including the former Minister of Agriculture―Willie Daniel―who resigned over the weekend.

On Tuesday the Parliament convened but the sitting was adjourned when the necessary quorum (two-thirds of the 52 MPS) was not achieved further to a boycott by the government side. Parliament will reconvene on Friday when it will only be necessary for 26 MPs to be present to achieve the quorum.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Bob Loughman has requested that the President, Nikenike Vurobaravu dissolve Parliament, which will take the country to elections. Way back in 1991 when then Prime Minister Walter Lini attempted to circumvent a motion of no confidence in this way, then President Fred Timakata refused to grant the dissolution.


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