Fallout in Samoa after Deputy Prime Minister resigns
In Samoa, the Prime Minister, Tuialepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has said that he does not intend to appoint a new deputy until after next year’s elections.
The rift between the PM and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa does not look likely to be repaired any time soon with him having dismissed her criticisms of the government in very personal terms during the last week.
All of this needs to be seen in the context of next year’s elections, which may see a change in leadership. This is something that has been hard to contemplate in the Samoan context for quite some time. In what looks like an attempt to ward off further defections, the PM has announced that he is considering introducing legislation that would prevent MPs from retaining their seats if they resign from their party.
Bougainville presidential elections decided
After an extended counting period, it appears that we now know the name of the next President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. As the process of eliminating candidates and redistributing preference votes until a majority is achieved nears its end, it is expected that Ishmael Toroama will emerge as the victor in this race.
Toroama is one of several ex-combatants who stood for election. He is a former commander of the rebel forces who waged an insurgency campaign against the Papua New Guinea forces during a 20 year civil war that ended in 1998.
In the parliamentary elections, Theonila Roka Matbob has become only the second woman to win an open seat. Her constituency of Iro in central Bougainville includes the area where the Panguna mine is situated. The future of the mine continues to be a contentious issue in Bougainville.
Chinese Embassy opens in Solomon Islands
The People’s Republic of China has opened its Embassy in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands. The Ambassador to Solomon Islands is Li Ming. He hosted a flag raising and opening ceremony at the Embassy during Monday.
The opening of the Embassy formalises the switch in diplomatic allegiance that took place last year. That saw the ending of a 36-year relationship between Solomon Islands and Taiwan. The opening of the Embassy was delayed by the impacts of Covid-19. Ambassador Li was required to undergo 14 days of quarantine when he entered the country, along with other diplomatic staff and technical experts who will be working on a sports stadium ahead of the 2023 Pacific Games.
During the opening of the Embassy the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare reiterated his previous statement that shifting his country’s relationship from Taiwan to China was a decision to be on the ‘right side of history’.
Zenhua dataset includes Pacific people
As more information has been revealed about the leaked dataset that has been amassed by the Zenhua Data company, details have emerged about people from the Pacific who appear to have been targeted. There appear to have been hundreds of people from the region included in the list. However, only part of the database has been leaked, containing 2.4 million names.
The lists of names from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and elsewhere include politicians, business people, criminals, journalists. In some cases, family members of prominent people appear to have been listed.
Much of the information has been ‘scraped’ from online sources that are publicly available. Whilst some commentators have said that the collection and collation of this type of data is ‘business as usual’ others have expressed concern given that the company lists the Chinese military and intelligence agencies among its clients.
Pacific island countries look to change international law to protect their sovereign rights
At a recent online regional conference, leaders of Pacific island countries came together to address what Dame Meg Taylor has described as a “defining issue” for the region. It boils down to a simple question: can you still be a country and exercise the rights and powers of statehood if the land mass on which you once lived is covered by the sea?
The current legal framework – the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – makes provision for the impacts of coastal erosion on how a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone is measured. But it is silent on what happens in the event of total inundation.
A regional sub-committee will be established to provide legal and technical advice to Forum leaders as to what options are available at the national and regional level.