Major political party in Fiji suspended

The largest Opposition party in Fiji has been suspended for a period of 60 days by the Registrar of Political Parties. The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) has been embroiled in instability and dispute over leadership for some time. It is one of the oldest parties in Fiji and is generally considered to be ethno-nationalist in nature. Until its suspension the party was led by Sitiveni Rabuka. Rabuka led a military coup in 1987 and is also a former Prime Minister.

The suspension leaves only three MPs on the Opposition benches: those belonging to the National Federation Party (NFP). This comes as the Parliament prepares to debate a supplementary budget to be handed down by the government this week.

The Registrar has given the party 60 days to resolve the leadership dispute. If there is no resolution the party will be deregistered. SODELPA secured 39.85% of the vote in the 2018 elections.

New Caledonia referendum likely to be delayed

In New Caledonia a new date has been put forward for this year’s referendum on independence. The referendum was scheduled to be held on September 6. It is now expected that the vote will take place on October 4.

The new date was proposed by the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, further to a request from the pro-independence FLNKS (Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialist). The FLNKS has cited the impacts of COVID-19 as the reason for a deferral. However anti-independence groups want the original date to stand and argue that the FLNKS is seeking a deferral to gain political advantage.

This year’s referendum is the second of a possible three under the Noumea Accords. The first was held in 2018. Just under 57 per cent of the population voted to maintain the status quo of New Caledonia as an overseas territory of France.

Niue holds elections

Elections have been held in Niue. The population of the island is just over 1600. A large diaspora population is also influential in Niuean politics.

The vote has seen a changing of the guard. Sir Toke Talagi, the former premier, has lost his seat. He was beaten by Richard Hipa. Mr Hipa,who is new to politics is former secretary to the government. He is now expected to be a strong contender for the position of Premier.

A second common roll seat was won by Sauni Tongatule, a former Director of Environment. Mr Tongatule narrowly missed out on being elected in 2017, polling 7th (there are six common roll seats available in Niue). The remaining four common roll MPs elect are all returning members.

Among the 14 village seats, there will be three new members. One of the seats, in Mutalau, was tied. The result will be decided by the toss of a coin.

New Deputy Secretary General for the Pacific Islands Forum

The Pacific Islands Forum has a new Deputy Secretary General. He is Dr Filimon Manoni and he replaces Cristelle Pratt. Ms Pratt served as Deputy Secretary General since 2014.

Dr Manoni has been International Legal Adviser at the Secretariat since2018. He has previously served as legal adviser to the Forum Fisheries Agency and as Attorney-General of the Republic of Marshall Islands.

Dr Manoni is a citizen of Marshall Islands. His appointment means that speculation as to who will replace Dame Meg Taylor as Secretary-General has been re-ignited. Whilst it is the ‘turn’ of Micronesia to nominate the next Secretary-General it is very unlikely that we will see both of the top positions occupied by people from that part of the region.

Forum Leaders’ meeting postponed

The government of Vanuatu has announced that it will be unable to host the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting this year. The meeting was scheduled to take place in early August immediately after the celebrations for the country’s 40th anniversary of Independence.

The decision to postpone the Forum Leaders’ meeting was taken further to advice from the National Task Force and reflects levels of uncertainty surrounding the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the response efforts in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Harold.

Vanuatu has apparently offered to host the meeting during 2021. However, Fiji was expecting to have the meeting there next year to coincide with its celebration of 50 years of independence. Other meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum will take place virtually, including the meeting of the Finance and Economic Ministers later this month. The need for debt relief to support Pacific island countries weather the COVID-19 storm will be on the agenda at that meeting.


Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute.