Samoa’s political impasse yet to be resolved
The political impasse in Samoa continues to drag on.
Further to decisions of the Supreme Court, contradictory declarations from the Head of State and other officials, and public announcements from political leaders, events took another twist on Monday morning.
When FAST MPs-elect and their supporters, as well as the Chief Justice, arrived at Parliament for the swearing in of the new legislature, the building was found to be locked. Whilst being very apologetic to the assembled dignitaries, the Clerk of Parliament refused to allow entry to the building.
After spending much of the day waiting in a tent in the Parliament grounds, a swearing-in ceremony was conducted and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was named Prime Minister. However, this has been rejected by HRPP party and the Attorney-General who have threatened legal action against those who took part.
COVID-19 impacts and effects in the Pacific
The impacts of COVID-19 are continuing to be felt, including increases in the number of active infections.
There is particular concern in Fiji, with the number cases of community transmission rising. Over the weekend, the country recorded the highest number of daily cases with 24 new infections confirmed. This takes the number of active cases to more than almost 100, with the total number of cases recorded in Fiji being in excess of 200. There have been calls for a shutdown of the whole of Viti Levu to contain the spread of the variant strain of the disease.
Kiribati has recorded its first cases of COVID-19. Two cases were detected among the crew of a vessel whose last port of call had been in Papua New Guinea. The government has imposed a night-time curfew in South Tarawa and Betio. Schools have also been closed and non-essential travel to outer islands prohibited.
Opposition challenge dismissed by court in PNG
A challenge brought by Belden Namah, leader of the Opposition in Papua New Guinea, has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Mr Namah had sought a ruling that the decision of the Speaker to adjourn the Parliament from November last year to April of this year was in error. The adjournment had the effect of denying the Opposition an opportunity to table a motion of no confidence.
The bench of five judges found that there was no substance to Mr Namah’s contentions that the Speaker had acted contrary to the Constitution in not putting the motion of no confidence to the Private Business Committee of Parliament late last year.
The Prime Minister, James Marape, has welcomed the ruling of the court. He has said that it confirms stability in government for the remainder of this Parliamentary term. PNG is scheduled to go to elections during next year.
PNG-Australia Business Forum held this week
The 36th PNG-Australia Business Forum is being held this week in Brisbane. It is convened by the Australia-PNG Business Council. Not only has COVID-19 led to its being held as a hybrid in person/online event but addressing the pandemic and its economic impacts is a key agenda item for the meeting.
The delegates will hear from both PM James Marape and PM Scott Morrison, highlighting the importance of this bilateral relationship to both countries.
Private sector interests have much to be concerned about in relation to operating in Papua New Guinea, especially given the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the serious budgetary constraints under which the government is operating. However, the Forum also aims to provide space to look at potential opportunities for increased investment, including in infrastructure and agriculture.
While this is a business forum, there will certainly be interest in the political landscape as PNG heads to general elections next year.