New President for Vanuatu

The Republic of Vanuatu has a new President. Voting for the President takes place every five years within an electoral college that comprises the 52 MPs plus leaders of the six provincial governments. The role is largely ceremonial in nature but has taken on something of a higher profile in the last few years.

There were thirteen candidates at the start of the process, including two women. The voting took place over three days and eight rounds.

The new President was announced on Saturday 23rd July. He is Nikenike Vurobaravu. President Vurobaravu has had a long and successful career in public service. Most recently he served as Vanuatu’s High Commissioner to Fiji.

The Leader of the opposition, Ralph Regenvanu voiced concerns during the process that information about the candidates was not provided in a timely manner to the Electoral College by the Electoral Commission.

USP funding issues continue to concern

The ongoing and unresolved dispute between the Government of Fiji and the University of the Pacific (USP) is undermining the ability of the institution to function.

Last week the Government of Fiji handed down its budget for 2023. Once again, no allocation was made for funding to USP. This reflects a long-standing standoff between the Attorney-General of Fiji, Ayaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and the University Council regarding the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ahluwalia Pal. Pal and his partner were deported from Fiji in February of last year. He is now running the university from the Alafua Campus, in Samoa.

The withholding of funding by Fiji is having seriously adverse effects on the overall financial status of the University. So far, it has been able to draw on reserves to keep functioning. However, this cannot be sustained over the longer term.

PNG elections

The elections period in Papua New Guinea is drawing to a close. Writs are to be returned by July 29th, unless the Commissioner of Elections makes an application to extend the counting period. Less than 20 of the 118 seats have been declared but the Governor General has decreed that the Parliament should meet on August 4th.

There have been a number of violent clashes in connection with the elections. In Enga province, a longstanding inter-tribal conflict has escalated within the election period with more than a dozen deaths reported.

More recently there have been outbreaks of serious violence in and around Port Moresby. There have been reports of upwards of 16 deaths over the weekend. The Catholic Bishops Conference has called for the Prime Minister, James Marape, to return to Port Moresby to oversee the conclusion of the elections. The Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, has issued a statement of concern about the violence.

Ambassador Kennedy to lead a delegation to Solomon Islands

Caroline Kennedy arrived in Australia on Friday to take up her new role as US Ambassador to Australia. One of the first tasks she will undertake is to travel to Solomon Islands, where her father, John F Kennedy, served during World War II.

Whilst part of her trip is to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, it also forms part of a sustained program of engagement on the part of the Biden administration in the Pacific islands region. The USA has commenced work on re-opening its embassy in Solomon Islands. During her address to Pacific leaders recently, Vice-President Kamala Harris announced that there would be new embassies established in Tonga and Kiribati.

Ambassador Kennedy will be accompanied by US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman for the visit that is scheduled to take place in August.


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