Court of Appeal decision is a reset for Samoa

In Samoa, a prolonged political deadlock now appears to be over.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the impromptu swearing-in of FAST party members at the end of May was both constitutional and lawful. The Court went on to state categorically that Samoa’s lawful government was the one led by Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

Fiame and her cabinet met with senior public servants over the weekend and announced that Ministers would take office as of Tuesday this week.

Fiame has received messages of congratulations from numerous leaders, including the Prime Ministers of both Australia and New Zealand as well as Henry Puna, the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, gave a TV interview on Sunday evening. He conceded electoral defeat and said he looked forward to working with the new government.

Opposition politicians detained in Fiji

Several opposition MPs and others were taken in for questioning in Fiji over the weekend. They included Professor Biman Prasad, leader of the National Federation Party.

They were questioned in relation to their criticism of “Bill 17”. This is a piece of proposed legislation put forward by the Fiji First government. If it becomes law, it will have a significant effect on the way that indigenous land is managed in Fiji.

The government has sustained a lot of criticism over the way that this Bill was introduced, including that there has not been sufficient consultation with landowners and other stakeholders.

Online criticism and vilification appeared to spill over into real-life violence with the burning down of a shop owned by a Muslim family over the weekend.

The police said that those they had questioned were detained in relation to statements that they had made about the Bill.

Macron visit to French Polynesia

After lengthy delays, thanks to the impacts of COVID-19, French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting French Polynesia this week.

The ongoing impacts of COVID-19 will be an important topic for discussion during the visit. French Polynesia has seen significant numbers of infections and deaths, including because of a rush to reopen the territory to tourists in the middle of last year.

Another topic of concern whilst Macron is in French Polynesia is the nuclear legacy. Macron is expected to come under pressure to issue an apology for 193 nuclear tests that France carried out over several years. There are also calls for more engagement by France in relation to compensation for survivors of the nuclear testing and those who have suffered ill health as a result. An opposition party in French Polynesia was denied a permit to hold a peaceful rally to greet Macron on his arrival into the territory.

PNG Prime Minister leads on regional repair

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, is taking on a lead role in attempts to heal rifts within the Pacific Islands Forum.

This week he will visit Palau to meet with President Surangel Whipps Jr to discuss the concerns of Micronesian countries in relation to Pacific regionalism. After a contentious vote to elect the Secretary-General of the PIF (former Cook Islands PM, Henry Puna), five countries said they would leave the grouping: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau.

Marape’s efforts to broker peace are part of a wider political dialogue process aimed at persuading the Micronesian countries to remain within the fold.

Marape’s requests to visit Nauru and Kiribati were reportedly denied. The leaders of FSM and Marshall Islands have yet to advise whether they will meet with him in person or virtually.

Pacific athletes making their mark in Tokyo

As the 2020 +1 Olympics got underway in Tokyo, Pacific athletes are making their presence felt and being watched and supported by family and friends back home.

Social media lit up with the entry of first Pita Taufatofua as co-flag bearer for Tonga followed by Riilio “Rio” Rii from Vanuatu, both of whom wore traditional attire. Rio backed up that performance in his rowing event, making it through to the finals on Friday.

PNG weightlifter, Dika Toua, made history as the first woman to compete in five Olympics in her event. She first competed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, at just 16 years of age.

For Fiji, all eyes are on their men’s Rugby 7s team who are defending the Olympic title that they won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Even without the lionised Ben Ryan who was the coach back then, the team is expected to figure strongly in the competition.


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