Political impasse in Samoa gets closer to resolution
It looks like the long and drawn-out political impasse in Samoa is nearing a resolution. On Monday the Supreme Court ruled on two key aspects.
The Court declared that the swearing-in of the FAST MPs on May 24th was void. The Court has also ruled that the Parliament should convene within seven days in order that all MPs can be sworn in and that the business of government can proceed. The Court has said that any attempts to prevent or obstruct the meeting of the Legislative Assembly will be considered a contempt of court and of Parliament.
The FAST party has written to the Head of State requesting that he convene Parliament. The caretaker PM has since reiterated his position that Parliament cannot meet until all legal challenges have been resolved and a sixth woman appointed to the Parliament in accordance with section 44 of the Constitution.
Vanuatu political wrangling continues
In Vanuatu, the political wrangling continues. On Tuesday a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister, Bob Loughman was debated. The Leader of the Opposition put forward five grounds to support his motion. They included mishandling of scholarship issues which he described as an ‘international embarrassment’.
The government was able to muster 27 votes and the motion was defeated.
Meanwhile the window for the government MPs to lodge an appeal against the Supreme Court decision that confirmed their seats are vacated is about to close. The Court of Appeal is scheduled to sit on Monday and any appeal case in this matter will be heard in that session.
If the appeal fails there will be 19 bye-elections.
The government is also considering commencing civil proceedings in the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Speaker’s declaration of the vacated seats on June 8th was invalid.
COVID round up
The number of COVID cases and associated deaths is continuing to rise in both Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
In Fiji, the test positivity rate is now higher than 7%, where 5% is considered by the WHO to be the point at which the infection rate is not being controlled. The daily numbers of new infections are consistently over 200 at present. The government continues to resist calls to declare a full lockdown for Suva and the surrounding areas.
In Papua New Guinea, the total number of cases has now exceeded 17,000 with 173 recorded deaths. However, it is likely that these figures underestimate the true picture owing to low testing rates and difficulties with data collection.
Both countries are proceeding with vaccination campaigns. PNG has received a donation of 200,000 vaccination doses from the People’s Republic of China to include in its rollout.
Deep sea mining highlights rifts in Pacific positions
Moves at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) have highlighted divisions across the region regarding deep sea mining. At the 2019 meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders, Fiji proposed a regional ten-year moratorium on all deep-sea mining activity, whilst the science could be assessed in terms of impacts.
However, other countries have progressed their relationships with major corporate players towards exploitation of resources as a means of generating additional income.
Now, Reuters has reported that Nauru is expected to ask the ISA to fast-track the adoption of regulations to allow for seabed mining to commence. This could see the relevant rules being adopted within two years.
Nauru is a state sponsor of The Metals Co (previously Deep Green) as are Kiribati and Tonga. Only states can trigger this ‘two-year rule’ at the ISA. In 2019, Nauru surprised ISA delegates by ceding its seat to the CEO of Deep Green, Gerard Barron.
Inaugural meeting of aviation ministers
This week will see the inaugural Regional Aviation Ministers’ Meeting (RAMM). The meeting will be chaired by Papua New Guinea and will be held using an online format owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
The RAMM was first mooted in 2018 and was endorsed at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting in 2019.
Included on the agenda for the meeting are the impacts of COVID-19 on aviation in the region and the development of a Pacific Regional Aviation Strategy. The communiqué from the meeting is expected to include a public declaration on regional aviation safety and security.
The meeting will be attended by the aviation ministers of Pacific Islands Forum members as well as representatives of stakeholder organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and other regional agencies.
The Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) is providing the secretariat for this meeting.