TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Solomon Islands rocked by large earthquake
Late last week, Solomon Islands was rocked by a large earthquake. The shake registered at 7.0 and a tsunami alert was triggered. Reports from Honiara indicated that there had been some significant damage to infrastructure. However, it appears that there have been no significant injuries or loss of life.
In the immediate aftermath, the power was cut in Honiara as transmission cables were inspected for damage. Some of the capital’s residents moved to higher ground when the quake struck for fear of a tsunami. They returned to the city not long after, and the tsunami warning was withdrawn soon after it was issued.
Aftershocks have been continuing and residents have been clearing up broken items and assessing damage done to buildings. Honiara residents reported solar panels becoming dislodged, goods falling off the shelves in shops, and office furniture being overturned.
Prominent lawyer convicted of contempt
In Fiji, a prominent lawyer has been convicted of contempt and scandalising the court. Richard Naidu had used a light-hearted Facebook post to point out that a judge in Fiji has used the word ‘injection’ rather than ‘injunction’ in a judgment. He is now facing six months in jail. He is also unable to contest the upcoming elections in Fiji, as had been his intention.
The complainant in the case against Naidu was the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. For many in Fiji, this is one among many instances of democratic suppression on the part of the incumbent Fiji First government. It also calls into further question the ability of judicial officers in Fiji to be able and willing to act independently.
The court ruling has drawn criticism from international legal associations, including the Bar Association of India. Transparency International has also condemned the court’s decision.
Pacific Community meets in Vanuatu
The twelfth conference of the Pacific Community (SPC) has met in Vanuatu. It followed the meeting of the Committee of the Representatives of Governments and Administrations – SPC’s governing body. SPC has been in existence since 1947 and has 26 members. Among the members are former (and current) colonial powers including France and the United States of America.
The meeting attracted high-level attention from new or returning partners. The UK’s Minister for the Indo-Pacific, Anne-Marie Trevelyan combined her attendance at the meeting with bilateral talks with Vanuatu’s new Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau.
The conference was chaired by Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister, Jotham Napat. He drew particular attention to the work that Vanuatu has done in relation to oceans governance. He also proposed that at this juncture, a review of SPC should be undertaken. This proposal will require the endorsement of the full membership if it is to proceed.
Cyber-attack ongoing in Vanuatu
The cyber-attack in Vanuatu is now over three weeks old. Some public servants have resorted to using their mobile phones as hotspots to get things done. The lack of access to government systems has meant that some payments of overtime and allowances have been delayed.
Speaking in Port Vila, Australian Minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy confirmed that experts from his country were helping the Vanuatu government in dealing with the situation. This is in marked contrast to comments made previously by the Vanuatu Government’s spokesperson who angrily denied having told an Australian journalist that this was the case.
Conroy was asked to respond to comments from former PM Bob Loughman that Vanuatu should not accept Australian assistance in the interests of national security. His response was to assure the media that Australia was helping Vanuatu as a member of the Pacific family and had no ulterior motive.
Tess Newton Cain is a Principal Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.