TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Outcomes of the White House summit
Last week’s White House summit had some significant outcomes. It was the first time that the President of the USA has met with the leaders of Pacific island countries.
The US administration has now named the first-ever Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum. She is Frankie Reed. Ms Reed has formerly served as Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
This announcement was part of the US Pacific strategy that was released in conjunction with the summit. The strategy is wide-ranging and provides for several programs, including in relation to law enforcement training, and economic support for recovery from COVID-19. New funding of around US$200 million was also announced.
The participants in the summit signed an eleven-point declaration. The signatories included Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands, who had previously said he would not be willing to take that step.
Candidates announced in Vanuatu elections
In Vanuatu, the Electoral Commission has released the preliminary list of candidates that have been registered to contest the upcoming elections.
So far, a total of 180 candidates have been approved of the 225 whose applications were received by the Electoral Commission. The remaining 45 have until Wednesday to clear outstanding debts to the government to be eligible to stand.
One-third of those announced on Saturday have previously served in the Vanuatu Parliament. They include six former Prime Ministers. They also include people who had previously been barred from public office further to court convictions. However, the Electoral Commission has confirmed that those who have been pardoned by the President are no longer subject to such a bar.
There are several women candidates in the line-up and their progress will be watched closely. There are currently no women MPs in the Vanuatu Parliament.
French Polynesia at the UN Committee on Decolonisation
Representatives from French Polynesia are taking part in the fourth meeting of the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonization (also known as the C24 committee).
French Polynesia was relisted by the C24 committee in 2013. This was instigated by Solomon Islands and other Pacific island countries. The decision to relist the territory was roundly rejected by France at the time. France has refused to take part in any of the proceedings of the C24 committee regarding the status of French Polynesia. In addition, the government of French Polynesia has pointed to the territory’s full membership of the Pacific Islands Forum as evidence to support the position that it is not a colony of France.
The pro-independence movement is led by veteran politician Oscar Temaru. His longstanding push for the independence of French Polynesia is linked to his previous activism against French nuclear testing.
Foreign Minister of Solomon Islands visits New Zealand
Hon. Jeremiah Manele is visiting New Zealand. He has given an address to the New Zealand Institute for International Affairs (NZIIA). Whilst in New Zealand, he will meet with his counterpart, Hon Nanaia Mahuta.
During his speech to the NZIIA, Minister Manele identified labour mobility as an area in which he would like to see the relationship between Solomon Islands and New Zealand further developed. He commented that the Immigration department in Solomon Islands was struggling to keep up with the demand for passports from people wanting to travel to New Zealand and Australia for work opportunities.
Speaking to the media, Minister Manele reiterated his government’s position on the security agreement that was signed between Solomon Islands and China earlier this year. He welcomed re-engagement in the region by the USA and said that his government looks forward to working with all partners.