Further erosion of the Rule of Law in Kiribati

The government of Kiribati has suspended the three judges of the Court of Appeal. The government also announced that they are to be referred to a Tribunal under s9 of the Constitution. No reason was given for this decision. However, it appears to be a direct response to the recent decision of the Court relating to Justice David Lambourne, which had found that the government was not entitled to deport him.

All three—Paul Heath, Peter Blanchard and Rodney Hansen—are retired judges from New Zealand.

It is not clear how this will affect Lambourne, given that the Attorney-General of Kiribati has not given him a work visa as ordered by the Court.

The suspension of the Court of Appeal judges leaves Kiribati with a huge gap when it comes to access to justice. The only functioning court is the Magistrates’ Court.

Sogavare pushes for a delay to elections

In Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has sought to fast-track a controversial Bill to amend the Constitution and delay the next general elections until 2024 (they are due to be held next year).

The move has been met with dismay by the Leader of the Opposition, who described it as an “abuse of process”. He also expressed his concern that there may be community protests if people are denied the opportunity to make submissions via the normal committee process.

The Prime Minister has said previously that the reason for delaying the elections is that it is too much for the country to host the Pacific Games and hold elections in the same year. On Tuesday morning, Australia’s foreign minister, Senator Penny Wong, said that her country had made a formal offer of assistance to Solomon Islands to allow the elections to go ahead on schedule.

NZ Foreign Minister visits Papua New Guinea

The Foreign Minister of New Zealand visited Papua New Guinea this week. Nanaia Mahuta has met with members of the new government, civil society representatives and the NZ diaspora during her time in the country. As well as spending time in Port Moresby, she has also visited Mount Hagen in the Highlands.

Her visit comes further to an extraordinary announcement by the PNG Foreign Minister, Justin Tkatchenko during the recent visit to his country by Senator Penny Wong, the Foreign Minister of Australia. Tkatchenko announced that it was his government’s intention to negotiate a security treaty with Australia and that he expected New Zealand to also be a party.

This appeared to come as something of a surprise to the government of New Zealand. On the Australian side, Senator Wong said that these discussions were at a “very, very” early stage.

US lays bribery charges against naturalise Marshallese

A court in New York has unsealed an indictment in which two naturalised Marshallese citizens have been charged with bribing officials in Marshall Islands. They have also been charged with money laundering that was designed to influence political decision-making in the country.

Whilst the indictment names Cary Yan and Gina Zhou (who are yet to be convicted of any offence), the names of the officials that they allegedly bribed are not known at this stage. Former President Hilda Heine has described the case as a “black eye” for the country.

Yan and Zhou were closely involved in a controversial scheme to establish the Rongelap Atoll Special Administrative Region (RASAR). Former President Heine narrowly defeated a motion of no confidence when she was in office that was sparked by political divisions over this scheme. She then lost office at the next election.


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