Motion of No Confidence debated in Solomon Islands

Monday saw the Parliament of Solomon Islands meet to debate a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. The motion was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition, Mathew Wale.

After a long and, at times, heated debate the motion was defeated by 32 votes to fifteen with two abstentions. Prime Minister Sogavare spoke for over two hours in response to the motion. During his impassioned address he reiterated his claims that anti-government sentiment was being stoked by foreign powers and accused the Premier of Malaita, Daniel Suidani, of being an agent of Taiwan.

Ahead of the Parliamentary sitting, there were serious concerns about security in Honiara and the possibility of further civil unrest. Some MPs chartered vessels to transport people back to provincial areas over the weekend. International policing and defence personnel undertook training exercises in preparation for potential disorder.

New Caledonia referendum approaches

The third referendum on Independence to be held under the Noumea Accords will be held on December 12th in New Caledonia.

The pro-independence parties have expressed their strong opposition to the vote going ahead given the impacts of COVID-19 on the Kanaky population. They are calling for their supporters to refrain from participation in the referendum.

At this very late stage, an urgent application to the highest administrative court in France has been made by a group of citizens plus some stakeholder organisations. The application seeks to have the court rule that the vote should not proceed.

Meanwhile, the French government is proceeding with preparations for the plebiscite. A group of 250 officials have been flown to New Caledonia to oversee the vote. In addition, 2000 security personnel have also been deployed to the territory.

The Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group have sent missions to observe the vote on Sunday.

Australian Foreign Minister visits Palau

The Foreign Minister of Australia, Senator Marise Payne, has undertaken a short visit to Palau.

Her visit reflects one of the objectives of the “Pacific Step-Up” which has seen an increase in Australia’s engagement with countries of the Northern Pacific.

During her visit, Minister Payne oversaw the official opening of the Australian Embassy in Koror. She also participated in a ground-breaking ceremony for a second submarine cable. This project is jointly funded by Palau, Australia, Japan, and the USA.

Whilst not listed as part of the official programme for the visit, it is expected that Minister Payne will have talked with the Palauan leadership about the ongoing tensions within the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Palau is one of five countries to have activated the withdrawal protocols from the PIF membership. This comes further to their discontent as to the choice of Henry Puna as Secretary-General to the Forum earlier this year.

Asia-Pacific Triennial opens in Brisbane

The Asia-Pacific Triennial has opened at the Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.

This is the tenth edition of an event that brings together multiple installations from across the region. The triennial provides an important platform for practitioners of contemporary art in a wide variety of media.

Numerous Pacific works are featured including some by artists who have been unable to travel to Brisbane because of COVID-19 restrictions. Some of these works have provided opportunities for the curatorial teams to engage with members of the Pacific diaspora communities in and around Brisbane to bring additional aspects to how the art is interpreted.

A particular focus is the art of Northern Oceania, centred around “Air Canoe”. The importance of art and cultural expression in the societies of this part of the Pacific will be explored in a “Perspectives Asia” event on December 9th.


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