Regional Wrap Up

Political upheaval in Papua New Guinea

Just 18 months since he took on the role of Prime Minister, James Marape now faces a battle to retain the job.

Last week, a large number of government MPs – including thirteen ministers – sat on the opposition benches leaving Mr Marape looking very isolated. With the benefit of the increased numbers, the Opposition was able to pass a motion to have Parliament suspended till December 1. By that time the ‘grace period’, during which a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister cannot be tabled, will have ended.

The leader of the Opposition, Belden Namah, is claiming the support of 61 MPs. In a press conference on Friday, Marape said he had the backing of 52. A majority of 56 is required to form a government.

Given the situation, Mr Marape requested that Scott Morrision defer his planned visit to Port Moresby en route back from Japan to Australia. Mr Morrison has agreed to this request.

First Covid-19 case for Vanuatu

After months of being Covid-free, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Bob Loughman, has confirmed that a case has been detected in the country. The patient is a 23-year-old male who was returning from the United States. He tested positive whilst in quarantine and has since been moved to an isolation unit.

The Vanuatu authorities have commenced contact tracing and testing of everyone who had come into contact with the infected person. They have reassured the population that the risk of community transmission arising from this case remains very low.

However, the Council of Ministers has put in place additional restrictions. They have suspended all inbound international passenger movements, including repatriations. They have also extended the mandatory quarantine period from 14 to 28 days.

Domestic movement of people from and to Efate, the main island where Port Vila is located, has been suspended for an indefinite period.

Questions asked in Solomon Islands about use of support funds

In Solomon Islands, the leader of the Opposition has been asking some challenging questions of the Sogavare government. They relate to how the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) has been distributed.

Matthew Wale has called for greater transparency around how these funds have been disbursed. The government has committed over US$39 million to this package. The government has already disbursed US$22 million.

The ESP was intended to support business owners and others who had been disadvantaged by the impact of Covid-19.

However, Transparency Solomon Islands has alleged that some of this money has been given to people who are not entitled to receive the cash support. They claim to have a leaked list of recipients to support their allegations and have called for an audit of the ESP.

Their claims have been disputed by McKinnie Dentana, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance. However, he has not released any details of the recipients.

Meeting of security agencies

The second meeting of the Joint Heads of Pacific Security was held recently. The meeting was held online.

It brought together heads of national and regional agencies to discuss shared concerns and priorities about security in the region.

Agencies from 24 countries and territories, including Australia and New Zealand, were included in the meeting. The focus was on border security, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The meeting was attended by representatives of Japan and the United States. Both of these countries have been taking steps to increase their presence in the Pacific islands region recently.

A number of key regional organisations were also represented, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Oceania Customs Organisation.

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