Regional Wrap Up

Media Director’s Work Permit Refused in Vanuatu

The Media Director of the Vanuatu Daily Post has had his application for a work permit refused. After a month of administrative wrangling, the Daily Post was informed last week that the application for an extension to the work visa for Dan McGarry would not be granted. The Commissioner of Labour has claimed that the position should be localised. However, Mr McGarry and the company have expressed concern that this is politically motivated. They point to complaints from the Prime Minister about McGarry’s reporting on the deportation of Chinese nationals from Vanuatu earlier in the year. Media professionals and media freedom advocates from around the region have taken to social media to express their support for McGarry and the Vanuatu Daily Post. They have raised significant concerns about what this means for Vanuatu’s commitment to democracy and freedom of the press.

Record number of voters enrolled in Bougainville referendum

A record number of people have enrolled to vote in the Bougainville referendum. The referendum voting period begins on November 23rdand runs for two weeks. The ‘certified voter list’ totals 206,731. This is an increase of around 20% on the number enrolled to vote in the last elections for the Autonomous Bougainville Government in 2015. Of these voters, 51% are male and 49% are female. The total includes eligible voters who have registered in Solomon Islands and Australia. This is the first time overseas voters have been eligible to be included on the roll. Meanwhile, a multi-country unarmed policing mission has arrived in Buka to assist with security during the referendum. The mission is led by New Zealand and includes officers from Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. These are the countries that witnessed the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001. 

Rugby League Nines Competition to be held in Samoa

Samoa will host the World Nines rugby league competition next year. The announcement was made on Friday by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegoai. The competition will be backed by Chinese funding. It was agreed last month ahead of the China-Pacific islands Development Forum. The competition will be open to teams of men and women. Teams from both China and India are expected to take part. These are countries that have little or no history of playing rugby in any format. The tournament has the endorsement of the International Rugby League. However, it is hard to see it being attractive to international broadcasters as there will be no well-known starts of the game involved. Chinese support for sport in the Pacific is not new. Countries such as Samoa and Vanuatu have benefitted from sports facilities and access to training for their athletes in recent years.

SG of the Pacific Islands Forum delivers the Asia Lecture

The Secretary-General of the Pacific Forum has delivered the 2019 Asia Lecture. Dame Meg Taylor was hosted by the Griffith Asia Institute in Brisbane, Australia. She reminded her audience that the Pacific islands region has identified climate change as the single biggest threat to its security. This was captured in the Boe Declaration, signed by Leaders in 2018. She also used the opportunity to revisit a theme that is particularly important in the region. This is the work that needs to be done on securing each country’s maritime borders. This is particularly important as current international law makes no provision as to how a country’s EEZ is affected in the event of total inundation. On the issue of infrastructure, Dame Meg highlighted a critical tension between country’s very real needs and the importance of minimising risks of debt distress.

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