Regional Wrap Up

Kiribati has a minority government

Kiribati has a minority government. When Parliament sat earlier this week, thirteen members who had been with the ruling party sat on the Opposition benches. They are part of a new party called Kiribati First. This left the government with 20 of the 46 seats. It was the first sitting of Parliament since Kiribati changed diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China. President Taneti Maamau has expressed his disappointment at the move. He claims the deserting MPs did not discuss their grievances with him before jumping ship. The main reason for the MPs’ decision appears to be the switch from Taiwan to China. The government lost several bills on the floor of the House during this week’s sitting. This has prompted suggestions that there will be fresh elections in Kiribati. The country is scheduled to have elections in 2020.

PNG-Bougainville National Reconciliation

A ‘National Reconciliation’ will take place November 4th to 7th in Kokopo, East New Britain province. It is to provide healing between the PNG Defence Force and those who fought against them during the war. It comes further to more localised reconciliation ceremonies that have been held on Bougainville as communities become ‘referendum ready’. In addition, large numbers of firearms have been handed in and secured.

This is part of what was required under the Townsville Peace Agreement. The referendum voting period commences on November 23rd and will last for two weeks. It is a non-binding vote. It is widely expected that the result will be in favour of independence rather than ‘greater autonomy’. Under the terms of the Townsville Peace Agreement, the Parliament of Papua New Guinea is required to ratify the outcome. After the referendum a ‘negotiated outcome’ will be formulated to put to Parliament.

Elections in Marshall Islands

National elections will be held in Marshall Islands later this month. The people of that country will go to the polls on 18 November to elect the 33 member Nitijela. President Hilda Heine is hoping to continue as President of her country. She survived a vote of no confidence by one vote late last year. Although she has established herself as a key actor on the global stage in relation to the fight against climate change, this may not stand her in good stead when it comes to elections at home. A court battle in relation to postal votes has overshadowed the campaigning period. The Supreme Court ruled that denying Marshallese people who live overseas a postal vote was unconstitutional. However, it ruled that this should be put right after this year’s elections. This leaves around one-third of the population unable to vote unless they return home.

Measles outbreak in Samoa

Samoa is dealing with a measles outbreak. There have been three deaths since the outbreak was declared, thought to be as a result of the disease. The situation has led to all pre-schools being closed. The Ministry of Education is considering closing all other schools. However, end of year exams have yet to be completed. The outbreak is believed to have spread from South Auckland, in New Zealand. An outbreak has also occurred in Tonga.

The cases there are linked to a schoolboy rugby team who had travelled to Auckland to play. The New Zealand government has offered assistance to Pacific island countries to deal with these outbreaks. The outbreak has affected the Oceania Futsal tournament. A member of the Tongan team was diagnosed with measles in New Zealand whilst the rest of the squad went on to New Caledonia to compete.

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