Even though the war in Ukraine is half a world away, its effects are felt in the Pacific
The Federated States of Micronesia acted swiftly, in cutting off diplomatic relations with Russia, in response to “an unjustified and brutal assault” on Ukraine. The Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum has also issued a statement condemning Russia. Marshall Islands has also issued a public statement condemning Russia’s actions.
A failed resolution for action by the UN Security Council was supported by a number of Pacific island countries, including Papua New Guinea and Marshall Islands. However, others such as Vanuatu and Nauru were noticeable by their absence from the list of supporting states. Following the failure of the resolution in the Security Council, a special session of the UN General Assembly was convened for Monday. Several Pacific island countries were among those who supported censure of Russia.
Strengthened policing partnerships for Solomon Islands
In Solomon Islands, there have been significant developments in relation to strengthening partnerships for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).
Further to the arrival of police equipment, including riot gear, a nine-person advisory team from the People’s Republic of China has commenced work with their Solomon Islands counterparts. The Commissioner of the RSIPF, Mostyn Mangau, has said that he would like to progress and formalise the relationship between his force and their Chinese counterparts by way of a Memorandum of Understanding.
Meanwhile the Government of Solomon Islands has signed an MOU with the Australian Federal Police and the RSIPF. This is to effect implementation of the 2021-2025 Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Policing Partnership Program 2021-2025 (RAPPP). RAPPP consists of an investment of AU$106 million over four years and will include provision of technical assistance and training.
Internet restored in Tonga
After nearly five weeks, internet has been restored to Tonga. Family members across the world have been able to reconnect with loved ones in the Kingdom. Government officials and partners have been able to link to the outside world to progress recovery efforts.
The undersea telecommunications cable that had been severed during the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami is now fully operational. Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has also provided some capacity by way of low orbit Starlink satellites run from a station established in Fiji.
Tonga Cable Ltd does not yet know the cost of the repairs but it is expected to be in the region of one million dollars.
Although there are still more than 200 cases of COVID-19 in the country, authorities are expected to relax some restrictions further to an initial lockdown. More than 90% of the population has received two vaccination doses.
New Director-General appointed at the Melanesian Spearhead Group
Mr Leonard Louma of Papua New Guinea has been appointed as Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The sub-regional grouping comprises Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) of New Caledonia.
Mr Louma replaces Ambassador Amena Yauvoli of Fiji. Since Ambassador Yauvoli relinquished the position in 2020, Dr George Hoa’au of Solomon Islands has been Acting DG.
Whilst the MSG has previously been an extremely active sub-regional grouping, it has recently struggled to maintain political momentum. There is a protracted stalemate around membership for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP). The impacts of COVID-19 have also prevented the group’s leadership from meeting at which time Vanuatu will take on the chair.
Mr Louma is an experienced public servant with more than 30 years of national, regional, and international experience.
By TESS NEWTON CAIN*
*Dr Tess Newton Cain is the Project Lead for the Pacific Hub at the Griffith Asia Institute