Oct 18, 2018 Last Updated 6:03 AM, Oct 9, 2018

Tuvalu is awaiting two important court decisions in relation to a by-election to elect a replacement for the late Finance Minister Lotoala Metia who died last December. Government officials confirmed last month that they were awaiting the arrival of Chief Justice Gordon Ward in May. Ward will provide government with an opinion on whether the Opposition has the right to challenge the government’s decision to delay the by-election. As this edition went to press both sides were waiting for their court decisions. Foreign Affairs Minister Apisai Ielemia told Islands Business government was seeking the Chief Justice’s opinion on the matter whilst the Opposition has taken the matter to court. The Opposition is saying that the Prime Minister has no powers to delay the by-election. Whilst the government is saying that delaying the by-election will help solve the tension on Nukufetau island, the Opposition says it is the very reason a by-election should take place. The vacant seat is right now a hot issue in Tuvalu with one regional official saying confrontations have been reported in the capital city involving relatives of the late Metia and his cousin Enele Sopoanga, who is the leader of the Opposition. Both hail from Nukufetau.

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If first impressions are anything to go by, Vanuatu’s new Greens Party prime minister will truly stamp his place in the country’s political history. Changing and chopping his predecessor’s appointments—ministerial and foreign diplomatic postings—was Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil’s first moves as he consolidated his support from within his new bench in Port Vila. A review of the country’s post-independence constitution is also on his ambitious agenda—issues similar to those considered in the several changes to Fiji’s constitutions over the last 25 years since the first military coup in 1987.

These are being discussed in the corridors of Vanuatu’s parliament. Greater power to the National Council of Chiefs, observing Christian sabbath on Saturdays as well as Sundays, and enforcing that future foreign investors include indigenous ni-Vanuatu in their plans are a range of controversial prime policy prospects Kalosil is contemplating. After cleaning up his domestic front, the region and the world’s first Greens Party prime minister terminated a defence cooperation agreement the former leader Sato Kilman signed with Indonesia.

Kilman’s alliance with Jakarta was a two-pronged effort—to move Vanuatu away from military reliance on Australia and also make a stand on anti-independence for West Papuans. But Kalosil has been a staunch and vocal supporter of freedom for Melanesians in West Papua, currently held under Indonesia. He announced that changes he is implementing are reflective of what he stands for. He said in his past 11 years he noticed that new post-election governments in Vanuatu lacked vision as crucial policy changes were being ignored while prime ministers engaged in personal agendas once they took up office.

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The Tonga Energy Roadmap (TERM) sets admirable standards for the region. Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, made this point at the Pacific Leaders’ Energy Summit held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, last month. TERM places government in the lead in managing multiple donors in a coherent manner around its national priorities in energy. Adopted in 2010, TERM is acknowledged as a good development practice across the region and globally.

It sets out a single plan for all donors to align their assistance and support, rather than government realigning its priorities based on development partners’ interests. “There is not a facet of economic development and growth or trade in the region—indeed, of poverty alleviation activity—that is not affected by heavy energy reliance,” said Tuiloma while addressing the high-level meeting.

Across the region, approximately 1.3 billion litres of fossil fuels are imported annually at a total cost of nearly US$1 billion. Tonga’s total fuel imports account for about 25% of all imports and over 10% of its GDP. “Time and again over the years global market forces cause dramatic shifts in fuel costs and supplies and the region as a whole is basically defenceless against spiralling fuel prices and the associated consequences of inflation and related economic difficulties,” said Tuiloma.

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While the United States still has seven more years to get its act together as far as relocating US Marines to Guam, islanders there are more concerned with the immediate nuclear threats from North Korea. Guam Mayor Paul McDonald said they were hearing a lot about how the US was preparing to install nuclear interceptors around the US, and they were worried they are the closest US territory to North Korea.

“If anything will happen to the US, we will be the first US territory to be hit,” McDonald told Islands Business. “We hear the US will build interceptors in Hawaii and Alaska but there was nothing about Guam.” However, he said Guam Senators Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. and Gov. Eddie Calvo have been in contact with the US Department of Defence.

The two officials wrote to the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last month, expressing the concerns of the islanders from a potential North Korean missile attack. Islanders are also asking for the installation of missile interceptor sites on the island for these purposes. North Korea threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the U.S. earlier last month.

The Obama administration announced later it was installing 14 new interceptor locations at Fort Greely in Alaska. McDonald was also disappointed with the decision by the United States Senate to adopt Senator John McCain’s amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act for the Fiscal Year 2013.

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Solomon Islands and Taiwan marked 30 years of diplomatic relations this year. None thought then their “marriage” would one day be the focus in the race for military and economic dominance in the Pacific. It was on March 24, 1983 that Taipei scored a diplomatic coup over China with the announcement that it had established diplomatic relations with Solomon Islands. The announcement took a delegation sent by then Prime Minister, the late Solomon Mamaloni by total surprise. Led by the late Bartholomew Ulufa’alu, another former prime minister, the delegation was concluding negotiations on diplomatic relations with Chinese officials in Beijing that day. Beijing never took Solomon Islands seriously since then. Until now, that is. But 30 years on, it appears Beijing is ready to payback Taipei. In the build-up to the 30th anniversary celebration on March 24, the Solomon Islands Ministry of Rural Development, which acts as a conduit for all Taiwanese political funding, took out a twopage advertisement in the local newspaper marking the so-called milestone in the relations. Taipei sent a dozen or so citizens to witness the occasion in a function at the Sea King restaurant, the only known Taiwanese business concern in downtown Honiara. But beneath the veneer of the so-called warm and endearing friendship, cracks are beginning to show. In more ways than one, all the outward signs are pointing to a couple engaged in a matrimonial battle. The suitor is Taiwan’s arch enemy, China.

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Guide to the 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting – Nauru 2018

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