Nov 17, 2017 Last Updated 9:11 AM, Nov 15, 2017

Taking NZ in 80 days

Labour stuns electorate

IT took Jacinta Ardern just 80 days from taking over as leader of a political party to becoming New Zealand’s youngest prime minister. When she replaced Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party, many political commentators saw her as a breath of fresh air but did not believe she would be able to wrest power from the National Party.

After a whirlwind campaign the Nationals under former Prime Minister Bill English held the greatest single majority in Parliament. Weeks of political manoeuvring saw the Greens Party sign a confidence and supply agreement with Labour and confirm four of its MPs would be in government but not in the cabinet  working on key campaign areas such as climate change, conservation and women.

The Labour-Greens deal included making New Zealand a net zero emissions economy by 2050, a substantial investment in alternative transport options such as walking paths and cycle ways, overhauling the welfare system and committing to protecting New Zealand’s 3000 threatened plant and wildlife species.

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TONGA goes to the poll on November 16 to elect their 17 People’s Representatives in the Legislative Assembly. That is 12 months earlier than planned, after His Majesty King Tupou VI dissolved parliament in September and ordered fresh elections.

When the Supervisor of Elections closed the registration of candidates in late September, a total of 86 people had confirmed their interests to run from the 17 different constituencies. That is 20 less than the 106 that stood in the 2014 elections.

Fifteen candidates are women, fighting to win seats in parliament. More than 57,000 people have registered and interestingly the field of candidates include some new high-profiled locals who had served either in the civil service, regional organisations or the private sector. That makes the battle for the parliamentary seats more exciting. The ‘Akilisi Pohiva led Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands have named 17 candidates to contest the election.

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Crisis in the kingdom

TONGA’s political events in the past three weeks took the region by surprise. First it was His Majesty King Tupou VI who did the unprecedented and disssolved Parliament, with it also sending Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s government out. Having taken some advice from the Speaker of the Tonga Legislative Assembly, Lord Tu’ivakano, King Tupou VI became the first in the history of the Kingdom’s political life to use his powers under the Constitution to change a government and dissolve Parliament. Many Tongans, in Nuku’alofa and abroad, were shocked and caught unawares on August 24.

Even PM Pohiva said he was caught by surprise and did not know what happened until later in the day when the reality of it all finally sunk in. Lord Tu’ivakano, himself a former Prime Minister and a current Nobles’ representative in Parliament, later told the people of Tonga he had advised the King about certain issues that were causing uneasiness within Parliament and how the government of Akilisi Pohiva were dealing with them.

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Brother Kanaky

MSG seals deal with Independence group ahead of referendum

THE Melanesian Spearhead Group will take a lead role in a political referendum in New Caledonia next year. MSG Director General, Ambassador Amenatave Yauvoli, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) setting out details of cooperation.

“The FLNKS has asked us to provide technical assistance to them ahead of the referenfum’” Yauvoli said after the Pacific Community meeting in Noumea. “This will deal mainly with the strengthening of capacities within the FLNKS with regard to the administration and organisation of key institutions such as parliament, the judiciary, foreign affairs and defence.” The FLNKS is one of the leading proponents for greater autonomy from France for the people of New Caledonia.

The referendum will decide whether New Caledonia should have greater autonomy within the French Republic. Yauvoli said MSG member countries were willing to help the FLNKS and other New Caledonian political parties to strengthen their capabilities by providing technical assistance.

“The FLNKS has identified lack of capacity within the organisation and the Kanaky community with regards to administration of specific parts of the government,” Yauvoli said.

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THE Attorney General and Minister for the Economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is probably the most influential Minister this country has ever had. His influence is everywhere, in the Decrees, the Constitution, the Electoral system, economic policies the news media and even foreign policies of this country.

He has been in a position of unusual power and influence since 2007 when he became the Attorney General and Minister for Justice under the first Cabinet of Commodore Bainimarama. That was after the removal through a bloodless Coup of the elected government led by Laisenia Qarase on December 4, 2006.

Will Khaiyum’s influence on the direction and evolution of Fiji as a state, a political and economic system and a nation of diverse people, be of lasting significance? This is a question that should be evaluated and answered after he is no longer in power, by those who are better qualified and can take a more objective and balanced assessment.

This column is only a narrow impressionistic commentary on some of his initiatives and impacts, particularly on development towards the 2013 Constitution. Parliament and the electoral laws. I generally raise the question: What had motivated him and will his actions be of lasting value to the country?

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