Oct 19, 2018 Last Updated 6:03 AM, Oct 9, 2018

Australia the US ally

Turnbull plays his Trump card

IN his first statement congratulating Donald Trump on his victory in the US Presidential Election, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke glowingly of the strength of America’s alliance with Australia. “Americans understand that they have no stronger ally, no better friend, than Australia,” Turnbull said. “We have no stronger relationship; whether it is on the battlefield or in commerce, than we have with the United States. They are a great and powerful nation; they are a great and powerful friend. And our relationship with the United States is built on millions of Australians and Americans who have been working together, fighting together, serving together, for over a century.”

Implicit in Turnbull’s laudatory message was an appeal for the US not to abandon Australia when Presidentelect Trump takes over next month, nor indulge in pursuits that would put Australia in the difficult position of choosing between its most valuable economic partner in China and its prized protector, America. It was a petition borne out of the uncertainty that Trump generated in the lead-up to his election as he articulated his position on a limited number of foreign policy issues.

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WITH New Caledonia scheduled to hold a referendum on self-determination in late 2018, there is a looming crisis over who will be eligible to vote. More than 25,000 Kanaks are not properly registered on the French electoral roll, while the status of thousands more French voters is under challenge. If this problem is not resolved quickly by the French authorities, thousands of indigenous people may be unable to participate in the vote on the country’s political future. Since the signing of the Noumea Accord in May 1998, there has been a series of complex and legalistic debates over who is eligible to vote for local political institutions, as well as the proposed referendum on self-determination.

New Caledonia has three different electoral rolls. The general roll covers all French nationals of voting age, who can vote for French political institutions such as the National Assembly and Senate in Paris. Another electoral roll is used for New Caledonia’s local political institutions. It defines voting rights for the three provincial assemblies and national Congress, and is restricted to New Caledonian citizens rather than all French nationals. Yet another list is being developed for the referendum on selfdetermination, which is the culmination of the 20-year long transition towards decolonisation created by the Noumea Accord.

Because of colonial settlement and ongoing migration, the Kanak people are a minority in their own country (a similar problem facing the Chamorro people in Guam or the Melanesian population of Indonesian-controlled West Papua). But the Noumea Accord, which ended the armed conflict of the 1980s, was based on a compromise that the future of New Caledonia should be determined by all long-term residents of the French Pacific dependency, not just the indigenous, colonised people.

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RECENT events in Fiji point to a widening gulf that has developed between Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party- led government and the country’s Opposition political parties. Six prominent public figures, three of them leaders of Fiji’s three largest Opposition political parties were detained by police for 24-hours over a weekend in Suva in early September with varying explanations for the detentions.

By way of official government comment on the detentions, Prime Minister Bainimarama told the nation that the six men had been detained for attending a public meeting without the proper permit as required by Fiji’s Public Order Act. Police, on the other hand, explained that the detentions were to enable them to clarify whether some of the statements made at the public meeting "could affect the safety and security of all Fijians.

The detainees, Mr Sitiveni Rabuka - leader of the major Opposition political party, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Dr Biman Prasad – parliamentary leader of the National Federation Party (NFP), Mr Mahendra Chaudhary – leader of the Fiji Labour Party (FLP), former academic and one time Deputy Prime Minister - Dr Tupeni Baba, and prominent trade unionist – Mr Attar Singh, were panelists at a meeting to discuss Fiji’s Constitution.

The sixth detainee was Mr Jone Dakuvula, chair of the non-governmental oganisation - Pacific Dialogue - which organised the meeting coinciding with Fiji’s celebration of its new public holiday - Constitution Day. Prime Minister Bainimarama and Fiji’s Attorney-General, Mr Aiyaz SayedKhaiyum had also been formally invited to attend the Pacific Dialogue forum on Fiji’s Constitution but, according to Dakuvula, had both declined.

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Judge questions handling of case by PM and his deputy

A LANDMARK court case last May in Tuvalu which saw the jailing of a former prime minister who is a sitting opposition MP has ended abruptly when the island’s high court declared the conviction as “manifestly unsafe,” quashed the 12 month jail term and ordered no further court trials. In so doing, stand in Judge Norman Franzi of Melbourne, Australia expressed grave concerns at the behaviour of the current Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga, and his deputy Maatia Toafa, also a former prime minister in the investigations of the case.

“I note in passing that two of Tuvalu’s Prime Ministers took part in the preparation or investigation carried out for this case,” said Judge Franzi. “I consider that contrary to the separate of powers in the Westminster System of Government. There is material in the appeal book volume 3 page 711 that indicated that [then] Prime Minster Maatia Toafa had coerced an email response from John Chen [a Taiwanese businessman].

“The email was tendered as an exhibit not as to the truth of its contents. In the Senior Magistrate’s judgement the email was relied on as to the truth of its contents. Prime Minster Sopoaga in appeal book volume 1 at page 121 gave evidence recorded in the Senior Magistrate’s notes that “I’m accountable to Tuvalu. I have every obligation to seek this information.”

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SOLOMON Islands preparation toward hosting the 2023 Pacific Games could harmonise the deep political division between China and Taiwan. Well, that is if both countries decide to assist Solomon Islands build the needed infrastructure before the premier ‘Olympic’ type Games for the South Pacific region.

The least we expect is for the two countries to halt their assistance to Solomon Islands toward the Games and leave the host with no proper sports infrastructure constructed before the 2023 Pacific Games. The gap between the powerful People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan could be narrowed if they both agreed to assist Solomon Islands As it stands, Solomon Islands does not have proper stadiums and sports facilities to be able host the Pacific Games with less than seven years to go.

Solomon Islands has only six years to identify venues and build the main sports stadium and other sports facilities to cater for the 24 sports it will host in 2023. With 33 years of diplomatic ties with ROC of Taiwan, Solomon Islands has agreed on a deal with Taipei for the release of SBD $1.6 million to build the main stadium for the Pacific Games.

The Taiwanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr David Tawai Lee in July 2016 said Taipei will work with Honiara to ensure Solomon Islands successful hosting of the 2023 Pacific Games. Pacific neighbours Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea who have diplomatic ties to Mainland China have successfully hosted past Games due largely to financial assistance from Peoples Republic of China.

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

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