Gomes concerned about China’s advance in Melanesia

New Caledonia’s outgoing member of the French National Assembly, Philippe Gomes, has expressed concern about China’s position in the Pacific, saying Beijing has already colonised Vanuatu.

Philippe Gomes, who says he will not seek re-election next month, said the territory’s Assembly member had to look at the international situation and their voice must be heard.

Gomes, who has been part of the Assembly’s foreign affairs commission, said through the Indo-Pacific axis France remains in charge of New Caledonia’s international relations.

Speaking on New Caledonian television, he said this was a time when China was about to colonise not only Solomon Islands, but also Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Last month, Solomon Islands signed a security pact with China, causing alarm in several western capitals.

The commander of the French Armed Forces in the Pacific said France wanted to be a power of balance amid the rivalry between the United States and China.

Meanwhile, French Polynesia’s Amuitahiraa Party has registered its three candidates for the French National Assembly elections next month only hours before the nomination period closed.

The three are Pascale Haiti, Jonathan Tariha’a and Sylviane Terooatea.

Haiti is a former member of the French Polynesian assembly and the partner of the party founder and leader, Gaston Flosse, who is banned from public office until 2027.

If elected, the Amuitahiraa politicians say they will work towards developing the territory’s autonomy statute to make French Polynesia a sovereign state associated with France.

Two of the three of French Polynesia’s seats in the French National Assembly are held by the ruling Tapura Huiraatira Party, and the third by a pro-independence party.

The third has been held by the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira Party’s Moetai Brotherson, who is seeking re-election.

Nominations opened in Wallis and Futuna on Monday for the election of the territory’s only member of the Assembly.

Candidates can register until Friday for the elections next month.

The territory’s seat has been held by Sylvain Brial since 2018 when he won a by-election after successfully challenging the 2017 electoral victory of Napole Polutele.

In New Caledonia nominations are still open this week, with candidates of the pro-independence camp yet to be announced.