News Item

PCF Regional Roundup | News from around the Pacific

Media 19 Feb 2021

In this week's Pacific Regional Roundup: New Caledonia's freshly elected pro-independence government is welcome change for its Kanak community, Fiji continues to push for a travel bubble with New Zealand and Australia, the first Pacific UN Human Rights Council President urges for more regional representation, FSM begins its formal process to withdraw from the Pacific Islands Forum, and decision on USP's deported Vice-Chancellor's status remains uncertain.

New Caledonia has elected its pro-independence government, the first time since 1999. The historic election comes ahead of its third and final independence referendum set for November 2022, the previous two referenda in 2018 and 2020 saw a 'remain' vote slip from 56.7 per cent to 53.3 per cent, after heavy campaigning by the pro-independence parties secured a strong youth turnout. The French territory is expected to decide on its President this week.

In Fiji, the government has not given up on its 'Bula Bubble'. The country is continuing to push for a travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia, two of its major tourist markets. Fiji's borders have been closed since March 2020 and with New Zealand and Australia still dealing with COVID-19 cases, high-level discussions of the bubble are delayed. Prior to the global pandemic, it was reported that Fiji had almost one million tourists.

Fiji's ambassador to the UN and President of the UN Human Rights Council, Nazhat Shameem Khan calls for more Pacific representation in Geneva. The former judge says that while her appointment is a win for Fiji and the Pacific, there needs to be more Pacific voices in the council as many of the issues within the multilateral bodies are relevant to the region. Ms. Khan's tenure as President of the UN Human Rights Council is one year.

The government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has confirmed its process of withdrawing its membership from the Pacific Islands Forum. A diplomatic note announcing its departure will see the small island state formally conclude its membership by February 14, 2022. FSM's exit from the organisation follows on from the Micronesian Presidents' dissatisfaction of the Forum's appointment of its new Secretary-General citing that the election process went against the gentlemen's agreement to rotate the position around the Pacific sub-regions, enabling Micronesia to take up the next term.

The future of deported USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia is still unclear. The sub-committee that was formed to evaluate Professor Ahluwalia's status, specifically whether he can stay on as Vice Chancellor potentially working from another USP member country, was unable to present its recommendation to the Council who met this week. The uncertainty has prompted two university union groups, the Association of the University of the South Pacific Staff and the University of the South Pacific Staff Union to urge the Council to reconsider Professor Ahluwalia's status, claiming the existing Council lawyer has already provided advice on the Vice-Chancellor's deportation.

Dr Giulio Masasso Tu'ikolongahau Paunga stays on as Acting Vice-Chancellor & President until further notice.

First image: Kanak and French flags on Ouvea island. Source: AFP

Second image: Pal Ahluwalia Source: USP