Regional Focus: Judy, Kevin wreak havoc

Further to the impacts of not one but two cyclones within the space of a week (plus an earthquake), the government and people of Vanuatu are coming to terms with the aftermath. Picture: PINA

Further to the impacts of not one but two cyclones within the space of a week (plus an earthquake), the government and people of Vanuatu are coming to terms with the aftermath.

Between them, Tropical Cyclones Judy and Kevin have damaged and destroyed infrastructure, housing, and gardens.

Communications remain patchy across the country and in the capital, Port Vila, many residents are still without power. The government has declared a State of Emergency that will last for six months.

National, provincial, and community response and recovery mechanisms have been activated. The initial focus is on providing shelter and water. Food security is also a key challenge. Vanuatu’s international partners have swung into action. Support has been provided in numerous forms.

Most visible to date is the deployment of HMAS Canberra with 600 ADF personnel aboard which arrived into Port Vila late last week.

Outgoing president drops China/Taiwan bombshell
In a long and candid letter, outgoing President of FSM, David Panuelo, has caused shockwaves across the region. Mr Panuelo detailed numerous examples of what he described as “greyzone” activities and acts of “political warfare” he alleged had been orchestrated and/or carried out by the government of the People’s Republic of China.

The allegations include offers of bribes and a claim that the Chinese Embassy in Fiji had Mr Panuelo followed when he was in Suva for the Leaders’ Forum last year. Of equal importance was the revelation that Mr Panuelo had been engaged in talks with the Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Joseph Wu, with a view to shifting FSM’s diplomatic alignment from Beijing to Taipei.

He claims that Mr Wu assured him that Taiwan was able and willing to “pick up” Chinese projects that are already ongoing as well as make a large contribution to the country’s trust fund.

Other Pacific news:
In Fiji, former prime minister JV Bainimarama has been charged with abuse of office. He was arrested and detained along with suspended Commissioner of Police, Sitiveni Qiliho. The pair were released on bail late last week.

Tokelau has a new head of government. Kelihiano Kalolo has taken up the office of Ulu-o-Tokelau further to the swearing in of the 12th government. Tokelau is a realm territory of New Zealand. Work will now resume on attaining statehood for the territory.

Concerns have been raised about the choice of Baron Waqa as the next Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum. Several complaints about human rights and rule of law concerns have been cited further to his tenure as President of Nauru.

In the recent US budget, the Biden administration has provided for huge allocations to Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of Marshall Islands. The bulk of the money is allocated to renewal of the Compacts of Free Association funding. A United Nations oceans treaty has been agreed after decades of negotiation.

The High Seas Treaty allows for the creation of Marine Protected Areas in waters that are beyond national jurisdiction. It has been welcomed by many in the Pacific islands region.

  • Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and is Project Lead for the Griffith Pacific Hub

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