A US congressional delegation has been in Fiji this week for bilateral talks with the government.

US Senator Richard Shelby meets Fijian Defence Minister Inia Seruiratu in Suva on Thursday.

US Senator Richard Shelby meets Fijian Defence Minister Inia Seruiratu in Suva on Thursday. Photo: Fiji govt

The delegation included the Senate appropriations committee chairman Richard Shelby; the Senate’s banking, housing and urban affairs chair Michael Crapo; subcommittee on military construction chairman John Boozman; armed services committee’s Deb Fischer and John Kennedy, the chair of the subcommittee on financial services and general government.

They met with Fiji’s minister for defence, national security and foreign affairs Inia Seruiratu and his permanent secretary Ioane Naivalurua.

This is the first visit by an American congressional team to the country in seven years. (RNZ)

Manasseh Sogavare speaks on the steps of Solomon Islands National Parliament shortly after winning the prime ministerial election. 24 April 2019
Manasseh Sogavare speaks on the steps of Solomon Islands National Parliament shortly after winning the prime ministerial election. 24 April 2019 Photo: Forum Solomon Islands International

An expert on politics in Melanesia says at the nub of the political instability in Solomon Islands is that no real change is being offered by either side.

Rioting broke out in the capital Honiara on Wednesday after the announcement of Manasseh Sogavare as the country’s next prime minister.

While the jury is still out on whether the unrest was a legitimate political protest there was a strong sentiment in the lead up to the election that a win by Mr Sogavare would represent the status quo, with most of the MPs in what became his coalition group having also formed the last government.


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But a professor in Comparative Politics at Victoria University of Wellington, Jon Fraenkel, said if you look at the make up of the winning coalition and the opposing coalition, led by Matthew Wale, they are almost identical.

“There are politicians that have been around for ages on both sides, there are politicians in the pockets of the loggers on both sides, there are new politicians on both sides and neither side expressed a coherent alternative platform around which people could potentially rally at elections.

“Elections in Solomon Islands don’t do that.

“It is only after the election that people sometimes try and describe one coalition or the other characterised by a different kind of politics. But that is I think misleading,” he said.

Matthew Wale the MP for Aoke Langa Langa, who is one of the two candidates contesting the prime ministerial election in Solomon Islands on Wednesday 24 April.
Matthew Wale Photo: Island Sun/Charles Kadamana

(RNZ)

Vanuatu and New Caledonia have signed a free trade agreement.

The deal was signed on Tuesday by Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and his counterpart Philippe Germain.

According to New Caledonia Trade Invest, it will lift taxes and duties on forty products in both countries.

A committee has been charged with reviewing and updating the list each year.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Ministry said on Facebook it was an historic agreement. (RNZ)

Wale clarifies election decision
Matthew Wale.

WHY WE WALKED OUT

By ANDREW FANASIA

MATHEW Wale says his group walked out from the prime minister’s election yesterday for the “sake of the rule of law”.

He said they made the decision after Governor General Sir Frank Kabui refused to accept a High Court order he obtained to postpone the election.

Wale’s rival Manasseh Sogavare was declared prime minister after he received 34 ballots of the 35 that were casted. One ballot was recorded as spoilt.

 “While the Grand Coalition recognised the Constitutional authority of the Governor General to preside over the meeting, we felt that the decision of the High Court injunction and orders directing the GG to postpone the meeting should have been adhered to,” Wale told reporters.

“That order did not question the GG’s authority under schedule 2 of the Constitution,” he added.

“Rather it directed the postponement given that the full hearing on the submission on the validity of the nomination of Manasseh Sogavare will be convened on the 26th Friday at 9:30am.”

Wale said the Grand Coalition believes that “our legal processes need to be respected”.

“We believe that the order and directions of the High Court were reasonable given the significance of the submissions,” he said.

Wale said the walkout therefore is for the sake of the rule of law because the Governor General did not abide by the direction to defer the meeting.

“No one is above the law,” Wale said.

He added that the Governor General may have his own interpretation of the law however it is for the courts to interpret law.

Wale further added that the Grand Coalition believes the election of Prime Minister is an important business of the country and so it requires diligent and prudent handling by the Governor General.

“Different views of the law should be left to a neutral body like the Court to deal with but it is unfortunate that the Governor General being the Head of the Executive acted like a judge in the election process,” Wale said.

He confirmed the Grand Coalition will now seek judicial review challenging the determination by the GG.

“The Grand Coalition group continues to call for calm and cooperation of the wider public as this process continues.

“We call for respect for the rule of law,” Wale said.

Governor General Sir Frank Kabui, a retired High Court judge, presided over yesterday’s election. (Solomon Star)

Prime Minister Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare (right). Photo: AFP

Honiara – The newly elected Prime Minister of Manasseh Sogavare, who was once a staunch supporter of West Papuan independence said that, he would take a more friendly approach to this problem.

He responded to questions about the foreign policy of his government regarding West Papua during his first press conference on Wednesday (04/24).

This happened after he [Sogavare] received a call from the Indonesian Embassy in Port Moresby [PNG] to congratulate him on his victory.

Sogavare told reporters that his government would be more actively involved with Indonesia in issues surrounding human rights violations in West Papua.

“The Indonesian Embassy in Port Moresby [PNG] just called me and said they were looking forward to a friendly dialogue and consultation on the West Papua issue as a friendly neighbor,” Sogavare said.

He clarified that, at the initial stage when he was standing (position) as Prime Minister and also as Chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) it was because of the position taken by the MSG so far.

“Well there is nothing stopping each Melanesian State from having their own foreign policy on West Papua issues but it would be great if we consider it a collective body to combat human rights violations,” Sogavare said.

He added, this is a sad story when 600,000 Melanesians died, all because their rights were suppressed.

He further added that as a coalition government he would certainly discuss this issue with their partners and come up with a friendly way to overcome the problems of the Melanesian brothers in West Papua. (Solomon Star News / Andrew Fanasia)

File photo of a West Papuan rally in Denpasar, Bali, in 2017 … “growing confidence about independence”. Image: The Jakarta Post

Asiapacificreport

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has claimed a successful boycott of the Indonesian election on Wednesday, estimating that about 60 percent of voters have declined to cast their ballot.

While voting did not take place in many polling stations as the ballots had not been delivered, it is the boycott by voters that has reduced participation to record lows, says the ULMWP.

Benny Wenda, the London-based chair of the ULMWP, said:

“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN OUR HISTORY THAT 60 PERCENT HAVE BOYCOTTED THE INDONESIAN ELECTIONS IN WEST PAPUA. IT’S A GREAT ACHIEVEMENT, AND THE SECOND TIME THAT THE WEST PAPUAN PEOPLE HAVE NOT JOINED THE INDONESIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.”

Wenda said the boycott was growing.

“More people boycotted this year’s elections than the previous 2014 Indonesian elections,” he said.

“There is growing confidence in West Papua that we will be an independent state.

“People around the world should hear the voice of the West Papuans in our call for self-determination.

“The West Papuan people have already voted – 1.8 million signed a petition to the United Nations for an international supervised vote for self-determination”

The call to boycott the Indonesian elections was made on March 26, 2019.

In a statement, the ULMWP also called for people to rally on April 5 for a referendum.

The date of the Rally for Referendum call – April 5 – marked the anniversary of the establishment of the Nieuw Guinea Raad (the West Papua National Parliament).

On April 5, 1961, the Netherlands and the international community formally recognised West Papua’s right to self-determination and eventual statehood.

A West Papuan activist holds a banner demanding independence. Image: CNN Indonesia

Rebel fighters in West Papua‘s Central Highlands shot and wounded two Indonesian soldiers on Wednesday.

West Papua Liberation Army unit, led by Egianus Kogoya. Derakma, Nduga regency, Papua. March 2019

West Papua Liberation Army unit, led by Egianus Kogoya. Derakma, Nduga regency. Photo: Supplied

It’s the latest violence in troubled Nduga regency, where a war has killed dozens on both sides since December.

Indonesia’s military says a helicopter was unloading 10 soldiers and supplies at a compound in Nduga when rebels sprang an ambush.

A military spokesperson, Colonel Mohammad Aidi, said two soldiers suffered gunshot wounds in the hit-and-run attack on Wednesday morning .

He said they were in a stable condition at nearby Timika General Hospital.

Claiming responsibility for the attack, the West Papua Liberation Army said it killed three soldiers and injured three others.

The rebel group, which is frequently at odds with the military over incident reports, claimed to have killed another two soldiers on Tuesday in a separate attack in Nduga.

Colonel Aidi said the military forces tried to retaliate during Wednesday’s attack but that the rebels had attacked suddenly before disappearing into a forest. (Radionz)