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Pacific Islands links: Oil Search, Bougainville, Tonga and more

The Bougainville independence referendum, due in 2019, may not go ahead.

Photo: flickr user Phillip Capper
Photo: flickr user Phillip Capper
Published 27 Sep 2017 

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Melanesia program.

  • PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has suggested that the Bougainville independence referendum, due in 2019, may not go ahead as the autonomous region must meet certain criteria first, including fiscal stability, establishment of the rule of law and weapons disposal. The referendum is one of three pillars of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the others being disarmament and autonomy. In a two-part series in 2015, James Batley analysed how the Bougainville referendum may impact on PNG and Australia.

  • PNG’s government-owned Kumul Petroleum Holdings has sold its 10% stake in Oil Search, ending three years of political turbulence surrounding a US$1.2 billion loan to buy the shares. The original deal was widely criticised, and led to Prime Minister O’Neill being referred to a leadership tribunal (never convened) for his failure to get parliamentary approval for the loan. Oil Search, a joint venture partner in the PNG LNG project, has seen its share price fall by approximately 20% since PNG purchased the stake in 2014.
  • Here is Areti Metuamate's insightful overview of recent events in Tongan politics, exploring the dynamic between the recently removed Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the King, and why the King used his only remaining ‘check and balance’ to remove the government.
  • Vanuatu has declared a state of emergency on Ambae island as the Monaro volcano threatens to erupt. Seven thousand people have so far been relocated to emergency shelters, and there are concerns that ash falling on crops and vegetation may severely damage the island’s long-term food security.
  • New Caledonia has elected two anti-independence candidates, Pierre Frogier and Gerard Poadja, to six-year terms in the French Senate. The vote is New Caledonia’s last significant election before the independence referendum, to be held next year.
  • The first group of refugees detained on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea have departed for the US as part of a refugee resettlement deal with Australia. The 22 men departed Port Moresby on Tuesday, with another group of 27, including women and children, due to depart the Nauru detention centre today.
  • The PNG Hunters won the 2017 Queensland Intrust Super Cup on Sunday, defeating the Sunshine Coast 12-10 in Brisbane in only their fourth season in the competition. The team arrived back triumphantly in Port Moresby on Monday to a crowd of thousands.


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