Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Pacific links: Bougainville votes, royal region, let them eat cake

How much for a baguette in French Polynesia? Plus more stories from the Pacific Islands region.

Tahitian lunch delivered by mailbox (Photo: Getty Images)
Tahitian lunch delivered by mailbox (Photo: Getty Images)

  • Voting opened on Saturday for the people of Bougainville in a referendum to decide if their homeland will become the world’s newest nation. The Guardian’s Kate Lyons looks at the history behind the vote, alongside a striking photo essay. Despite a warning from Papua New Guinea’s former prime minister Peter O’Neill, polling appears to have run smoothly so far, according to the head of a Commonwealth observer team monitoring the referendum. Joshua McDonald asks whether the Panguna mine, which was at the heart of the long-running conflict on the island, should reopen.
  • The Prince of Wales gave a speech in Solomon Islands pidgin at the Lawson Tana Stadium in central Honiara, the culmination of a three-day visit to the South Pacific nation during which he launched a new ocean conservation initiative and a malaria elimination roadmap. It is the first visit to Solomon Islands for Prince Charles, with royal visits a rarity after Prince Phillip visited then British Solomon Islands in 1959, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Honiara in 2012.
  • As has become usual, China is being heavily discussed across the Pacific. First, in Samoa, where it was announced that a World Nines tournament would be held next October in Apia, backed by Chinese money, to be played in a Beijing-funded stadium, and including a Chinese and an Indian team. Then, in Tuvalu, the foreign minister reported that China had approached his office to offer financial support to build artificial islands to help cope with rising sea levels.
  • Still on the China theme, eyebrows have been raised in Australia after the announcement of a loan of more than US$300 million to PNG in budget support, despite Finance Minister Mathias Cormann denying the loan was intended to counter Beijing. Yet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued that 2013 cuts to the aid budget “opened the door” to China’s growing influence in the Pacific. Interestingly enough, a week earlier, Australia had launched its Pacific Security College, with the aim to boost regional security cooperation as a key component of its “Pacific Step-Up”.
  • At the same time, the US, UK and Japanese navies have reaffirmed their commitment to increased cooperation, including in the Pacific, by signing a trilateral cooperation agreement.
  • A measles outbreak continues. In Samoa, the government has sought help after the death toll reached 25, while a first case was reported in Suva, the Fiji capital.
  • After national elections in Marshall Islands, President Hilda Heine was initially ahead in the count for her constituency, yet it now appears that the balance of power has shifted to the opposition, which makes her return unlikely.
  • Behrouz Boochani, the Kurdish Iranian refugee who became the voice of those incarcerated on Manus Island, landed in New Zealand with a one-month visa, still hoping to resettle to the US under the “refugee swap”.
  • Here is a sad and uncommon story from Micronesia: Rachelle Bergeron, an American lawyer working to prosecute labor traffickers, pedophiles and abusers, was gunned down in Yap.
  • In this piece, Graeme Dobell looks at how media freedom is at risk in the Pacific and explains why ending radio shortwave in the region hits Australia’s national hip pocket as well as its foreign policy.
  • The wrecks of ships sunk during the Second World War pose dangers such as oil leaks and unexploited ordinance. For that reason, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is setting up an exploration mission to physically assess those wrecks.
  • A vessel from Fiji filled with methamphetamine was intercepted by New Zealand customs officials at the Tauranga Port. Two Fiji nationals’ risk life in prison.
  • And finally, terrible news from French Polynesia: the government has decided to raise the price of the baguette.

Pacific Research Program

You may also be interested in