• Against a background of positive domestic economic forecasting, Indonesia plans to launch an Pacific aid program for the first time, distributing about $60 million annually to needy nations in the region. This echoes the announcement by the United States of their own Pacific Step up, the Pacific “Pledge”. In addition, the US Peace Corps announced it will re-establish operations in Solomon Islands. However, experts are suspicious of the move, saying the US is “late to the party”.
  • Taiwan is also trying to bolster its ties with the region, signing a trade deal with Marshall Islands aiming to boost trade and investment between the two countries and “elevate the bilateral partnership to greater heights”. While in Japan, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has urged the Abe government to give “special attention” to countries such as Palau with “historical and geopolitical” importance.
  • On its side, the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, which will comprises $1.5 billion in loans and $500 million in grants, was announced last November and has been operational since July but has no customers yet.
  • Mary Jack Kaviamu delivers brilliant and sad testimony by about her experience as a female candidate in the province of Tanna, Vanuatu, where political acceptance of women is still low. In Solomon Islands, women might be still few in politics but are strong candidates, according to Kerryn Baker, who looks at the involvement of women in the 2019 national election. Baker also finds incumbents are becoming harder to unseat, with only 28% turnover at the last election.
  • Western countries are helping with the cost for the Bougainville independence referendum in November, where an affirmative vote is highly expected. China however has not been invited to contribute. If you want to know more about the whole referendum process, I would recommend this new book by Anthony Regan.
  • And while on the subject of Bougainville, here’s an interesting story on the sidelines: two Russian helicopters PNG attempted to purchase as part of a deal with mercenaries in the 1990s were intercepted and are now buried at the Darwin waste dump. This harkens back to the international scandal known as the Sandline Affair.
  • A policeman from PNG’s Hela province was killed earlier this month, with another injured, during a routine escort trip. Suspects are still on the run. In the background of such violence, Sinclair Dinnen and Grant Walton look at the status of the various private security forces in PNG, and their links with state security.
  • Meanwhile, plenty of people are angry in PNG over revelations that all 111 members of the parliament will be granted vehicles from the infamous APEC fleet (the fate of 40 Maseratis is not yet known).
Photo: Jeremy Weate/Flickr
  • Deep sea mining has become an interesting if controversial prospect, and it seems that one area – the Manus Basin – is set to be an economically viable option. China is one country that could be interested in exploring the seabed yet also has a bad history with the area. The Chinese owned Nickel processing plant Ramu Nico closed after the operator spilled tens of thousands of litres of toxic slurry into a bay in August. However, it was reopened a week after, despite concerns of the local population.
  • New Zealand is worried changing fish migrations will pushes fishing vessel from the waters off Papua New Guinea into its territory.
  • Last year, a ferry carrying 102 people from an island in Kiribati to the capital broke apart at sea. The report underlines the many failures leading to this tragedy.
  • In the last Pacific links, I mentioned the US has sent a unit to look at “The Dome” in Marshall Islands. In the piece, the author explains that while radiation and nuclear fallout was an issue in the past, it is now the reliance on US aid that poses a problem.
  • New Caledonia’s court of appeal has rejected a request by Beijing to extradite a Chinese man wanted for allegedly running a pyramid scheme.

The Lowy Institute is part of the  Pacific Research Program