Democracy & Governance
in the Pacific Islands

November 23 - December 6, 2022

IRI in the Pacific Islands

IRI sends bi-monthly newsletters with D&G news snapshots in the Pacific Islands. To be added to the list, please send an email to

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Fiji Election Get-out-the-vote Campaign

As it gets closer to the 2022 General Election day in Fiji, there are significant highlights and links regarding Fiji election in today's newsletter. As part of IRI's multi-pronged get-out-the-vote (GOTV) initiative in Fiji, voter education pamphlets are being distributed in person and/or online. Please click on the image to download the pamphlet in three languages. Additionally, GOTV videos are being shared via social media. Please click on the image below to see one example. 

GOTV pamphlet

GOTV video

🌺 Pacific Women to Watch

Lata Wants More Done For Women, Youths

When it comes to woman empowerment there need to be a lot of changes introduced, especially for those who face family and social problems, says Ansu Vikashni Lata, the National Federation Party can­didate.

“I think when women are single and divorced it is a more challenging life, especially to come into politics,” she said. “I want women like us from the grassroots to get into poli­tics...In Fiji today so much has been done for women, but when it comes to employment and career pathways, we are left behind."

Study highlights women’s access to leadership spaces

Gender stigmatization, existing traditional status quo and culture limit Fijian women’s access to leadership spaces. This was revealed in a study by the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), with the support of the UN Women and the Spotlight Initiative titled “Perceptions Study of Leadership in Fiji” that was launched last week. The study was conducted on the views of 906 Fijians across the country of which 80 per cent were females aged between 24 and 41. International human rights lawyer and FWRM co-founder Imrana Jalal said women suffered from a confidence gender gap resulting in the reluctance to proactively seek leadership. “Investing in building women’s confidence and leadership at the various levels of the pipeline that feeds national leadership is critical — whether that is at the level of community, local council, non-government organizations (NGOs), public administration or corporate and SOE boards, is critical,” she said.

"Time to recognize women’s potential"

It is time to recognize the potential of women as breadwinners and income earners too, says Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Minister Rosy Akbar.

A statement issued by the minister read that women contributed in a multitude of ways “through different livelihoods and strategies, to lifting their families and communities out of poverty”. “Fijian women have the potential, however, to be successful and grow in the economic sector they have limitations due to multiple and diverse constraints of persistent structural gender disparities that also prevent them from enjoying their rights to economic participation.” Ms. Akbar said that her ministry would continue to support the advancement of gender equality though women’s economic empowerment program in Fiji.

Divina Loloma wants to be Fiji's first transgender politician

Ms Loloma is vying to become Fiji's first transgender politician, running as a candidate for the National Federation Party (NFP), Fiji's oldest political party. Ms Loloma said she wanted to focus on providing economic empowerment to young and marginalised people in Fiji. "In the last 15 years, I feel that a lot of people have suffered and here we are. I stand to represent the most vulnerable," she told ABC. For indigenous transgender woman and LGBTQI activist Ratu Eroni Ledua Dina, it's a significant moment. She said there was a need for more trans-specific policies, particularly in the health and justice sectors.


🇫🇯 Fiji

Pre-polling kicks off for Fijian election

The 2022 Fijian General Election began on Monday with 77,907 citizens able to cast their votes at 613 pre-polling venues this week. Thousands of Fijians voted on day one of pre-polling across 149 venues. Voting then continues at another 149 venues on Tuesday and so on until pre-polling has been completed by Friday. Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem said an electronic dashboard has been set up to allow tracking of the pre-polling process. According to the dashboard 7,487 people voted yesterday - 41 percent of eligible voters for day one of pre-polling. Pre-polling will be completed on Friday.

“Voting is a fundamental human right, and one of the few opportunities we have to ensure we weigh in and express our preferences on who we choose to govern us and in the way we want to be governed,” the statement read. “Fijians should be able to make a free decision when casting their vote. A country cannot be truly democratic until its citizens have the opportunity to choose their representatives through elections that are robustly conducted, free and fair...Elections will also allow for peaceful, democratic political transitions. This is vital in building longevity for our fragile parliamentary democracy." The NGOCHR said increased representation in Fiji’s political spectrum has brought about greater confidence in our democracy.

-Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) Statement

Fiji PM says only his party can deliver for the people

Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama believes "hard-working Fijians" want his government to "keep working for the country" as campaigning for the December 14 election heats up. Bainimarama is aiming to win power for the third time under the 2013 Constitution, which he imposed on the people of Fiji. He will be leading 54 other candidates at the polls, going up against major opposition parties in the People's Alliance, the National Federation Party (NFP), and the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA). Bainimarama said his political rivals' "lust for power is so great that no lie is too low for them." "We know the stakes. Our recovery, our jobs, family support, strong leadership that serves everyone equally, and the level playing field we [FijiFirst] fought tooth and nail to create in our society," he said.


2022 Fiji Election: ‘Get out and vote’ – Biman

2022 General Election: ‘Devil on his mind’

2022 General Election: SODELPA will not go into coalition with FijiFirst – Koroisavou

Fijian politicians take to TikTok to reach 'youth bulge' demographic ahead of national election

Fiji's national election is only two weeks away and the leaders of three of the major parties have taken to TikTok to campaign — with varying degrees of commitment. People under 35 make up more than 60 per cent of the country's population so securing the youth vote is a key priority. Pacific digital researcher Jope Tarai said more than 600,000 Fijians were active on social media, about two-thirds of the country's population. Known as the "youth bulge", Mr Tarai said one of the hurdles politicians faced was making young people care enough to get out and vote.

In one of his TikTok videos, Sitiveni Rabuka — who led an ethno-nationalist coup d'état to overthrow the Fijian government in 1987 — appears to be finishing off a resistance band workout. "Someone asked me the other day, 'Do you ever lift bro?'" the 74-year-old says to the camera. "I said, "I used to but now I'm more interested in lifting the standard of this country."

RELATED ARTICLE: Youth Debate on fijivillage Straight Talk

FICAC: Increase in political violence and vandalism targeted at FijiFirst

There has been an increase in political violence and vandalism targeted at the FijiFirst party, says the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC). The commission said this in a statement on a Rajesh Prasad who was produced in the Labasa Magistrates Court on Wednesday for allegedly tearing a FijiFirst candidate Alvick Maharaj’s campaign poster, placed on private property in Labasa. Mr. Prasad was charged with non-interference in campaign under Section 111 (1) of the Electoral Act. FICAC said there were already more reported incidents of political violence and vandalism during this campaign period than the 2014 and 2018 general elections.It said it was working with the Fiji Police Force to ensure a safe environment in which any independent candidate, political party or political candidate could campaign safely and in a lawful manner.

FMA: Stop attacking journalists

The Fijian Media Association (FMA) has again called on political parties and leaders to stop attacking media organizations and journalists doing their work in covering the elections. In a statement, the association highlighted their concern with the high number of attacks made against media organizations during news conferences. “FMA notes with concern the regular frequency with which the media is being attacked at campaign rallies and the way journalists are being singled out at press conferences, for simply doing their job,” FMA stated. The FMA stated these attacks show that politicians and political parties are only paying lip service to the principles of media freedom they all say they believe in and want to uphold. “The FMA notices a worrying trend where leaders are not answering questions but choosing instead to attack journalists and their media organizations for asking a question."

Fiji military commander tells soldiers to respect election result

The results of Fiji’s election next week must be respected, the country’s military commander said in a speech that called on soldiers in the Pacific country with a history of coups to “not yield to our poorer selves.” The Fiji First Party of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, is vying for votes against the People’s Alliance led by another former coup leader and prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka. Fiji First won 50% of votes in elections in 2018, down from 57% in 2014. “Some of you will be content with the outcome but others may be not. Whatever your post-election disposition, this is a time for us to honor the democratic process by respecting the outcome of the votes,” military commander Maj. Gen. Ro Jone Kalouniwai said, according to text and audio of his speech that was published by Fijian media on Tuesday. Fiji has had four coups since independence in 1970, partly a legacy of British colonial policies that restricted the economic activities of indigenous Fijians while bringing tens of thousands of indentured laborers from India in the late 19th century and early 20th century. 

🌏 International and Regional

China holds policing discussion with officials of Pacific island nations

China said it held a video meeting to discuss police cooperation with several Pacific island nations, with at least two nations telling Reuters their ministers and police commissioners were unavailable to attend. China's attempted to strike a security and trade deal with 10 Pacific island nations in May this year. Chinese state media reported on Wednesday that China's Minister for Public Security, Wang Xiaohong, had held the first minister-level dialogue on police cooperation with some South Pacific countries. The video meeting, co-chaired with Solomon Islands Minister of Police Anthony Veke, took place after two powerful earthquakes struck Solomon Islands on Tuesday. China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Wednesday that officials from the five Pacific island nations with the ranks of superintendent, deputy superintendent and acting commissioner of police had attended.

🇺🇸 United States

Defence buildup in Guam will ensure swift response in the event of China attack

The U.S Department of Defence is beefing up forces in Guam and other island nations in the region to ensure a prompt counteraction should China launch an act of aggression, a military official said. “The geopolitical tensions we are experiencing are no secret – China is our most consequential challenger, and they are rapidly building up their own staging areas, and extending their reach into this region,” said Rear Admiral Ben Nicholson, commander of the Joint Region Marianas (JRM). China has launched a series of missile tests near the Taiwan Strait following Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in July. In the next several years, the JRM chief said Guam will see the expansion of the military’s defence capabilities. The military has also proposed to build “staging platforms” in Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

🇰🇮 Kiribati

Pacific judiciary crisis: Reliance on foreign judges in spotlight

The reliance on foreign judges in the Pacific could threaten nascent democracies, some academics have warned. This comes amid the Kiribati government’s attempts to deport High Court judge, Australian David Lambourne, who is the husband of the Pacific nation’s opposition leader Tessie Lambourne. Kiribati suspended its chief justice and New Zealand judge Bill Hastings in July after he ruled in favour of a case taken by Lambourne. The director of Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury, Professor Steven Ratuva, said governments appoint foreign judges for several reasons, including that “there might be too few qualified local lawyers”. The Kiribati government last month appointed attorney-general Tetiro Semilota to replace Hastings. New Zealand is concerned at the appointment “given the potential conflicts of interest involved”. Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta also warned of “constitutional issues” in the Pacific nation. New Zealand’s high commissioner to Kiribati, André van der Walt, would not attend a special sitting of the Kiribati High Court for Semilota’s appointment, the spokesperson said. The New Zealand Law Society said to hold these roles concurrently would be at odds with essential tenets of the rule of law. “It would challenge the independence of the judiciary and the constitutional separation of powers that is fundamental to a functioning democracy,” a spokesperson said. “If, as is the case in Kiribati, they are removed without being replaced by independent local judges, the political situation can quickly spiral. A country without a judiciary is a serious red flag,” Ratuva said.

🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea & Bougainville

Papua New Guinea can’t afford Australia and US standoff with China, James Marape warns

The prime minister of Papua New Guinea has warned that his country will not be caught in a “standoff” between the US, Australia and China, as geopolitical tensions in the Pacific increase, warning the global powers to “keep your fights to yourselves”. “Our nation is still an emerging economy, we cannot afford the standoff between our trading partners,” James Marape told the Guardian while on a visit to Sydney for a petroleum and mining conference. “The Chinese to be fair, they have never, in the last three years I’ve been prime minister, they have never pushed that space in terms of asking us to look at security arrangements, setting up a military base in PNG,” he said. “When I met President Xi Jinping on the margins of Apec, there was no conversation about security arrangements, it was purely conversations on commerce and trade.” Asked if he had any interest in a conversation with China on security, Marape said there was “no need to do that”. “I think our current arrangements on security with other nations like Australia are satisfactory, they’re closer to us, easier for us to have access to.”

Papua New Guinea’s population size puzzles prime minister and experts

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister says he does not know the exact size of his country’s population after a report suggested that the number of people living in the Pacific nation could be almost twice the official figure. A new study compiled by the UN Population Fund has implied that Papua New Guinea’s population may have ballooned to 17mn compared with the official figure of 9.4mn, according to a report in The Australian newspaper. James Marape, who was re-elected as Papua New Guinean prime minister in August, told the newspaper he believed that the population could be 11mn but admitted he might be wrong. The lack of clarity around the size of the country’s population has serious implications for its economic status and raises doubts over its ability to provide services to its people. If the study, which has not been published, is correct it would almost halve the country’s gross domestic per capita levels from about 4,000 kina ($1,136), according to Maholopa Laveil, a fellow at the Lowy Institute think-tank and an economics lecturer.

🇼🇸 Samoa

UNDP Policy Brief: Household and Care Work, Crisis, and Gender-Unequal Economies: A Samoan Perspective

This policy brief argues that one such crisis, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has amplified and perpetuated dynamics of gender inequality in Samoa, a Pacific Small Island Development State (SIDS). We posit that care and household work, the burden of which falls disproportionately on women, is a central nexus in these dynamics, which in turn affect Samoa’s ability to cope with and spring back from this crisis. Based on this Samoan experience, we argue that care and household work deserves special attention from policymakers, especially in SIDS, because of its potentially central importance for gender-equity as well as for crisis-resilience and recovery.

SI Solomon Islands

Moves to Boost Trade and Investment Opportunities at Solomon Islands, PNG Border

Trade and investment will soon be the focus of interaction between Solomon Islands and the Autonomous region of Bougainville, along the Papua New Guinea-Solomon Islands common border. With close traditional, cultural and blood ties between people from both sides of the border, the two parties agreed to hold further talks in consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government to regulate trade, deepen economic integration and foster mutually beneficial economic links between their respective private sectors.

Work to realize this ambition begun this week as President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), Hon. Ishmael Toroama led his Trade and Investment delegation to Honiara, Solomon Islands. The visit of His Excellency, President Toroama was done in conformity with the Framework Treaty Guiding Relations between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea 1986; the Treaty concerning the Sovereignty, Maritime, Seabed Boundaries and Cooperation 1989; the Melanesian Trade Agreement 2005; and more recently the Framework Agreement on Development and Economic Cooperation between Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea 2020. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Colin Beck said the discussions launches a path to formalize informal trade happening along the border. “We are going into the next step of talking with our people along the border for them to take advantage and embrace the trade link.

Solomon Islands at a Crossroad: Opposition Leader

Solomon Islands is at a crossroad says Solomon Islands Democratic Party (SIDP) Wing Leader Hon Matthew Wale. These sentiments were highlighted during the SIPD Congress held at the Heritage Park Hotel on Saturday 26th November 2022. Hon Wale said the issues our country face are challenging, although some of these challenges could be described as ‘self-inflicted’.

He said the Solomon Islands population is around 720 thousand and 70% of that population is under the age of 35. “This is a significant youth bulge. Almost 90% of that demographic is unemployed. And this in a country well endowed with natural resources. I contend this must force us to give priority attention to economic reforms that creates sustainable jobs for our people,” he said. The SIDP Wing Leader said the current government has failed in this very important priority for our young. Hon Wale said the exploitative economic model that has benefited a very few that has been protected and perpetuated by this government cannot continue.

TO Tonga

Tonga wins bid for SPC's first Polynesian Sub-Regional Office

Tonga has won the bid to host the Pacific Community’s first-ever Polynesian Sub-regional Office. The decision was made by the Pacific Community’s Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) and endorsed by the 12 Special Thematic Conference that was held from November 23-25 in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu led the bid. Tonga’s successful bid is expected to boost its engagement in the organization, and “will provide a platform for improved partnership building, resource mobilization, donor coordination and enhanced integrated country programming,” stated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nuku’alofa, on November 29.

Youth Parliament speaker: Tonga is sinking

There were strong, sincere statements and lamentations for Tonga, which has been severely hit by climate change. That was how contributions from visiting Commonwealth Youth Parliamentarians flowed in Tuesday’s debate, where Tonga’s representative Kilisitina Moala took the opportunity to deliver a weeping lament that her homeland was sinking. The CYP debate in Parliament on a proposed law for Remote Workplace operations was suspended for several minutes after Moala broke into tears. When proceedings resumed, she began speaking but also continued weeping as she spoke of her beleaguered homeland. All CYP speakers rose and applauded Moala after she concluded in tears, saying, “To all leaders listening in, be mindful of all decision-making. Always put in mind to small island nations who are suffering the enormous consequences of climate change … our choices today determine the outcome of tomorrow – thank you.” The dra­matic development occurred during day two of the three-day CYP held by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. T&T is hosting the event for CYP delegates from most of the Commonwealth’s 56 mem­ber coun­tries.

🇹🇻 Tuvalu

Businesses pitch in to assist Tuvalu as it has its first Covid-19 wave during drought

Aotearoa organizations are using their expertise and knowledge to ensure one of the last countries to be infiltrated by Covid-19 has the essential supplies it needs. Manawatū business Mana Pacific Consultants​ helped organize space in a container this past week to get 200 boxes of rapid antigen tests (RATs) – 84,000 tests – to Tuvalu. The country is going through its first wave of community transmission of Covid-19, with 2756 confirmed cases from the end of October to Friday according to the World Health Organisation. There have been no confirmed deaths, with the population highly vaccinated.

🇻🇺 Vanuatu

Vanuatu officials turn to phone books and typewriters, one month after cyber attack

In the first few days of the crisis, some Vanuatu authorities attributed the issue to poor weather damaging internet infrastructure. However, the diplomat said: “We noticed there was a problem right away … our team recognized this as having the hallmarks of a cyber-attack, and not being caused by weather.” Gaps in internal communications in the days that followed the attack compounded matters. Prime minister Kalsakau formally came into power on 4 November, and on 5 November the government officially recognized the problem. Australia’s government has made offers of assistance. “We sent in a team to assist with that disgraceful cyber-attack and the response and we are working through the process of bringing the government IT systems back up to speed,” Pat Conroy, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, told local newspaper Vanuatu Daily.

Cyber-attacks have wreaked havoc globally in recent years and Vanuatu’s attack will serve as a warning to small nations across the Pacific who have even weaker cybersecurity than Port Vila.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) is a US-based nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernment organization working to strengthen democratic governance in 12 Pacific Island nations with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This email is a curtesy service provided by IRI. Inclusion of articles is not an endorsement, and the information included has not been independently vetted. 
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