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Issues of sovereignty and self-determination continue to loom large in strategic imaginations across the Pacific. In 2023, numerous developments added to an already complex environment. In Bougainville, Attorney-General Ezekiel Massat is pushing ahead to design a constitution for a new country following the overwhelming vote for independence in the 2019 referendum. Yet it is not clear whether any real progress is being made on the talks between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Papua New Guinean Government. The results of the referendum are yet to be tabled in the PNG parliament as required under the terms of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. The Bougainville leadership has called for a moderator to assist in moving these processes along. In New Caledonia, 2023 was fraught with failed attempts to bring together the French government, the New Caledonian loyalists and the Kanaky independence groups. All of this has taken place in the shadow of a military build-up by France. The year ended with France announcing significant constitutional changes for New Caledonia including the controversial addition of more non-Indigenous residents to the electoral roll. The cause of self-determination in West Papua was dealt a significant blow with the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s decision to reserve membership for independent countries, except for the Front de Liberation Kanak et Socialiste of New Caledonia. The subsequent appointment of the prime ministers of Fiji and Papua New Guinea as special envoysto liaise with Indonesia about West Papua made for a moderately favourable announcement but whether it proves fruitful remains to be seen. Late in the year, Tuvalu and Australia signed the Falepili Union on the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Cook Islands. In exchange for a pathway to residency in Australia, the Natano government granted Australia a veto over future agreements with other partners on anything with a security dimension. With Tuvalu’s recent elections, a change of government could mean this agreement looks very different or ceases to exist at all. The issue of Pacific regionalism continues to be vexed and delicately poised. The PIF has garnered increased attention from external partners, including a ‘re-engaged’ United States. This constitutes a somewhat belated recognition of the centrality of the forum. This is also reflected in the subtle name change of the convocation of Pacific leaders with President Biden. It is now called the US–Pacific Islands Forum Summit and is expected to meet every two years. This goes a small way to countering criticisms of the Partners of the Blue Pacific initiative which was seen by many as a Washington-led attempt to circumvent the regional architecture. Yet the regionalism project struggles to be relevant at the national level and so the deluge of bilateral engagements is unlikely to subside any time soon. While this can bring benefits, such as the Sogavare government’s marshalling of support for the hugely successful Pacific Games, it also brings significant transaction costs for small administrations. The change of government in Fiji that brought Sitiveni Rabuka back to the prime ministership marked something of a change in foreign policy rhetoric. Rabuka has been at pains to praise countries such as Australia that were so often the target of criticism by his predecessor Frank Bainimarama. But a much-vaunted repudiation of a policing agreement with China has been walked back and is yet to eventuate. Another significant bilateral agreement in 2023 was between Papua New Guinea and the United States. This agreement provides for the strengthening of the Papua New Guinean defence force and allows for the future deployment of US troops into the country. The meeting of PIF Leaders in Cook Islands revealed that unity of purpose and direction is still a work in progress. A walkout by the Nauru delegation was considered of little consequence by the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands and PIF Chair Mark Brown. It is evident that the selection of Nauru’s Baron Waqa as the next Secretary-General continues to be a thorn in the side of some members. At a substantive level, the issue of deep-sea mining has already highlighted significant differences among PIF member states. The dispute is likely to be further ventilated at the upcoming talanoa on the topic that leaders have scheduled for 2024, but is unlikely to occur before the regional leadership meets next in Tonga. While some countries, notably Cook Islands and Nauru, are keen to move ahead in this sphere, others such as Vanuatu and the Federated States of Micronesia continue to voice their opposition to digging up the seabed. Across the world, democracy is in retreat and the Pacific has not been exempt from its impact. The wholesale acceptance of Westminster-style democracy has eluded many of the countries in the Pacific since they emerged from the shackles of colonialism. In 2023, there were further concerns relating to judicial independence and the rule of law in Kiribati where the local media struggles to get information from the government and is unwelcoming of foreign journalists. In Vanuatu, prolonged periods of instability have disrupted the legislative programme and undermined the faith of the community in the ability of members of parliament to see beyond self-interest. Meanwhile, groups of traditional leaders from Fiji and Vanuatu have been courted by China in recognition of the influence that they can wield both socially and politically. The Pacific cannot hope to move forward without first recognising the lessons of history. By understanding historical narratives in the region, we can better contextualise current and future developments. Tess Newton-Cain is Senior Research Fellow in the Pacific Hub at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University. This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2023 in review and the year ahead.


Oakville lives lived Jan. 26-31

Oakville News honours those in our community who passed away from Jan. 26-31, 2024. We wish their families, friends, and colleagues comfort and strength during their time of mourning. Names are listed alphabetically by last name. Frances Aileen Allen 06-Mar-1938 to 28-Jan-2024 Reginald Lester Blunder 13-Feb-1932 to 29-Jan-2024 Diane Brown 11-Aug-1946 to 28-Jan-2024 Robert “Bob” Drapkin 16-Jun-1949 to 31-Jan-2024 Joseph Fong 03-Sep-1940 to 27-Jan-2024 Robert Krul 11-Dec-1940 to 27-Jan-2024 Heidi Malone 17-Feb-1944 to 27-Jan-2024 Drazenka Manjerovic 29-May-1967 to 29-Jan-2024 Scott Brady McNeill 05-Feb-1987 to 27-Jan-2024 Josip Milek 01-Apr-1941 to 31-Jan-2024 Giovanna Della Penna 19-Apr-1936 to 30-Jan-2024 Blazenka Puce 03-Feb-1943 to 26-Jan-2024 Arlene Des Roches 19-Feb-1939 to 31-Jan-2024 Tony Sabatini 29-Nov-1954 to 31-Jan-2024 Delfina Sangle 24-Dec-1934 to 28-Jan-2024 Lois Joan Sharpe 01-Sep-1955 to 31-Jan-2024 Italia Soave 01-Apr-1929 to 27-Jan-2024 Ah Muay “Maisie” Tan 10-Feb-1946 to 31-Jan-2024 Esperanza Turingan 30-Sep-1930 to 31-Jan-2024 John Anthony Wallen 22-Oct-1949 to 29-Jan-2024 If you wish to place an obituary or if a name has been missed and you would like it added, please email admin@oakvillenews.org.


Former Street Beet chefs are releasing a vegan cookbook

Soon, you’ll be able to recreate Street Beet’s “fake chicken” sandwiches and other faves from the defunct vegan pop-up.

The former Street Beet team, chefs Nina Paletta and Meghan Shaw, are releasing a cookbook with recipes from their popular residency inside Midtown Detroit’s 3rd Street Bar. Presales of the book, Nostalgic Vegan: The Street Beet Cookbook, will be available by the end of February, Paletta tells Metro Times.


Evan Haywood releases live album representing 20 years in Michigan’s music scene

Packed with books, instruments, music equipment, spiritual energy, and the smell of incense and chai, Evan Haywood’s Ann Arbor studio is a vibe, much like the artist himself. It’s unpretentiously located in a trailer park, with an interior that is nice and dreamy.


Young Detroit designers head to New York Fashion Week to showcase Afrofuturistic looks

Young designers from Detroit are headed to New York Fashion Week to represent the city with two Afrofuturism-inspired looks created under the guidance of experienced design mentors.

The Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan made this possible with its signature Industry Club program, launched in 2020 to help prepare young people for careers in various fields. The Fashion Industry Club was the first of now eight industries available for local youth to gain experience in.

CategoriesAntarcticaFalkland IslandsInternationalpolitics

Britain fully confident in Falklands’ security and capability of the three services — MercoPress

The Falkland Islands Government, working closely with Falklands Conservation, South Atlantic Environmental Research Institution (SAERI), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), are delighted to see the installation of the first two of four Carbon flux towers. Britain remains fully confident in the security of the Falkland Islands and in the capability to defend them underlined a release from the Ministry of Defense, in response to a report in the London media claiming it only relies in a small Royal Navy patrol vessel and four RAF Typhoons to protect the South Atlantic archipelago.


Qazaq Jockey Club Seeks International Federation Membership to Expand Global Presence

ASTANA – Representatives of the Qazaq Jockey Club have announced plans to join the International Federation of Racing at a Jan. 31 press briefing in Almaty.
Kazakh winning and placed horses will be assigned an international rating, with a horse rated at 100 (+/- 5 points) valued between $100,000 and $150,000. This development indicates that horse breeding stands to become highly lucrative in Kazakhstan.

The riders will also have the opportunity to compete at foreign racetracks.


Kickstart school projects with a Twinkl grant

SCHOOLS and educational organisations are being invited to apply for up to £500 to help kickstart student projects.

The Twinkl Prize Draw Community Collection fund any type of project, such as setting up a breakfast club, resourcing after-school activities, purchasing new playground equipment, upgrading an ICT suite, or kickstarting big projects.

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