Pacific News Minute: Some Pacific Island Delegations Arrive in Paris Under a Cloud
As we reported yesterday, Pacific Island Nations hope to be a major factor at the United Nations Climate Conference that begins next week. They are among the most seriously affected by global warming, and among those least responsible for the problem. But, as we hear from Neal Conan in Paris in today's Pacific News Minute - several delegations will arrive under circumstances that may limit their effectiveness.
Last week, Vanuatu's highest court upheld the bribery convictions of fourteen MPs which left the country's parliament paralyzed. On Monday, President Baldwin Lonsdale dissolved parliament which means a new election within three months. Prime Minister Sato Kilman announced earlier that he would stay in Port Vila while the deputy Prime Minister leads Vanuatu's delegation here in Paris.
Tonga will also be represented by a number two - Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva is ill and unable to travel.
Fiji - a major player on climate issues, has been shaken by the resignation of its Police Commissioner. Ben Groenewalt was brought in from South Africa to professionalize the force but quit after 18 months, charging that military leaders prevented the arrest and prosecution of soldiers. There has been a series of military coups in Fiji, the most recent lead by President Frank Bainimarama who then won a landslide victory in elections last year, but these allegations undermine the idea that Fiji has returned to civilian rule.
No Pacific leader has been more eloquent on the crisis of Climate change than Tony deBrum - foreign minister of the Marshall Islands. But last week - voters in the Marshalls may have swept him and the ruling party out of office. De Brum is one of five cabinet officers trailing after votes were counted, but absentee ballots could change that. As many as 46-hundred ballots from Marshalese who live outside the country will be added to the tally starting November 30th, the day the Climate Conference begins.