PACIFIC – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand can never outspend China in the Pacific and it is not trying to compete. Ardern pledged almost $10 million in aid and support for Samao this week. She told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report that regardless of what other countries were doing, New Zealand should exercise its duties and responsibilities as partners and friends in the Pacific. “It’s not about being competitive just for the sake of being competitive,” she said. “It’s because we have shared values, we have a real interest in making sure our Pacific neighbours are resilient, that they have sustainable economic development and that they have the best start in life for their kids. “We’re worried about the well-being of the Pacific as partners and as friends.” New Zealand had a large Pacific population, a shared culture and historic ties, she added.
DECLINE IN CATHOLIC CONGREGATIONS
GUAM – The Archdiocese of Guam is seeking solutions to turn around a reported decline in its congregation. According to the Guam Daily Post the Archbishop Michael Byrnes raised concern about fewer Catholic baptisms, weddings and school enrolments in the territory in recent years. Less than half of Guam’s population is registered as Catholic. A survey is being circulated in the territory calling for input from the congregation and the clergy on the future of the church which is facing more than 150 lawsuits on historical sexual abuse. The survey acknowledges the current situation but emphasises work being done to right past wrongs and bring about reform in the church.
CLARITY ON ETHNIC STATISTICS NEEDED
FIJI – Fiji’s Citizens Constitutional Forum says Fiji’s history means it’s important to clarify whether the country has new statistics on ethnicity. Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum told parliament this week that the data was not collected in last year’s census, which contradicted earlier reports. The forum’s chief executive, Bulutani Mataitawakilai, said such data helped in planning and policy-making. He said it was important, given the ethnic divisions in Fiji’s past. “We have to talk about this because we cannot, we cannot shy away from ethnic issues in a country where there are people of different ethnic groups.”
SHOCK OVER NEGOTIATOR'S DEPARTURE
FIJI – A former Fiji foreign secretary says he’s shocked but not surprised at the sudden departure of the country’s chief climate negotiator midway through her term. Nazhat Shameem Khan left her role last week without any explanation and the retired Fiji diplomat Robin Nair said it was out of character for her to abandon something she has committed to. The circumstances of Shameem Khan’s departure are unclear. The Fiji government has said in a statement that she would focus on her duties as the country’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.