NEWS- Melanesian


1)Ninth PNG parliament officially opens

Posted at 09:08 on 21 August, 2012 UTC

Papua New Guinea’s parliament has officially opened today in Port Moresby.

Parliament sat earlier this month when most of the 111 newly-elected MPs elected a new Speaker and Prime Minister.

However today’s official ceremony in Waigani marked the commencement of the first full session of PNG’s ninth parliament.

Radio New Zealand International

2)PNG’s Morobe province ravaged by floods

By Online Editor
12:56 pm GMT+12, 21/08/2012, Papua New Guinea

Hundreds of families are homeless and without food in flood devastated Morobe Province as provincial authorities and the Papua New Guinea Disaster and Emergency Service step up efforts to move relief supplies to affected villages.

According to reports yesterday, all rivers in the province burst their banks and the flood waters have swept away homes, food gardens and destroyed roads and bridges, cutting off access to schools and health facilities in the affected districts.

“From the preliminary reports I am getting, Finschhafen, Sialum, Tewai-Siassi, Nawae and Menyamya districts are affected by the flooding and landslips.

A team comprised of officers from the provincial administration and the disaster centre in Lae is going into the affected areas to assess the situation.

“In the meantime, we are organising relief supplies including food rations, fresh water and medicines to be moved to the affected areas,” a concerned Governor Kelly Naru said.

The Sialum district was the worst affected with over 8000 families left homeless and they would run out of food in the next few days, while children were staying away from schools and those needing medical attention were finding it hard to access treatment at health facilities because of the damage to the roads and bridges.

In a report, the Sialum Local Level Government manager Moses Linonge said 12 bridges, including wet crossings have been completely destroyed, cutting off access to Finschhafen and the outside world.

The flooding that had destroyed the roads and bridges had also destroyed food crops and contaminated water sources, leaving people with no clean and safe water for cooking and drinking. The food gardens for the population on Kanome, Kanzarua, Walingai, Ago, Wandokai and part of Kubegong villages were destroyed.
“It is predicted that the heavy rain will continue for some time and it will be awhile before clean water is available. Urgent relief food supplies and water is needed by the victims,” Linonge said.

The destruction of the road network had affected the delivery of Government services while access to Lae, the provincial capital, and Sialum was cut off. Travel by banana boats was out of question because of the rough seas, while the absence of a shipping service between Lae and Sialum compounded the problems.

Detail assessment on the families affected and food crops would be provided by the DAL (Department of Agriculture and livestock) officers in a few days. “They are currently carrying out assessment on the damaged food crops or gardens,” Linonge said.

Naru said all reports on affected areas were being prepared, which would guide the provincial administration as well as the disaster centre in Lae to provide relief supplies and rebuild the damaged infrastructure.

“My Governor is aware of the devastation in the province and is moving quickly on relief supplies as a short term measure. We will have to assess the destruction to the infrastructure and get help to rebuild the roads and bridges,” Governor Naru said.

He said his administration was doing everything possible to help the people rebuild their lives and restore normalcy in the affected districts.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

3)Opposition To Deep Sea Mining Gaining Momentum In PNG
Coastal communities resisting planned deep sea mining

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 20, 2012) – Members of Parliament in Papua New Guinea that have made a stand against seabed mining in the country have been acknowledged.

Chairman for Madang People’s Forum Alfred Kaket has acknowledged and thanked new MP for Usino Bundi Anton Yagama and MP for Sumkar Ken Fairweather for supporting the people of Madang in their fight against experimental seabed mining.

Mr. Kaket said they had stood up against seabed mining since 2006 and it was very timely that now they were getting political support. This campaign has also received international attention because it is an experiment to be tested in our PNG waters.

“We do not want tests in our waters,” Mr. Kaket reiterated.

Mr. Kaket said even though Mr. Yagama’s electorate was not near the sea he had come forward in the true spirit of a leader to support the coastal people of Madang.

He has invited other members of parliament in the Nautilus Project Solwara 1 region to come forward and support the people of Madang, New Ireland and East New Britain and West New Britain provinces.

According to professor Rick Steiner, this project would affect the tuna breeding grounds known as the Megado Square, said Mr. Kaket.

“Communities in these regions depend on the sea and we do not see this way of life being affected,” he stressed.

Also in this region, Mr. Kaket said, was the migratory route for the leatherback turtle for nesting. “We currently have an active monitoring program running and we see no sense in a mining project disrupting this activity,” he said.

The people of Madang also thanked Northern Province Governor Gary Juffa for his stand on this issue. “If Northern Province Governor can stand up for the people of PNG then I would like to call on all other governors in PNG’s maritime provinces to take some clear stand on this issue,” he said. “We thank our members for supporting us and we will continue our protests on the ground to see that this project does not happen at all in our waters.”

He said the people of Madang would ensure all that was in its sea was protected.

PNG Post-Courier: http://www.postcourier.com.pg/

4)Minister Reaffirms Australia’s Commitments To Solomon Islands
Australia expected to phase out RAMSI military role by 2013

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Aug. 20, 2012) – The Australian Government says it won’t allow Solomon Islands to slide back into another ethnic war.

Senator Bob Carr, speaking from the Solomons capital of Honiara, said Australia remained committed to the people of Solomon Islands and their future.

“We are not going to withdraw. And RAMSI’s [Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands] police function is going to continue a long time after the military function is phased out,” he said

The Australian-led mission was deployed to Solomon Islands at the request of the Solomons Government in 2003 following five years of ethnic violence and a coup in 2000.

The military component is likely to withdraw in the second half of 2013 as the focus shifts towards bilateral development aid.

Pacific boats

The Australian Government has donated 22 boats to 12 Pacific Island nations.

Senator Carr said the patrol boats in Solomon Islands, named Lata and Auki, were based in Honiara and being used to protect the region’s greatest resource.

“They [fish] put protein in the diet of poor Pacific Island communities and we don’t want to see illegal or unregulated fishing deplete that resource.”

Maritime authorities in Solomon Islands say the boats allow them to patrol a much larger area.

“With this capability we can do 200 nautical miles with no problem. And they can do the endurance of 2,500 nautical miles on 12 knot speed,” police maritime director Russel Tagini said.

The Australian Government, through the Pacific Maritime Security Program, is investigating ways to begin replacing the current patrol boats from 2017.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

5)Solomon Islands Cautioned To Effectively Manage Tuna Industry
PNA director says industry needs rethinking, focus on local benefits

By Daniel Namosuaia

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 21, 2012) – Solomon Islands tuna industry must not repeat what happen to our logging industry because if we are not careful we will also be robbed off our tuna resources.

These were the comments of Dr. Transform Aqorau during the Communicating Tuna Workshop which concluded in Honiara yesterday.

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) director said the resource that is easily managed is our forests.

“These resources are where we live but yet we were still robbed by these logging companies due to poor policies and decision making,” Dr. Aqorau said.

“How much more will it be for our tuna fisheries if there were no management and conservative measures in place?”

He said sea resources required a lot of effort from the national government, relevant authorities, organizations like the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the tuna commission and other bilateral partners.

“The tuna industry had significantly contributed to the socio economic development of this country,” the PNA director said.

“This is the only industry with the largest number of employees apart from the public sector. But it needs a total change of mindset from our leaders and government officials.

“To realize the real value of tuna by owning our own fishing vessels, crewed by locals, processed the catches on shore and sell finished products, we can be self reliant.”

He said we have seen the socio-economic benefit this industry has contributed to this country over the years.

He said the tuna industry has provided job opportunities for many Solomon Islanders employing over 1,500 employees and drive business activities in Noro.

Soltuna managing director Adrian Wickham said if it wasn’t for Soltuna and National Fisheries Division, business activities at Noro will be dead.

Soltuna factory at Noro is the largest single industry employer in the country, employing more than 1,500 employees at its peak.

Business activities in Noro are primarily driven by the tuna industry.

Dr. Aqorau said these are indications of how important the industry is and how it drives economic activity both domestically and internationally.

Solomon Star

6)100 Vanuatu teachers to go unpaid this year

By Online Editor
3:14 pm GMT+12, 21/08/2012, Vanuatu

More than 100 Vanuatu primary and secondary school teachers will not get paid this year.

The government has made no provisions for their remuneration in this week’s extra-ordinary parliamentary session, which will be the last before the elections.

The education ministry and the Teachers Service Commission promised that a supplementary budget would be tabled this week.

But a ministry official, Fabien Malwersets, said unfortunately, the education supplement is not included in the government bills which are to be presented Wednesday.

The ministry of education needs more than US$2 million to remunerate unpaid teachers and pay the allowances of Ni-Vanuatu students at the region’s universities.

Last year, more than 100 teachers were also left unpaid.
The President, Iolu Johnson Abbil, is expected to dissolve the House soon to give the 52 members time to prepare for the elections on 30 October.

Meanwhile, Staff at the Vanuatu National Provident Fund have resumed work under police security after protests prompted its closure last week.

Last week’s protests outside the Fund’s premises in Port Vila saw hundreds of people gathered allegedly unhappy with high salaries paid to senior staff, including the general manager, Aniva Tarilongi.

The crowd also alleged there was misuse of the members’ contributions by management, nepotism in the recruitment of new staff and a politicisation of the pension provider.

As a result of the public anger, the Board of Directors suspended Tarilongi and six senior staff.

A meeting at the Port Vila water front heard fears that the money is no longer safe, but the government has denied this.

Another meeting is scheduled to take place this Thursday.

SOURCE: RNZI/PACNEWS

7)Suspended Vanuatu Fund Administrator Welcomes Audit
General manager cites 2011 audit as measure of improvements

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Aug. 20, 2012) – The now suspended Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) General Manager (GM), Anniva Tarilongi, has responded to recent criticism in the Daily Post regarding management practices at the Fund by saying member’s benefits are in good hands.

Mrs. Tarilongi said the VNPF had been through significant changes, some of which have not been welcomed by a small number of people.

“When I was appointed to the role, the Board set me the task of getting the books in order and ensuring our members were getting the best return on their investment. Any new management team has to work with the decisions of previous management – we are no different here,” she said.

“We needed to upgrade our accounting system, which was installed over 10 years ago in order to get a clearer picture of where we were at. We also needed to look internally, to see if we were operating to the best of our ability,” the suspended VNPF GM said.

“We found much room for improvement, including the introduction of performance based appraisals for staff and the recruitment of people with the expertise to get the job done.”

The GM believes a lack of understanding has lead to recent, unnecessary concern and has called for calm.

“We welcome the Minister of Finance’s request for the auditor general to audit the operation of the fund and hope it will help alleviate some concerns.

“Reading financial reports can be confusing and whilst we welcome feedback – both good and bad – it is important members have a better understanding of what is really happening with their funds,” Mrs. Tarilongi said.

“Members need to be aware the VNPF’s annual reports are audited by external auditors. The 2011 audit was conducted by Barrett & Partners an independent accounting and auditing firm.

“What that report highlighted, and what many members are not aware of, are the many achievements made in the last 12 months.”

Mrs. Tarilongi explained the recruitment of ex-TVL employees followed proper process including advertising all positions and interviewing according to VNPF approved guidelines.

“I would not be doing my job if I did not seek to employ the best possible people at VNPF. I have an obligation to our members to ensure that, and believe I have done so. I held a senior position within TVL and worked with some great people, whom I am pleased have made the move to VNPF as well,” she said.

“There is still much to do to ensure consistent best practices across the board – that includes educating members about their fund, continuing to improve our internal operation and ensuring the investments we have are well managed.”

Mrs. Tarilongi said the decision to continue operating Bouffa as a working cattle project was made after it was clear no feasibility study had been made in to using the land for housing.

“We received advice the housing plan would simply cost the fund, and our members too much money at this time. Operating Bouffa as a cattle property has ensured the investment continues to provide benefits to our members. In the first six months of this year we have seen Bouffa return a profit of 8.6 million vatu [US$92,722] to the fund.”

The current VNPF Board and management commenced a feasibility study into Bouffa this year to ensure member’s benefits are protected.

“We would have been irresponsible to begin the housing project without a feasibility study and were not prepared to take that risk. However, the Board is committed to the project and we hope once the study is completed and provided it shows a return on investment and at the same time, a benefit to members, the housing project will commence.”

Mrs. Tarilongi said the 2011 audited annual report showed huge improvement in the Key Performance Indicators of the Fund compared to 2010.

“The figures speak for themselves to show the Board and Management have performed exceptionally well to improve the total fund under management from 12.92 million vatu [US$139,299] in 2010 to 14.27 million [US$153,854] in 2011,” she said.

“And members will be pleased to know that growth is continuing in 2012. In relation to investments, the total investment net income moved from 804.4 million vatu [US$8.7 million] in 2010 to 897 million vatu [US$9.7 million] in 2011.

The VNPF investment portfolio has increased from 12.26 million vatu [US$132,183] in 2010 to 13.45 million vatu [US$145,013] in 2011.

Mrs. Tarilongi also responded to criticism regarding interest paid to members.

“The VNPF has, in the past, seen the Board determine and approve interest credited to members higher than the Net Operating Gains (profit) of its operations. You will find these cases in 1998 and 1999. In these two years particularly the Fund was making operating losses and yet VNPF at that time decided to make interest dividends to its members.

“Then in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 VNPF had declared interests way above our net operating gains and thus would have affected the Reserves all these years to now,” she explained.

“Whilst the Board was approving the interests to the members of 5.25% (Vatu 658,458) the consideration was based on the analysis that at any point in time and especially for 2011 that VNPF net total assets should be more than the members’ fund balance and the view of a going concern though the Board recognizes the important need to have a positive reserves for the future.

In the case of VNPF at 31st December 2011, the total Asset values of the Fund was Vatu 14,276,564 million while the members’ fund balance at the same time was Vatu 14,246,635 million.

“The other point to note is that VNPF is a going concern from the audit point of view which means VNPF will continue into the future so the position will change. The other important fact is that not all members will be retiring and receiving payments at the same time and thus there is a continuity into the future,” she explained.

The Fund operating results are as follows:

Total Operating Income – Vatu 912.5million in 2011 compared to Vatu 816.6million in 2010

Total Operating Expenses including Foreign Exchange Loss – VT438million in 2011 compared to Vatu 336,977million in 2010.

“You will note here that in 2011 over 80 million vatu of depreciation expenses were picked up in 2011 from previous years as the old accounting system used before was not picking up the calculations correctly. This is why it was imperative to install a new system.”

Total Operating Gain before Interest credited to Members – Vatu 474.5million in 2011 compared to Vatu 479.7million in 2010 again due to the depreciation catch up taken up in 2011.

Mrs. Tarilongi said the audited annual report is available, and has been for sometime, to the public.

“We acknowledge we need to improve our communication with members, however since this campaign started, we have had very little increase in members actually contacting us for clarification,” she said.

It is the intention of the Board and management to ensure a more open dialogue with the public, with regular updates to the members beginning this week.

Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com

8)Fiji regime leader imperils consultation process, says Ali

Posted at 09:08 on 21 August, 2012 UTC

A Fiji women’s advocate Shamima Ali says the Prime Minister’s interference in the constitutional commission could undermine the process.

Last week, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said the constituent assembly would be made up of credible people who think positively about Fiji’s future, and that the head of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, is not in that league.

The regime move comes after Fiji’s three leading women’s organisations said some of the non-negotiable principles in the constitution are matters for the people to decide, not for the state to dictate.

Ms Ali says the NGOs were questioning the process of appointing the constituent assembly, which needs to be open and transparent.

“We see this process as flawed, if those things continue happening, if the [Commodore] keeps telling us off, making personal attacks, and interferes in the work of the Commission, because we see that as interference. So, that should be cause for concern for all of us.”

The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s Shamima Ali.

9)Fiji progress impresses Pacific ACP meet

By Online Editor
12:52 pm GMT+12, 21/08/2012, Fiji

Steps taken by the Bainimarama Government in building a better Fiji have been well-received by the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers meeting in Tonga.

Fiji’s permanent secretary for Industry and Trade, Shaheen Ali, who represented Fiji’s Minister for Industry and Trade, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, confirmed this to the Fiji Sun.

Ali used the forum as a platform to highlight the initiatives undertaken by the Government in terms of socio-economic development and the political fronts.

“The Fijian Government has invested resources in our infrastructure and economic development,” he told the trade ministers.

“It has taken great lengths to rid Fiji of corruption, which was the single largest constraint on our growth.

“Our economy and the confidence in it, is growing despite challenges such as natural disasters and the global financial crisis.”

Ali said Fiji’s developments was one of the factors that resulted in the recommendations put forward by Fiji, being endorsed by the PACP trade ministers

The meeting in Tonga provided just the right platform to highlight the negative impacts and consequences of Fiji’s exclusion from the PACP forums, on regional trade and economic integration.

The recommendations will now be presented to the PACP leaders in Cook Islands later next week for their consideration.

“This will not only reaffirm Fiji’s right as a full PACP member, but also pave the way forward for greater regional trade and economic integration,” he said.

“Fiji’s issues and concerns are important to be resolved to allow the region to move forward in unison on economic partnership agreement (EPA) negotiations and other key regional trade initiatives such as PICTA.

“Fiji expressed a collective concern, which was also shared other PACP states, that, if the present scenario is allowed to continue and Fiji remains outside the PACP leaders meetings, the region’s economic and trade integration suffers, perhaps irreversibly.”

Ali said these meetings had been vital for the PACP states given the urgent need to finalise the comprehensive EPA negotiations in order to meet the 2012 deadline set by the PACP Trade Ministers.

“This will be last time the PACP states meet as a group before the early October face-to-face meetings with the European Union,”  Ali said.

He said at the meeting in Tonga, there was an urgent need to address Fiji’s concerns by the PACP trade ministers, in order to focus the PACP region’s united and collective effort on progressing trade initiatives and negotiations for the betterment of the region.
“A finalised and well-negotiated Comprehensive EPA will provide the PACP states the opportunity to enter the European Union market with compatible preferences, making the PACP products marketable and competitive.”

Ali stated during the meeting that: “Intra-PACP trade has been mostly stagnant, barring trade among Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) countries which is growing.

“The MSG countries are creating and progressing people to people linkages and the flow of goods, services and capital.

“Whilst at the sub-regional level (MSG countries) are moving towards single market, wider regional initiatives such as PICTA remain dormant”.

“The non-involvement of Fiji’s head of Government in PACP would mean that Fiji will not be able to conclude the current Comprehensive EPA negotiations.

“This will not be beneficial for the region or regional integration and defeats the PACP’s mandate and objective of negotiating the Comprehensive EPA as a single region.”

Ali acknowledged those PACP states that recognised Fiji’s right as a full PACP member and supported Fiji’s participation and contribution in PACP meetings and activities, at the highest level.

He further stated: “Our calls for solidarity, dialogue and co-operation, as is the “Pacific Way”, were answered for the greater good of the region.

“I am grateful for the foresight and wisdom shown by the PACP Trade Ministers in Tonga, for their support of Fiji and recommendations to the PACP Leaders that will take the region forward on all PACP matters,” he said….

SOURCE: FIJI SUN/PACNEWS

10)Fiji transition point for drugs

By Online Editor
12:55 pm GMT+12, 21/08/2012, Fiji

The Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority is continuing to seize tablets destined for hard drug manufacture on a monthly basis.

FRCA chief executive Jitoko Tikolevu confirmed this, saying that the authority has been working with the Fiji Police Force conducting risk analysis every month targeting flights, boats and cargoes that enter the country.
While Tikolevu did not reveal the value of tablets seized, he said it was of a significant amount.

“Fiji has been known to be a transition point,” Tikolevu said.

His comments come as the World Customs Organisation opened a regional training centre for the region at the FRCA Nasese complex in Suva Monday.

WCO secretary general Kumiyo Mikuriya said a bad effect of being a transition point for drugs was that the drugs could also find its way to the citizens of that country.

He gave the example of West Africa, which was used as transition point for cocaine manufactured in Latin America for the European and US markets.

Mikuriya said West Africa did not have any cocaine addicts initially, however, it now had about two million addicts.

For a country such as Fiji, Mikuriya stressed the importance of border control and the important role the Customs department played.

He added that it was also equally important to have partnerships within the relevant agencies.

Tikolevu said organised crimes were a challenge for most countries in the world, even the most developed.He added that Fiji was vulnerable and in need of resources for border control.

Tikolevu said fake medicines, in particular those used for body building, had found their way to Fiji. This was why, he added, partnership with the private sector and other agencies was vital considering the limited resources.

When asked whether locals were involved, Tikolevu said it always took two to tango, and perhaps there were locals and foreigners colluding.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama who officiated at the opening stressed the need for modernisation and reforming of customs laws, which included a campaign against corruption and fraud.

“In Fiji, we are aware that there are short-comings. That there is an opportunity to increase the efficiency and improve the organisation of our customs procedures. That there is a need for the Customs Authority to understand that it does not operate in isolation. That the failure to perform their duties effectively in a short amount of time can have a damaging knock-on effect in the economy,” he said.

He said there is a need for the Customs authority to understand that it does not operate in isolation.

Bainimarama said the failure of the authority to perform effectively in a short amount of time could have a damaging knock-on effect in the economy.

“I call on you also to remember that you do not work in isolation. You are part of a larger system and a larger process,” the PM said.

“In Fiji, in the past, there has been a trend amongst certain sectors and certain groups to remain confined only to those forums that are seen to be directly relevant to them.”

Commodore Bainimarama stressed that any reform and development must be broad and encompass all areas of society.

“Reform in one area can be easily undermined or undone if it is not met by reform in other areas.
“In order to achieve comprehensive reform, all of us must adopt a wide vision and a broad focus. We must, each of us, see the big picture.

“Because reform, ladies and gentlemen, is not simply a top-down process. Yes, it can start that way by establishing the appropriate frameworks and structures, such as the economic, electoral, and constitutional reforms put in place by my government.

“But reform must also be a bottom-up process. In order to truly penetrate to the very core of a society, it requires broad participation and active engagement by all.

“Customs administrations in developing countries are struggling to meet these constantly increasing demands and the new priorities being placed on them, and they urgently need to embrace reform and modernisation. This means an equally aggressive and permanent campaign to simplify and harmonise Customs procedures, which will be the key to facilitating trade.

“This also means, a campaign against corruption and fraud. We must not only put in place modern Customs laws, but we must also diligently ensure compliance with those laws.

“Customs officials are at the front line of revenue collection- they are our representatives at the borders. If they fail to uphold high standards and diligently perform their duties, they bleed the country of tax dollars that can be used to build hospitals, schools and roads.

“We need to ensure that a system is in place where any sort of dishonest or fraudulent behavior is detected and reported, so that it can be met with the full force of the law to let it be known that we are serious about operating in a corruption-free environment.”.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS

11)Abused Fiji woman given refugee status in NZ

By Online Editor
3:26 pm GMT+12, 21/08/2012, New Zealand

A 40-year-old woman from Fiji who has suffered years of domestic violence has been declared a refugee in New Zealand because a legal authority here says Fiji police have systematically failed to protect women and families.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal heard an account of the abuse the woman – known as ‘BR’ – suffered at the hands of her husband before she fled with her son and daughter to New Zealand.

The two teenage children also applied for refugee status but were declined.

The woman’s husband would drink heavily and be abusive, demanding and violent.

She endured a “pattern of drink-fuelled beatings, sexual and emotional abuse most weekends over the course of… 14 years.”

Coming from an Indian Hindu culture she never considered divorce but on two occasions she called the police.

Fijian-Indian police would come but turned out to be drinking friends of her husband. On another occasion they would not respond to her complaint saying they had no transport.

In 2007 with the help of family she and her children escaped to New Zealand and have been here since. She has now got employment.

The husband has threatened to kill her if she returns.

The tribunal said Fiji’s political landscape has been characterised by almost constant change, upheaval and ethnic conflicts and four military coups.

Issues concerning women and their rights had become “secondary to issues of national security, and civil society organisations, including women’s groups, have had to work much harder to highlight human rights issues”.

It said Fiji had a high incidence of domestic violence and quoted a Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre studying showing that 66 per cent of woman had been abused by their partners, with 30 per cent suffering repeated physical abuse and 40 per cent reporting being hit while pregnant.

Fiji women have one of the world’s highest suicide rates.
The tribunal says there has been “a systemic failure by the Fijian police to provide consistent and effective protection for victims of family violence”.

It noted a Fiji government decree on domestic violence had led to an increase in complaints to the police but the tribunal found that there was no evidence of an appreciable increase in effective state protection for women victims of violence in Fiji.

The tribunal received medical evidence that the woman suffered battered woman syndrome and she met the refugee criteria of having a well-founded fear for her safety: “The persecution that the mother faces if for the reason of her membership of a particular social group, namely women.”

The tribunal found that the children, now 18 and 17, did not meet refugee criteria as they had not been physically abused by their father.

SOURCE:FAIRFAX NZ/PACNEWS

12)Fiji Constitution Commission chair calls for more submission from the public

By Online Editor
3:28 pm GMT+12, 21/08/2012, Fiji

A constitution made with the full participation of the people is more likely to achieve legitimacy—a factor in deterring coups, says the chairman of the Fiji Constitution Commission Professor Yash Ghai.

Speaking on public submissions in Nadi, Professor Ghai said participation was likely to enhance people’s understanding of the constitution, powers and responsibilities of government, their ability to participate in and influence public affairs, and to defend their rights.

He said the Commission had received widespread concerns from people in Suva that the new Constitution would be overthrown again, if there was another coup.

“Most people have voiced their fear of the coup culture and some of them have even said we are wasting their time and our time by holding this public submissions because the new Constitution will be overthrown again.

“So we tell them that of course, there has been frequency of coups but we must find a way to get away from that culture. We have just started the dialogue on how people think we can put the coup behind us and this can be done if people can really actively participate in the process. They will want to hold on to the Constitution and move away from narrow ethnic politics,” Professor Ghai said

The first stage of the process towards Fiji’s new Constitution is public education on what the new Constitution was going to be about.

The second stage, which is currently underway, is the public consultations to gather views of people on what they want for the new Constitution.

From October to December, the Commission is expected to write a draft Constitution, which will then be presented to the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

From January to March 31, 2012 the Constituent Assembly is expected to debate and adopt the draft Constitution.

The fifth stage involves a tribunal chaired by the Chief Justice Anthony Gates to check that the Constitution complies with the principles and values.

Professor Ghai said: “The timetable is, as many have said to us, rather tight. Civic education, which should have started in May, was slow to start, as was the establishment of the Commission. By our reckoning, the Commission has effectively lost one month. But we will try our best to meet our deadline.

“However, we do not want to rush public consultations and hearings, which lie at the heart of the process. We will therefore keep in mind the possibility of seeking a short extension. We also know that Fijians are looking forward to the elections, and we are confident that we will finish our work in good time so that elections can be held as promised,” he said.

SOURCE: FIJI SUN/PACNEWS

13)Fiji Wages Council Head Resigns Over Wage Increase Stalemate
Father Kevin Barr ‘stands for justice’ by leaving position

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Aug. 20, 2012) – The outgoing chairperson of the Fiji Wages Council say he has written to the interim Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment explaining why he has resigned.

Father Kevin Barr says he is leaving the Council after four years, in protest at planned wage increases being deferred three times during his tenure as the chairperson.

Father Barr says his resignation is a stand for justice and he has written a five page letter explaining this.

“It’s a little group of influential employers, a little lobby, who go to their friends in governments to have the wages deferred and if possible reduced. So I see that my protest is against the greed and the selfishness of that group of employers and also a protest against government allowing them time and time again to get away with the same tactics.”

Father Kevin Barr says he will continue to fight to achieve pay rises for workers despite his resignation from the Wages Council.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Nezbitt Hazelman says the fifteen percent proposed increase to wages was “premature” and “unreasonable,” claiming a high increase would render Fiji “less competitive” in the international marketplace.]

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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