NEWS ( Melanesia/Pacific) 13 September 12.

1) PNG Housing Corporation Accused Of Fraud, Abuse
Chairman implicated in incomplete building projects

By Todagia Kelola

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 12, 2012) – Allegations have surfaced that Papua New Guinea’s National Housing Corporation (NHC) pilot housing project is riddled with massive fraud, blatant abuse and stealing of corporation properties.

These allegations are contained in a letter sent by the acting Solicitor General Neville Devete to the new Minister for Housing Paul Isikiel. Mr. Devete is calling on the Minister to institute an investigation into these alleged illegal activities.

But Chairman of the NHC Board, Ben Koroka in an interview with the Post-Courier yesterday categorically denied the allegations, saying two contractors who were initially engaged by the former NHC board to undertake the project failed to complete the work.

Despite incomplete work, both contractors were paid in full.

“The NHC was basically stuck with the incomplete buildings; legally the organization decided to sue the old contractors for the balance of the funds. When I came in as a Board Chairman this problem was introduced to me, so we are in a situation where we cannot go back to the Government and say we want to complete the project because of the previous abuse,” Mr. Koroka said.

That’s when his Board introduced the Private Partnership Investment Program (PPIP) where private contractors build the houses with their own funds on NHC land and NHC then sells the houses they both share the profits.

He also denied that his board had made the decision to bring in the current contractor, as alleged by Mr. Devete.

Mr. Koroka explained that the decision to bring in the new contractor was made by the previous Board under the former Housing Minister, Andrew Kumbakor, and that his board members had just continued with the contract after being satisfied with the company’s capabilities.

Mr. Devete said in his letter stated that the housing project which was initially intended to alleviate the chronic housing shortage faced by public servants.

“Government departments and agencies, including Constitutional offices that desired to participate in this project were invited to express their interest,” he said.

“Among the various applicants who expressed interest in purchasing houses under the project, the Office of the Solicitor General, through the Department of Justice and Attorney General bought 10 houses from the first batch built at (NHCs) Gerehu Stage 3B-2 Project,” Mr. Devete said.

The Gerehu Stage 3B-2 Project was to be NHC’s first project executed under this program. It was understood at the time that the project was implemented by a subsidiary company of NHC called National Housing Estates Limited (NHEL).

Following the incorporation of NHEL, substantial amounts of NHCs annual budget was allocated and diverted to this Company for purposes of realizing the project.

In early 2011, the Department of Justice and Attorney General paid K2.8 million [US$1.3 million] to NHC in consideration for the 10 houses at a unit price of K280,000 [US$133,233] each. The 10 houses are fully tenanted with officers from the department, especially senior State lawyers.

The department expressed further interest in another five houses that are yet to be built.

Mr. Devete said while the negotiation for the additional five houses was in progress, a new Chairman to the NHC Board was appointed.

He alleged that Mr. Koroka brought with him a new contractor called Niugini Builders Limited.

Since the appointment of the new Chairman and engagement of the contractor, no new houses have been built on the vacant allotments.

“The new contractor has brought in people from a particular ethnic group to occupy the land, on the pretext of being workmen, carpenters and security guards,” Mr. Devete said.

“In doing so, the contractor has intimidated some of our officers who are living at the project site and others who have expressed interest to occupy the houses that are yet to be either completed or built,” he continued.

He also alleged that the contractor is now a sales agent for the NHC in that the contractor is selling unfinished houses and even the vacant allotments at unknown prices to individuals. And he has called on the new Minister to probe these allegations.

Mr. Koroka said that he and his board will be formally replying to these allegations raised by Mr. Devete.

PNG Post-Courier:

2) Severe Highlands’ Flooding Raises Concerns In PNG
Waterborne illnesses, food shortages possible

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Sept. 12, 2012) – PNG health authorities are worried about the impact heavy flooding will have on food and medical supplies.

The Southern Highlands has been devastated by torrential rain over the past few days, with at least three children reported killed and roads and bridges washed away.

Provincial Health Manager Michael Mombu has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat many of the food gardens people rely on for sustenance have also been destroyed.

“In the next couple of months, people will have to plant new gardens, but in the meantime I think people would be going hungry,” he said.

Mr. Mombu also expressed concern about the outbreak of disease.

“We expect an increase of diarrheal disease… in some places I think we may have a malaria outbreak.”

Director of Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Centre Martin Mose says government relief efforts are already underway.

“The government has already made several commitments to assist,” he said.

Initial efforts will focus on humanitarian relief and restoring roads and bridges.

Mr. Mose says assistance will then be extended to rebuilding damaged health facilities and restoring agricultural activities after an assessment is carried out.

Radio Australia:

3) PNG budget forum talks economy

By Online Editor
4:40 pm GMT+12, 13/09/2012, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea must manage macroeconomic risks because it will have a severe impact on other economic sectors.

Treasury Department deputy secretary (economic and financial policy) Anthony Yauieb told participants at the national budget forum yesterday that there would be a lot of pressure on the exchange rate, increased liquidity and higher overall demand in the country as a result of the major PNG LNG project.

“This could undermine the competitiveness of the non-mineral sector of the economy, such as agriculture, potentially having a severe impact on employment and incomes in labour sensitive sectors of the economy.”

The need to manage macroeconomic risks stems from past experiences from new resource sectors and earlier commodity booms not having the revenues translated into improved socio-economic indicators and sustained development outcomes as a result of not managing properly the risks.

“We cannot afford to squander this opportunity by dismissing the macroeconomic risks that need to be managed,” Yauieb said.

Referring to the PNG Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), he said the fund was designed to manage public mining and petroleum resource revenues with the aim to support macroeconomic stabilisation to manage risks.
The fund would also support development objectives and asset management as well, through its Development Fund and Stabilisation Funds.

Yauieb also said that it must be recognised that shortage of funds for development has not been the problem of effective development spending on development projects, but of poor ability of the public sector to establish and deliver project plans that has seen funds wasted rather than being put to good use.

The national budget forum was held at the National Research Institute in Port Moresby.


4) Indonesia Committee To Address Papua Security Issues
Focus on resolving issues with indigenous Papuans

By Ezra Sihite

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, Sept. 12) – Indonesia’s House of Representatives has set up working committees to address the tense security situation in Papua and West Papua provinces.

Mahfudz Sidik, chairman of House Commission I, which oversees foreign and security affairs, said the two working committees were formed last week as part of the commission’s follow-up to a visit by legislators to the two provinces three months earlier in response to a string of armed attached blamed on pro-independence activists.

Mahfudz, from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said the establishment of the committees was expected to prompt the government to take action, including initiating dialogues to address the underlying causes fueling the secessionist sentiment in the country’s easternmost provinces.

He said the commission had identified several fundamental issues that needed to be resolved, the main one being the general lack of trust among indigenous Papuans toward the central and local governments.

Another is the perceived redundancy of the presidentially appointed Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B). Other factors include long-held grievances over the discrimination against indigenous Papuans and the local governance crisis typified by the stalled gubernatorial election process.

“All these fundamental problems have been allowed to fester without any solutions,” Mahfudz said. “If we continue to ignore them, we will be arming a time bomb.”

Pacific Scoop
All editorial and news content produced under the principles of Creative Commons. Permission to republish with attribution may be obtained from the Pacific Media Centre – [email protected]

5) Fake Money Reportedly Circulating In Solomon Islands
Public told to look for security features on paper money

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Times, Sept. 12, 2012) – The Central Bank of Solomon Islands has advised the general public that new counterfeit notes or fake money are once again circulating within the economy.

The bank says according to reports, these recent counterfeits are produced in the value of 50 dollars and 100 dollar bills [US$6.75 and US$13.51].

It says the common serial numbers on these new counterfeit notes are: C/1569326 for 50 dollars and A/2 808120 for one-hundred dollars.

These fake notes, recently identified by the commercial banks, look like the real legal tender notes, but lack the security features that can be used to identify them as genuine money.

It is believed that high definition and professional printing machines may be used in the design and production of these fake bills.

The Central Bank therefore warns the public to be careful and to take time to familiarize themselves with the visible security features on our paper money, before accepting these high valued notes.

It says people must also feel the rough texture of the genuine notes to differentiate them from normal commercial papers usually used by counterfeiters.

The Central Bank warns the public that consequences associated with those caught engaging in counterfeiting are very serious.

Penalties imposed on counterfeiters include a SB$50,000 [US$6,755] fine and up to 7 months imprisonment or both.

Solomon Times

6) Vanuatu Immigrations Staff Charging Illegal ‘Arrival’ Fees
Business travelers reportedly made to pay $107 at airport

By Ricky Binihi

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept. 12, 2012) – The Department of Immigrations is clamping down on Immigration Officers at Port Vila International Airport that have been illegally pocketing Vt10,000 [US$107.35] from people arriving here on business.

“There is nothing in the Immigration Laws of Vanuatu that says people who arrive here on business had to pay a fee of Vt10,000,” the Principle Immigrations Officer, Mr. Francoise Batick told Daily Post when contacted yesterday.

The Head of the Immigration Department is treating the allegations very seriously and has had a meeting with the Director General and the Minister of Immigrations last week and promised to clamp down on the culprits.

“If a member of the community could prove they he paid such business fee money to one of my officers he could come to my office and indentify the immigrations officer involved,” Mr. Batick said.

Daily Post was told that recently two men and a woman arrived on a flight from New Zealand and were told they had to pay Vt10,000 each for the business fee or they would be put on the flight back to Auckland.

The woman was exempted from paying the “business fee” even though all the three were in Vanuatu on business for a maximum of five days.

The men were told the stamp was valid for four months, but Immigration was reluctant to give them an official receipt when the asked for it.

Daily Post understands that these people are shipping agents/suppliers of a company in Port Vila and came here to check up on what the company here needed for upcoming shipments.

The Principle Immigrations Officer has confirmed that it is illegal to charge a visa on people who tell Immigration Officers that they are here for business.

He is dismantling the shift system used by Immigration Officers at the Airport in Vila and setting up a new system for his officers that is more accountable and transparent.

“I am appealing to anyone who has been robbed of Vt10,000 to call at the Immigrations Office in Port Vila to lodge a complaint with me,” the Immigration boss said.

Vanuatu Daily Post:

7) ANZ ordered to give Vanuatu details to Australian Taxation Office

By Online Editor
09:45 am GMT+12, 13/09/2012, Australia

ANZ Bank is considering its options after the Full Court of the Federal Court  Wednesday upheld a ruling that the bank should surrender more than 1300 Vanuatu customer accounts to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

The court dismissed ANZ’s appeal while allowing the bank a small victory by ruling that one of the two ATO notices to produce data was invalid due to uncertainty about the kind of information that had to be produced.

However, the ATO is considered likely to reissue the offending notice and get the information in anyway.

An ANZ spokesman said yesterday that the bank had sought clarity from the court to help balance its responsibility to customers in one of its international operations to maintain confidentiality and its obligations to the ATO.

“The court has taken into account one of our concerns and we now have a new judgment that we will review to see how we best meet the legal and regulatory obligations of both jurisdictions,” he said.

The ATO is seeking the data from ANZ, which has the biggest Vanuatu operation of the big four banks, as part of the multi-agency Wickenby investigation.

It ran into strong resistance on Christmas Eve in 2010, when ANZ took Federal Court action saying it would be in breach of Vanuatu criminal law and put at risk its licence to operate in the Pacific island tax haven if it complied with the notices.

The bank also said the ATO had no extra-territorial powers, and that each of the notices was “uncertain and/or oppressive”.

But,  Wednesday the Full Court agreed with Judge Bruce Lander in March that the notices require ANZ to hand over information from a digital database called the global information warehouse that the bank maintains in Australia.

The legislation, according to the Full Court, allows the ATO to issue notices to Australian companies requiring them to furnish information stored in Australia.

“There is no reason to read (the legislation) as subject to a foreign law purporting to have extra-territorial effect in circumstances where the relevant information is held by an Australian company in Australia,” the Full Court said.

“In any event, such disclosure of the information would not breach the non-statutory or statutory obligations of confidence under the law of Vanuatu.”

To arguments from ANZ that the ATO was engaged in a “fishing expedition”, the court said the commissioner could fish in a pool that might contain people subject to an Australian tax liability.


8) Vanuatu watchdog to rein in politicians for alleged illegal land deals

Posted at 20:45 on 13 September, 2012 UTC

Vanuatu’s acting chief ombudsman says his office is aware of an increasing number of alleged cases of leaders selling state land.

Alain Molgos’ comment comes as the Minister of Lands, Steven Kalsakau, has been accused of ordering the allocation of public land at discount rates to Lands Department staff.

The land up for discount is adjacent to Port Vila’s Independence Park.

Any such sale would be in contravention of the Council of Ministers’ 2010 resolution which suspended the sale of state land.

Mr Molgos says some of Vanuatu’s leaders seem unable to comply with those rules.

“Yes, some of the leaders have been involved in this and I have to say that there are some reports being issued by this office to inform the public of the extent of the abuse of power and so forth, and those people who have been implicated in this sale of lands in Vila or in Santo.”

Alain Molgos

Radio New Zealand International

9) Over 9,000 Fiji University Graduates Unemployed
Labour minister says Fiji must grow job market, micro enterprises

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 12, 2012) – As Fiji’s job crisis continues to deepen, 9,523 graduates from various tertiary institutions in the country are still unemployed, it has been revealed.

Minister for Labour Jone Usamate said out of those 9,523 jobless graduates, 858 were degree holders.

Mr. Usamate said the unemployed graduates had been registered by the ministry’s National Employment Centre (NEC) from April 2010.

He said the large number of unemployed graduates in the country was a result of not enough jobs, but there was still hope ahead.

“For the past few years, our economic growth has been slow and job creation has been slow,” Mr. Usamate said.

“There are not enough new jobs being created to absorb the new graduates,” Mr. Usamate told this newspaper.

He said the other possible reason was because of the difference between what was being taught in tertiary institutions and what employers needed.

Mr. Usamate said Fiji needed to grow the job market and encourage the development of small micro enterprises (SMEs) to make use of the large number of well-educated unemployed youths the country had.

“This year, we are beginning to see some positive signs in our economy. There have been good reports of demand in the construction sector. Growth in the construction sector is a sign of potential growth,” he said.

Mr. Usamate outlined that tourism industry that was also doing well and the Fiji Trade and Investment Bureau had reported the number of investors interested to invest in Fiji.

“On top of this, a 2.7 percent economic growth has been forecast,” he said.

Mr. Usamate also highlighted that various proactive measures had been developed by the ministry to counter the increase in unemployment rates.

He said the ministry had self-employment service for those who wanted to start their own small business, Fiji Volunteer Service for those who had a strong sense of service and civic pride and willingness to serve others before self. “Foreign Employment Service is another initiative for those who want to work overseas. This service will be launched with the Foreign Employment Unit under the ministry by the end of September,” Mr. Usamate said.

He said the ministry had been engaging in vetting employment agencies that could take the role of seeking jobs in other countries for unemployed Fijians.

Mr. Usamate said the NEC could not create jobs but had been effective in carrying out its mandate.

Fiji Times Online:

10) Fiji Labour Party Leader: Constitutional Process ‘Flawed’
Chaudhry presents Labour submission before commission

By Indrani Krishna

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Sept. 12, 2012) – Fiji’s Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry says the constitution process is “fundamentally flawed and lacked credibility, integrity and legitimacy as sanctioned by Decrees 57 & 58.”

He made the comments while presenting the party’s preliminary submission to the constitution commission at Civic Centre in Suva today.

Chaudhry said, “The constitution commission is driven by the regime to achieve its own self-serving agenda as is evident from the various repugnant provisions in the two decrees promulgated on July 18, 2012.”

He said that it is manifestly clear that the process is not going to be inclusive, participatory or even credible because it has been unilaterally imposed on the people of Fiji without any consultation with their legitimate representative.

Chaudhry added that it was a stand FLP has maintained from the very beginning that the process back to democracy and constitutional rule should not be driven by the regime.

“We now submit that there is only one legitimate and credible way back to constitutional rule and that is to abide by the advice rendered in the decision of the Fiji Court of Appeal (FCA) on April 9 2009- Qarase vs Banimarama – Civil Appeal,” Chaudhry said.

According to Chaudhry, “the FCA judgment advised that a caretaker Prime Minister be appointed with the specific mandate to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule within a realistic time frame.”

“We implore members of the Commission to carefully consider transitional arrangement to democratic rule and make adequate provisions in the draft constitution for the same, including the appointment of a caretaker government to take charge of the process of returning Fiji to constitutionals rule via free, fair and credible elections.

“We also feel strongly that the members of the Commission must not regard themselves bound by those unethical provisions of Decrees 57 and 58 which they consider inhibit the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities in accordance with their oath of office.”

The Labour Party plans to give in their full submissions early October. When contacted on FLP’s submission, commission chairman, Professor Yash Ghai said, “FLP members are like any citizens of Fiji and they have the right to raise issues that affect them.”


11)  caretaker govt: PM Bainimarama

By Online Editor
1:08 pm GMT+12, 13/09/2012, Fiji

There will be no caretaker Government to lead the country to the elections, says Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Commodore Bainimarama revealed this to the Fiji Sun Wednesday while reacting to a call made by the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) in their preliminary submission to the Constitution Committee yesterday at the Suva Civic Centre.

In presenting the party preliminary submission, FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry said the only legitimate way forward was clearly spelt out on the Fiji Court of Appeal (FCA) judgment. However, the Prime Minister reminded the FLP leader that they should only make submissions about the constitution and not the way the country is governed.

“My Government will not listen to anyone who wants to tell us how to govern the nation,” Commodore Bainimarama said.

“The Government had nothing to do with the FCA ruling and must not be brought up.”

The Prime Minister said FLP should not mention anything about the 1997 Constitution because it had been abrogated.

In his submission Chaudhry said: “The FCA judgment advised that a caretaker Prime Minister be appointed with the specific mandate to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule within a realistic time frame,” Chaudhry said in his submission.

He adds paragraph 156 of the judgment reads: “The only appropriate course at the present time is for elections to be held that enable Fiji to get a fresh start. Taking cognizance of the principle of necessity… for the purposes of these proceedings, it is advisable for the President to appoint a distinguished person independent of the parties in litigation as caretaker prime minister to advice dissolution of Parliament and direct the issuance of writs for an election under S60 of the Fiji Constitution. This is to enable Fiji to be restored to constitutional rule in accordance with the Constitution.”

Chaudhry said they firmly believed that the President has the powers (Executive Authority Decree 2 of 2009) to take the following course of action appropriate to establishing a credible and legitimate process of returning Fiji to constitutional rule.

The PM said FLP should, during its proper submission, make proposals that would help the nation move forward rather than submitting old ideas for the party’s advantage only.

“The 1997 Constitution has been abrogated and that’s it.”

Chaudhry also raised concerns about the constitutional process saying it was flawed.

“The process as sanctioned by Decrees 57 and 58 is fundamentally flawed – it is driven by the regime to achieve its own agenda. It lacks credibility, integrity and legitimacy,” Chaudhry said.

He said there should be no immunity and the inclusion of immunity would promote coups in the country.

Meanwhile, Transparency International (TI) Fiji says “Yes” to integrity and “No” to corruption in their submission to the Constitution Commission in Suva.

In presenting their submission, Chairman of the Board of TI, Apisalome Tudreu said the new constitution must reflect the nation’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

He said this is to ensure that the legislature, judiciary, law enforcement agencies, and businesses can remain effective and independent.

Tudreu said the new constitution should also recognise the important role that communities, the media, and civil society organisations play in ensuring transparency and legitimacy of our public institutions.

“To support the role of these organisations, the constitution should recognise the involvement of these organisations. “ Continuing with the theme of transparency and accountability, Tudreu said political integrity would be maintained with some key actions, including the introduction of transparency in political financing for politicians and political parties, and the implementation of a code of conduct and integrity pledge for Members of Parliament.

TI presented six issues of concern to the Constitutional Commission and identified specific inclusions in the new constitution for each of these issues.


12) Fiji’s Immigration Department investigates allegations of human trafficking

Posted at 20:45 on 13 September, 2012 UTC

Fiji’s Immigration Department is now investigating allegations of human trafficking and a prostitution ring.

Fijivillage online says the information was revealed after an informant contacted the Immigration Director Major Nemani Vuniwaqa.

Major Vuniwaqa says an Asian woman had managed to speak to a local saying she

and two other Chinese women were forced into prostitution after arriving in the country last Friday.

A raid was then conducted at a Suva hotel early yesterday and three Asian women and two Asian men were located in three different rooms.

Another person, who holds a Fijian passport, is also being questioned.

Major Vuniwaqa says it appears the women were promised work in Fiji and when they arrived their travel documents were taken by some individuals and their movements were controlled.

He says they are now trying to get in more local contacts adding that more people are involved.

Radio New Zealand International

13) Fiji’s new constitution should be protected from being abrogated – NGO

Posted at 16:48 on 13 September, 2012 UTC

A non-government organisation in Fiji has recommended a provision be established in the country’s new constitution to protect the constitution from being destroyed.

The NGO Pacific Dialogue has raised more than a dozen suggestions in its submissions to the Constitutional Commission including the abolition of the senate, a reform of parliament, power sharing and a new electoral system.

The Chairman of the Board for Pacific Dialogue, Jone Dakuvula says there should be a provision in the new constitution that protects the constitution from being abrogated or permanently suspended.

“It is a way in which we deal with coups. A coup will not be able to remove a constitution legally. So say they have abrogated it or removed it but it won’t be because a future government can just say that they’re returning to the former constitution and it will come back.”

Jone Dakuvula from the NGO Pacific Dialogue.

Radio New Zealand International

14) Fiji’s Catholics make submission to Constitution Commission

Posted at 02:22 on 13 September, 2012 UTC

The Catholic Church in Fiji has recommended to the Constitution Commission that the new constitution contain what it calls a Covenantal Chapter.

The director of the Catholic Education Board, Remesio Rogovakalali, says this should cover the shared principles that all Fiji citizens agree to guide and govern the political, social, cultural and economic life of the country.

Fiji Village reports that the church also recommends that God be acknowledged as the creator of humans, human dignity, common good, diversity, social justice, equality, freedom and rule of law.

The Church says another provision should spell out the clear separation of the state and religion.

But it says the role of religion and civil society as a crucial monitoring function ensuring the transparency, accountability and responsibility of government towards the people, needs to be recognised.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International

15) Tonga Parliament Seeks Clarification On Nuku’alofa Rioting
Minister motions to probe destruction of central business district

By Pesi Fonua

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 12, 2012) – Since Monday, September 10, the Tongan Parliament has been trying to decide what to do with a new motion by the Minister of Justice, Hon. Clive Edwards for a parliamentary select committee to go and find out why protesters burned the Nuku’alofa Central Business District (CBD) on 16 November 2006. Clive threw the motion into the middle of a debate over the select committee’s investigation into the rebuilding of Nuku’alofa.

This was while the select committee led by Dr. Sitiveni Halapua and ‘Akilisi Pohiva were presenting their findings on how the Nuku’alofa Development Corporation (NDC) had managed a TOP$119 million [US$67.6 million] loan from China for the reconstruction of the CBD after the riots of 16 November 2006.

Clive’s new motion riled up emotional and aggressive comments from members of the House because some of them, including Hon. Clive Edwards himself, had appeared in court charged with sedition and other charges for their alleged involvement in the destruction of the capital’s CBD.

Got off

One of them, the former Minister of Labour Commerce and Industries, ‘Isileli Pulu, even reminded Clive that he was one of their MCs during some of their protest gatherings in Nuku’alofa leading up to the destruction of the CBD. He warned the Minister that they should forget about the past events of who was responsible and why the CBD was destroyed. He reminded him that there were court cases, and they had got off, but if he wanted to go back to the past they might get caught this time.

Clive Edwards clarified his motion that it was to complete and to make sense out of the report on the NDC that had been presented to the House. He pointed out that on pages 10-11 of the report it reads:

“Was the loan truly made in the public interest? Or was this a magnificent opportunity for a few to profit at the expense of Tonga’s taxpayers? To allow the burden to fall on taxpayers who would help repay a loan of TOP$119 million (plus fees, interest and exchange rate fluctuation risks) over the next 20 years?”

He pointed out that to complete the report and for those questions to be answered the writers of the report should find an answer to a fundamental question of ‘Why did the protesters burn down the capital?’

The report was prepared by a select committee that was established by the House in June 2011 and its members included Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, the Auditor General, Tu’i’onetoa Pohiva and a lawyer, Posesi Bloomfield.

The report has been read in the House since August 28.

Who and why?

Clive’s new motion was also for the reading of the report to be deferred until the end of October, so that the committee could complete its report by answering the question of why Nuku’alofa was burned. Clive’s motion was seconded by Lord Nuku, who also raised more issues for the select committee to answer before their report is resubmitted into the House at the end of October.

The issues that Lord Nuku wanted the committee to clarify included:

  • to produce the correct figures of the loan for the extension of the Royal Palace, because there was a difference of about TOP$10 million [US$5.7 million] between the figure of the Minister of Finance and that of the Committee;
  • the salaries of the committee members;
  • he also queried what appeared to be a conflict of interest with the Auditor General being a member of the committee.
  • he queried the process of repayments of the loan, after it had been stated that 60% of the loan would be repaid by government, and the remaining 40% would be repaid by the people who borrowed to rebuild their properties.

Lord Nuku expressed his belief that it was necessary for the committee to identify who destroyed the properties and why.

Before the House closed yesterday, September 11 ‘Isileli Pulu moved for the Whole House Committee to reject Clive’s motion.

Select committee’s recommendations

The Minister of Finance, Hon. Lisiate ‘Akolo made another point regarding the report of the Select Committee, saying that he would accept the report if they agreed to delete their four recommendations. These included:

  • a recommendation for a structural survey of the properties built;
  • to gather information regarding the loan and how it was spent and how it had infringed the Public Finance Management Act 2002, as claimed;
  • to identify who received the TOP$23.4 million [US$13.3 million] that was supposed to be spent locally to finance the construction of the Palace;
  • and for further investigation and possible court actions.

He stressed that the four recommendations in the report from the select committee fell outside the Terms of Reference that were given to the committee.

The Chairman of the Committee called for votes on Clive’s motion, but Sitiveni Halapua stressed there was a need to correct a few errors. It was then 4:00pm and it was time for the House to close, so the vote was not taken.

Matangi Tonga Magazine:

16) Nauru Public Wants More Information About Asylum Seekers
Community says information ‘vague’ on asylum plan

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 12, 2012) – A community leader in Nauru says local people want more information and consultation about asylum seekers to be detained on the island.

Nauru is due to receive its first group of asylum seekers at the end of the week after Australia and Nauru agreed to reopen a processing centre there.

Community leaders met with officials on Saturday but the president of Aiwo district, Madeleine Dube, says information has been vague and too little.

She says she was surprised to see a desalination plant set up by the reef near her home, where locals play and fish.

“We’re still very much in the dark as to what is happening, when they are coming, for how long they will be staying. We’re having enough power cuts as it is. With more people is this going to affect us more or will priority be given to the refugees?”

Madeleine Dube says people in Nauru welcome the asylum-seekers, who will be allowed into the community, but she says locals still have concerns about security and pressure on resources.

[PIR editor’s note: Nauru Foreign Minister Dr. Kieran Keke also said that the community is open to allowing asylum seekers to stay five years, or more, on the island in order to provide “as normal a life as possible.”]

Radio New Zealand International:


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