NEWS (Melanesian/Pacific) 24/9/12

 

1) Australian accused of PNG gunrunning

By Online Editor
10:03 am GMT+12, 24/09/2012, AustraliaAn Australian expatriate based in Papua New Guinea will face a Melbourne court for alleged involvement in a gun smuggling racket in the Pacific.

Prominent PNG businessman Ian Chow, was arrested in Sydney by Australian Federal Police early last month.
A police spokeswoman confirmed the AFP had arrested a 49-year-old male Australian citizen in Chatswood.

“The man was charged with one count of aid, abet, counsel or procure the export of prohibited goods,” she said.

PNG has a strict embargo on weapons and ammunition importation due to high levels of violent gun crime and Chow, a licensed sports shooter, is alleged to have been involved in the illegal supply of ammunition via Lae Biscuit Company containers sent from Australia.

Chow is chief executive of Lae Biscuit Company and the regional director of the International Practical Shooting Confederation.

He appeared before Parramatta Local Court on August 5 before being extradited to face Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on August 20. His next Melbourne court appearance is on November 12.

Chow is not new to controversy. In 2006, police charged him after a series of his homemade pornographic images circulated via the internet and caused outrage in PNG, where pornography is illegal.

Lawyers for Chow tried to ban local media covering the court case, which never went to trial, as is common in PNG’s struggling and haphazard legal system.

PNG is plagued by thousands of illegal guns, mostly stolen from army and police armouries and frequently used in fatal tribal fights, car jackings and robberies.

Earlier this month PNG police and custom officials in Lae raided a container from the Philippines and uncovered four loaded pistols and 19 magazines packed in a safe addressed to a 38-year-old Indonesian property and maintenance manager, Yoshi Kuni Ikeda.

PNG police told local media they had busted a “triad mafia ring”. “The interception is only the tip of the iceberg. We believe many law enforcement agencies are involved in the syndicate,” police told the Post-Courier newspaper on 06 September.

SOURCE: AAP/PACNEWS

2) PNG PM i tok em i taim nao blong impruvim ol sevis

Postim 24 September 2012, 10:41 AEST

Papua New Guinea Praim Minista Peter O’Neill i tok kantri blongen i gat wanpela bikpela sans long kirapim gut ken ol rot, bris, hausik, ol bruk bruk bilding na mekim gut ol sevis igo long ol pipol ino kisim sevis.

Praim Minista Mr O’Neill i tokim Radio Australia Pacific Beat wantaim wanpela bikpela dinau long wanpela benk long China na sampela ol arapela nupela risos  projekt, em i taim nau blong kamapim bikpela sanis.

“I am trying to improve the quality of living standards of our people, where basic services have not reached the bulk of our population,” em ibin tok.

“Eighty-five percent of our population live in the rural communities, they still lack basic educational services, they still lack decent health care, they lack the transportation to get their goods to market and law and order continues to become a major issue in some of those communities.

“Our government is very much focused on those areas that, we as a government, must make it priority that we deliver those services so that it will improve the standard of living for our people.”

Mr O’Neill i tok tu olsem em i bilip dispela i wanpela “golden opportunity’ blong kantri blong yumi long mekim olgeta samting long stretim olgeta asua oa mistake blong ol yar igo pinis.Radio Australia

3) PNG PM pushes to rebuild struggling infrastructure

By Online Editor4:37 pm GMT+12, 24/09/2012, Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says his country has a golden opportunity to overhaul its crumbling infrastructure and improve services.

The Pacific’s tiger economy has been growing at 8 per cent a year for a decade, but more than three quarters of its population still does not have access to electricity or roads.

O’Neill has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat with a loan from a Chinese bank and several major new resources projects coming on line, the time is right for change.

“I am trying to improve the quality of living standards of our people, where basic services have not reached the bulk of our population,” he said.

“Eighty-five percent of our population live in the rural communities, they still lack basic educational services, they still lack decent health care, they lack the transportation to get their goods to market and law and order continues to become a major issue in some of those communities.

“Our government is very much focused on those areas that, we as a government, must make it priority that we deliver those services so that it will improve the standard of living for our people.”

Some critics have raised concerned the US$2.7 billion loan from China’s Exim Bank is too big for an economy which is facing a US$230 million deficit and weakening commodity prices.

O’Neill says the loan is just a standby arrangement, and the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project, which is due to deliver first gas in 2014, and other major new resources projects will provide sufficient cash flow to finance the country’s planned infrastructure overhaul.

“We expect our economy to double by 2014, [and] our infrastructure in the country is declining to a state where some infrastructures are not able to cope with the demands of our people and our economy,” he said.
“So when you look at this what solutions do you have?

“[To] our critics we say this: ‘Do you want us to allow our infrastructure to continue declining? Do you want us to allow the economy to slow down and that there is no economic growth in the country? Do you want us to allow the unemployment figures to continue to rise?’

“Because when the economy does not grow the unemployment increases, all the other social sectors will decline, [and] that is not a responsibility this government is prepared to accept.”

O’Neill was returned as prime minister after protracted political instability over the country’s leadership and a drawn out election process.

He said that costly delay, and an expansion of the government payroll in some provinces, has put PNG’s economy under pressure.

But O’Neill said he hopes putting that instability behind them will allow the new government to avoid the pitfalls of previous economic booms.

“I think if we continue to provide good stable leadership at the political level and also improve on the performance of the public service, establishing laws that will protect the revenue stream of our country including, as I said, the Sovereign Wealth Fund, and making sure that we have prudent management of our economy, I think we will be able to overcome many of the mistakes that we have made in the past,” he said.

“I strongly believe that this is the golden opportunity for our country to make sure that we correct the mistakes of the past.”.

SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS

4) At Filing Deadline, Election Of 80 PNG MPs Disputed
Challenges in two-thirds of electorates a record

By Elias Nanau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 21, 2012) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and opposition leader Belden Namah are among 31 politicians who have escaped the court of disputed returns.

An unprecedented two-thirds of parliament, or 80 MPs, have had their election wins challenged.

As the deadline for filing disputes lapsed this week, there were a record 105 election petitions registered with the Court of Disputed Returns, challenging 80 members of parliament. A few elections have been challenged a number of times by different petitioners, hence the higher number of disputes than the MPs challenged.

Bougainville ranks as the only province where all its four MPs have had no challenge and Community Development Minister Loujaya Toni is the only female out of the three who won whose election had also not been challenged.

Election petition rules state that a losing candidate can file election disputes within 40 days after the official declaration of the result by the returning officer.In this year’s elections, the National Capital District regional seat was the last to be declared on Aug 7. The 40 days lapsed on Monday.

A lawyer engaged to represent the Electoral Commission said this was an unprecedented figure for any general election since Independence.

Losing NCD regional candidates Aiwa Olmi, Michael Kandiu and Wari Vele were the last petitioners to file disputes against Powes Parkop last week.

The Electoral Commission, the Court of Disputed Returns and lawyers are now time-pressed to dispense the matters within three months.

A senior legal officer engaged by the Electoral Commission, who asked not to be identified, said it should cost the commission a “substantial amount of money” to have the cases heard.

“It should be K50,000 or upwards for a case,” he said.

If that figure is realistic, the state would pay, at the very least, K5.25 million to dispense of all 105 cases.

[PIR editor’s note: The PNG Post-Courier reported that more than 100,000 counted ballot papers from Jiwaka Province were burned in their locked container. It is believed that the burning is in response to a disputed election for the Jiwaka regional seat.]

The lawyer admitted that the high registration of petitions would put a strain on lawyers and, already, there appeared to be a shortage of experts in litigating election petitions.

“We have a lot of lawyers, but we do not have enough lawyers to deal with election petitions.”

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

5) PNG Immigration Taskforce boss arrested

By Online Editor
4:50 pm GMT+12, 24/09/2012, Papua New GuineaCoordinator of the  Papua New Guinea Government sanctioned Taskforce team ‘Rausim Aliens’ that was set up to investigative illegal aliens has been arrested and charged by police for illegally being in possession and using a confiscated licensed firearm.

John Bria was arrested by NCD Police along with another person, one James Anton Brea for impersonating police last Friday.

NCD Metropolitan Commander Peter Guinness told the Post Courier that Bria was arrested after a complaint was laid by a Malaysian man in Madang who had his licensed firearm confiscated by the team and despite being cleared the gun was not returned to him.

“An investigation was carried out and it was revealed that the firearm was confiscated but never stored away or taken to the Registrar of Firearms or the Commissioner of Police. Instead police alleged that Bria kept the firearm and it was used by him and the team on various occasions, although it was supposed to be a confiscated firearm that was supposed to be kept in a safe or given back to the Commissioner of Police for safe keeping then used as a court exhibit. This was never done by Mr Bria,” Guinness said.

He was charged with two counts under the Firearms Act while another person was charged with assault and impersonation.

Guinness expressed concern that while the Taskforce team was set up to investigate illegal immigrants, the members have gone out of their terms of references and have been doing police work like confiscating firearms and other items.

“I appeal to the Immigration officers in the team that there should be a clear line on their responsibilities and they must not try to do police work. Many complaints have been raised (by people) that their items were confiscated and they are yet to get them back. It is a police duty to check firearms and if they are unlicensed then a firearm is confiscated. If it’s legal then there is no point in confiscating it,” he said.

Guinness also said there are other complaints laid by many of those that had their things confiscated, including alleged extortion and those charges will be slapped on the two men once they are received.

Bria is still in custody while Anton Brea has been released on bail. Attempts to talk to the Chief Immigration Officer who is the chairman of the team yesterday were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile Bria who is calling on the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his government to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of police over the bribery cases recently uncovered by his team involving Zhen Niugini Limited in Port Moresby.

Bria alleged his arrest was in connection to this case and many other cases the taskforce is investigating in the country.

He said he believed that so much money was involved in his arrest and that police fabricated stories to have him arrested.

The taskforce boss questioned why policemen involved in the taskforce who were responsible for the firearms for exhibits were never arrested.

“I was not using this firearm, some of these policemen who arrested me were part of my team and they were carrying this exhibit firearms,” Bria said.

“Also, I am not a criminal and was made to stay inside Six – Mile police cells from 10pm on Friday without attending to me until Saturday 7pm when they formally charged me for something I did not do. I was even refused bail until my lawyers made an urgent submission through Magistrate Cosmos Bidar who ordered my bail and the release of the vehicle locked up at the Six – Mile police station,” he said.

Bria challenged policemen who arrested him to also arrest those policemen who are involved in the bribery case involving Zhen Niugini Limited to illegally arrest and charge another foreigner in the country last month.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

6) Bougainville government wants joint ventures with foreign businesses

Posted at 22:51 on 23 September, 2012 UTC

The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville is preparing laws to ensure only Bougainvilleans can own retail businesses.

The president John Momis says they want to avoid problems that have occurred in other parts of PNG when the indigenous population has been shut out of a business sector they had historically seen as theirs exclusively.

This has sparked recent riots, mostly directed at shops operated by Chinese.

Mr Momis says they want to establish a different sort of relationship with foreign traders.

“We want foreigners to be involved in joint venture businesses in wholesale and other businesses, so I think that is where it is at. If we don’t then we will have the Chinese and the Caucasians taking over the trade stores and all these little businesses as they have done in the rest of the country.”

John Momis says the ABG government itself has entered into wholesale arrangements with Chinese business people in south Bougainville.

Radio New Zealand International

7) Premier Orders Release Of Dolphins Held In Western Solomons 
Villagers planned to sell protected mammals to exporter

By Trixie Carter

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Sept. 24, 2012) – An undisclosed number of dolphins caught by villagers north of Kolombangara island in Western Province, will be released.

The province’s premier George Solingi Lilo told the Solomon Star yesterday, he had sent a group of fisheries officers to the location to inspect and release the dolphins.

“I don’t know how many dolphins were caught; this information will be relayed to me when the group returns,” Mr Lilo said.

“But my instruction is for the officers to go to the villagers, inspect the dolphins and have their released.

“Western Province is a sanctuary for dolphins. It is illegal for anyone to capture dolphins here,” the premier said.

Earlier reports from the island say villagers caught 15 dolphins using nets.

The dolphins have been kept in shallow waters, surrounded by fishing nets to prevent them from escaping.

It was reported the villagers were planning to sell their catch to a Honiara-based dolphin dealer.

Mr Lilo said reports of the dolphin capture were relayed to him last week while he was in Honiara.

He said he was concerned because any dolphin activities in the province would affect the operations of Soltuna Ltd, which is based in Noro.

Mr Lilo revealed fisheries officials from Honiara are in Gizo to help provincial officers attend to the issue.

Meanwhile, US-based Earth Island Institute has warned any dolphin hunting activities in Western Province would be at the detriment of Soltuna Ltd, the country’s only exporter of canned tuna products.

Solomon Star

8) Solomon Islands minister wants standby disaster fund set up

By Online Editor
4:43 pm GMT+12, 24/09/2012, Solomon IslandsThe Solomon Islands Environment Minister, Moffat Fugui, says the country has got to change its attitude to disaster preparedness.

He has told Parliament that there has to be a budget allocation for an emergency standby fund to help the country deal with natural disasters.

Fugui said the Government has to be ready to help the people affected by cyclones, earthquakes, droughts or floods.

“We need a standby fund as a good bulwark against disaster, or 6 to 7 million Solomons dollars. At any one time we need that money to be there so that if disaster should ensue, Mr Speaker Sir, we can use that money. At the moment we don’t have that so we need to change the budgetary support so that we can have money ready for this.”.

SOURCE: RNZI/PACNEWS

9) Vanuatu Minister’s promise to cancel lease can’t go ahead – former Valuer General

Posted at 01:57 on 24 September, 2012 UTC

While Vanuatu’s Minister of Lands, Steven Kalsakau, has promised to cancel two leases he approved over the protests of Efate Island custom landowners, a former Valuer General, Levi Tarosa, says the Minister has no power to make such a move.

Mr Tarosa says under the Land Act the Minister cannot cancel or revoke his own signature on a lease.

He says the only option for the landowners is to take the Minister to court and prove he had no right to allow the leases.

Radio New Zealand International

10) Youth unemployment big challenge for Vanuatu

Posted at 22:51 on 23 September, 2012 UTC

The Vanuatu Rural Development and Training Centres Association says one of the biggest challenges is youth unable to find employment once they have graduated.

There are 34 VRDTCA Training Centres around Vanuatu, focussing on addressing youth skill shortages in rural areas.

Its director, Kathy Solomon, says more and more students are returning to their communities with very limited skills.

She says they teach carpentry, construction, agriculture, hospitality and tourism but training is only part of the challenge.

“After them graduating, what next? that’s our biggest challenge. Because you know in Vanuatu, there’s not enough job for everyone. And them getting certificates from rural areas coming to the city, there’s no job for them. I would say 20 percent of them would be able to find jobs, the rest it’s still a challenge.”

Kathy Solomon says in response, they have begun an employment fund which gives young people who want to start their own business a thousand dollars to kick start it.

Radio New Zealand International

11) A Chinese leader says New Zealand and Australia bullying Fiji

Posted at 07:19 on 24 September, 2012 UTC

The chairman of China’s National People’s Congress has told a meeting in Fiji that China will continue to oppose other countries which he says try to bully Fiji.

Wu Bannguo has been in Fiji since Thursday.

Cherie McQuilkin reports.

“In a clear swipe at sanctions imposed on the Fiji regime by New Zealand and Australia, Mr Wu told those gathered that China is opposed to the isolation imposed on Fiji by other countries in the Pacific. He denounced what he called the bullying of strong countries over small or weak ones. Mr Wu said trade between China and Fiji was worth 172 million US dollars last year, an increase of 34 per cent on the previous year. He said China’s investment in Fiji reached almost 100 million US dollars, and he pledged further financial assistance. Mr Wu said he understood Fiji wanted to teach the Chinese language as part of its school curriculum, and China would provide trainers. Starting from the next academic year 30 scholarships will be made available to Fijians wanting to study in China.”

Radio New Zealand International

12) Forum needs to step up its efforts to implement PICTA: Fiji

By Online Editor
09:55 am GMT+12, 24/09/2012, FijiFiji has urged the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to step up their act in the implementation of the Pacific Islands Country Trade Agreement (PICTA).

Speaking at the Investment Fiji export seminar held at the Holiday Inn Suva Saturday, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Industry and Trade Shaheen Ali said “With PICTA Goods Agreement, challenges are almost insurmountable.

“The coordinator, Forum Secretariat, needs to step-up its efforts with the 14 member states to implement this agreement or PICTA will be subsumed by other trade agreements with third parties such as EPA with the EU or PACER Plus with Australia and New Zealand.”

Ali said: “Fiji still values PICTA as an essential tool for regional integration and is willing to work with its 14 member states and the Secretariat to overcome implementation challenges.

“However on the other hand, the MSG Trade Agreement has potential to achieve deeper integration and progress trade amongst its four members (Melanesian countries).

“All four countries have now made binding commitments to implement the MSG TA. Recently (on 13 September) Papua New Guinea gazetted its negative list, effectively ratifying the revised MSG TA. It has also removed tariffs from all products in its negative list (which had over 300 items), except for mackerel, sugar and salt.”

“This has been a positive move by the Papua New Guinea, which is commendable and shows the true spirit of MSG. PNG is a lucrative market in the Pacific (and Fiji is poised to benefit from this market).  As far as other MSG countries, Vanuatu will remove tariffs on its negative list by 2013, while Solomon Islands will do that by 2017.”

Ali said strengthening the trading capacity of the Fijian business community was important because the Fijian Government was on the verge of reinforcing Fiji as the ‘hub of the Pacific.’

“Resources are being committed on key infrastructure such as roads, and upgrade of our ports (both air and sea) to ensure Fiji’s position the entrepot for goods, services, labour and capital in the Region is further reinforced.
“Our border agencies such as Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA), Bio-security and Immigration have also undergone efficiency reforms and reorganisation to facilitate cross-border trade and whilst some challenges remain, the Fijian Government will ensure that these are addressed,” Ali said.

“The Government recognizes that strengthening our trading infrastructure and environment must go hand-in-hand with acquiring supply side capacity (at the domestic level) and seeking market access, and overcoming tariff and non-tariff barriers globally.

“Domestically, we are aware that the Government has invested in self sufficiency and economic security through initiatives such as “Fijian Made – Buy Fijian”, Northern Development Program and land reforms.

“It is also committed to creating employment by encouraging investments. The aim is to strengthen our economy internally, which will also build capacity to explore markets overseas and improve our balance of payments and reserves – through exports,” he said.

Ali said Fiji on average exported $105 million per year to the Pacific Island countries which was approximately 10 per cent of total exports.

However, only a small percentage of this trade has taken place under any of the regional trade agreements that are currently in place.

“For example, over a three year period, only 36 per cent of Fiji’s exports to the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) countries have been under the MSG Trade Agreement, which has been in place since 1993 and Fiji joined in 1997.

“This situation is worse with the Pacific Island Country Trade Agreement (PICTA) that was signed in 2001, and has membership of the 14 Pacific Islands Countries.

“None of Fiji’s exports (or negligible level of Fiji’s exports) to the Pacific takes place under Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA),” he said.

“The reason for underutilization is either these agreements are inherently flawed or they are not being faithfully implemented, by our partners. (I wish to note here that Fiji has implemented both the PICTA and MSG TA fully.)

Ali said that apart from, tariffs, these trade agreements needed to address non-tariff barriers at the borders also. Countries impose bio-security measures to protect animal and plant and human life. However, these measures need to be justified, compliant with international best practices and the least trade restrictive.

“Your discussions today should single out where the Government can streamline its processes, negotiate pathways with its partners and of course underscore any unfair treatment through bilateral and regional mechanisms.”

“I would like to challenge you all to come up with suggestions on how best Fiji can be positioned as a modern and thriving trading nation that is fully integrated into the global economy. Major trading nations are moving forward and entering into a multitude Free Trade Agreements (FTA). Most of these FTAs are based on equal partnership and reciprocity.  Fiji and the Pacific can no longer expect to be given the preferences without any reciprocity.

“Dependency on antiquated non-reciprocal schemes such as the GSP schemes should be reduced. Instead, the Government will pursue trade arrangements on equal partnership,” Ali said.

SOURCE: FIJII SUN/PACNEWS

13) Fiji Parliament Should Appoint President, Commission Told
Advisory Council submits proposals to Constitution Commission

By Tevita Vuibau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 24, 2012) – The President of Fiji should be appointed by Parliament which is a representation of the people of this nation through its elected members.

The National Advisory Council to the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress (NACPCCPP) made the proposal in its submission to the Constitution Commission on Friday.

The council also proposed that the term of appointment for the President should only be for five years and only one term of re-appointment.

The submission was made by the executives of the NACPCCPP that included chairman Josefa Seruilagilagi, deputy chairperson Lorraine Tevi, Jone Dakuvula and Dewan Maharaj.

Mr Seruilagilagi also said the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition should nominate two names each to be put to the floor of the House of Representatives and the members of the House of Representatives should vote as individuals through secret ballots.

The submission also called for persons holding the position of President to have Fiji citizenship and a distinguished career in the public service.

The NACPCCPP also recommended that the House of Representatives be reduced by 25% from 71 to 54 seats as Fiji was a small country and financial costs have to be considered.

Additionally, the NACPCCPP executives called for new members to the House of Representatives to hold Fiji citizenship.

They also said those with dual citizenship should be required to renounce all other citizenship prior to being sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives.

“Term of office for the members of the House of Representatives be four years as this is adequate time for an elected member to have performed to their maximum potential,” the NACPCCPP said.

The NACPCCPP also spoke at length on principles and values to be inculcated in the Constitution.

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

14) 4 of 5 Escapees From Fiji Prison Recaptured
Prisoners linked to robbery of bank after escape

By Indrani Krishna

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Sept. 22, 2012) – Four of the five prisoners who broke out of the Naboro Medium Corrections Facility Monday have been captured in a joint operation by Fiji Police, Fiji Military and the Fiji Corrections Services.

Solomoni Qurai, Tevita Sugu, Josaia Usumaki and Epeli Qaraniqio were apprehended by the defense forces at around 6.30pm yesterday evening at Uduya point.

The hunt continues for Isoa Waqa, 30 of Waitovu, Ovalau who is serving eight years for robbery with violence.

The forces are still trying to establish whether the five are linked to the BSP Bank robbery in Samabula on Wednesday.

“Nothing has been established as of yet in regards to the BSP robbery but we have apprehended two suspects apart from the five escapees who are still under investigations,” SSP Rusiate Tudravu said.

Meanwhile, Fiji Police Force spokeswoman Ana Naisoro confirms the joint operation by the Police and Military will still continue “It will continue till we find Isoa Waqa and the other people involved in the bank robbery,” Naisoro said.

Naisoro is also urging the public to be vigilant during the weekend and report any suspicious behaviors that may lead to the escapee.

[PIR editor’s note: Fijilive later reported that the four captured escapees admitted to the robbery of the BSP Bank in Samabula. PM Bainimarama called on the remaining escapee to “do the right thing” and turn himself in before he is caught. The investiagion of the officers on duty during the escape is ongoing.]

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

15) Working journalists hold top position in Fijian Media Association

By Online Editor
10:06 am GMT+12, 24/09/2012, FijiA special general meeting of media practitioners in Suva, Fiji agreed that working journalists must hold top positions in the new Fijian Media Association.

The meeting organised by a Media Task Force formed on the occasion of World Media Freedom Day in May this year elected the Interim Committee to formally work on the Annual General Meeting and various legal matters to get the association registered in Fiji.

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation’s Indra Singh was elected the interim president, Elenoa Baselala formerly of Fiji Times and now with Fiji islands Revenue and Customs is the interim vice president and former FBC News Director Stanley Simpson is the new interim general secretary.

The association will now write to media organisations in Fiji to nominate representatives on the committee.

The meeting also discussed collaboration with the University of the South Pacific (USP) and Fiji National University (FNU) for professional training for experienced journalists in the country.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Manager and Training Coordinator, Matai Akauola says PINA is delighted with the outcome of the meeting and the election of the new interim committee.

“It is good to see young Fijian journalists coming forward to be part of the association, even student journalists and academics from USP and FNU,” said Akauola.
SOURCE: PACNEWS

16) Fiji draft constitution before Christmas: Ghai

By Online Editor
10:09 am GMT+12, 24/09/2012, FijiHopes are high that Fiji will receive the best Christmas gift come December — the draft constitution.

Constitution Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai said Friday that hearing of submissions would come to an end on October 15, which would give them ample time to draft the new law before New Year.

“It is very important that people view the draft document for any necessary changes,” he said.

Prof Ghai said their only hope was to possibly get the new law out by the end of the year.

He said the draft document would be summarised on small pamphlets so it could be distributed to all people in Fiji.

“People are starting to raise issues affecting their daily lives, which we see is a good sign.”

Prof Ghai said although the commission had set October 10 as the deadline for submissions, Fijians would have another opportunity to make their views, this time on the draft constitution prepared by the commission

He said the commission was required to ensure that all people of Fiji were able to participate in the process.

Meanwhile, the sovereignty of the people of Fiji can only be achieved if people come forward to make their voices heard to the Constitution Commission.

This is what the commission is hoping to achieve from public submissions on what to be included in the constitution.

Commission chairman, Prof Yash Ghai said they had received a wide range of issues.

He was also impressed to see people making submissions on the difficulties they faced in their daily lives.

“Some are even highly personal issues and they seek solutions to these problems in the new constitution,” he said.

Prof Ghai said they received submissions on medical care provided in Fiji while many raised questions concerning land.

“A lot of people make suggestions on the system of government,” he said.

He said while some people proposed on the development of this nation and the well-being of the children, some expressed their views on laws that would safeguard the present and future generation of Fiji.

Prof Ghai said he received confirmation that government officials including the Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama would make their submissions soon.

He said the Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Ioane Naivalurua was expected to make his submissions at the end of this month.

The commission, he said, had covered many places in Fiji except for some people in the outer islands.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS

17) Tonga Launches New Social Benefits Scheme For Elderly
Government to provide monthly stipend to aged

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept.21, 2012) – Tonga’s Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano today in launching the government’s new Social Benefits Scheme for the Elderly, handed out the first envelope containing $65 pa’anga (US$37.25) to be paid out monthly to each person who is over 75-years old in Tonga.

The Social Benefits Scheme for the elderly was first announced by the Ministry of Finance in June at a cost of around $1.6 million a year, based on monthly stipend of about $65 for 2082 eligible recipients (2006 census). The estimated cost is likely to go higher as the target age group is identified, and will be financed within the approved budget for 2012-13, according to a statement from the ministry.

The Minister of Finance and National Planning Hon. Lisiate ‘Akolo said this fund was taken from the Ministry of Finance budget as part of the government’s aim to to help its elderly people.

“It is true that Tonga is facing economic difficulties but this is an economy of love for our elderly,” he said.

Lord Tu’ivakano stressed the importance of caring for the elderly who had made important contributions to Tonga in the past. “This scheme was approved by Cabinet and we put it to the National Retirement Benefits Fund to carry out the administration work,” he said.

He said the NRBF which started in July had collected $1.1 million from its members in addition to a separate Retirement Fund for civil servants. “These are important bodies that will help secure the social welfare of our people and strengthen the development of our economy,” he said.

Dr Sione Leimoni Taufu’i the CEO of the National Retirement Benefits Fund, said the hand out today was made to 285 elderly people in the Kolofo’ou and Kolomotu’a area. The process will continue in other districts throughout Tongatapu and the outer islands and should be completed by the end of October.

He said they had from the 2011 Census 2,516 elderly people in this age group, and 1,706 had registered with them. “But we expect this number to grow.”

He said they had set up an identification process, in which the recipients when signing and receiving their money today, were photographed and issued IDs to open their bank accounts. “This will enable us to put in the next monthly payments straight to their accounts,” he said.

“This is a great initiative for our elderly people because government, private businesses and churches are coming together, as some businesses have offered discounts for elderly people if they come in with their ID to do shopping,” he said.

The first recipient to receive her envelope of cash from the Prime Minister, was 75-year-old ‘Ili’ili ‘Ahokava of Vaololoa who told Matangi Tonga, that she was very happy with this initiative to help the elderly.

“The first thing I will do is give my money to my church offerings on Sunday but I will go and get an ice-cream first,” she said.

The elderly people of Kolofo’ou and Kolomotu’a today expressed their delight in meeting old friends, during a special occasion to launch the Benefits Scheme for the elderly. Matangi Tonga Magazine:www.matangitonga.to/home/

18) Miss Samoa New Zealand crowned, Solomons bid to host Miss South Pacific in 2013

By Online Editor
4:40 pm GMT+12, 24/09/2012, New Zealand

 It was a tough competition but on Saturday night in front of an expectant crowd Penina Maree Peau came away with the title of Miss Samoa New Zealand.

Held at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre in South Auckland, 20-year-old Peau wowed her home crowd with her singing, dancing and interview skills.

Te’eva Matafai, pageant director, said the Miss Samoa NZ pageant was unlike other pageant. It was not only about crowning the most beautiful candidate but it aimed to preserve, recognise and endorse the Samoan culture and its fundamental values.

“The pageant is about empowering women and using it as a platform for young women to embrace their culture.”

Peau would now compete in next years Miss Samoa World competition.

Six finalists battled it out in different categories including talent, interview, sarong and evening wear.

“It helps them learn about who they are as Samoan women,” Matafai said.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Solbrew Miss Solomons Beauty and Charity Pageant  Organising Committee has revealed that it is planning to bid for Solomon Islands to host the Miss South Pacific Beauty Pageant next year.

This was revealed by the chairman of the Solbrew Miss Solomons Beauty and Charity Pageant 2012, Tony Koraua, who is also chairman of Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and country manager Daltron Solomon Islands.

Koraua also revealed that his committee has already started to discuss the idea and would formally raise the proposal with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism through the Solomon Islands Visitor’s Bureau.

“We will work closely with the Ministry and the Visitors Bureau on this proposal because it is important that the Government is in the know and is in support of our intention to bid in November’s Miss South Pacific Pageant in American Samoa,” Koraua said.

He added that whatever efforts and resources we contribute in support to host such an important regional event next year would be short term sacrifices in order to gain long term benefits in terms of promoting Solomon Islands as a potential business and tourism destination.

SOURCE: FAIRFAX NZ/ SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS

19) Tuvalu deregister Iranian controlled ships

By Online Editor
4:47 pm GMT+12, 24/09/2012, TuvaluTwenty-nine vessels controlled by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) or its front companies have had to haul down the flag of the tiny polynesian island nation of Tuvalu.

In a statement, Uale Sinapati, the Registrar of Ships, said that during the time of registration, the Tuvalu Ship Registry understood that NITC and their vessels were not sanctioned by the UN, nor the US and had agreed to register NITC’s tankers on condition that all the vessels maintained their class and statutory certification with IACS members and be fully compliant with IMO conventions.

However, NITC and their vessels were included in the US OFAC list on 12July this year and the Tuvalu Ship Registry shortly after received official instruction from the Tuvalu Government to de-flag NITC’s vessels.

A statement was issued Friday which formally declared that the de-registration process was complete.

“Today, the registry said there is now “not a single NITC vessel or Iranian-linked vessel registered under the Tuvalu flag” and that “any persons and/or organizations that are presented with vessel documents issued by Tuvalu belonging to any of the NITC vessels listed [below] are advised to exercise vigilance and caution and reject the acceptance of these registry certificates as the registration of the vessels are officially closed and as such the certificates are no longer valid and should not be used for any purpose.”.

SOURCE: MARINE LOG/PACNEWS

20) Islam group opens first mosque in the Marshall Islands

By Online Editor
1:25 pm GMT+12, 24/09/2012, Marshall Islands History was made in Majuro Friday with the official opening of a newly built mosque for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Located in the downtown section of the capital, directly across the street from the courthouse, the new mosque was blessed and then people enjoyed food as part of the celebration.

The opening included reading from the Holy Quran and translations into Marshallese language.

Falah Shams, the national president of the Ahmadiyya, spoke and also led the group in prayer, and recently arrived Imam Matiullah Joyia read from the Quran. The recitation of the Quran and Shams’ speech were translated to Marshallese by Billa Typhoon and Sannia Nena.

Both Shams and Joyia emphasized the message that the Ahmadiyya, from its founding in 1889, has explicitly rejected “jihad by the sword.” Instead, said Shams, the Ahmadiyya have promoted an “intellectual jihad of the pen to defend Islam.”

“Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the leading Islamic organization to categorically reject terrorism in any form,” Shams said.

Rongelap Mayor James Matayoshi also spoke, recognizing the religious group as one that “rejects violence.” He offered a “warm welcome” and thanked both the Ahmadiyya and its sister organization Humanity First that has worked with both Rongelap and Enewetak local governments to establish computer centers and operate computer trainings for local residents.

SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS

21) Palau Sells Extra Fishing Day To PNG
Government receives $750,000 payment

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Sept. 21, 2012) – The Office of the President disclosed that Papua New Guinea yesterday deposited $750,000 into Palau Government’s account as payment of fishing days sold to them.

Parties to the Nauru Agreement, including Palau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Federated States of Micronesia, operates a Vessel Day Scheme for foreign purse seine vessels where a total number of days for fishing are set for the PNA area.

The total number of days is then divided among PNA. But Palau is not using up its fishing days and sells these days instead to PNG.

The new funds received will reportedly be distributed using the new formula to divide fishing revenues.

The new formula for the division of fishing revenues is as follows: 15 percent goes to the national government; 55 percent will be equally divided among states; and 30 percent will be divided among states according to population of each state as stated in the most recent national government census.

Island Times: www.islandtimes.us

22) Nearly 100 Asylum Seekers Shipped To Nauru
96 held in temporary tent camp

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 21, 2012) – There are now 96 asylum seekers on Nauru after a third group of 30 was flown in this morning.

The men are from the Australian detention camp on Christmas Island and have been moved to Nauru under Canberra’s re-activated policy to deal with people seeking refugee status offshore.

All are being housed at the Topside camp in tented accommodation.

The Nauru Government said earlier this week that before women and children are moved to the camp, more comfortable permanent facilities need to be built.

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

23) PNG : Les îles Carteret se vident…

Mis à jour 24 September 2012, 9:10 AEST

Pierre Riant

… Au fur et à mesure que l’eau de mer envahit les nappes d’eau douce de ce groupe d’îles de Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée.

Carterets islands from space

Vue des petits atolls de Carteret depuis l’espace. [NASA Johnson Space Center]

Ces petites îles basses à environ 80 kilomètres au nord de Bougainville abritent ou abritaient une population d’environ 2 500 personnes. Elles ont attiré l’attention en 2009 quand 5 familles, plus de 50 personnes, ont déménagé pour s’installer à Bougainville pour être ensuite qualifiées de premiers réfugiés du réchauffement climatique du monde.

7 nouvelles familles ont aussi quitté les îles Carteret la semaine dernière pour s’installer près de la petite ville de Tinputz sur un terrain donnée par l’Église catholique.

Ursula Rakova est la directrice de l’Association communautaire Tulele Peisa. Elle a répondu à nos questions et nous lui a tout d’abord décrit la situation sur ces îles en forme de fer à cheval.

RAKOVA : « La situation est ainsi, nous ne sommes plus en mesure de faire des cultures vivrières dans l’île où la terre n’est plus cultivable. Il y a donc de moins en moins de cultures vivrières. Tout diminue et on ne peut plus faire pousser de nourriture. »

Pas facile de quitter son île, on y laisse un peu de son identité.  Ursula Rakova approuve.

RAKOVA : « Les gens sont nés sur cette île, ils ont grandi sur cette île et ils y sont attachés. Culturellement, ils sont connectés à cette île. Et quitter l’île, c’est détruire le tissu de la vie culturelle de cette île. De toutes les façons, il faut qu’ils déménagent puisqu’ils ne peuvent pas continuer à vivre sur cette île où la mer gagne du terrain sur leur vie. »

7 familles soit 87 personnes ont donc déménagé pour s’installer dans la petite ville de Tinputz. Est-ce que ces familles ont une terre ?

RAKOVA : « La terre que nous avons ici représente un total de 71 hectares donnés par l’Église catholique, c’est l’Église qui a le titre foncier. Nous avons commencé à nous installer ici en 2009 et nous avons attribué à chaque famille un hectare pour les cultures vivrières. Ils ont donc jeté les bases d’une économie avec des jardins. Le changement est qu’ils travaillent beaucoup dans ces jardins vivriers et vont moins pêcher. »

Le temps de construire quelques maisons supplémentaires et trois autres familles des Carteret seront bientôt accueillies à Tinputz. Et l’Église catholique a déjà prévu l’octroi d’un nouveau terrain quand les 71 hectares seront entièrement occupés.

Est-ce que toutes les îles Carteret seront un jour inhabitables ? La réponse d’Ursula Rakova.

RAKOVA : « Oui, définitivement. J’ai vu des études scientifiques montrant que les îles seront totalement inhabitées d’ici 2045 parce qu’il n’y aura plus du tout de cultures vivrières mais que du sable et peut-être quelques cocotiers. Mais les gens ne seront plus en mesure d’assurer leur survie. D’ici 2045.  »

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