Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 679

1) Professor: PNG boasts 1100 different languages

By Online Editor
2:47 pm GMT+12, 13/11/2012, Papua New GuineaThere are more than 1100 different and distinct languages in Papua New Guinea being spoken by the 7.5 million Papua New Guineans.

This was revealed by Philosopher, Professor John Waiko, at the National Symposium on Culture and Arts in Development in Port Moresby last week.

He stated that this is according to a book titled ‘Papuan Pasts,’ following studies carried out by Australian Anthropologists who gathered information to write the book.

“In 1999, studies found that PNG had over 800 different languages but as time passes and population increases, the number of languages continue to increase.

However, Prof Waiko also pointed out that native Papua New Guineans have been living here for over 70,000 years ago and not 50,000 years as suggested.

“Our people were here before the Europeans arrived on PNG shores in 1527.

“For instance, the Kuk Heritage in the Western Highlands Province showed that people have been living there for over 50,000 years ago and also the Goilalas lived 49,000 years ago in the highlands of Papua,” Prof Waiko said.

Meanwhile, he also stated that ‘O Arise All You Sons’ is a disgrace and is not PNGs National Anthem but a National Song.

“A National Anthem is a country’s national identity but our so-called National Anthems lyrics and the tone of it is not suitable for a National Anthem.

The three-day Symposium last week focused on recognising the importance of culture and the arts in nation building and how this may be developed and promoted.

It was also focused on issues such as National Identity, the use of Arts and Culture as Economic Resources, the use of local language in education system, the Wantok System as an impediment to organizational success, Copyrights, and reciprocity as important for survival for PNG groups.


2)PNG Police Make Major Drug Bust In Port Moresby
$8 million worth of ‘ice’ seized in raid

By Todagia Kelola

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 12, 2012) – Port Moresby police have busted what they believe to be one of Papua New Guinea’s biggest drug busts involving 50 kilograms of methyl amphetamine, commonly known as “Ice” or “Speed” with a street value of $US8 million, which is equivalent to K15 million.

The drug bust, said to be the biggest in PNG, unearths what police believe is the work of a syndicate run by a well organised criminal network operating across the world and the Asia-Pacific region.

Police say the perpetrators were going to use PNG as a supply point for other international markets including Australia and New Zealand.

Two Asian nationals and a Papua New Guinean were arrested and charged for attempting to smuggle the K15 million worth of drugs into the country.

The operation which involved PNG Police, PNG Customs and Australian Federal Police in collaboration with police in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, literally provided a shield for the Pacific by intercepting the huge consignment of illicit drugs.

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Simon Kauba in revealing this bust yesterday said: “This successful operation also goes to show the effective intelligence network between the Royal PNG Constabulary and the Australian Federal Police who are allies and members of the Pacific Transnational Crime network.

“The contraband which originated from the Netherlands in Europe was neatly packed into the metal frames of two welding machines consigned as cargo bound for PNG when they were detected in the United Kingdom.

“Detectives in the UK removed the drugs, replaced it with soap powder and inserted a tracking device to allow what we call in police terminology – a controlled delivery.”

They kept surveillance on the cargo and used the existing international law enforcement network to inform the Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police and members of the Transnational Crime Unit and PNG Customs.

They followed the illicit cargo to New Zealand and Australia before it was delivered to Port Moresby two weeks ago on October 24. Australian Federal Police, members of PNG Transnational Crime Unit and Customs kept surveillance on the illicit cargo until it was delivered to a house at Nonu Street in Boroko.

After obtaining a search warrant, the law enforcement officers entered the premises unnoticed on Friday night on November 2.

The officers waited until dawn and arrested two Malaysian men and Papua New Guinean who went to collect the drugs at the Boroko residence.

The suspects were identified as Siew Sin NG, aged 39, of Malaysia who is employed as general manager of Econ Trading based in Port Moresby; Desranto Supranto, 42, of Jakarta, Indonesia, employed as manager with Papamal Enterprise in Port Moresby, and Kendal Gegera, 42 of Ewora village, Ioma, Oro Province employed as director of Yema Gaiapa Developers Limited.

The three suspects were formally arrested and charged with conspiracy to import 50 kilograms of methyl amphetamine into the country, contrary to section 515 (a) and (b) of the PNG Criminal Code Act. The interception of this large amount of illicit drugs believed to have been orchestrated by an international crime network indicates that PNG is vulnerable to cross-border criminal exploitation.

PNG Post-Courier:

3)Gillard thanks PNG for asylum centre

By Online Editor
09:23 am GMT+12, 13/11/2012, Papua New GuineaAustralia has acknowledged Papua New Guinea’s efforts to combat people smuggling and human trafficking.

Speaking during a bilateral meeting on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard thanked Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for PNG’s assistance to process boat people through the establishment of the Manus Asylum Seekers’ Processing Centre.

The two leaders met to discuss various matters including the progress on the Manus Island Refugee Processing Centre, the progress of Mr O’Neill’s new government, and an update on the 22 Women’s Reserved Seats Bill.

O’Neill told his Australian counterpart that the outcome of a recent visit to Manus by the Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish and the Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin was outstanding.

He said after the centre was shut down, the facilities had deteriorated due to a lack of maintenance and upkeep of services because of a lack of funds.

However, this is about to change with commitment from both the Australian and PNG governments to rehabilitate the centre.

“Under the joint support of both our governments, infrastructure such as roads and hospitals among others, can be upgraded or rebuilt, where necessary,” O’Neill said.

He assured Gillard of this country’s readiness to support Australia.

“We are pleased to assist Australia and we stand ready to support you wherever necessary.

“With our ever-robust and cordial relations, PNG looks forward to further strengthening and enhancing its ties with Australia,” he said.

On how his Government has fared since being re-elected to office, Mr O’Neill said political stability was now very evident, with 94 members in the Government.

O’Neill said there were ongoing positive political and legislative reforms that his Government would be undertaking and he advised Ms Gillard about the handing down of the 2013 annual budget next week.

On the 22 Women’s Reserved Seats Bill, O’Neill assured Gillard that despite the lack of support from MPs to pass the Bill, his Government strongly believes in empowering women to be equal participants in nation building.

O’Neill also accepted an invitation to visit Canberra, later this month, to address the Press Club on PNG’s political reforms, investment focus and an aim to change international media perception of PNG.


4)Solomon Airlines, Air Vanuatu Establish Codeshare Agreement
Partnership extends SolAir’s reach into the region

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Times, Nov. 6, 2012) – A new partnership with Air Vanuatu has opened up the way for Solomon Islands national carrier Solomon Airlines to fly further into the region.

Under the new partnership Solomon Airlines will codeshare with Air Vanuatu on its flights from Honiara to Port Vila and onto Nadi.

The airline’s General Manager Operations and Commercial Gus Kraus, says it’s a taste of things to come as the airline looks to expand its services.

“We are excited that we will be flying to Vanuatu and onto Fiji and back under this new partnership.”

According to Kraus the new code sharing arrangement is an important milestone and one that comes as the airline prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary with the purchase of its own dash 8 aircraft and the opening of its new office complex on Wednesday 14 November.

Solomon Airlines is partnering with Air Vanuatu on the Fiji route, after Air Pacific recently ended its code share arrangement with Air Vanuatu.

Kraus says collaboration between airlines in the region is vital to ensuring that customers get the best service available and at the same time allow airlines to continue to operate.

Solomon Airlines has also been holding ongoing negotiations with Air Niugini to codeshare on a Honiara to Port Moresby service.

With Solomon Islands’ traditional ties to Papua New Guinea, Kraus says its only natural that the two national airlines should collaborate in the best interest of their customers.

“On their twice a week service we want 15 out of the 104 seats.”

Talks have been ongoing for a number of years with Air Niugini citing the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission as the main obstacle to a code sharing agreement for the Honiara to Port Moresby service.

“For whatever reasons, Air Niugini has implied that the ICCC is an issue for them but certainly with our Melanesian brotherhood I don’t see this as a major obstacle.”

Solomon Airlines partnership with Air Vanuatu comes as the national carrier prepares to mark its 50th anniversary on Wednesday 14 November with the arrival of its new $40million dash 8 aircraft.

The plane was purchased from Greek airline Olympic Airways and is scheduled to begin flying domestic services by the end of next week.

The dash 8 has been described as Solomon Airlines’ and the aviation industry’s biggest investment in history.

The 36-seater will arrive in the country at midday on Wednesday.

As part of its 50th anniversary, the airline will also open its new head office at the Henderson Airport cargo terminal.

The new office complex will house the airline’s staff in a single centralized location.

Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo will be the chief guest at the opening of the office complex and the arrival of the dash 8.

Solomon Times

5)MSF wants expansion of domestic violence medical centres across PNG

Posted at 17:28 on 12 November, 2012 UTC

The international medical NGO, Medecins Sans Frontiere, wants to expand the family support centres it provides in Papua New Guinea for the victims of domestic violence.

The organisation’s international president, Dr Unni Karunakara, is in PNG where he’s visited their two centres, in Tari in the Highlands and Lae in Morobe.

The support centres provide medical care and psychological help and Dr Karunakara says they are called on to perform dozens of surgeries and see more than 60 victims of rape each month.

He says they are providing a service that is not otherwise available in PNG and he will meet with the government later this week to call for it to be spread across the country.

“They have a draft guideline for establishing family support centres. We would like them to publish that and then roll out these services in all of the provincial and district hospitals in the country. But going beyond that, I think may of the affect people in the country live in rural areas so it is also important that these services are available in the villages.”

Radio New Zealand International

6) Army wrapping up decade-long Solomon Islands stint

By Online Editor
09:27 am GMT+12, 13/11/2012, Solomon IslandsOne of the last contingents of Australian reservists on Solomon Islands is coming home next month after a decade-long assistance mission that’s been deemed a huge success.

The Australian army and police presence has overseen a Pacific nation which was gripped by violence transition to a stable, working democracy.

Ten years ago Australian soldiers patrolled the dangerous streets of Honiara fully armed but the environment now could not be more different.

“It’s great, it’s a real indication of how successful the overall mission has been – as I said, the police force are doing better and better,” said Captain John Hawke.

“The machinery of government is maturing, they’ve probably got a way to go. I’m proud of where they’ve got to.”

Australian troops and police arrived here in 2003 as part of the regional assistance mission and the bond between them and the locals is obvious.

As the security situation has improved, the army has gradually reduced its presence.

There are now fewer than 100 army personnel on the islands. The vast majority are reservists and most are from Western Australia

This is the second to last rotation of reservists before the army withdraws from Solomon Islands next year. It has many residents worried and the reservists too have mixed feelings.

“It is hard but you almost get attached here, to the children and the people because they’re such lovely people,” said Corporal Katie Seabrook.

Like many of the other reservists Captain John Hawke has a civilian job and family waiting for him at home.

“I get to talk to them every night. My wife is doing a fantastic job,” he said.

“I’ll be looking forward to having him home definitely but I’ll be looking to the boys being able to play with their dad, he’s going to enjoy it,” said his wife Simone Hawke.

This group of reservists returns home in December and there is no doubt the countdown to going home has begun.


7) New Vanuatu parliament to elect PM on Monday

By Online Editor
2:53 pm GMT+12, 13/11/2012, VanuatuThe office of clerk of parliament in Vanuatu has confirmed that the new parliament will meet on Monday to elect a new speaker and a prime minister.

The 52 elected members of parliament will first elect the speaker who will then conduct the election of the prime minister.

After the election, the new prime minister will appoint his 13 ministers.

With less than a week to go, two rival groups – one led by Sato Kilman, the other by Edward Natapei – claim to have majority support.

Radio New Zealand International correspondent said with 17 political parties winning seats the country is likely to face more instability than during the last parliament.

Once elected, the new prime minister will benefit from a one-year grace period during which no motion of no confidence can be lodged.


8)Vanuatu Province Reserves Council Seats For Women 
Shefa province leads the way with 25% plan for next election

By Len Garae

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 13, 2012) – Shefa Province looks set to lead the way yet again and this time in the forthcoming Provincial Elections on January 8, with its mandate to reserve 25% of its seats on its 18-seat Council for women candidates.

The Council has reserved 25% of its seats for women and its mandate is to encourage women to contest in the forthcoming elections to fill those seats.

Shefa first tried the initiative in its 2004 elections but it did not work out. It tried again in 2008 and again it did not work.

The current Council led by no-nonsense President Lami Sope has made it its mandate to make sure women leaders are elected to the Council in the forthcoming polls.

Shefa Secretary General Michel Kalworai says his Administration has been active during its current term to promote women in Shefa in political and economic sectors.

“This is in line with CEDAW Article 7 which calls for women to actively participate in public places in Parliament and on the Provincial Council, and Article 14 which empowers women to take part in the economic development of the country”, the SG says.

One of the incentives to build up the women is to encourage them to manage their Road Markets throughout Shefa Province. “The women of Shefa Province are now recognised as a powerful economic force in the unofficial economic sector and even the UN is sitting up to acknowledge their contributions towards the economic wellbeing of their communities,” Kalworai says.

Even the Reserve Bank’s Department of Statistics is also interested in the economic data from the women’s markets for inclusion in its economic bulletins.

Already Kalworai says his Office is talking to the women’s associations to consider selecting their candidates for the Provincial Election on January 8.

“So far Epi, Tongoa, North Efate Offshore Islands, Nguna-Pele, Mele and Ifira have already indicated their interests to select a woman candidate each to contest. Now it is up to them to negotiate with existing political parties but at administration level, we will support the mandate to provide an environment conducive towards the recognition that they deserve,” Kalworai says.

Shefa Province is going to the polls on January 8 along with Tafea, Malampa and Penama Provincial Councils.

Vanuatu Daily Post:

9)One-day strike at emergency ward of New Caledonia’s main hospital

Posted at 05:32 on 13 November, 2012 UTC

There has been a one-day strike at the emergency ward of New Caledonia’s main hospital in protest at the lack of resources.

Noumea’s daily newspaper says the staff decided to go public after complaints to management and government had gone unheard for half a year.

They say there are inadequate facilities, making it necessary to treat patients in corridors which they say lowers the quality and dignity of the care.

The staff also deplore the inadequacy of the ambulance service, which they say forces caregivers to go to the patients.

There is also a call to hire more doctors and a guard to improve hospital safety.

The hospital’s leadership has acknowledged a staff shortage while the government has said structural changes are being planned to address emergency care in the region.

Radio New Zealand International

10)Reform Of Fiji Civil Service Top Priority: Bainimarama
Better service delivery requires ‘change of culture’

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Nov. 13, 2012) – There is still too much red tape, buck-passing, incompetence, slackness and corruption in the country’s civil service.

And the government is working to change the culture of the civil service so that it responds better to the needs of Fijians.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama during the opening of the Government Service Centre in Nausori yesterday.

Commodore Bainimarama said he regarded the delivery of basic services to all Fijians as government’s main priority.

“I want government to keep its promises to the people to deliver, not just pay lip-service to the idea, which is what we all know happened in the past,” he said.

He said it was not good enough to make speeches in Suva.

“I have made it my mission to get out into the country, to meet ordinary people, understand their concerns and do what I can to address their needs.”

Commodore Bainimarama said the launching of the first GSC brought the government closer to the people.

“This one in Nausori is for residents of the Central Division. Later in the week, I’ll be opening another one in Lautoka for the Western Division.

“The third is in Labasa for the Northern Division and should be operational by the first week of December.”

“The GSC means what it says service. We are serving the people, the taxpayers and their dependents who deserve much higher standards of attention, efficiency, courtesy and respect,” the Prime Minister said.

He said these centres would provide a single point -a one-stop shop- for at least 20 separate government agencies.

“We have reviewed and re-engineered the functions, systems and processes of the various ministries. We have embraced the use of information technology to transform the operations of government,” he said.

The Prime Minister appealed to those who will resource these GSCs to set a new standard of service to show Fijians that government really cared.

“Let’s start showing the same level of consideration in government for all Fijians,” Commodore Bainimarama said.

He said this was part of government’s vision for a new Fiji, to make life easier for every Fijian dealing with government departments and agencies.

Fiji Times Online:

11)Fiji Asylum Seekers In Australia Stage Rooftop Protest
Concerns raised that men may jump

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 13, 2012) – Refugee advocates and lawyers have raised concerns about the safety of three Fijian nationals continuing their protest on the roof of the Villawood immigration detention centre in Sydney.

The asylum seekers climbed onto the roof yesterday.

They told the ABC they fear being deported back to Fiji after another Fijian was sent back last week.

History repeating

Lawyer George Newhouse, who acted on behalf of the family of 36-year-old Fijian national Josefa Rauluni, who jumped to his death at the centre in 2010, visited the protesters yesterday.

“I am very concerned. What we are seeing is a repeat of the death of Josefa Rauluni in 2010,” Mr Newhouse told ABC Radio Australia’s Phil Kafcaloudes.

“What you had then was a Fijian man who was being removed, who had been given quite late notice and there were no police negotiators called to the site, and I am very concerned about the safety of these people.”

Mattresses have been put around the building in case the asylum seekers decide to jump.

However, Mr Newhouse said that in the past protesters simply jumped over the mattresses to their death.

“Fear of torture”

On Monday, one of the protesters, Sai Bulewa, said he didn’t want to return to Fiji because of alleged abuse against homosexuals there.

“Our banner said fear of the torture, fear of the sexual abuse and another banner said we want to live without fear because of the gay rights, we have no rights in Fiji,” he said yesterday.

This morning, a spokesman for Australia’s Department of Immigration confirmed the three are still on the roof at Villawood.

He would not confirm the reason for their protest and said the department is currently working on the issue.

Radio Australia:

12)Researchers say Fiji government makes token effort at budget openness

By Online Editor
12:17 pm GMT+12, 13/11/2012, Fiji Researchers say Fiji’s government has made only a token effort this year at allowing public scrutiny of its budget documents.

Fiji has been taking part in the two yearly international Open Budget Survey which this year has measured about one hundred governments for transparency and accountability.

Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Fiji are the only Pacific countries taking part in the survey which looks at public access to eight key budget documents.

Albert Cerelala of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific says Fiji’s transparency score is poor and only a slight rise is expected as the administration is not publishing documents consistently and in a timely way.

“It’s not an issue of capacity. It really is to do with the political will of the Ministry and the government to say look we’re accountable, we can do this easily, there’s nothing to hide, in how we use and expend our public funds.”

Cerelala said the government wants to improve its ranking and has indicated it will publish quarterly and mid year reports.

He said the government should publish its draft budget estimate if it is serious about improving transparency.

The budget is due by the end of this month.

Cerelala said people in Fiji are not getting access to key documents in a timely and consistent way.

“The average citizen is denied a meaningful participation in the budgeting process. The processes that have been put in place are a form of tokenism, you invite citizens half way through the year when most of your budget policies have been set. What we’re saying is you’ve got to open up the processes much earlier.”

Cerelala said other critical reports like that of the Auditor General have not been published since 2005.


13)Tongan Companies End Insurance Case Without Payment
Receive no compensation for damage suffered in 2006 riots

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov. 12, 2012) – Four local companies who were suing their insurance company for cover over damage to their properties in the riots of 16 November 2006, ended their case today on the basis that no party paid costs. The plaintiffs were disappointed to pull out as the evidence in court about the riots favoured the defence position that the riots resulted from “a popular rising, people connected with an organisation the objects of which included influencing the government by violent means and terrorism.”

The plaintiffs decided to end the expensive legal battle after two-weeks of what was supposed to be a month long trial, at the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa, against the National Pacific Insurance (Tonga) Ltd. The plaintiffs, included the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Shoreline Group of Companies, Jones Group of Companies and Pacific Royale Hotel.

The decision to pull out was made after three key witnesses gave evidence for the plaintiffs last week. They included Tongatapu People’s Representatives ‘Akilisi Pohiva and ‘Isileli Pulu, and the Minister for Justice Hon. Clive Edwards.

The plaintiffs in a joint press statement today said, that they were convinced they had a just case against NPI. “But ultimately the evidence in court about the riots and the financial risks of continuing resulted in us deciding to end the case on the basis that no party paid costs. The settlement with NPI is not an admission of liability or of any wrongdoing by any party.”

“The case was always going to be hard and expensive. We fought the case against NPI for five years but the insurer was uncompromising in its refusal to pay the plaintiffs claims under the insurance policies. It is disappointing that we did not get a better response from NPI, which had conducted insurance business with the Tongan commercial sector for many years,” they stated.


“NPI refused to pay our claims for a variety of reasons, but in particular that the damage to our property in the rioting of 16 November 2006 was caused by civil commotion assuming the proportions of or amounting to a popular rising, people connected with an organisation the objects of which included influencing the government by violent means and terrorism.”

The plaintiffs understood that other insurance companies in Tonga had settled claims arising out of the riots.

They stated, “We are disappointed that a more positive outcome could not be achieved. But we are realistic about that and most of us no longer have an ongoing relationship with NPI as an insurer of choice.”


NPI in its statement expressed delight in confirming, that the plaintiffs in this Supreme Court proceeding had discontinued all court action against the insurance company, without payment from NPI.

“Whilst NPI remains very sympathetic to the plaintiffs for their losses in the events of 16/11 this result vindicates NPI’s decision that the losses were not covered by the policies.”

Mr Justice Charles Cato was formally informed this morning in court of the decision to end the proceeding, by counsel Andrew Hooker who appeared for the defendant NPI. The judge adjourned the hearing and ordered for the plaintiff to file a discontinuance notice with court.

All counsel involved in the case were from New Zealand. NPI was represented by Michael Ring QC, Phillip Rzepecky and Andrew Hooker while Daniel McLellan assisted by Bridgette White acted for the plaintiffs.

Matangi Tonga Magazine:

14)Cook Islands Looks To New Zealand To Solve Drug Shortage
Medical supplies usually purchased from Netherlands in short supply

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Nov. 12, 2012) – The Cook Islands health minister has asked for New Zealand’s help to improve the country’s stock of medical supplies.

The Minister of Health Nandi Glassie says he has recently told his New Zealand counterpart, Tony Ryall, about the shortages the country regularly experiences.

Cook Islands medical supplies drugs are ordered through the Netherlands and Mr Glassie asked Mr Ryall if New Zealand’s drug buying agency, Pharmac, could also supply the Cooks.

Mr Glassie told Parliament that the chairman of Pharmac has indicated the request would be given some consideration.

Radio New Zealand International:

15)PNG Kumuls avoid big guns

By Online Editor
12:35 pm GMT+12, 13/11/2012, Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea could be heading for a historic 2013 Rugby League World Cup semi-final in England next year.

The Kumuls have avoided the “pool of death” that they had been drawn in at the last World Cup.

They are pooled with world champions New Zealand, France and fellow Pacific Islanders, Samoa.

But as good as our chances of progressing past the pool stages now are, things could easily blow up with 349 days left before the opener against the French and still nothing set in stone on the make-up of the team, their management and a full administration ready to back them up.

All indications point to the country’s pride securing advancement into the second and third stages of qualification – something Papua New Guinea have not achieved yet.

With very strong probabilities of ending up second behind the Kiwis in the group, the Kumuls could end up playing possible group A third place-getters Fiji in the second stage.

Fiji are likely to beat Ireland for third place behind Australia and England in what is considered the 2013 “pool of death”.

Victory over Fiji at that stage will then see the Kumuls move into the third stage to play, most likely, New Zealand for a place in the final.
New Zealand’s vulnerable form of late against Australia will be there for the picking for PNG unless next season changes star playmaker Benji Marshall’s form.

While schedules are in place for the Kumuls campaign next year, with trial matches against the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Queensland Cup side Ipswich Jets in February, the opportunity to make history at the pinnacle of rugby league is on hold, waiting for a meeting to resolve political differences on November 24.

The Kumuls will kick their campaign off on October 27 against France at the MS3 Craven Park, Hull, followed by Samoa on Nov 4 and then New Zealand at the Headingly Carnegie Stadium, in Leeds, on Nov 8

16)IRB inaction could “kill” Pacific rugby

By Online Editor
12:40 pm GMT+12, 13/11/2012, New Zealand

The row over European rugby clubs offering incentives to Pacific players to stop them from representing their countries in test matches is escalating.

Fiji suffered a record defeat by England at Twickenham over the weekend after going into the game without several key players, all of whom are based in France.

The Fijian Rugby Union has lodged a formal complaint with their French counterparts and the International Rugby Board is being urged to take strong action.

Latest reports suggest the IRB is considering an amnesty for European clubs that have broken the rules, in exchange for a guarantee that their actions won’t be repeated, but the President of the Oceania Federation of Rugby Unions, Harry Schuster, says the offending clubs can’t be trusted.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Harry Schuster, President of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions

SCHUSTER: We rely on the laws being enforced across the board equally amongst all the IRB members, irrespective of whether you’re a big union or a small union and the rules are very clear, train at this window in November and June, players will be released to play for their country. It makes it extra difficult for us a small union to promote our best ranking, when our best players are not available when we want them to be available.

EWART: There is a suggestion that’s emanating from the British media at the moment that there maybe an amnesty granted to the clubs that have been doing this sort of thing and offering players incentives not to play for their countries in test matches. If that were to come to fruition, if that amnesty were to be offered, what would be the Pacific’s view of that?

SCHUSTER: Effectively it would kill us, because it means there is no rule that we can rely on which will make the player available to us.

EWART: Even if the amnesty was offered in return for a cast iron guarantee that the guilty clubs didn’t repeat what they’ve done in the past?

SCHUSTER: There’s less guarantee that it won’t happen again in the future. But what I would question is why is the expectation of this arrangement now that the clubs will live by this arrangement in the future. It’s not as if this thing has occurred irregularly. It’s something that’s been happening over the past years.

EWART: Do you think basically that the International Rugby Board, the IRB, is just to weak on this issue, that it’s being pushed around by the stronger nations?

SCHUSTER: Well, the law is very clear, it’s not quite an issue of being weak or anything like that. There is the player to consider as well. We can’t clearly say it’s the club that’s pushing it or the player, because if the players got payments to be made, and he gets more money playing for a club rather than playing an international side, that’s one area where we don’t really know whether its the player or the club that’s holding the player back. But one thing that is clear that the rule says that during the test when those players should be made available so the international teams have their best players playing for them in the ranking test match. And if that’s not the scenario, then we have a case where our ranking is affected by our best players not being available as we would like.

EWART: If you compare what is happening in the world of international rugby with what happens in the world of international football. I mean a similar rule exists under FIFA and to the best of my knowledge, the clubs stick to it pretty rigidly, be it Real Madrid, Manchester United or a smaller club from somewhere else around the world. So if FIFA can make the rule work, why do you think the IRB can’t?

SCHUSTER: Well, part of our position on that is that the FIFA cycle is very well set. The world competitions are very well planned, which doesn’t really give right to the problem we’ve got which is different cycles, different seasons and we end up wanting our players for the windows that we’re in, but they definitely played in a competition in which a professional club is paying for them. I understand what you mean about the FIFA rules are strictly enforced. Now I’m not quite sure why the IRB rules are enforcing a similar manner.

EWART: Whether or not the IRB ultimately decides to offer an amnesty to the guilty clubs. Do you think if they do offer an amnesty, it should be accompanied by the threat of very strict sanctions for those clubs who breach the rules in the future?

SCHUSTER: They naturally stick to the case, so they should pay a heavy fine. It’s also quite a complex situation, because they come to the Pacific, because it’s pretty easy getting players from us, as opposed to go to more expensive union. But at the same time, they should respect the existing laws that are at during the windows, we should be allowed to have our players.

EWART: It does seem a little ironic that at a time when finally the Pacific nations appear to be getting more matches against the leading nations, that what is happening is you’re being offered the fixtures, but certainly in the case of Fiji over the weekend against England, they can’t put out their best side?

SCHUSTER: That’s true, and also Richard as you note, that Argentina has joined the Southern Hemisphere Competition and most of their players used to play in Europe. That’s where the European clubs are getting their players from. The question now is where are they going to get the players to fill that vacuum? It looks like it’s going to come from us and it looks like we’re going to be the ones that suffer still.

EWART: There are reports from New Zealand that players in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are discussing the possibility of forming a Pacific-based Players Union. I presume if that is the case, that shows that the players are obviously increasingly angry about what is happening?

SCHUSTER: There’s been talk of the Pacific Islands forming a Players Union and Rob Nicholls, in New Zealand, has been instrumental on that and it’s a good development.

EWART: Would it help do you think to try and solve this problem of players largely being exploited by European clubs?

SCHUSTER: Well at the end of the day, when it comes to signing a contract, it’s only an individual player that signs on his behalf, so the clubs will still have the upperhand.

EWART: So does that mean you’re not optimistic about this matter being sorted out and a more even playing field being created?

SCHUSTER: It’s a big problem that we have very little control of, because we’re a small union and being a small union, we don’t have money to spend on suing some unions to enforce the law.


17)Players seek Pacific pact

By Online Editor
1:01 pm GMT+12, 12/11/2012, New Zealand

A Pacific Islands Rugby Players’ Association could be formed following allegations by ex-All Black Simon Mannix that his former club Racing Metro paid Fijian players to rest during last year’s World Cup.

The International Rugby Board appears to have had little control or influence over such matters, despite wielding their 25-page Regulation 9 which outlines the supposed mandatory procedure for releasing players during June and November test windows and the World Cup.

The reality is, money talks and players are unlikely to quibble with employers in the interests of maintaining a livelihood for their families.

A loophole in Regulation 9 means clubs don’t have to pay players when they’re released for international duty. They can also ensure their ‘loyalty’ by offering financial sweeteners for availability.

Pacific Island unions want players to get European contracts for their rugby development and financial security so they are signed regardless. The flipside can be a lack of availability or, at worst, uncapped players switch allegiance to another country because more money is on offer at wealthier unions.

Fijian captain and former Chiefs prop Deacon Manu is part of a core of Pacific Island players looking to instigate change with help from the likes of the New Zealand and Wales Rugby Players Associations.

Manu, with Samoa’s Mahonri Schwalger and Tonga’s Hale T-Pole, is leading an action group so smaller rugby nations get a bigger say on the international stage and players feel more inclined to speak up about their welfare.

As yet it’s no Arab Spring – it might better be coined “Pacific Autumn” in the Northern Hemisphere – but Manu says they’re making progress.

“Between the three of us we’re lucky to have contacts in Wales and New Zealand who are willing to help us, despite our limited resources, because we don’t usually get a voice. This movement is vital for our sustainability. We want to look back in 5-10 years knowing we made a difference.

Schwalger is no stranger to controversy. As captain he criticised the Samoan management post-World Cup for their conduct during the tournament. They might also find allies in Samoan midfield back Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and the new chairman of the Tongan union – and recently retired player – Epi Taione.

Fuimaono-Sapolu earned the rugby world’s attention with a series of acerbic tweets during the World Cup, notably when he compared Samoa’s treatment to slavery, the Holocaust and apartheid when they were scheduled to play twice in four days while Wales had a week off.

Taione, 33, might be sympathetic to the cause and ideals of a players’ union. As a player he briefly led an existence as Paddy Power – the name of an Irish betting firm – after changing his name by deed poll at the 2007 World Cup to get team sponsorship. To make ends meet he also had a cameo in Invictus, the film about South Africa’s 1995 World Cup win.

Manu now plays club rugby in Wales for the Llanelli Scarlets and has no problem getting clearance for internationals in his contract. On Sunday, he led Fiji in front of an 82,000 sellout crowd at Twickenham.

“Guys have got to make a living and provide for their families so unless they are playing for a tier one nation it becomes a tough decision. Any country wants people who are willing to play regardless of such interventions but when some players have to pay for their own flights to get here it becomes tricky.

“I’m lucky, Llanelli have been more than supportive. They understand the importance and pride of playing for your country but it’s not always easy. Being hosted by tier one countries is fantastic, that’s the way forward, but further investigations need to be made by the IRB into what some of these clubs are doing. A strong message needs to be sent so international rugby has the best players available for the welfare of the game. I don’t want to threaten other clubs, I understand their predicament, but we need a better deal.

“Rugby tends to be controlled by about half a dozen countries, but that will become difficult to sustain if the game goes global, especially with sevens being introduced to the Olympics. They could be faced with some sort of revolution if the status quo remains.”.


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