Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 807

1) Lawyer says Indonesian crackdown won’t stop Papua self determination quest

Posted at 07:21 on 14 February, 2013 UTC

The international human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson says says West Papuan calls for self-determination cannot be quelled by crackdowns on basic freedoms.

Ms Robinson visited New Zealand and Australia this week as part of a global campaign by West Papuan activist Benny Wenda for self-determination for the indigenous people of Indonesia’s Papua region.

She claims that there is increasing international awareness of events in Papua despite an effective ban on foreign media in the region.

Ms Robinson says there are also signs of an ongoing crackdown on civil society operations in Papua.

“But unfortunately for Indonesia, it’s counter-productive for them to cut off information. They continue to assert that these allegations of human rights violations are exaggerated or overstated. If that’s the case, then let international organisations and journalists verify the fact, that can only improve the situation.”

Jennifer Robinson

Radio New Zealand International

2)PNG may lose plant patents
By Online Editor
12:58 pm GMT+12, 13/02/2013, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea has already lost some rights to its plant genetic resources (PGRs) that have been patented by third parties outside the country.

Douveri Henao, a lawyer and executive director of PNG Business Council, said this when making his formal presentations on how PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu can best develop protocols and procedures for safe exchange of PGRs and material transfer agreement (MTA) between the three countries

Solomon Islands’ director for agriculture Jimi Saelea also pointed out that the problem may not be confined to PNG alone because someone from a participating country tried to register a patent for Galip Nut oil, from a nut tree found in PNG and the Solomon Islands.

Henao said patents have already been registered outside of the country and is open for commercial exploitation at the expense of PNG, which is the country of origin of the genetic materials.

Director of National Agriculture Institute (NARI) Dr Raghunath Ghodake also pointed out that NARI had submitted two National Executive Council (NEC) submissions regarding signing of the International Treaty on Biodiversity to the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) but these papers are yet to be deliberated on.

Dr Ghodake said he and Dr Rosa Kambuou were involved in preparing the NEC submission for approval and for the paper to be deposited with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and PNG can access the benefits that the Treaty provides.

He said if PNG does not act quickly to protect its plant genetic resources and findings and researches of its scientists, it will lose out on the benefits that could and will be derived.

Henao added that despite PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu not being part of the international treaty, they can still develop a framework to ratify not being part of the treaty so that they can push their agendas for the development of food species in the Western Pacific region.

Dr Ghodake said bananas and sugarcane are two food crops that PNG has some distinct species and their genetic resources and others local to PNG are in danger of being exploited.

The NARI researches could not really pinpoint what is actually happening with their submissions to the NEC but are optimistic that it can reach parliament and be enacted so PNG PGRs are protected and can be patented to benefit the country.

Henao cautioned the researchers that it would be best to share materials, knowledge and technologies on benefit sharing agreements which will be more beneficial in improving national food security for each country.

Participants from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and PNG gathered at the National Agriculture Research Institute Headquarters in Lae last Monday for a three day workshop to develop and formalise the agreement to share PGRs.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

3) Plans Announced To Increase PNG Military Personnel
Former commander doubts PNG can support buildup

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 13, 2013) – Papua New Guinea’s government says it plans to build the country’s military up to five times its current strength.

The Defence Minister, Dr. Fabian Pok, has told the PNG parliament that defense force personnel will be increased from the current 1,900 to 10,000.

Dr. Pok says the government has approved the purchase of new weapons, aircraft and patrol vessels.

Former Papua New Guinea Defence Force commander, General Jerry Singirok, has told Radio Australia’sPacific Beat program that while he supports the defense build up, he doubts the government can support such a large increase in personnel.

General Singirok says more than 2,000 retrenched soldiers are currently awaiting repatriation by the government.

He says the government has not provided any budget guarantees to prioritize the defense force.

“The government has not produced a white paper or national security policy that will justify the increase of the defense force,” he said. “I’m not so confident that the increase in the defence force will solve a lot of these in-house issues.”

General Singirok says that PNG has unique security concerns as it’s the only nation in the region that shares a border with another country.

He believes an increase in defense capabilities would ensure PNG’s security.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

4)Bougainville factions team up for peace
By Online Editor
1:12 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Papua New Guinea

The faction outside the Bougainville peace process has joined the other two parties to foster reconciliation and peace-building in Panguna.

The Meekamui group led by Chris Uma, yesterday joined the process funded by AusAID through Strongim Pipol Strongim Nation (SPSN).

The Panguna conflict began in November 1988 when disgruntled landowners dynamited the first power pylon.

AusAID will pay K1.2 million (US$570,000) and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) K1 million (US$475,000).

The ABG and the Meekamui unity government signed the Panguna communique four years ago to separate Panguna from the Kieta district.

Outgoing Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish said Australia had a long history with Bougainville and the occasion opened another chapter in the relationship.

Kemish said Australia would continue to assist wherever it could to see Bougainville come off its problems.

He said Bougainvilleans needed to unite to see it advance.

On the future of the Panguna gold and copper mine, he said Australia had no say in it and it was up to the people to decide how they wanted to address it.

He also questioned the people if they were ready to re-open the mine.

Kemish was accompanied by wife Roxanne Martens on this farewell trip to Bougainville.

Meekamui unity government president Philip Miriori called on the Panguna people to forget their differences and work together to change Panguna for the better.

He said the time was right for the people to unite and work as one people.

Chairman of the Panguna Landowners Association, Chris Damana, called on the people to realise that the only way for Bougainville to attain referendum and independence was through economic self-reliance.

Therefore, the Panguna mine must be opened to raise funds for the people and their government, he said.

Damana added if Panguna was not opened, Bougainville would not be able to raise money needed to fulfil one of the three pillars of the peace process.

Ways to fund the peace-building strategy was also signed yesterday.

The launching was witnessed by ABG ministers, Meekamui, the United Nations team on Bougainville and the people of Bougainville.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS

5)Solomon Islands Lawyers Warned Over Court Conduct
Lawyer in case set for Monday apparently on ‘extended’ leave

By Assumpta Buchanan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 13, 2013) – A High Court judge in the Solomon Islands has warned that there will be consequences for the conduct of some lawyers who are not turning up in court.

Justice Stephen Pallaras expressed this concern on Monday when a matter came before the High Court for mention.

The matter has been previously listed for trial commencing on Monday.

A request has been made by the Public Solicitor’s Office to have the trial vacated as the lawyer representing the accused has extended his leave.

Justice Pallaras told Public Solicitor Allen Hou that an order he gave for the defense to file the agreed facts and list of witnesses was ignored twice.

He said the case came before the court on a number of appearances last year and this year different solicitors are appearing on behalf of the lawyer representing the accused.

Justice Pallaras however said the lawyer extended his leave to the full knowledge that the trial should start on Monday.

He added that the case has been in the system for two years and said the lawyer failed his duty to the court, his client and the community.

“The lawyer did not have the courtesy to inform court he will be elsewhere today (Monday).”

He said the lawyers are being paid for with public money and the public expects the money to be spent wisely.

The judge said this type of conduct will not go unattended and will be seen as contempt of court.

“Someone has to play the music.”

He said he expects an apology in writing and will refer the matter back to the case listing committee.

“The accused is the one who suffered the most,” Justice Pallaras told Mr. Hou.

The accused, Steven Ketei faces one count of murder following the death of a Temotu man whose body was found next to the Panatina field, East Honiara in 2010.

Mr. Hou, who appeared in court on Monday, informed the court that the particular lawyer has extended his leave to see his sick mum.

He apologized and added that he was not aware of the matter as he does not do many criminal cases but picks up cases that are delayed by the lawyers.

He said he is willing to take up the case if another hearing date is fixed.

Solomon Star

6)Overseas Solomons Doctors Allegedly Still On State Payroll
FSII says ‘ghost employee’ practices must be stopped

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 13, 2013) – Local pressure group Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) is calling on responsible authorities to investigate claims that certain local doctors working overseas are still on government’s pay roll.

“Our source revealed that some of these doctors have been on government payroll for about seven years and this must be stopped immediately,” FSII chief executive officer Ben Afuga said.

“I think some people are not doing their work and that I suspect there must be some kind of arrangements and agreements between those concerned to siphoned money from Government coffers.

“The proper thing to do now is for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services through its Human Resource Department to thoroughly investigate and inform this nation if these claims are true,” Mr. Afuga said.

Furthermore, he said the Ministry of Treasury and Finance must check its payroll and ensure doctors that have left this country must be omitted from the payroll.

“It is not known how many doctors are involved in this exercise, but FSII suggests that those found to be benefiting from this evil act must be summoned and forced to repay the government and people of Solomon Islands.

“This is waste of tax payers’ money and these monies should have been used to improve much-needed health services and facilities.”

In the meantime, FSII reminded all line ministries to watch out for this practice which is a total waste of tax-payers’ money.

“The practice of ghost employees on the payroll is not a new thing and I wonder why this practice is allowed to continually drain Government funds.

“FSII is doing its own investigations and will reveal names of the doctors implicated in this malpractice,” Mr. Afuga said.

Comments are being sought from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Solomon Star

7)Vanuatu PM says controversial yacht free to leave

By Online Editor
4:05 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, says a controversial super-yacht which has been detained in Port Vila harbour for seven months can’t find a crew.

The luxury super-yacht, the Phocea, arrived in Port Vila in July last year.

Kilman says it breached the immigrations and customs act, and has been held since then.

“The court has disposed of the case and as far as we are concerned on that matter it is finished,” he said.

“On that basis, on advice from the state law, I wrote to advise that the vessel can leave Vanuatu.”

There have been reports that the yacht can’t leave Port Vila because it is no longer legally registered anywhere.

Kilman says it is free to leave, once a qualified crew can be found.

He also says allegations that the super yacht was used for running guns and drugs are, at the moment, unfounded.

“We are initiating an inquiry to make sure that what we’ve heard and establish facts about the case itself,” he said.

Kilman says the affair surrounding the yacht has been unfortunate, and he hopes it has not damaged Vanuatu’s reputation.

SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS

8) Vanuatu Provincial Elections Open Today
4 provinces historically voted with Opposition, UMP

By Ricky Binihi

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 13, 2013) – Voters in the Provinces of Tafea, Shefa, Malampa and Penama will go to polls today to elect their new councilors for their respective Provincial Government Councils.

Head of State President Iolu Abil has declared today, Tuesday February 12 a Public Holiday in the provinces that will hold elections.

Politically, all the provinces that go to the polls today had been previously run by the Opposition Vanua’aku Party and the Union of Moderate Parties, and it would be interesting to see if they are major changes after today’s elections.

The Tafea and Shefa Province used to be run by VP candidates until the Shefa President changed allegiance to join the Vanuatu Leba and contest the Shefa Provincial Election under their banner in the elections.

Union of Moderate Parties controlled the Malampa and Penama Provinces until the then-Minister of Internal Affairs George Wells suspended the provinces in 2011 over allegations they mishandled the funds of the Councils in the Northern Island Stevedoring Company Limited.

The people of Penama will vote in 16 new councilors, Malampa will vote 21 councilors, Shefa 18 councilors and Tafea 19 councilors.

But the number of voters in the constituencies of the Provinces will be like that of the 2012 Elections, as the Electoral Office has not updated the Electoral Roll because double voting and dead people voting will still be expected in these elections.

Daily Post will carry unofficial results tomorrow.

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

9) Petition Against Vanuatu PM Prompts More Concerns
‘Undecided’ status of debts allowed Kilman to contest polls

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 13, 2013) – Vanuatu MP Willie Jimmy says he plans to appeal a Supreme Court decision to strike out his electoral petition against the Prime Minister Sato Kilman.

The petition challenged Mr. Kilman’s eligibility to contest the last election, with the Port Vila MP alleging the Prime Minister hadn’t settled an outstanding debt of about US$120,000 in government rent.

Other candidates were made to settle their debts before being allowed to stand.

Johnny Blades reports that the case has prompted more concern about the Sato Kilman-led government’s transparency record.

Justice Robert Spear ruled that Willie Jimmy was not eligible to file the petition because he isn’t from the same constituency as the Prime Minister, Malekula.

Mr. Jimmy finds the Court’s ruling unhelpful and plans to appeal on the grounds that the heart of the matter has not been resolved.

“They set it aside and they’re looking for little things. They’re trying to side-step the matter. The ruling that came out did not address the main issue – Sato Kilman’s debt to government is still there – and they come and only use the technicalities. This is nonsense to us.”

It was the Electoral Commission’s responsibility to decide if the Prime Minister could contest the election.

After earlier leaving Mr. Kilman off the initial candidates list due to his outstanding debt, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, John Taleo, says the Prime Minister hadn’t – and still hasn’t – been proven to owe the debt.

“On the first list I disqualified him but on the second list included him. It was really clear that the case was still pending. There was no judgment until proven guilty in court, and that case is still there until today.”

On the matter of the petition, Mr. Taleo says it’s not up to an individual to challenge the Prime Minister’s eligibility, but rather the state law office.

However the state law office last month affirmed that there was a case to answer.

Phil Manhire of the newly-formed Vanuatu Corruption Commission says the evidence seems to suggest that Mr. Kilman hasn’t paid his bill.

“We may see a different result, should the court case proceed on the actual facts of the matter, not who is entitled to make the case or whatever. The reality is that this is a question for the Vanuatu government, the Vanuatu people, and they just want to make sure that everything was kosher, it was done properly in accord with the law, and in accord with the laws that had to be followed by everybody else who ran for parliament in the elections.”

The election dispute is the latest in a string of controversies implicating the Kilman-led government since it won re-election last year.

Phil Manhire says the public has had enough of the lack of transparency and accountability.

“Government’s apparent lack of respect for the ni-Vanuatu themselves, the culture, the processes of justice, moral dealings, ethical dealings and the like. That respect just does not seem to exist. And I think that is one huge issue that is affecting and offending a lot of ni-Vanuatu people.”

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

10) Vanuatu Agriculture Ministry ‘Challenged’ To Turn A Profit
Minister plans to support biosecurity, livestock divisions

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 13, 2013) – The Prime Minister has challenged Vanuatu Minister of Agriculture Kalvau Moli to turn his ministry into a revenue earning Portfolio and the Minister is focused to make the directive a reality.

In the presence of the Director General of Agriculture, William Nasak, and directors of Livestock and Biosecurity Vanuatu, the Minister said the directive by the Prime Minister is going to be his “principal pillar” for the next four years.

Before June of this year, he wants to see passed legislation, a plan, a road map by the Department of Agriculture showing how it is going to make money through the services it provides. “If you tell me, ‘Minister I think that [the Vanuatu Commodities and Marketing Board (VCMB)] should come under the Ministry of Agriculture,’ I would do that for you but first of all, you must show me how it is going to be achieved. I need a Coconut Policy to make sure that can happen,” the Minister said.

“This is because it is all about (earning) revenue and those small farmers and people in the islands who toil day in and day out in their farms and villages still do not have access to service delivery.”

Under his Agriculture Policy, the Minister wants to see Biosecurity Vanuatu become a fully incorporated entity in 2014 and the Department of Livestock to develop to a stage where it also becomes an entity.

The Minister said people have lost the spirit of patriotism, or love for one’s country, in the last 32 years.

The nationalistic pride for one’s country is lost. “We are like a sandwich: on one side we have eleven DGs, 13 Ministers and seven to nine thousand public servants who are trying to fend for this country, but at the same time trying to anticipate if their transfer from one workplace to another is going to affect the payment of their children’s school fees on Monday (February 4),” the Minister said.

“Agriculture is a principal pillar of my Agriculture Policy in my campaign, and that is why I have always admired the policy introduced by the late Minister of Agriculture, Onneyn Tahi, when he sent breeding bulls to individual small farmers in the islands, to help them improve the quality of their beef and increase the size of their herds.

“It was an expensive exercise but the truth is that today, small holder farmers continue to own the largest number of cattle in the country.”

The Minister also touched on the importance of feeder roads to enable farmers to bring their produce to the market before moving on to value added products.

Giving as a typical example is the latest tar sealed road from the Northern Town to Port Olry, he said: “It won’t need to be maintained for the next seven years so the money that is set aside for maintenance can be utilized by us to put to good use where you in Livestock want us to use it.”

One possibility is to improve or build access roads for small farmers who live way in land Santo in Matantas to use to bring their cattle to Luganville for sale.

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

11)Many RSE workers start businesses in Vanuatu
By Online Editor
12:59 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Vanuatu

Seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand has been closely studied by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of the United Nations and found to offer all sorts of skills – as well as the cash to help build permanent homes or start businesses.

The ILO study points to skills in such as time and financial management and improved communications. Workers from Epi island reported use of new agricultural tools and better management of personal health and hygiene. Others were pleased to improve their use of the English language.

The ILO fact finding was carried out on Epi and at Mele village in Vanuatu, as well as the other South Pacific countries which have joined the schemes being offered by New Zealand and Australia.

ILO reporters see Vanuatu as a “society in transition”, traditional and so-called modern lifestyles co-existing here. But the traditional gender division means men are over-whelmingly the heads of households and twice as likely as women to be in paid employment.

The vast majority of those taking on seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand are men. However, women, too, do participate, learning similar skills. Those who stay at home are said to gain advantages by bearing more of the responsibilities of house and community.

What the two schemes are all about, however, is income. Workers returning to Mele bring back an average of 384,000 vatu per worker per season. This is in contrast to Epi workers who bring back a significantly higher amount, an average of 527,000 vatu. Further from town commerce, Epi families generally asked for remittances only once during the worker’s stay away. For Mele expatriates overseas there averaged 3 or 4 remittances back to the family.

The home-staying partner on Epi generally had sufficient garden food not to need assistance from the seasonal worker overseas. Not so the Mele partner, depending more on store goods.

The most interesting aspect of the ILO study is the finding that the many of those going on seasonal labour schemes tend to go into business for themselves after their various overseas labour undertakings. Around half of those interviewed for the study had started businesses through their savings, whether on small canteens, retail stores, rental housing, taxis or fishing boats, logging, saw-milling, baking, money-lending, pig breeding, poultry growing – or running kava bars.

Seasonal work has shown the important role of community in the lives of individuals and families. For example, in Lamen, Epi, there is a village screening committee which selects workers to participate in the scheme. RSE workers there have also significantly contributed, whether by money or labour, to the construction of a new market house for the mothers, the renovation of a church building and the building of a canteen fort Vaemali hospital.

Overall, this study finds that seasonal workers do become important agents of economic and social change in their communities. Then there are the benefits, social as well as economic, in the increase in permanent housing, better education, and cleaner and healthier lifestyles, says the pamphlet in which the study is contained. Those interested may inquire to AusAid which is also responsible for the publication, along with the ILO.

SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST /PACNEWS

12)Lack of political debate in Fiji feared as new rules take effect
By Online Editor
1:17 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Fiji

Observers of Fiji politics fear the country could face a lack of political debate over coming weeks as political parties await registration under a controversial new decree.

Existing political parties have until midnight on Thursday to lodge their applications with the Registrar of Political Parties, which must satisfy strict new criteria.

So far only the National Federation Party has applied.

The registrar has two weeks to publish notice of any application and another week is allowed for objections before political groupings can operate legally and not incur fines of up to US$28,000 and five years in prison.

A senior lecturer in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland, Dr Steven Ratuva, says a lot depends on how strictly the Fijian government interprets the law.

“They might use the decrees as a means of clamping down on political parties. A lot of power still rests in the government to determine the way in which political parties will have to either register or behave or say things at this point in time,” Ratuva told Radio New Zealand International.

Dr Ratuva says it’s important for debate to continue in the run-up to discussions on the draft constitution in the yet to be appointed Constituent Assembly.

Meanwhile, the non-negotiable principles set out by the government will form the core values of the electoral system Fiji uses come the 2014 general elections.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday said:””That (electoral system) is obviously subject to debate before the constituent assembly but as you also know, some of the non-negotiable principles set out by the prime minister is that we need to have one person one vote one value, no ethnic voting and proportional representation.”

“That obviously is a guideline with regards to the type of electoral system that we would expect, also in respect of various other guidelines, the peoples charter had put in place a representation in a multi-member constituency, that is obviously something that’s on the floor.”

Sayed-Khaiyum said the constituent assembly would also consider the merits of closed list and open list election systems.

“For those of you who may not be aware, an open list system is far more democratic than a closed list system and as you know that most of the political parties that made submissions to the Ghai Commission wanted a closed list system,” he said.

Sayed-Khaiyum said an open list system offered voters a chance to choose their candidates individually. This, he added was opposed to the closed list system that allowed political parties to choose which candidates received the votes of the people.

“If you have a closed list system, you just go and tick the party and the party decides which 30 candidates go in, an open list system you actually choose the candidate you want, you may choose five from this party, 10 from another party so have quite a bit of choice,” he said.

Sayed-Khaiyum said those were all ideas floating around and more would be known after deliberations by the constituent assembly.

SOURCE: RNZI/PACNEWS

13)Fiji political Parties have to meet deadline: Vuniwaqa
By Online Editor
4:04 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Fiji

All existing political parties in Fiji are reminded to meet registration deadline or risk being wound up.

Registrar for the political parties Mere Vuniwaqa said any assets owned by the parties which did not register would be forfeited to the state and it is clearly in the interests of the existing parties to register if they want to avoid this.

Vuniwaqa said parties need to fully understand the provisions under the Political Parties Registration Decree which will apply beginning tomorrow.

“After midnight, no association of persons or organisation may operate, function, represent or hold itself out to be a political party until they are registered under the decree,” she said.

“This applies to both existing parties who have made their applications and new parties that are still to be formed,” she said.

Existing parties must wait until their applications are assessed and if approved, they will be registered under the Decree and resume operating as political parties.

For new parties, they will be able to meet informally to organise themselves and make their preparations but they must not operate, function, represent or hold themselves out to be a political party until they are approved and registered under the Decree.

“Any non compliance carries the prospect of heavy fines or prison terms. We want all parties to operate in good faith and for this to be a transparent process. We look forward to hearing from existing parties by midnight tonight and new parties in the future,” she said

SOURCE: FIJI LIVE/PACNEWS

14) Fiji Women’s Political Party ‘Ruled Out’ For Elections
Soqosoqo Vakamarama wants to focus on educating women

By Talebula Kate

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Feb. 13, 2013) – Soqosoqo Vakamarama General Secretary Adi Finau Tabakaucoro has brushed aside reports of discussions about a new party for women contesting the 2014 general election.

A media report had said talks were underway to form an all-women’s political party to contest the elections.

Adi Finau said the Soqosoqo Vakamarama cannot have a political party and there was no such thing as forming a political party.

“Our only role is civic education for women on democracy, constitution, political decisions and leadership,” Adi Finau said.

“We have started educating women in preparation for next year’s elections but it will up to them to decide which party they would like to join. All women qualified to vote in the general elections next year must be aware of what they should do and which parties they choose to vote for,” she said.

“We are confident that when election time comes women around the country will be well-versed with what they should do.”

Meanwhile, the former politician is indecisive about running for elections next year.

[PIR editor’s note: Adi Finau, however, has expressed the intention of Fiji’s Women’s Forum to seek representation in the yet-formed Constituent Assembly which will debate the new constitution.]

FijiSUN: http://www.fijisun.com.fj/

15) Moody’s revises outlook on Fiji’s B1 rating to stable

By Online Editor
4:13 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Fiji

Moody’s Investors Service has changed the Fiji government’s B1 foreign and local currency long-term bond ratings to stable from negative.

The key drivers for the decision are what Moody’s describes as improved fiscal and macroeconomic outcomes, as well as the demonstrated stability of the external payments position.

It notes that the exchange rate in relation to the US dollar has consequently stabilised, improving debt sustainability, while the Fijian dollar’s relative weakening against the Australian dollar has supported tourism prospects.

Foreign exchange reserves have also rebounded to about US$895 million from a low of US$240 million in March 2009.

Signs of economic momentum in Fiji have been balanced with the ratings agency’s observation that the national economy is growing at a slower pace compared to similarly rated countries.

The latest data on Fiji’s investment inflows has not been made not available.

SOURCE: RNZI/PACNEWS

16)Fiji Labour Party registers but take legal action to overturn decree

Posted at 07:21 on 14 February, 2013 UTC

The Fiji Labour Party has joined the National Federation Party in registering as political parties ahead of tonight’s midnight deadline.

Existing political parties have until midnight to lodge their applications with the Registrar of Political Parties, which must satisfy strict new criteria, including them having to sign-up 5000 members.

The SDL party was forced to wind up under the regime’s decree, although the party is to reform under a new name.

The Labour Party has also filed legal proceedings asking the High Court to set aside the Political Parties Registration Decree and to stop the Registrar from de-registering the Party pending the court decision.

The party says parts of the decree detract from the universally recognised and accepted principles and values of democracy and human rights.

It also claims the decree denies the workers and their trade unions the right to form and belong to political parties of their choice as enshrined in ILO Freedom of Association provisions.

The party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says he is saddened by the plight of the people after six years of misrule by the Bainimarama regime.

He says poverty has escalated, unemployment is high, the value of the dollar has slumped and investment is negligible because of political instability and the absence of the rule of law.

Radio New Zealand International

17)Hundreds march over violence against women in Fiji campaign

Posted at 07:21 on 14 February, 2013 UTC

The organiser of a campaign to stop violence against women in Fiji says 500 women marched in the street as part of today’s One Billion Rising event.

This year is the first time the Pacific, a region with the world’s highest domestic and sexual violence statistics, has been involved in the two-year-old campaign.

Recent figures from Fiji show that 64 percent of women have experienced violence in an intimate relationship, higher than the global average of one in three.

Roshika Deo says government departments must prioritise the prevention of violence against women.

“In fact whilst we were doing the march and the procession today we found out that again another baby had been raped and it was reported. There has to be outrage, people have to stop being complacent and we have to do something. We cannot let the war on girls and women continue in this manner.”

Roshika Deo says the rules imposed by the interim government on public gatherings made it unnecessarily difficult to organise the march.

Radio New Zealand International

18)Tonga Minister’s Alleged Misconduct Under Review
Law Society currently waiting for response from official

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 13, 2013) – Tonga’s new Minister of Police, Prisons and Fire Services and Revenue Services, Siosifa Tu’utafaiva, is being challenged by a disciplinary committee of the Tonga Law Society.

Last year, 2012, the disciplinary committee recommended to the Chief Justice to suspend Siosifa Tu’utafaiva’s law practicing license for three years for alleged professional misconduct.

Chief Justice Hon. Michael Scott, in a judgment on 4 December 2012, quashed the recommendation and referred the matter back to the committee for the matter of penalty to be reconsidered according to law.

The Vice-President of the Tonga Law Society Vuna Fa’otusia said today, February 13, the committee was now waiting on Sifa’s written response in regards to the complaint, which should be submitted by Friday February 15. After that they will make a new recommendation.

The disciplinary committee consisted of Tonga Law Society President Laki Niu, Petunia Tupou and Vuna. The complaints came from two of Sifa’s former clients ‘Aisea Vaitaki and Sione Vao.

Sifa, who is a senior law practitioner and Member of Parliament, became the new Minister of Police, Prisons and Fire Services and Revenue Services on February 2.

Appeal

When Sifa appealed the recommendation, Chief Justice Scott , quashed the recommendation and returned it to the disciplinary committee.

“In my view the appellant should either have been warned beforehand that the committee would proceed to consider penalty immediately after any finding of guilt or the hearing should have been adjourned to give the appellant a final opportunity to make representations as to penalty,” he said.

Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/

19) Niue Premier Quiet Over Shared Reef Group Assets
Group, government own noni form, fishing plant on Niue

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 13, 2013) – The premier of Niue says he is not prepared to discuss what will happen to assets his government co-owns with the collapsed Reef Group.

Niue and Reef were partners in a noni farm and a huge fishing plant that has lain idle for several years.

The U.S. shipping operator, Matson, has bought the shipping assets and assumed most routes that Reef had previously serviced.

But it remains unclear what will happen to the other assets, including those on Niue and the premier, Toke Talagi, says he will not comment on the matter in the media.

A trade in noni that the company established in China collapsed last year amid allegations that Reef’s partner in the enterprise was facing corruption allegations.

Fairfax media reports that Reef left debts of US$26 million while the sale of its ships to Matson cost the U.S. company just under US$10 million.

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

20) Anti-Violence ‘V-Day’ Movement Holds Events On Guam
‘Global’ campaign’s focus on stopping violence against women

By Louella Losinio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Feb. 14, 2013) – Spurred by the need to increase awareness of violence against women and girls, activists and supporters on Guam are convening an alternative Valentine’s Day celebration today – linking local advocacy to the growing global movement to end this challenging issue that affects individuals, families and communities.

The V-Day movement, which started as a call to action against violence against women, or VAW, was based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than “One Billion Women and Girls.”

“When we started V-Day 14 years ago, we had the outrageous idea that we could end violence against women,” Eve Ensler, playwright and founder of the movement, said in a news release. “Now, we are both stunned and thrilled to see that this global action is truly escalating and gaining force, with union workers, parliament members, celebrities, and women of all backgrounds coming forward to join the campaign. When we come together on Feb. 14, 2013 to demand an end to violence against women and girls, it will be a truly global voice that will rise up.”

Guam, as part of the movement, will have a wave at the ITC intersection from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Event coordinator Olympia Terral, who is also a research associate at the University of Guam’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences, is inviting residents to show up at the ITC intersection, starting at 4 p.m., with signs or to honk their support for ending violence against women and girls.

Targets

“It is important for people to understand that women and girls are targets of violence and we need to raise that awareness and speak out because if we stay silent, nothing will change,” Terral said.

A second event will be held at International Sports Center, Hagåtña, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. with yoga, dance, and self-defense demonstrations. The International Sports Center and Yoga Guam organized the gathering which will culminate the V-Day commemoration on-island.

In honor of the victims of Tuesday’s incident at Tumon, Terral said they are going to have a moment of silence and prayer at the event.

In 2012, more than 5,800 V-Day benefit events took place around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls. Last year, Guam mounted a production of the Vagina Monologues as well as a play featuring stories by local women.

To date, according to a release, the V-Day movement has raised more than $90 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, reopened shelters, and funded more than 14,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in various locations around the world.

Marianas Variety Guam: www.mvguam.com

21) Australian scientists make malaria breakthrough

Posted 14 February 2013, 18:08 AEST

Australian scientists believe they’ve stumbled on a way to kill the malaria parasite and hopefully cure the disease.

Australian scientists believe they may have stumbled upon a possible cure for malaria. (Credit: ABC)

Australian scientists believe they’ve stumbled on a way to kill the malaria parasite and hopefully cure the disease, which kills more than one million people every year.

Researchers at the Australian National University discovered that the parasite uses a pump to expel excess salt from its body, and then developed a new drug to block that pump.

The pump then effectively backfills the parasite with salt until it dies.

Professor Kiaran Kirk, who was part of the research team, says the parasite expels salt “like water in a boat”.

“If you’ve got a leaky boat that’s leaking lots of water, just like the parasite is leaking lots of salt, you need a pump to push the water out of the boat,” he told the ABC.

“And if you stop that pump working the boat fills with water and the boat sinks.

“If you stop the salt pump working, the parasite fills with salt and the parasite sinks.”

Professor Kirk says scientists now have to hope the parasite doesn’t outsmart them.

“It’s a continual race. We develop a drug, the parasite becomes resistant…we need a new drug.”

“Hopefully a new drug will work for a long time.

“But in terms of saying someone’s cured malaria, yes you can use a drug to treat malaria patients for some years but you’ve got to continually make new drugs.”

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2013-02-14/australian-scientists-make-malaria-breakthrough/1088862

22) First Pacific Forum scholarship winners announced

Posted at 07:21 on 14 February, 2013 UTC

The inaugural six winners of the Pacific Islands Forum 40th Anniversary Scholarships have been announced.

The are Papua New Guinea’s Olive Ponyalou, John Fasi and Albert Rex from Solomon Islands, Samoan’s Toiata Apelu and Faafetai Klose and ’s Makereta Konrote from Fiji. .

The six will pursue postgraduate studies in areas aligned with the Forum’s Pacific Plan, including economic growth, sustainable development, good governance, and security.

Radio New Zealand International

23) EPA consultations successfully completed
By Online Editor
4:18 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Solomon Islands

A three days national consultation process on the EU-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has been completed in Honiara on Wednesday.

The consultation engages experts from a broad range of stakeholders including the private sector, the government and non-government organizations (NGO’s).

Speaking at the workshop opening, Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Clay Forau said the consultation is an important process that gathers views from different groups to ensure Solomon Islands policy position on the EPA is beneficial to the country.

“Government cannot make policy without consulting its stakeholders; after all it is the private sector that actually trades not civil servants. You understand the reality, the difficulties and the potential on the ground,” Forau told participants.

“We need you to help us put together our negotiating positions and I hope we have constructive and open discussions,” he added.

Formal negotiations with the E.U. and the Pacific region after a long three year break were recommenced at the end of 2012.

The EPA can be a powerful instrument that can be used to stimulate and promote economic growth and sustainable development with the ultimate objective of alleviating poverty and raising the living standards of Solomon Islands citizens.

Due to the great importance of this agreement the Government is committed to resolving negotiations as quickly as possible noting that they have gone on for over 8 years.

The Solomon Islands is pleased there was progress in negotiations at the JTWG (Joint Technical Working Group) in Brussels at the end of last year and there was a fruitful exchange of views on the main outstanding issues.

“The EPA has great potential and we were glad of the recent progress made in Brussels but I was disappointed that the E.U. opened the most recent negotiations by backtracking on some of the benefits already contained within the Interim Agreement,” Forau said.

Most notably on the coverage of the global sourcing rules for canned fish and cooked loins. Despite persistent calls from the Pacific side for the E.U. to give assurances that the benefits already gained by PNG and Fiji in the IEPA will be extended to all other Pacific countries, this guarantee was never forthcoming.

Minister Forau hopes the contentious issue can be resolved shortly and he look forward to seeing the results of the working groups, the results of which will be considered by the next JTWG (Joint Technical Working Group) in March 2013.

At the upcoming technical working groups the PACPS will be looking for the EC to demonstrate heightened flexibility to cater for the special circumstances of our region.

In doing so, it will be necessary to ensure that the regional EPA will truly reflect the regional particularities of the Pacific and be designed to enable us, together, to build the partnership over time.

Solomon Islands continues to see the EPA that we are negotiating as an instrument that will form the foundation of a long-term, evolving partnership based on economic and trade cooperation between Europe and the Pacific.

The partnership will strengthen and grow into a dynamic relationship that will generate great benefits for all partners.

Solomon Islands remains committed to conclude its negotiations by building on the positive progress that has been made thus far.

SOURCE: SOLOMON ISLANDS GOVT/PACNEWS

24)Rugby League great to oversee PNG Kumuls
By Online Editor
4:24 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Papua New Guinea

Rugby league great Mal Meninga could lead the Kumuls charge to the World Cup in October and November.

Meninga, 52, the former Kangaroos captain who played 46 tests and the record-breaking Queensland State of Origin coach, let slip occasionally in a recent television  interview after the Residents XIII’s 38-12 loss to South Sydney last Saturday referring to the team as “us” and “we”.

The deal to get one of the sport’s icons into the Kumuls fold is believed to have been struck in Sydney while Adrian Lam’s Residents XIII were there for the Return to Redfern clash.

Lam is expected to deputise but Meninga will be in charge of the bid to make the semi-finals of the global event for the first time.
Meninga has had a previous association with rugby league in PNG having been a member of the PNG NRL Bid board in 2009.

He has coached the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII since the first match of the annual fixture in 2005.

The National understands the Meninga deal has the full backing of the new Papua New Guinea Rugby League board headed by Don Fox.

It is understood Meninga’s role has been endorsed by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko.

The minister had previously emphasised the need to have the Kumuls professionally looked after with the best coaching and guidance and this could be the direction with Meninga.

Tkatchenko stressed the need to have national squad members under an agreement where rugby league can become a career and ultimately result in an ever-ready Kumuls side when and where they have an international committment.

Meanwhile, Tkatchenko says the journey has only begun for the Kumuls for the World Cup and beyond.

“We can’t pressure our players to perform when we can’t back them with the resources they need to be fully prepared, and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the government, through my office, are moving forward for the benefit of rugby league and the team with very particular goals,” Tkatchenko said.

“It was a fantastic game, very very good defence, excellent, but we let ourselves down in our strength, attack, and our discipline,” he said of last Saturday’s 38-12 Return to Redfern loss to South Sydney.

“The Rabbitohs proved too strong at the end of the day, and we must learn from these mistakes and look to a new beginning.

“A brand new day is beginning.”

He said the ‘blame game’ would not do the future of the team any good and there had to be a more constructive sit down and analysis so that the lead-up performances were getting better.

“The solution is having all members of the big squad fully engaged in a rugby league career, where they will train all around the year with very specific training, which ensures that they are readily fit and available when the next game comes up, and very big announcements regarding this will be made soon.

“It’s the only way forward to ensure rugby league in the country, and our Kumuls can take it to the next level.”

Tkatchenko confirmed a PNGNRL board meeting was held in Sydney and some big decisions were made as part of the administration’s efforts to move forward with regard to the Kumuls, the administration and rugby league.

“For too long we have been expecting results, but a sport and a team can only be as good as its administration,” he said.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS

25)Aiton wants PNG to unearth a new Stanley Gene
By Online Editor
1:27 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea hooker Paul Aiton has issued a rallying call to the people of Hull, ahead of the Kumuls’ clashes with Samoa and France at MS3 Craven Park at Rugby League World Cup 2013.

Craven Park is home to Super League outfit Hull KR, with whom Stanley Gene built a famous career in the UK following his strong performances for PNG at the 1995 Rugby League World Cup.

And Aiton hopes to utilise the nation’s links to the city of Hull and mobilise a partisan crowd behind PNG at RLWC2013.

“We have the link with Stanley and Makali [Aizue] having played over there, and both players still have a great following over in Hull,” Aiton told LoveRugbyLeague.com.

“I really hope we can rally the support of the Hull KR fans at the tournament. We’re based over in Hull and I know Stanley feels a great love for the city.

“He played for Hull KR and Hull FC, and I hope we can get supporters from both sides of the divide down at Craven Park for the games.

“In return, I’d like to think that people will enjoy the way we play and the passion we show whenever we pull on the shirt of our nation.

“We play hard, we play expansive footy and we like to entertain the fans.”

Aiton also believes that RLWC2013 could help uncover the next big star from PNG, 18 years after Gene made his mark on British soil.

“Not too many players have been picked up. I’ve been involved with the Kumuls for a lot of years now and I’ve played alongside some very talented young players,” he said.

“I’m very surprised that so many haven’t been given a chance. I don’t know if they are undiscovered, or that clubs just don’t want to take the chance.

“But I definitely think we could unearth another Stanley Gene at RLWC2013. There are a lot of players who could make it over here.

“I’ve found the Super League very welcoming and I’m sure there’ll be some perfect match-ups between British clubs and PNG players looking for an opportunity.

“Stanley’s obviously enjoyed his stay, and he’s enjoyed a fantastic career with a few clubs, and I can see no reason why another PNG player can’t follow in his footsteps.

“Plus, there’s a good network of PNG players over here now, which would really help make the transition a smooth one.”

And, while Aiton is hoping to depend on vociferous backing from the terraces at RLWC2013, he knows for sure that the team can also count on PNG’s own fanatical Rugby League fan base back home.

“There’ll be so many tuning into watch the games on TV this Autumn, and I can tell you that the stories people hear about how fanatical the fans can be are completely true,” said Aiton.

“They just love the game. When a Kangaroos side comes over to play PNG it’s unbelievable. They’re rock stars to the people of PNG and they get treated that way.

“You’ll get hundreds turning up when they arrive at the airport, just so fans can say they’ve seen these players in real life.

“Rugby League is the number one sport in PNG and we want to do our nation proud at Rugby League World Cup 2013.

“We can’t wait for the challenge.”

Papua New Guinea face France at MS3 Craven Park on October 27, and return to the venue on November 4, when Samoa provide the opposition.

The Kumuls’ group campaign then culminates on November 8, when they travel to Headingley to take on defending champions New Zealand.

Tickets are now on sale for RLWC2013, with 55% of tickets priced £20 or less.

SOURCE: LOVE RUGBY LEAGUE/PACNEWS

26)Fiji to play Barbarians in December
By Online Editor
1:33 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, Fiji

The Flying Fijians will play the Barbarians at 3.30am on Sunday, 1 December 2013 (Fiji Time) at Twickenham it has been confirmed.

The much-anticipated clash will be the two teams’ second meeting since 1970 where the Fiji team boasting the likes of George Barley, Pio Tikoisuva, Jona Qoro and Isimeli Batibasaga won the encounter 29-9 beating a star-studded Barbarians side containing legendary names such as Edwards, Duckham, Bennett, Slattery and JPR Williams by 29 points to 9.

Fiji Rugby Union CEO Manasa Baravilala hailed the victory as “a major stepping stone in enhancing Fiji’s profile.”

Barbarians’ chairman John Spencer who was part of the 1970 Barbarians team admits that the occasion still brings back mixed memories.

Spencer said with 2013 being Fiji’s centenary year, it was only right that Fiji was invited for a rematch and “this time around the Barbarians will be inviting a host of big name players to do justice to what is sure to be a great occasion ahead of the Christmas holidays.”

Barbarians’ president Micky Steele-Bodger said: “The Barbarians have always had a special affection for Fiji’s rugby and its players.

Last year Isa Nacewa and Akapusi Qera were very popular Baa-Baas and wore our shirt with distinction.

“We look forward to players like them providing equally exciting opposition next November.”

The Flying Fijians are also likely to play matches against Russia, Wales, France and England between 2 November and 5 December 2013.

SOURCE: FIJI LIVE/PACNEWS

27)Coupe d’Ouverture gets season started
By Online Editor
1:22 pm GMT+12, 14/02/2013, New Caledonia

New Caledonia is kicking off the 2013 season a bit differently to in previous years, with the Coupe d’Ouverture making a comeback after a brief hiatus.

For several years the season has begun directly with the championship, but this year the Fédération Calédonienne de Football competitions committee has been able to re-introduce the Coupe d’Ouverture to its calendar.

Competitions committee president Bernard Cureau says the calendar has been heavily influenced by the international calendar both in the past and today.

“Last season we faced a lot of criticism for slicing up the calendar with certain cuts lasting close to a month,” Cureau says.

“We were obliged to take into account the constraints of the international calendar, in which the national team had to contest the Nations Cup and the French Overseas Territories Cup. This year the start of the season is affected by the last two matches of the selection against New Zealand and Tahiti for FIFA World Cup qualifying.

“But there is also the OFC Champions League, which involves AS Mont Dore, and is being held throughout the month of April. Therefore we preferred to delay the kick-off of the championship.”

With both the Super Ligue and the second division Promotion Honneur Grande Terre start dates delayed until May, there was space in the calendar for the Coupe d’Ouverture to open the season.

Five Super Ligue sides and seven PH Grande Terre teams will be involved in the competition which is being played in a “checkerboard” format from February 13 until March 16.

“The checkerboard format means the losing sides on the first day will face each other in the next round of matches, while the winners will do the same on their side,” FCF technical director Serge de Novack says.

“At the end of the fifth day of competition, the team that has collected the greatest number of victories will be declared the winner. There won’t be any eliminated teams which will allow them all to contest the maximum number of matches.”

The Coupe d’Ouverture opens today with USC taking on AS Wet at Victorin-Boéwa Stadium and will continue with matches over the weekend.

It will be directly followed by the Coupe de Président, which uses the same checkerboard format, running from March 20-April 27 and concluding just ahead of the championship kick-off.

SOURCE: OFC/PACNEWS

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