Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 811
By Online Editor
1:45 pm GMT+12, 20/02/2013, Papua New Guinea
The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in Papua New Guinea is expected to undergo major changes this year and run the radio and television stations on a commercial basis, Minister for Communication Jimmy Miringtoro told parliament last Friday.
He was responding to questions from West New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel over issues and allegations facing the national radio and television services.
Among issues raised were financial accountability, empowerment and improvement of services, the appointment of a deputy director, the unavailability of the NBC board and serious allegations of mismanagement.
Miringtoro said the allegations were brought up by disgruntled employees and there was no substance to them.
He said he was ready to stand behind the managing director, Memafu Kapera, who was taking a pro-active approach to address issues and improve the organisation.
He said among issues were the past board and management had misused K21 million (US$9.9 million) allocated through the 2007 budget and that K4.5 million (US$2.1 million) given for vehicles not used to buy vehicles.
Miringtoro said NBC now had a corporate plan that would address some of the issues such as improving services and it had reduced its K10 million debt.
“There is an audit in progress for the 2007-10 financial years while there are plans to run the stations commercially,” he said.
Miringtoro said an amendment would be made to the current NBC Act to look at improving the system and devises for radio and television stations that would assist the government in its development agendas.
“A new deputy director would be appointed as well as a board.”.
2) PNG asks Australia to help develop border with Indonesia
Posted at 07:29 on 20 February, 2013 UTC
Papua New Guinea’s Defence Minister, Fabian Pok, has asked Australia for help to develop PNG’s border with Indonesia.
PNG’s opposition leader Belden Namah has complained to parliament that the Indonesian side is much better serviced and is luring PNG citizens to move there.
Dr Pok says the government is addressing the issue and has called for government agencies to put together a budget for improvements.
He says his talks with Australian officials indicate they are also keen to help.
“The failure on our part is not to develop our border areas, in a holistic approach. We have to set up schools and clinics and we have not done that and we realise that this is a failure on the part of the PNG government.”
Papua New Guinea’s Defence Minister, Fabian Pok.
Radio New Zealand International
3) Bougainville meeting seeks reconciliation for possible Panguna revival
Posted at 06:04 on 20 February, 2013 UTC
The leaders of the six mine lease associations in Panguna in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville say they should be fully funded through the new Panguna Peace Building Strategy.
Launched with Australian assistance last week, the Strategy aims to foster reconciliation around Panguna, where the mothballed copper mine that sparked the ten-year civil war is located.
There is widespread interest in re-opening the huge mine but the lease association’s chair Chris Damana, who is heading an interim landowners’ umbrella group, says nothing can happen before a full reconciliation within Panguna communities.
He says they are in Buka for talks with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the ABG, about key issues that need to be addressed.
“One of those issues that we will be talking [about] is for ABG government to fully fund Panguna landowners’ associations. We have done our in-house preparation and I think are the things that need to be funded from this Panguna Peace Building Strategy.”
Radio New Zealand International
4) Ten candidates to contest by-election in Solomons
By Online Editor
4:10 pm GMT+12, 20/02/2013, Solomon Islands
Ten candidates will contest the by-election in the Solomon Islands electorate of Gela.
The seat was formerly held by Mark Kemakeza who was jailed last year after being found guilty on fraud charges.
Nominations closed in January for the by-election in Central province, the fifth since the general elections in mid-2010.
The Electoral Commission says it has been doing its best to ensure voters go to the polls freely on 27 February.
Kemakeza was sentenced to 14 months in prison last March after using nearly 40,000 US dollars in funds earmarked for community fishing projects.
Denies local jobs at risk, confirms ‘bait’ to lure foreign investors
By Jonas Cullwick
PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 19, 2013) – The Ministry of Internal Affairs has issued a statement defending the decision of Vanuatu’s Minister Toara Daniel to exempt foreign investors who are certified genuine participants of the Hong Kong Permanent Residency (PR) Visa Program from Vanuatu Labor Work Permits as “justified.”
“Considering the level of revenue brought into the government treasury and non-problematic effect to the local community from the Hong Kong Permanent Residency visa holders, the exemption from the Vanuatu Labor Work Permit by the Minister for this category of people is justified,” the statement says.
On February 6, the Daily Post carried a front page story revealing the Minister had signed two orders – one on January 10 and the other on January 14 legalizing the work permit exemption decision and making the order retrospective to September 13, 2011. The story also highlighted concerns about possible influx of Chinese investors taking over local employment as a result of the new order.
Last Friday, in the Daily Post front page story, the Commissioner of Labor, Lionel Kaluat, explained that the Vanuatu Labor Work Permit Exemption for Hong Kong Permanent Residency Program is a strategic government initiative aimed at attracting “mostly multi-millionaires to be able to come to and invest in Vanuatu.”
Mr. Kaluat also highlighted the level of revenue the PR is bringing into the country saying that in 2011 the program generated Vt4.5-million [US$49,505] for the government revenue, 2012 Vt311.4-million [US$3.4 million] and Vt103.5-million [US$1.1 million] last months alone, giving government a projected total of VT1.2-billion [US$13.2 million] for 2013.
Now the Ministry of Internal Affairs has moved to allay fears the Minister’s action to provide Vanuatu Work Permits to HK PR holders would have a bearing on the local jobs. It also confirmed the statement by the Commissioner of Labor that the initiative was “bait” for multi-millionaires to come and invest in Vanuatu and the revenue levels from the HK PR Program highlighted by Mr. Kaluat.
“The Minister of Internal Affairs has made an exemption based on a judgment that this category would not cause any impact on the local employment conditions. They are wealthy and established businessmen and the chance is close to zero that they would take up any employment in Vanuatu. Under this condition, theoretically they are free to employ, and factually there is no employer that can afford to hire them,” the Ministry said.
It has also confirmed that so far there is no one of the PR case who has set up residence in Vanuatu, adding that some of the holders of the Hong Kong Permanent Residency Visa under the Vanuatu program have visited Vanuatu to find out more about the country but they all have returned to their country of residence.
“Not a single one of them is staying in Vanuatu or taking any employment to compete with locals. In this context, and considering the revenue brought in and the non-problem effect to the local community, the Minister’s decision is justified.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs says the PR Program is a product of Vanuatu which responded to the interests of the clients of the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC) who purchased an offshore company. These clients had requested the VFSC and the Vanuatu Government to provide them two Vanuatu products: 1) a Vanuatu offshore company and 2) a Vanuatu Residence Visa.
“VFSC, Immigration, respective Ministries deliberated and decided to accommodate the concept. Following that, legal requirements were developed and approved to legalize the process. Mechanism and operational systems have also been developed to facilitate the process of acquiring a visa and transfer of funds to the government treasury,” the Ministry’s statement continued.
The PR program started operation in 2011 after being legalized and its main purpose is to target mainland Chinese who are going to apply for Hong Kong residence under the Hong Kong Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (HKCIES). The scheme requires the applicant to meet the following conditions: Must have a clean police report; Must be holding a permanent residence from a third country; Must have a net asset of HK$10 million [US$1.3 million] for the past two years prior to application; and Upon approval, invest in HK designated financial product of value not less than HK$10 million for seven years continuously.
“The Government has decided to provide residence visa to those applicants who will be able to meet the HKCIES criteria and conditions.
“Vanuatu is not the only country to offer this kind of program to facilitate the applicant to enter Hong Kong. African countries including Gambia, Guinea Bissau and others are very active for the past 10 years.”
“Vanuatu has decided to engage in this initiative as a strategy for attracting investors which may bring benefit to the local economy,” the Ministry of Internal Affairs says.
Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com
6) No Female Candidates Elected In Vanuatu Provincial Polls
Women said to have better chances in council elections
By Kathie Simon
PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 19, 2013) – As if the 2012 General Elections in Vanuatu did not sufficiently amplify the statement, the provincial elections in Tafea, Shefa, Malampa and Penama again failed to elect any female candidate as per unofficial results.
Vanua’aku Pati (VP) which fielded the highest number of female candidates in the 12 February Provincial Elections could not secure a seat for the women candidates.
“VP fielded five women candidates, and apart from candidate Monique Ben who beat all the men folk to grab 115 votes, which is the highest by a candidate in the polling station (Onesua Polling station), none of the women candidates won a seat in the recent provincial election,” confirmed Avio Roberts, VP’s Program & Information Officer.
Mr. Roberts said another female candidate who fared well in the provincial elections-VP’s Ambrym candidate, Lala Lan – lost out on securing a seat in the Malampa Provincial council with 100 plus votes as per unofficial results of the provincial election.
Meriam Takau who contested the Vanuatu Democratic Party (VDP) in the Efate constituency polled a handsome 197 votes between Erakor and Enam polling stations, however, still not sufficient to win a seat in the next Shefa Provincial Council.
Another prominent woman candidate who contested the provincial election in Epi constituency, Frida Varasmaite produced healthy polling figures also bowed out of the race as per the unofficial results.
Asked if there is a greater chance for women leaders to be elected into provincial councils, Mr. Roberts agree the unofficial results proved the point.
“The results of the provincial elections proved that most of the women candidates that stood in the recent provincial elections have greater chances of getting elected to provincial councils,” he said.
“We all must understand that the votes the women candidates are getting are from both genders, which goes to show that women candidates are commanding more confidence from political parties and to be selected through the party structures ahead of the men folk to contest.
“And if anything, contesting an election on a level playing field with the folks is the best way forward in mainstreaming gender equity in politics and decision making, as compared to the argument of reserved women seats.”
Official results of the provincial elections are expected to be out soon.
Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com
7) Australian Foreign Minister Reaffirms Ties In Vanuatu
Vanuatu was Carr’s last stop on regional tour
PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 19, 2013) – Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr this week concluded a regional tour to the Pacific with a two-day visit to Vanuatu (Feb 12-13). The visit was an opportunity to reaffirm the close ties between the two countries.
Senator Carr held talks with Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman and Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot, to discuss issues including economic development, relations with Fiji, infrastructure and urban renewal.
Together with Prime Minister Kilman, Senator Carr launched the $39 million Port Vila Urban Development Project. The project is funded by the Australian and Vanuatu Governments and the Asian Development Bank to upgrade Port Vila infrastructure including key roads, drainage and sanitation.
Senator Carr said that investing in Port Vila was important for economic growth in Vanuatu as a whole. Port Vila is the gateway to the country for tourists entering Vanuatu, 60 percent of whom are Australian.
“We have much to be proud of in the partnership between Australia and Vanuatu and we look forward to strengthening our ties in years to come,” said Senator Carr.
In Port Vila, Senator Carr took the opportunity to visit the Vanuatu Women’s Centre and the Wan Smolbag Theatre group – where a local disability group performed a play describing the daily prejudices faced by people living with disability.
Senator Carr congratulated the actors on their performance, saying that it demonstrated the power of theatre to touch people’s lives.
Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com
8) New head of USP Journalism school
By Online Editor
08:27 am GMT+12, 20/02/2013, Fiji
There is now a new Head of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific (USP).
Dr Ian Webber will take up the appointment next week.
This has been confirmed by the Head of Language, Arts and Media, at USP Professor Sudesh Mishra.
Mishra says Webber is a keen educator with strong research credentials and students will benefit enormously from him.
9) Union leader says Fiji needs international observers now
By Online Editor
1:52 pm GMT+12, 20/02/2013, Fiji
The National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Felix Anthony, says international observers should come to Fiji now and not wait for elections next year.
Anthony was reacting to the Fiji government’s latest amendments to the Political Parties Decree, which he says further deny people their rights.
He says if the United Nations and the international community were thinking of coming to observe the democratic process, now is the time.
“At the rate we’re going, there will be many people excluded from the elections. We may only have one or two political parties who will be able to contest the elections and the elections would be unfair and would not be free even before we start.”
Meanwhile, Anthony, says the Fiji government’s latest changes to its rules for political parties will not deter workers from setting up their own political movement.
The government has tightened further union involvement in political parties under an amendment to the month-old Political Parties Decree.
Anthony recently announced he would be involved in a new political grouping but he says the changes mean anyone employed by a union is now prevented from involvement in a political party.
He says the amendments also shut down the media from reporting on political parties, and mean no existing party will be able to register.
“What is disturbing is a trend where decrees are issued and the parties have tried to work within the decree to seek registration and when they are able to do so, then the goal post is changed and new rules come into play which makes it almost impossible for these parties to meet the new requirements.”
But Anthony says there are plenty of people keen to form the new political movement he’s involved with and which has yet to apply for registration.
The government has declined to comment to Radio New Zealand International on the latest amendment.
10) Native Land Law Amendments Raise Concerns In Fiji
Democratic coalition says freehold land conversions ‘illegal’
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 19, 2013) – Fiji’s Coalition for Democracy is worried about a decree to amend native land laws that has been issued by the interim government.
Fiji’s Land Act has been amended to prevent any further iTaukei or native land being able to be converted to freehold land.
The proposal from the Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has been approved by Cabinet and gazetted.
The coalition’s Nik Naidu says laws around land are so sensitive that potential changes used to require lengthy debate and consultation with land owners and chiefs.
“When it comes to native land in particular in Fiji, indigenously owned its sensitive issue and past precedence has been the indigenous population in particular, the Great Council of Chiefs could veto and there’d be consults with landowners before laws could be touched, amended or passed.”
Nik Naidu says this latest amendment is just one more of the interim regime’s illegal laws.
Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com
11) Successfully-Registered Fiji Parties Confirmed In March
Public will be asked to review applications, submit objections
By Mereani Gonedua
SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Feb. 19, 2013) – Fiji’s Registrar for political parties registration is expected to confirm the names of parties that have successfully managed to register for the 2014 elections in a month’s time.
Registrar Mere Vuniwaqa said their office is putting together each application received in order to publish and notify the public on which political parties have applied for re-registration.
Vuniwaqa said they have until February 28 to publish all applications received from existing parties wishing to re-register, and afterwards they will be requesting the public to put in their submissions if they have any objections to the applications.
She said after receiving submissions from the public the group of people wishing to form a political party will then be given seven days to respond to any objections made towards their application for re-registration.
She also said after all this, she will then have to decide if the people wishing to form a political party would be able to contest elections however the application can be refused if the Registrar believes that the applications contains false information or was gathered in a fraudulent manner.
Only three existing political parties managed to submit their application for re-registration before the deadline last Thursday.
[PIR editor’s note: Yesterday, Vuniwaqa said a High Court application will be made to “wind up” 14 political parties that failed to meet the re-registration deadline. Those parties’ assets will be seized by the state. Vuniwaqa further said that no new parties may apply with the names, symbols or acronyms as parties that have been de-registered.]
12) Tonga Visa Applications In New Zealand Put On Hold
Processing halted while Tonga ‘police clearances’ scrutinized
NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 19, 2013) – New Zealand’s immigration minister has put an immediate hold on Tongan visa applications that require a police clearance.
In a statement today Hon. Michael Woodhouse, said the visas would be held, “until Immigration New Zealand can be satisfied with the integrity of the police clearance process.”
Applications for residence and most work visas need a police certificate, but this is not needed for short-term visas such as a visitor visa.
The statement did not indicate whether INZ would continue to clear applications on an individual basis, or whether the minister intended a more general hold on all applications requiring police clearance.
The New Zealand Immigration manager in Nuku’alofa, Antony Jukich said this afternoon that he was unable to answer queries on behalf of INZ, and could not say how many visa applications were currently being held awaiting police clearances.
In Tonga, the Police Commissioner Grant O’Fee said today that close cooperation was being offered to the New Zealand and Australian High Commissions in Nuku’alofa.
“It will take [police] 48 hours not 24 to process all applicants for clearances for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tongans who are awaiting police clearances are left uncertain as to when they might travel.
Tonga’s scholarship officer confirmed that students required a police clearance. Most had already traveled to New Zealand to start the 2013 academic year, but two first year university students on government scholarships were awaiting their visas.
“We were advised by the New Zealand visa officer that the two applications were on hold because of that situation,” she said. The pair were hoping to leave on Saturday to reach the University of Auckland and Massey University in time for orientation.
The New Zealand Immigration minister’s action follows accusations last week that Tonga police officers had wiped convictions from police records of Tongan citizens, under an unwritten policy that was tacitly approved by a former and now deceased Minister of Police. The practice was stopped in recent years.
Tonga’s Police Commissioner O’Fee said today that the entire records of the Tongan police had been searched “This had revealed that 172 records had been ‘cleared’. To clear this means that the records are still intact but that letters had been sent stating that the person making the application had no records when they clearly did have.”
INZ stated it had completed an initial analysis of 172 names provided by the Tongan authorities and estimated around 40 people may be currently in New Zealand, including some who hold permanent residence.
Hon. Woodhouse stated, “It is totally unacceptable for anyone to enter New Zealand by providing misleading information and I am taking this very seriously. …I have asked Immigration New Zealand to place the highest priority on finding any Tongan nationals who have committed serious crimes and should not be in New Zealand.”
Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/
13) New Zealand lawyer says officials will struggle to tracking down 40 Tongan nationals
By Online Editor
08:38 am GMT+12, 20/02/2013, New Zealand
An immigration lawyer says tracking down about 40 Tongan nationals whose criminal records were cleared so they could obtain New Zealand visas, will be a challenge.
Yesterday, the New Zealand Government put an immediate hold on Tongan visa applications that require a police clearance, as Tongan police records had revealed 172 people were unlawfully cleared so that they could travel.
The Government says immigration officials are seeking about 40 people and they have some names but not birth certificates.
An immigration lawyer for Pacific Legal, Richard Small, says some of these people may have been in the country for many years under different names.
“If people have been prepared to be fraudulent with their police certificates, who knows what other certificates there may be. That means that this could be a protracted process, and it will depend on how long ago, I think in parts that these events happened.
Meanwhile, Tongan police have told Australian officials that convicted criminals may have travelled to Australia after having their records wiped clean by police officers in Tonga.
The Tongan Police Commissioner, Grant O’Fee, says 172 people convicted there have obtained police clearance letters, allowing them to apply for visas overseas.
Others are believed to have made their way to Australia.
Commissioner O’Fee says police officers in Tonga are being investigated in relation to the practice which is believed to have happened in the 10 years to 2011.
14) 2010 Guam Election Recount Inadequate: Democratic Party
Party interested in allegations of fraud in multiple precincts
By Jerick Sablan
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 20, 2013) – The Guam Election Commission (GEC) this week completed its audit of the 2010 General Election, but the commission’s effort may not be enough for those who pushed for the audit in the first place.
Democratic Party Executive Director Carlo Branch earlier this month said he gives credit to the commission for recounting the ballots. Commission staff during the past five weeks counted the results of five different precincts by hand.
However, just recounting the ballots wouldn’t sufficiently answer if any fraud occurred during that election, Branch said.
“If you’re counting ballots that weren’t supposed to be there in the first place, then the numbers won’t change significantly,” Branch said.
Branch said the Democratic Party is interested in allegations of fraud, as reported in several precincts.
Branch said allegations that some voters cast ballots twice and that ballot stock was not properly reconciled are among the party’s concerns.
Branch said the Barrigada and Tamuning precincts were of most concern since they were said to be the subject of several fraud allegations.
The last Legislature passed an election reform law that also mandated an audit of the 2010 General Election results.
The commission board voted to audit five precincts by a hand count: precincts 15B and 15C in Barrigada. precinct 14 in Mongmong-Toto-Maite; precinct 10 in Yona and precinct 19B in Yigo.
The recount found no significant difference in any of the precincts, commission Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said yesterday.
“The changes we found are usual errors that we calculate for during elections,” she said.
The commission currently is compiling the discrepancies and will present the final results of the audit to its board members in March, she said.
After the board gets the results, the commission will post the findings on its website and then submit it to the Legislature, Pangelinan said.
Branch said the results of the recount aren’t necessarily accurate if the ballots counted were fraudulent in the first place.
Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, who pushed for the audit of the 2010 General Election, earlier this month said he was concerned that Tamuning precincts weren’t part of the audit.
“They really should have audited the precincts believed to have the most problems,” Respicio said.
Respicio said the Legislature’s goal in mandating the audit was to improve voter confidence in the voting process.
Gov. Eddie Calvo last March vetoed the bill that called for the audit, calling it political mischief by the Legislature’s Democratic majority. Senators voted to override his veto last December.
After the 2010 General Election, 42 complaints were filed with the Election Commission, mostly by the Democratic Party, after unofficial election results were released.
Democratic gubernatorial running mates Carl Gutierrez and Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. filed lawsuits in 2010, alleging illegal voting and ballot-box tampering.
Both Respicio and Branch said there still will be doubt about the election because the commission can’t reconcile the number of ballots that were used.
Branch said not knowing how many ballots were printed, received or destroyed makes it almost impossible to show that no fraud occurred during the election.
“The inability to reconcile ballot stock leaves a huge area of doubt and legitimacy of the 2010 election,” Respicio said. “Notwithstanding this doubt that still exists, I’m hopeful this audit will improve voter confidence.”
Branch said he believes the audit should have included three components.
The first is the recount, he said. The second would be to audit all ballots printed, destroyed and used. The last would be to look at the election process itself.
Voters to be purged
Pangelinan also said the commission will be sending letters to voters who will be purged from the voter registry because they did not vote in the 2010 and 2012 General Elections.
“We have compiled a list of 4,725 voters who will be purged,” Pangelinan said.
The election reform law requires for the first time that voters be notified before their names are removed.
The law states the commission must send letters to all voters who are being purged 30 days before it happens. It also must notify voters after it happens.
Pangelinan said purged voters must re-register before they can vote.
Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com
15) Poverty Amongst CNMI Families Reportedly Increasing
Report shows median income has risen little over 20 years
By Moneth Deposa
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 20, 2013) – Compared to other insular areas, the number of poor families in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands increased in the last 10 years and many of the children of these families are flocking to public schools, straining an already overstretched Public School System (PSS).
In a presentation to the Board of Education, PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh revealed that, based on the 2010 Census, the CNMI has the lowest amount of family median income compared to Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the CNMI, the family median income per year is only $22,455 compared to Guam’s $50,607. American Samoa slightly surpassed the CNMI with $24,706, while the U.S. Virgin Islands is at $45,058. In the U.S. mainland, the median family income is $64,400.
Thornburgh said the CNMI’s family median income in 2010 shows a miniscule growth of just $1,180 across the 20-year period from 1990 when CNMI family median income was at $21,275 per year.
This is in stark contrast to Guam, which showed a $19,429 increase in its median family income across 20 years. The same holds true with American Samoa, which saw a $7,831 increase; and the Virgin Islands, which saw a $21,022 increase over same period. In the U.S., the median family income across the same 20 years saw an increase of $29,200.
The data, Thornburgh said, can be interpreted to mean that 6 out of 10 students at PSS belong to poor families, or those whose income are below the federal poverty guidelines. These students are aged 5 to 17 years.
Thornburgh said there are 4,760 families in the CNMI whose incomes are below the federal poverty guideline.
The report also indicates that private school enrollment shows growth across the 20-year period in other insular areas except in the CNMI, which had with the lowest private school enrollment at 2,038 in 2010. Guam had 7,918; American Samoa, 4,904; and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 7,006.
In the public school enrollment, only the CNMI shows an increase in 2010 compared to other areas, which all showed a decline in their enrollment numbers. The CNMI saw a 12-percent increase in PSS enrollment in the 10-year period: from 9,241 in 2000 to 10,369 in 2010.
The U.S. Virgin Islands’ public school enrollment dropped 28 percent; American Samoa, by 14 percent; and Guam, by 2 percent.
“If we will combine public and private school enrollment for a total K-12 enrollment, only the Virgin Islands shows a 15-percent reduction in the number of students grades K-12,” added Thornburgh.
Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., said the data presents a clear picture of the reality that many families’ income significantly declined.
“The family median in come in the CNMI is only $22,000 a year, how do you expect these families to properly provide for their kids? Their incomes are very low and we should be mindful where and how services are actually provided to children so we can ensure their success,” she told Saipan Tribune.
Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com
16) Fidji: dissolution de 14 des 17 partis politiques
Posté à 20 February 2013, 14:03 AEST
Ils n’ont pas déposé à temps leur dossier pour leur réinscription sur le registre des partis politiques. Ils devaient le faire vendredi dernier avant minuit, selon le nouveau décret édicté par le régime le 18 janvier.
Décret qui interdit à tout syndicaliste ou fonctionnaire de créer un parti politique. Et qui plafonne à 5400 dollars australiens le financement des partis par les entreprises, les étrangers, les ONG et les particuliers. Jusqu’à présent, les partis politiques ne devaient justifier que de 180 adhérents. Mais le nouveau décret imposait aux 17 partis politiques de trouver 5000 adhérents, donc 5000 Fidjiens suffisamment riches pour payer une adhésion fixée à 2650 dollars. Une mission impossible.
Il ne reste donc plus que 3 partis en course pour les élections promises pour 2014 par Franck Bainimarama. Le Parti Travailliste Fidjien, une formation indo-fidjienne, et le Parti de la Fédération Nationale. Quant au troisième, c’est un parti mystère, dont le gouvernement refuse de révéler l’identité.
Le Ministre australien des Affaires étrangères a qualifié ces conditions d’enregistrement des partis politiques de « pénibles» et « injustifiées », estimant qu’elles ébranlent la confiance dans la tenue d’élections démocratiques l’an prochain. Bob Carr se rendra à Fidji en mars avec une délégation du Forum des Iles du Pacifique.
17) Creative New Zealand To Withdraw From Pasifika Festival
Auckland council says sponsorship drop should be reconsidered
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 19, 2013) – Creative New Zealand is being criticized for withdrawing its sponsorship of the country’s biggest Pacific arts event, the annual Pasifika Festival in Auckland.
The arts agency has part-sponsored the last three Pasifika Festivals, but refused a request for NZ$65,000 [US$54,883] for this year’s event next month.
Creative New Zealand says it funds Pacific artists whose projects wouldn’t otherwise go ahead – not the case for the Pasifika Festival which is getting NZ$450,000 [US$379,672] from the Auckland Council.
But the chair of the council’s Pacific advisory panel, Uesifili Unasa, says the decision should be reconsidered.
“Creative New Zealand need to be asked the questions of, not just a lack of support for this year’s festival, but its position going forward, given that the festival is getting bigger, and it is starting to bring in different aspects of Pacific art and culture.”
Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com
18) Pacific countries urged to weigh up EPAs
Posted at 07:29 on 20 February, 2013 UTC
Pacific nations involved in negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union are being warned that while it’s important negotiations are soon concluded, it’s more important to get the right outcome.
Pacific nations that are part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group have been in talks with the EU to reach an EPA agreement since 2002.
Only Papua New Guinea and Fiji have signed interim EPAs to access markets in the sugar and fisheries sector, but a comprehensive agreement for all other Pacific ACP countries is yet to be agreed on.
The University of Auckland’s Dr Steven Ratuva says it’s important for the Pacific island states to win as much concession as they can in terms of aid from the EU to fund the capacity to export.
“Because they don’t have much by way of resources, they don’t have much by way of economic capability. So whatever negotiation is concluded it has to make sure that it develops their capacity, rather than simply to be part of an agreement which they wont benefit from in the long run.”
Auckland University’s Dr. Steven Ratuva.
Radio New Zealand International
19) Pacific youth at risk to silent killer
By Online Editor
1:39 pm GMT+12, 20/02/2013, New Zealand
Cultural-based solutions, the answer?
By Peter Rees, http://www.islandsbusiness.com
An alarming rise in suicides and the first reported suicide of a youth under nine years of age has rallied New Zealand’s Pacific community into taking ownership of a social issue that has left many grieving families searching for answers.
Statistics released last August reported 547 suicides nationwide over the previous 12 months from 2011-2012. Of that number, 31 were Pacific islanders, nine more than 2010/2011. In Auckland alone, 18 Pacific people took their own lives in 2011, including two persons under the age of 13.
The number of youths taking their own lives had surged by more than 40 percent. Most were males. What was concerning was that the stats found young Pacific people were twice as likely to have depression, mental disorders, anxiety issues, or to make suicide attempts as the rest of the population.
The self-harm methods used by suicide victims ranged from drug overdose to jumping off bridges. Hanging was the most common form (61%). The reasons are far more complex, however.
Suicide has been described as a “silent killer” because it is rarely reported. The New Zealand media observe strict ethical codes around self-harm incidents because local authorities believe the publicising of suicide incidents only aggravates what is already a sensitive issue.
There is also a fear that publicity glamourises suicide and may lead to copycat incidents. The system’s failure to bring down suicide incidents has prompted calls for a more open approach.
New Zealand’s Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean supports a move to provide suicide statistics in a timely manner, rather than waiting a couple of years for confirmed data.
“The strategy of not talking about it obviously hasn’t worked…it needs to be more discussed,’’ says David Lui, a Pacific Islands health and social issues consultant.
Traditionally in Pacific cultures, suicide is a taboo topic due to social, religious and cultural reasons. It is usually discussed in secrecy. But it has always been a big issue.
Globally, more than one million people take their own lives every year and New Zealand’s suicide rate of 11 in every 100,000 is the highest in the English-speaking world. Suicide rates in the region peaked in the 1990s when the South Pacific led the world in youth suicide. New Zealand had the world’s highest suicide rate with 18.7% of 15-19-year olds in that decade.
Pacific people born in New Zealand appear to be most at risk, especially youth struggling to deal with family pressures and cultural obligations which often were in conflict with their westernised upbringing. Adding to the cocktail is a myriad of social ills such as poverty, health problems and lack of education where the Pacific demographic features highest.
Tongan-born psychiatrist Dr Siale Foliaki places economic factors at the root of the cause. “When a migrant group doesn’t get a strong economic foothold in their adopted country, within two generations you will see negative social and health outcomes,” he says.
He claims there were forces at work undermining traditional cultural values and a number of families were under enormous stress because of this. That stress often manifested itself in suicide.
Dr Foliaki sees early intervention as the best solution to reverse the suicide trend. “We have to pick them up early. The early childhood education sector is the best place to intervene. It is cheaper and ensures better outcomes for youth by the time they reach their teens.”
Dr Foliaki says the two cardinal signs parents need to look out for in their young children are consistent aggression and inattention. This was often caused by parents’ lack of communication or spending time with their children. Gone unchecked, these influences often led to dire consequences.
Youth were most at risk when they felt unsupported, pressured and isolated. They then became vulnerable to a life of crime, violence, alcohol, drugs and even bullying. Technological advances in social media platforms (i.e – facebook, twitter) and texting had amplified these social influences.
Auckland academic, Dr Jemaima Tiatia, who has researched the subject in depth and spoken to many Pacific youths who had attempted suicide, believes most incidents of suicide among Pacific youth came down to family pressure and peer relationship breakdowns.
Attempting suicide was their reaction to this. Whether it was a boy taking his life after being dumped by his girlfriend, or a girl who could no longer handle the pressure of supporting her family financially, suicide or an attempted suicide often resulted from an angry moment that had built up.
Many did not know how to seek help or lacked the communication skills or maturity to resolve their predicaments. In Pacific cultures, young people were brought up to respect elders and not to talk unless spoken to. This was another reason why Pacific youth felt voiceless.
Prime Minister John Key admits the current suicide statistics are damning and the Government needed to do better.
“I worry a lot about the fact it disproportionately affects Maori and Pacific boys. We can see where the issue is prevalent—it’s been a longstanding problem,” he says. But he conceded the issue was a complex one and the Government didn’t have all the answers.
“When a young person takes their life, as a country you mourn that, because as adults we know that there’s always a solution to problems. Unfortunately that young person gets themselves into a situation where they don’t believe there’s a solution to a problem.”
The New Zealand Government has fronted up with NZ$62 million from last year’s budget to fund support services and mental health programmes.
But critics say it is a waste of money pouring resources into “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” services without addressing the core problems. The focus should be on suicide prevention and early intervention, they say.
With suicide linked closely with social inequities such as poverty, unemployment and lack of education, the enduring impact of the global economic downturn will continue to bring more distress to Pacific communities.
As the country’s youthful Pacific population nears 300,000 (a third of which live in Auckland), Pacific unemployment continues to rise, particularly among Pacific youth who have left school with little or no qualifications.
Since the National Party was elected into government in 2008, Pacific unemployment has doubled from 7.3 percent to 15.6 percent this year, compared to the national unemployment figure of 7.3 percent.
Pacific people are the highest represented ethnic group. The 2011/2012 stats showed that 28 percent of suicide victims were unemployed.
Mangere’s Labour MP, Su’a William Sio believes the lack of jobs for young Pacific people drives them to hopelessness, a major cause of suicide.
“Young people need to believe they have a future, but in South Auckland it’s desperately hard for many of our young people to feel that way,” he says.
The lack of jobs is a major reason for more than 1,000 New Zealanders leaving the country for Australia every week. But Australia’s tight immigration laws make it harder for many of the Pacific’s unskilled work force to follow this exodus.
“This government is failing the Pasifika population by inflicting significant financial misery on individuals and families through a failure to create anywhere near enough jobs,” said the NZ First MP, Asenati Lole-Taylor.
Health professionals and community leaders are looking beyond legislation and economic reform to find answers by delving deeper into the cultural links behind suicide. Article from Islands Business Magazine, February 2013 Issue, website: http://www.islandsbusiness.com
SOURCE: ISLANDS BUSINESS/PACNEWS