Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 842


1) Reports of mass killings in Puncak Jaya remain hard to verify

Posted at 23:17 on 01 August, 2013 UTC

The West Papua-based Human rights group Elsham says it remains difficult to verify reports of a massacre by Indonesian security forces in a remote part of Papua province.

Reports surfaced in May that about forty West Papuans had been executed by military or paramilitary police in Papua’s Puncak Jaya region.

The reports were dismissed by Indonesian authorities but a reported increase in the security forces deployment in the area is being linked to casualties.

Rights groups have little access to the remote region which is controlled by the military and Kopassus troops.

Elsham’s Paul Mambrasar told Johnny Blades there remains a lack of hard evidence.

PAUL MAMBRASAR: A lot of sources quoted information from church people or people who came out from those areas, Tingginambut and in Mulia or Puncak areas and that it why I said we cannot be certain or confirm that it’s the military or Kopassus. Part of the information also came from KNPB and there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s just that they too cannot provide evidence, in this case no photographs or pictures, but certainly there’s no doubt that some killings took place there.

JOHNNY BLADES: Why is there no doubt that the killings took place?

PM: Because there has been quite a deployment of troops or the military and also the mobile brigade in the Puncak Jaya regency in particular so by that fact alone we are sure that some operation took place there. So it seems information coming out from that particular case was limited given large number of troops deployment there, we are sure. Why deploy so many military personnel and police mobile brigade there then something must have been going on up there and even the fact that the resistance or the rebels are poorly armed then we might think that the casualty if the operation did take place then we think the civilians were the victims but then again access to information is still difficult even from our part my organisation at the moment we do not have someone who is stationed there so I personally and my organisation we cannot be certain or confirm the exact number of victims.
Radio New Zealand International

2) Solomon Islands Govt accused of rural neglect

Posted at 20:30 on 01 August, 2013 UTC

A former premier of Solomon Islands’ Malaita province says the government is neglecting people in rural areas, where 80 percent of the population of about 600-thousand live.

Reuben Moli says the government is encouraging people in villages to raise chickens and pigs, in a bid to broaden the country’s economic base.

But he says the feed required to produce poultry or pork is unaffordable for most people and so the meat that is available at market is too expensive for people to buy.

“Chickens are now a hundred dollars – a hundred and 20 dollars for one chicken. Nobody in his right mind or her right mind will dream to buy one for one meal. That’s one bag of rice already, for one chicken.”

Reuben Moli says the government should be instructing Solomon Islands scientists to find out what local feeds can be used for chickens and pigs.
Radio New Zealand International

3) Parties in Vanuatu to hold talks on improving political stability

By Online Editor
4:45 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, Vanuatu

A Vanuatu MP Ralph Regenvanu says a paper has been prepared ahead of the next parliamentary session later this month outlining a number of options to improve political integrity and stability.

The Minister of Lands says the Prime Minister Moana Carcasses will be calling for the attendance of all presidents of political parties represented in the current legislature to discuss proposals for reforming the political system.

Regenvanu says agreement will need to be reached by all parties on what measures should be taken, which could include requiring political parties to register in accordance to specific criteria.

He says another option on the agenda is to give the party who wins the greatest number of seats the mandate to choose a prime minister, and cutting down on party hopping is a priority.

“If an MP wants to defect from a party they actually have to go back to bi-election because they were elected under a party ticket and have to give the voters the opportunity to decide whether they wish to elect them on a different party ticket.”

Regenvanu says if changes are agreed to by all parties, they would eventually have to take them to a referendum as it would require changes to the constitution.

4) Loueckhote to contest New Caledonia Congress presidency
By Online Editor
5:19 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, New Caledonia

A former member of the French senate, Simon Loueckhote, has announced that he is a candidate in next week’s election of a new president of New Caledonia’s Congress.

Loueckhote last held the Congress position from 1998 to 2004 while he also served in the Senate in Paris.

He has told local media that the incumbent, Gerard Poadja, no longer has the confidence of all Congress members, accusing him of serving only his own Caledonia Together party.

Both Mr Loueckhote and Mr Poadja are Kanak politicians opposed to independence.

Poadja was elected last year, succeeding a leading pro-independence politician, Roch Wamytan.

5) Fiji’s Analysis report out soon
By Online Editor
4:42 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, Fiji

Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says he expects the report of the Gap Analysis/Needs Assessment team to be completed in a couple of weeks.

The team, comprising elections experts from New Zealand, the Commonwealth and the European Commission, visited Fiji two weeks ago to conduct a survey on areas Fiji needed to update in the lead up to elections.

“We already had a team that carried out election assessment and the report that will be out in a couple of weeks in terms of capacity building within the election office in Fiji,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said Fiji had problems with elections previously, problems that were acknowledged by assessment teams, most recently in the 2006 elections.

“If you look at the elections that was held in 2006, the European Union observer group noted a number of anomalies.

“Indeed we had in some of the constituencies, we noted a voter turn out of 101 per cent. Obviously, you can’t call those types of elections credible.

“But we obviously want to avoid those sorts of issues and to ensure that we do have a very transparent and credible elections process not just during the elections but in the lead up to it and indeed after that.”

“We had a team of experts, indeed one of them is from the New Zealand elections office called Melissa Thorpe, together with somebody from the Commonwealth and the European Union so those sorts of processes are already in place.”.


6) Governor General appoints Sopoaga as Tuvalu’s caretaker PM
By Online Editor
10:42 am GMT+12, 02/08/2013, Tuvalu

In a move that has escalated political tension on Tuvalu the Governor General and head of State has sent out a proclamation removing Prime Minister Willy Telavi from his office and appointing Opposition leader Enele Sopoaga as caretaker Prime Minister.

Governor General Sir Italeli Iakoba confirmed to Islands Business 20 minutes ago that his security officer and personal assistant had left his office to distribute the letters to all members of parliament including the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Police.

Sir Italeli was countering a public announcement by Telavi on his plan to remove the Governor General.

“Up until now I have not received anything from Telavi so I have decided to use my own powers and make the proclamation,” Sir Italeli said.

“I have also sent a copy to the Attorney General.”

He declined to reveal further details of the letter.

Opposition member Taukelina Finikaso said Telavi made a public announcement today that he would be removing the Governor General.

“Now the GG as the head of a Commonwealth nation and the Queen’s representative of Tuvalu has the powers to uphold the constitution of Tuvalu which is what I believe the GG has done.

“If the Speaker of the House and the Government are not following the constitution, the people of Tuvalu will only be able to rely on the GG’s judgment on this matter and he has done so.

“We are awaiting our letters before we meet as an Opposition to decide the next step.”

Finikaso confirmed that Sopoaga would become caretaker Prime Minister.

On Thursday, the Opposition had sent out a second petition to Sir Italeli after Speaker of the House Kamuta Latasi had refused to accommodate a motion on a vote of no confidence, which was on the agenda.


7) Australian defence chief in PNG to enhance ties
By Online Editor
5:16 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, Australia

The Australian Chief of the Defence Force, Gen David Hurley, is visiting the country this week “in support of our enduring PNG-Australia defence partnership”.

He is here with his wife, Linda, on his inaugural visit and will meet PNG Defence Force troops in Port Moresby and Wewak, East Sepik.

He will hold talks with PNGDF commander Brig-Gen Francis Agwi and discuss ways in which Australia and PNG can work together to ensure that the region is safe and secure.

“The PNGDF has been an important contributor to regional operations such as the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands (RAMSI), and is important that we build on our experience,” says Australia’s Defence adviser in Port Moresby, Col Dick Parker.

Gen Hurley will meet Defence secretary John Porti and government officials to discuss ways to increase defence ties.

This follows the signing of a PNG-Australia defence cooperation arrangement by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in May.

“The defence cooperation arrangement recognises the maturity of the defence relationship between PNG and Australia,” Parker said.

“The arrangement will be used as framework to deliver an expanded defence cooperation programme activities in PNG, which this year will grow to approximately A$27 million (K56.3 million).”

Linda (Hurley) will meet with defence force families and experience Port Moresby’s significant cultural and historical sights.

Meanwhile, after months of extensive consultation, collecting and analysing information, the PNG Defence White Paper Office based in Murray Barracks, handed over the draft Defence White Paper 2013 to the National Security Policy Technical Working Group (NSPTWG) on Friday the 26th of July 2013 at the Kokoda Trail Hotel.

On handing over the draft Defence White Paper, the Team Leader of the Defence White Paper Office, Lieutenant Colonel Siale Diro, said ‘This draft contains months of consultation, collection and analysis, and represents the collective advice from Defence on how best we can develop and serve our country.

“It has been produced solely by Papua New Guineans for Papua New Guinean interests,” he said.

On hand to receive the draft was the Director General of OSCA Mr Ian Jinga, the Team Leader of the NSPTWG Brigadier General (Rtd) Ken Noga, and other members of the NSPTWG from the PM’s Department, Foreign Affairs, Vision 2050, CIS, NIO, Customs, Community Development and Personnel Management.

Mr Jinga siad: “I congratulate Defence for the effort they have put into developing this draft. The Defence White Paper is owned by the National Government and will therefore be shaped to meet government intent.

The NSPTWG will now effect input to the draft Defence White Paper from all government agencies, particularly those in the security sector, before processing it through the Defence Council, the National Security Council and NEC for approval. Our aim is to launch the National Security Policy and the Defence White Paper together this year.”.


8) NZGB recommends islands be known by Maori and English names
By Online Editor
4:39 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, New Zealand

The majority of New Zealanders want the names for the country’s two main islands to remain the same, the results of a public consultation reveal.

The consultation came after it was revealed ‘North Island’ and ‘South Island’ were never official names.

The New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) proposed that the islands be known by both their English and Maori names: ‘North Island’ or ‘Te Ika-a-Maui’; and the ‘South Island’ or ‘Te Waipounamu’.

Proposals on what the two main islands should be known as closed on July 5, and the NZGB met yesterday to consider the submissions.

Now, the NZGB will recommend to Maurice Williamson, Minister for Land Information, that New Zealanders be given a choice about whether to use the English or Maori names.

NZGB chairman Dr Don Grant said they were encouraged that the overwhelming majority of public submitters wanted the choice.

In total, the board received 2608 submissions from 1329 submitters.

Of the submissions, 1842 were in support of one or more of the proposals and 766 were opposed to one or more – 64 percent supported Te Ika-a-Maui; 65 percent supported Te Waipounamu; 87 percent supported North Island; and 88 percent supported South Island.

“The numbers were not the main consideration,” Dr Grant said.

“The board is guided more by the reasons provided by submitters for their support or objection.

“The board carefully considered the supporting and opposing submissions, and this has informed its recommendations to the Minister.”

The NZGB will now put its recommendations into a report which, along with submissions, will be sent to Mr Williamson for his final determination.

Submissions will not be released until the Minister has made and announced his decision. When that happens, it will be gazetted as official and notified publicly.

9) Analyst says time right for NZ to change approach on Fiji
By Online Editor
10:38 am GMT+12, 02/08/2013, New Zealand

A geopolitical analyst says the time is right for New Zealand to change its stance on Fiji after comments from Australia’s opposition.

The opposition coalition’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Julie Bishop, said this week that a new government would normalise relations with Fiji.

Both Australia and New Zealand placed travel sanctions on the Fiji coup makers and they remain in place.

Julie Bishop says she would like to see the full restoration of diplomatic relations and Fiji welcomed back into the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth.

Paul Buchanan says the most obvious sign that the policy hasn’t worked is that the United Nations has welcomed Fijian peacekeepers in greater numbers since the 2006 coup, in defiance of requests from Australia and New Zealand that they not be used.

“The sanctions against the regime has not worked and the National government needs to admit that to itself, then admit it to its partners and finally admit it to the Fijians and from that, start anew with an approach that recognises Fijian sovereignty, recognises that the type of governance in Fiji is not ideal from our point of view but we need to engage them nevertheless.”.


10)Vanuatu i laik long Australia i tok sori long taim blong Blackbirding

Updated 1 August 2013, 16:20 AEST
Sam Seke

Prime Minister blong Vanuatu i singaut long gavman blong Australia long tok sori long hau oli tritim nogut ol pipol blong Vanuatu na arapela kantri long “blackbirding’ taim.

Odio: Ralph Regenvanu, Lands Minister blong Vanuatu i toktok long blackbirding

Insait long 40 pela yar stat long 1860s, oli bringim kam samting olsem 60 tausan pipol blong South sea islands long kam wok long ol sugar na cotton plantesen long Australia.

Planti long ol i kam long Vanuatu na Solomon Islands – na sampela tu i kam long ol New Guinea island na long New Caledonia.

Ol blackbirder i save giamanim ol, paitim ol na fosim ol long go long ol sailing ship long Queensland long wok long ol plantesen.

Long Vanuatu, oli bin holim wanpela seremoni long makim 150 anniversary blong nabawan ship blong ol blackbirder i go long Queensland.

Samting olsem 100 long ol bubu blong ol pipol blong Vanuatu husat oli kisim go long Queensland long bipo tu i stap long dispela anniversary long Port Vila.

Minister blong Lands, Ralph Regenvanu itok gavman i oganaisim tu drama pilai long de ia blong soim hau oli paitim na tritim nogut ol pipol blong ol ailan oli kisim go long blackbirding taim.

Em itok long taim ia nau Prime Minister Moama Carcases Kalosil i singaut long gavman blong Australia long ol kainkain nogut pasin oli wokim long ol pipol blong Vanuatu long taim ia.

Mr Regenvanu i tokaut tu long pasin we palamen blong Australia long 1901 ibin wanbel long rausim wanpela ethnic group, em ol bilak pipol blong ol ailan aninit long White Australia policy.


11) Blackbirding: Moana Carcasses veut des excuses

Mis à jour 1 August 2013, 18:05 AEST
Caroline Lafargue

Le Premier ministre vanuatais estime que l’Australie doit reconnaître le mal qu’elle a fait aux Insulaires du Pacifique à l’époque du blackbirding, entre 1863 et 1904.

Les blackbirders étaient des colons, des aventuriers qui sillonnaient le Pacifique au XIXème siècle pour recruter de la main d’œuvre pour les plantations du Queensland, principalement de canne à sucre.

Pour ce faire, soit ils enlevaient des insulaires, soit ils les manipulaient et leurs faisaient signer un contrat de travail avec un salaire absolument dérisoire, mais nécessaire car la marine britannique n’autorisait pas l’esclavage.

Cette semaine une centaine de descendants des victimes du blackbirding sont au Vanuatu pour célébrer les 150 ans de la fin de cet esclavage à peine déguisé.

Ralph Regenvanu, le ministre vanuatais de la Terre, estime que les excuses du gouvernement australien sont absolument nécessaires pour les descendants des esclaves, qui sont aujourd’hui environ 30 000 en Australie, et pour leurs pays d’origine.


12) Israel to launch more Syria air attacks, says US

By Online Editor
5:09 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, United States

US intelligence analysts have concluded that a recent Israeli airstrike on a warehouse in Syria did not succeed in destroying all of the Russian-made anti-ship cruise missiles that were its target, and therefore further Israeli strikes are likely.

Israel carried out an attack July 5 near Latakia to destroy the missiles, which Russia had sold to Syria. Although the warehouse was destroyed, US intelligence analysts have now concluded that at least some of the Yakhont missiles had been removed from their launchers and moved from the warehouse before the attack.

The officials who described the new assessment declined to be identified.

Israeli officials have said that they do not intend to enter the civil war in Syria, but they have said they are prepared to prevent sophisticated weapons from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, which has joined the war to support President Bashar Assad of Syria and which controlled the warehouse where the missiles were stored.

US and Israeli naval officials consider the missiles to be a serious threat to their ships.

After the Israeli attack, the Assad government sought to hide the fact that the missiles had been missed by setting fire to launchers and vehicles at the site to create the impression that the strike had landed a devastating blow, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment. Israel has a longstanding policy of silence on pre-emptive military strikes.

Another factor that could lead to a military response by Israel is the continuing flow of weapons to the Assad government, some of which Israel fears might make its way to Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon.

Russia, US officials say, recently sent SA-26 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, and it is also believed to be sending technical experts to help set up the system.

The Russians have also recently delivered two refurbished Mi-24 Hind helicopters to the Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria, for use by the Syrian military.

Russian officials have insisted that they are merely fulfilling old weapons contracts. But even the old contracts have involved the transfer of sophisticated arms.

In addition, US officials say that the transfer of Yakhont missiles to Hezbollah by Syria would violate an “end user agreement” that the Russian missiles would not be provided to third parties.

The July 5 attack near Latakia was the fourth known Israeli airstrike in Syria this year.

Providing new details about the raid, US officials said that the attack had been carried out by Israeli aircraft that flew over the eastern Mediterranean, fired air-to-ground missiles and never entered Syrian airspace. The route of the Israeli aircraft led to some erroneous reports that the attack had been carried out by an Israeli submarine.

In addition to targeting the Yakhont missiles, Israel carried out an airstrike in late January aimed at another system provided by Russia: a convoy of SA-17 surface-to-air missiles that Israeli officials believed were destined for Hezbollah.

Iran’s arms shipments are also a concern for the Israelis.

In May, Israeli aircraft conducted two days of airstrikes that targeted, among other things, a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles – mobile surface-to-surface missiles that had been provided by Iran and flown to Damascus, Syria, on transport planes that passed through Iraqi airspace.

The Fateh-110 missiles, which the Israelis feared were also intended for Hezbollah, have the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.

Iran has sent members of its paramilitary Quds force into Syria, under the supervision of Major General Hossein Hamdani, a senior officer of the Quds force who is in charge of operations in Syria and oversees Iran’s arms shipments to Hezbollah, according to US intelligence officials. Hezbollah’s attempt to acquire weapons is supervised by Shaykh Salah, a senior official in charge of the militia’s operations in Lebanon, according to US officials.

Iran has also pressed Iraqi Shiites to join the fight in Syria in support of the Assad government. That includes about 200 members of the Badr Corps, Iraqis who were supported by Iran during Tehran’s long war against Saddam Hussein, and who later returned to Iraq after he was ousted from power, US officials say.

The support of Iran and Hezbollah for the Assad government, and Israel’s military interventions, reflect how the conflict has drawn in outside powers.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming the Syrian rebels, and Congress recently dropped objections to a proposal by President Barack Obama to provide training and light arms to them….


13) Change mind-set: Fiji Police Chief Naivalurua
By Online Editor
4:41 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, Fiji

Fiji’s Police Commissioner Brigadier General Ioane Naivalurua is challenging his senior officers to change their mind-set about how they view the media and how it operates.

Brig-Gen Naivalurua, speaking at the two-day workshop on strengthening the relationship between the force and media at the Police Academy in Nasova, said the senior officers had two choices — to make the media their friend or their foe.

“Senior officers have to change their mind-set of how they view the media and how the media operates because information is disseminated now with the aid of technology and social media as well, which is another point we have to understand. And if we don’t upskill our knowledge, we will be playing a catch-up game which we are already doing at the moment. And that is the biggest concern for us right now.

“If we have to continue to view the media as our enemy, we will never move ahead.”

He said if by the end of the workshop they still viewed the media as their foe, the police force would be unable to achieve anything.

“We have to wake up to the fact that they are a part of the society and they are also doing the same job as we are, they are serving the community, and as voices of the community, they will be asking us the hard questions.

“So if we think they are always taking things negatively, then expect that if we feed them the reason to publish the negative stories for the lack of feedback that we provide. Let us take it in our stride to do something about it. We have to accept the fact that we cannot stop the spread of information but we can help by improving our services.”.


14) Vietnam to ban social media from sharing news online

Updated 2 August 2013, 0:00 AEST

Vietnam will ban bloggers and social media users from sharing news stories online, under a new decree signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Blogs or social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter should only be used “to provide and exchange personal information”, according to the decree.

The document, made public on Wednesday, stipulates that internet users should not use social networks to share or exchange information on current events.

Social media users will not be allowed “to quote general information… information from newspapers, press agencies or other state-owned websites”, said Hoang Vinh Bao, head of the Department of Radio, TV and Electronic Information.

It is not clear how the law – which comes into effect in September – will be implemented or what the penalties will be.

The law also bans internet service providers from making available “information that is against Vietnam, undermining national security, social order and national unity… or information distorting, slandering and defaming the prestige of organisations, honour and dignity of individuals”.

Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Le Nam Thang, said the new rules aim to help internet users “find correct and clean information on the internet,” the VietnamNet online newspaper reported.

The communist country, branded an “enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders in 2013, bans private media and all newspapers and television channels are state-run.

Many citizens prefer to use social media and blogs to get their information rather than the state press.

But the authoritarian government has repeatedly attempted to stifle growing online debate in what rights groups say is an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression.

This year to date 46 activists have been convicted of anti-state activity and sentenced to often lengthy jail terms under what rights groups say are vaguely defined articles of the penal code.

At least three bloggers were also taken into custody in June alone, all accused of anti-state activity.



15) University of Goroka in PNG expels 400 students
By Online Editor
10:38 am GMT+12, 02/08/2013, Papua New Guinea

The University of Goroka (UOG) in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands Province has issued termination letters to more than 400 students early this week.

Majority of the students who received their termination notices were those that took part in a student protest in May this year.

Student spokesman, Nelson Molo who also received his termination letter on Sunday, told NBC News the number is expected to rise as the Council is using a video footage taken during the protest to identify students.

Molo said the University Council’s decision to terminate students was in breach of the government’s decision on their petition to resolve the matter amicably between students and the University Council.

Meanwhile, more than 90 students at the UOG have been excluded from their studies this year.

Vice Chancellor Dr Gairo Unagi said in a statement the students were excluded on academic grounds but are currently appealing to the University’s Council to be reconsidered for studies.


16) Thousands of dollars lost due to CNMI Customs’ defective software

Posted at 23:17 on 01 August, 2013 UTC

In the Northern Marianas, the Division of Customs Service may have forfeited thousands of dollars in taxes due to a defective computer system the agency installed for nearly 600,000 US dollars in 2005.

The company which installed the software, Express Electronics, is the same company which later installed software for the NMI Retirement Fund costing over 400-thousand US dollars in 2008

Express Electronics is owned by businessman Gary Sword.

But unlike the Retirement Fund, the Division of Customs or the Department of Finance didn’t sue Mr Sword or his business, Express Electronics.

Former Customs director, Jay Santos, says it was almost toward the end of his term as division director when the system was installed and like other former and current Customs officials interviewed he said the system had a lot of challenges.

The Marshall Islands government is also running after Mr Sword for alleged failure to fulfill a contract obligation also involving a management software system.

Radio New Zealand International

17) Former Solomons deputy PM says Sae remains threat
By Online Editor
10:36 am GMT+12, 02/08/2013, Solomon Islands

A former deputy prime minister of Solomon Islands says the fact that the man suspected of killing a former police commissioner remains at large is still a problem in terms of the country’s stability because he has guns with him.

Solomon Islands recently marked 10 years since the deployment of a regional peacekeeping force, which has been downsized drastically on the basis that civil conflict is a thing of the past.

Police are still seeking Edmond Sae, who escaped from their custody in 2003 , in connection with the murder of the former Police Commissioner and Peace Councillor, Sir Frederick Soaki in February of that year.

Kamilo Teke negotiated the surrender of the former militant, Harold Keke, and says the same peaceful approach should be made to Sae.

“If somebody will do the same thing as I did to Harold Keke to Edmond Sae, I think they would capture Edmond Sae. No one is really talking to him, you know, ordinary people has to talk. They have to approach him in a Melanesian culture approach.”

Kamilo Teke says Edmond Sae will never surrender under the barrel of a gun.



18) Australia’s PNG asylum-seeker solution takes effect
By Online Editor
5:21 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, Australia

The first asylum-seekers to be sent to Papua New Guinea under Australia’s hardline new boatpeople policy arrived Thursday, with the government declaring people-smugglers no longer have a product to sell.

Their arrival formally brought into effect an arrangement agreed on July 19 under which those who turn up in Australia on unauthorised boats will be sent to PNG for processing and resettled there — even if judged to be genuine refugees.

The 40 asylum-seekers, mainly Iranian and Afghan men, were flown from Australia’s Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island Wednesday night, accompanied by Australian police and medical staff, the immigration department said.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke said it showed Canberra was serious about not resettling boatpeople in Australia.

“Over time, every single person who arrives under these new rules will find the government is true to its word,” he said.

“As of now there are the first 40 people in Papua New Guinea who are realising that the people-smugglers no longer have a product to sell.

“That the promise of living and working in Australia, which is sold by people smugglers before they push people onto the high seas, is no longer a product available.”

Rights groups have criticised the state of facilities at Australia’s camp on Manus Island in PNG, which will be significantly expanded, with the United Nations last week saying it was “troubled” by the decision to send asylum-seekers there.

The UNHCR highlighted “significant shortcomings” in the legal framework for receiving and processing asylum-seekers.

“These include a lack of national capacity and expertise in processing, and poor physical conditions within open-ended, mandatory and arbitrary detention settings,” it said.

Australia resumed sending asylum-seekers offshore to PNG’s Manus Island and the Pacific state of Nauru in 2012 in a bid to deter record numbers of asylum-seekers arriving by boat. Hundreds have drowned making the perilous journey.

But under the new arrangement they will not only be processed in PNG but permanently resettled there if found to be genuine refugees.

The transfer comes as PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill outlined the costs of major projects Australia has agreed to fund as part of the deal.

In an interview with The Australian newspaper, he said the total cost would be around Aus$787 million (US$705 million), with Australia contributing about Aus$489 million.

This includes the rebuilding of a hospital and renovation of PNG’s universities, which will be jointly funded, and the construction of a key highway between Lae and Madang and a new court building in the capital Port Moresby that Canberra will solely fund.

O’Neill said his country had agreed to help because Australia was “our best friend” and “we are a Christian nation”.

Asylum-seekers are a sensitive issue in Australia, and one featuring prominently in the lead-up to national elections due this year, which will pit the Kevin Rudd-led Labor government against the conservative opposition headed by Tony Abbott.


19) Papua New Guinea opposition challenges Aussie policy in court
By Online Editor
10:40 am GMT+12, 02/08/2013, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s opposition has resurrected a constitutional challenge to Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island as the first group of asylum seekers arrive to experience Labor’s tough resettlement policy.

The 40 mainly Iranian and Afghan single men were flown from Christmas Island late on Wednesday and touched down on Manus Island at 7.40am (AEST) yesterday.

Lawyers acting on behalf of PNG Opposition Leader Belden Namah filed a court challenge to the centre this afternoon, referring to section 42 of PNG’s constitution.

“That is, that all persons coming into the country are guaranteed their personal liberty except in the case where they come to the country without a visa or proper work permit,” Namah’s lawyer, Loani Henao told journalists.

“Now is the time for the battle to start.”

The opposition’s first case against the centre was thrown out of court when a tribunal of judges found the opposition did not use the correct legal mechanism to bring the case.

“What we are doing is effectively resurrecting what we filed previously,” Henao said.

There were few signs of increased activity on Manus Island upon the arrival of an early afternoon flight from Port Moresby carrying immigration officials, interpreters and journalists.

Australia is installing large tents capable of sleeping up to 30 people, as well as industrial sized kitchens.

The new policy denies asylum seeker boat arrivals entry to Australia and sends them on to PNG for processing and potential resettlement there.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke pointed to the transfer of the men to Manus Island, saying it showed the model was working and would smash the people smuggling business model.

“As of now there are the first people in Papua New Guinea who are realising the people smugglers no longer have a product to sell,” Burke said.

“The promise of living and working in Australia, which is sold by people smugglers before they push people onto the high seas, is no longer a product available.”

The youngest of those to arrive is believed to be 18.

The asylum seekers will join 26 others at the temporary asylum seeker centre at Lombrum.

Burke said “more and more” asylum seekers would be flown to Papua New Guinea in the coming days.

“Over time, every single person who arrives under these new rules will find the government is true to its word,” he said.



20a) Models predict more intense storms in South West Pacific
By Online Editor
4:43 pm GMT+12, 01/08/2013, Samoa

The proportion of the most intense storms is projected to increase in the South West Pacific this century.

Countries in this part of the Pacific include Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Niue, PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

This was information from the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science Adaptation Planning Program (PACCSAP) Regional Program Manager, Shin Furuno.

Furuno said it is the opposite in the northern Pacific basin where the proportion of weaker storms are projected to increase.

Countries in that part of the region are Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands.

Furuno was a participant at the Joint Meeting 2013 of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, held in Nadi, Fiji last month.

PACCSAP engages with 15 Pacific countries and regional stakeholders to build their capacity to apply results discovered and build the climate science knowledge base.

It aims to help fill gaps by examining past climate trends and variability and providing regional and national climate projections.

It assists small islands in the Pacific which are facing serious and immediate challenges from climate change.

Furuno said the Pacific Climate Change Science Program, which preceded PACCSAP, projected that the proportion of the most intense storms will increase in the South West Pacific.

“However tropical cyclone frequency is likely to decrease in the South Pacific region over the 21st century,” he said.

He said there may be less cyclones overall, but more of them will be very intense.


20b) Leaked Climate Commission report calls on Australia to triple 2020 carbon emissions cuts target

Updated 2 August 2013, 9:29 AEST

The Government’s main advisory body on climate change says Australia should triple its 2020 target for cutting carbon emissions.

A leaked report to the Government from the independent Climate Commission says Australia should aim to cut emissions by 15 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

That is up from the 5 per cent figure agreed to as a target by both sides of politics.

The report says the cuts should ramp up to 40 per cent cut by 2030, and 90 per cent by 2050.

The Gillard government set a 2050 target of 80 per cent.

Where do the parties stand on climate change?

The report was obtained by the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast, and is due to be handed to the Government in October.

The Climate Commission was established as a scientific independent advisory body to aid the Government and Australians in decisions about climate change, international action on greenhouse gasses, and the economics of a carbon price.

The associate director of the Australian National University’s Climate Law and Policy Centre, Andrew McIntosh, says a 15 per cent target is achievable.

“Economy-wide, an increase from 5 per cent to 15 per cent will result in only a marginal increase in the economic cost,” he said.

“If you go to 40 per cent it will be significantly more, but not the sort of thing that’s crushing, and we could do it without suffering a major loss in GDP growth and the other major macro-economic indicators.”

The final recommendations and report from the Commission are due in April next year.

Mr McIntosh says if the world wants to aim to limit average temperature increases to just two degrees Celsius, governments will have to agree limit output of carbon to 300 billion tonnes over the next 90 years.

“Think of that as a big carbon cake,” he said. “Every person on the earth should get an equal slice of that.”

“If you adopt that approach, the 15 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050 results in every person in Australia on average getting at least double what someone from the developing world gets.

“Assuming that all developing countries adopt a similar approach.”

He says the Government must consider if it wants Australia to continue emitting much more carbon than fellow nations.

“How can you justify that the average Australian ends up with twice the allocation at least as the average Indian, or the average Chinese person?

“It’s not enough and we need to go higher (than 15 per cent) if we want to reach that two degree target.”


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