Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 893

MELANESIA:

1a) Joint Border Patrols Enhance Relations Between PNG, Australia
PNG citizens allowed traditional entry to Torres Strait without visa

By Sean Dorney

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 14, 2013) – Australia Network’s Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney, a former veteran Papua New Guinea correspondent, has just been back to PNG – to a village he has never visited before.

Sean was invited to be part of a joint patrol to Sigabaduru village involving Australian Customs, Australian Federal Police (AFP), Queensland Police, Papua New Guinea Customs, PNG Immigration and PNG Police. This is his report of the visit.

The village of Sigabaduru is on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea’s Western (or Fly River) Province and is less than three kilometres from the Australian island of Saibai.

We went there in quite speedy tenders launched from a patrol boat, the Australian Customs Vessel Holdfast Bay.

Unlike Saibai which has a wharf, electricity and running water, Sigabaduru – a village of 850 to 1,000 people – has no electricity, no running water and no wharf. That meant wading ashore.

Once on the beach Grant Smith, the Australian Federal Police officer who was in the team, handed over his gun to his PNG counterpart, a policewoman who held it until he was ready to return to Australian territory.

Sigabaduru is one of the villages covered by the Australia PNG Treaty whereby PNG citizens are allowed traditional entry into a number of Australian islands in the Torres Strait, free from the need for visas.

About 50,000 visits are made to Australian islands like Saibai each year by Papua New Guineans covered by the Treaty.

In fact, the day before we crossed over to Sigabaduru I ran into one of the men from that village, Nope Nama, who was on a shopping trip to the supermarket at another Australian island just off the PNG mainland, Dauan.

He bought some rice, flour, sugar and fruit juice. He was back on the PNG mainland before nightfall.

The idea of the joint cross border patrols is to maintain relationships with the communities and the trips provide the authorities in both Australia and PNG with invaluable intelligence.

The local people on both sides of the border know each other extremely well and so the Torres Strait is not the easy access route to Australia by potential asylum seekers or others that one might assume.

Liam Daly, the Australian Customs and Border Security team leader for the Torres Strait, told a village meeting in Sigabaduru that the Australian agencies involved in the patrol had a variety of interests.

“We’re interested into [sic] the movement of people into Australia, the movement of people out of Australia,” he said.

“Things like drugs, guns, money movement – that kind of stuff.”

The AFP’s Grant Smith told the people how much Australia had appreciated information Papua New Guineans had provided in the past.

“I just want to say we really value the relationship we’ve established with your village here,” he said.

“And because we’re so close. PNG and Australia are so close here these Cross Border Patrols which are led by Customs, it’s really about us working together across that border so that both communities are safe.”

There was one complaint from the other side. Koeget Salee, a retired school teacher from Sigabaduru, said that his people had assisted in reporting people trying to illegally enter Australia – but it was expensive for people in PNG to do so.

He said that if he was reporting some suspicious movement to Saibai, he had to make an international phone call on his mobile even though Saibai was in full view just there across the water.

The joint border patrols also keep a watch on illegal fishing.

One issue that I reported on quite extensively when I was the ABC’s Port Moresby correspondent in the 1990s was the trade of guns from Australian to the Torres Strait and marijuana from the PNG side.

Although there was mention of it during the Sigabaduru village meeting, it appears the trade has declined somewhat.

One of the reasons, I was told, is that hydroponic marijuana grown in Australia has taken market share off the PNG Highlands grown variety.

I asked the Queensland Police officer in charge in the Torres Strait Patrol Group about the trade.

“I wouldn’t say that it doesn’t occur,” Inspector David Lacey said.

“Certainly our intelligence indicates that it is not as prevalent as perhaps it was in the past. I think one of the reasons is our continued cross border patrols with our federal counterparts.

“We have a very good connection of networks on the islands these days with the Movement Monitoring Officers employed by the Federal Government attached to each of the outer islands.

“Also we have Torres Strait Islands Police Support Officers currently on the islands so that network of contacts, I think, significantly reduces the amount of activity that goes on, specifically with regards to large-scale importations.”

Inspector Lacey said a big part of the Queensland Police job in the Torres Strait these days is to do with search and rescue operations because the waters on both sides of the border can be quite treacherous.

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

1b) Strong stance urged on investigation into PNG MPs

Posted at 18:41 on 17 November, 2013 UTC

The director of Papua New Guinea’s Institute of National Affairs says an important opportunity could be lost if an investigation into MPs who failed to submit financial returns, falls by the wayside.

The Registrar of Political Parties, Dr Alphonse Gelu, has referred nine members of parliament to the Ombudsman Commission for failing to submit their election expenses incurred during last year’s election.

Political parties also have a poor record – only 12 parties filed returns from at least 40 who participated.

It’s the first time the Registrar has taken such a step and Paul Barker hopes that the Ombudsman Commission will be equally motivated to send a strong message to politicians.

“There’s clearly pressure on the independent constitutional office holders to avoid taking action against some particularly powerful leaders but also there’s such a backlog of investigations and prosecutions that this could join the in-tray and maybe never get addressed for one reason or another.”

Paul Barker.

The chief ombudsman says a decision will be reached soon as to whether the case should be referred to the public prosecutor.

Radio New Zealand International

2) Vanuatu daily news digest | 15 November 2013

by bobmakin

There will be three sessions of Parliament this month and next. The sitting of a week from today, Friday 22 November, is forchanges to the Constitution. Three such changes are needed for the Land Law Reforms being instituted. Parliament will meet in the third extra-ordinary sitting from 25 to 28 November to debate 10 government bills. The second ordinary sitting of Parliament, which is the budget session, will begin 2 December and debate 23 government bills. This blog will list the bills at the weekend.

VBTC News reports government saying it is usual at every year end for the services of government to complain about insufficient funds. Budgetary methods are now being adopted to ensure better service delivery to people: the ministry of finance is advising departments of practices they need to employ until the end of the year. The statement was made to answer the opposition’s criticisms as regards financial management. The last government, the present administration claims, had large outstandings at the end of the financial year. These greatly affected this year’s operations. The rebuke necessarily falls on all parliamentarians. They chose the former finance minister to run the present government.

The open season for the sale of coconut crab began 1 November but has yet to prove of great benefit to Torba Province, the main source of the delicacy. Limited space in planes is blamed.

Assurances have been given that with the submarine cable arriving in a fortnight, planning is well underway for the alternative cable. This will link Vanuatu with the Solomons and New Caledonia. It will also ensure a second route for traffic in the event of technical mishap.

PASIFIK:

3) Treaty negotiated in secret between 12 nations ‘would trample over individual rights and free expression’, says Julian Assange

The Guardian (Australia): ‘… secret draft chapter of Trans-Pacific Partnership’

Alex Hern and Dominic Rushe

Wednesday 13 November 2013

WikiLeaks has released the draft text of a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a multilateral free-trade treaty currently being negotiated in secret by 12 Pacific Rim nations.

The full agreement covers a number of areas, but the chapter published by WikiLeaks focuses on intellectual property rights, an area of law which has effects in areas as diverse as pharmaceuticals and civil liberties.

Negotiations for the TPP have included representatives from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, and Brunei, but have been conducted behind closed doors. Even members of the US Congress were only allowed to view selected portions of the documents under supervision.

“We’re really worried about a process which is so difficult for those who take an interest in these agreements to deal with. We rely on leaks like these to know what people are talking about,” says Peter Bradwell, policy director of the London-based Open Rights Group.

“Lots of people in civil society have stressed that being more transparent, and talking about the text on the table, is crucial to give treaties like this any legitimacy. We shouldn’t have to rely on leaks to start a debate about what’s in then.”

The 30,000 word intellectual property chapter contains proposals to increase the term of patents, including medical patents, beyond 20 years, and lower global standards for patentability. It also pushes for aggressive measures to prevent hackers breaking copyright protection, although that comes with some exceptions: protection can be broken in the course of “lawfully authorised activities carried out by government employees, agents, or contractors for the purpose of law enforcement, intelligence, essential security, or similar governmental purposes”.

WikiLeaks claims that the text shows America attempting to enforce its highly restrictive vision of intellectual property on the world – and on itself. “The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly,” says Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, who is living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London following an extradition dispute with Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape.

“If instituted,” Assange continues, “the TPP’s intellectual property regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Just Foreign Policy, a group dedicated to reforming US foreign policy, managed to crowdfund a $70,000 (£43,700) bounty for Wikileaks if the organisation managed to leak the TPP text. “Our pledge, as individuals, is to donate this money to WikiLeaks should it leak the document we seek.” The conditions the group set have not yet been met, however, because it required the full text, not individual chapters.

Related to the TPP is a second secret trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which ties together regulatory practices in the US and EU. George Monbiot, writing in this paper, referred to the treaty as a “monstrous assault on democracy”. Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio,replied that it “would see our economy grow by an extra £10bn per annum”.

Campaign group Fight for the Future has already collected over 100,000 signatures in an online petition against what it calls the “extreme Internet censorship plan: contained in the TPP.

Evan Greer, campaign manager for Fight for the Future, said: “The documents revealed by WikiLeaks make it clear why the US government has worked so hard to keep the TPP negotiatons secret. While claiming to champion an open Internet, the Obama administration is quietly pushing for extreme, SOPA-like copyright policies that benefit Hollywood and giant pharmaceutical companies at the expense of our most basic rights to freedom of expression online.”

http://www.theguardian.com/

EDUCATION:

4) Solomons Students Protest Outside Education Ministry
Over 2,000 want ministry to release school allowances

By Charley Piringi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Nov. 15, 2013) – Solomon Islands National University (SINU) students on Thursday stepped up the pressure on the government to pay up their allowances.

More than 2000 student gathered around the premises of the Ministry of Education to demand payment – attracting huge public attention, and the police to the scene.

The ministry was able to release the allowances for 300 students, while up to 3,000 students were told to wait.

This prompted disagreement and anger amongst those who were told to wait, and kept them waiting outside the ministry’s office for the most part of Thursday.

The ministry said pay outs will continue today and next week.

More students will receive their allowance on Friday and next week.

Addressing the students, National Training Unit (NTU) director Selu Maezama assured them pay outs will continue in the coming days.

On Thursday, boarding students at Panatina campus received their allowances.

President of the student association Wilson Mae said the students are unhappy because of the delay, but now felt a sense of relief now that the government is paying up.

“Actually, the students are unhappy about the delay of allowance, but it’s good that payments have now started,” Mr Mae said.

He said the ministry should learn from what happened this year.

The boarding Panatina campus students received SBD$1,500 [US$203] each, whilst the Kukum campus day students will each get SBD$4,500 [US$611].

Most of the students have gone on holiday since last Friday.

Mr Mae said the students were unhappy with the delay because they need their allowances to travel home and also to settle their 25 per cent tuition fee in order to get their results or graduate next month.

Solomon Star

MEDIA:

5) Indonesia MP opposes Papua ban for foreign journalists

Posted at 04:22 on 15 November, 2013 UTC

An Indonesian parliamentarian, Eva Sundari, says there should be no restriction for foreign journalists wanting to go to Papua.

Ms Sundari, who is a member of the Human Rights and Security Committee, says she was surprised to hear that foreign journalists were banned from the easternmost province.

She says the chief of the military had assured her that Papua was as free as other regions.

“Why if you have freedom for press for Indonesian journalists, but not for foreign journalists, what is the point here? Is there anything you want to hide from foreigners? I cannot accept this because if we employ a democracy it must be all over Indonesia at the same time, and also if you employ a freedom for press it must also be applied for Papua.”

Eva Sundari says from her point of view, the situation for human rights is bad all over Indonesia

Radio New Zealand International

BUSINESS:

6) Solomons’ nickel-rich province lacks experienced deal negotiator: Premier

Posted at 18:41 on 17 November, 2013 UTC

The leader of the administration in Solomon Islands’ Isabel province says his region needs lawyers experienced in striking mining deals.

The comment follows a mining forum in Buala, the capital of the province, which is rich in nickel deposits and has two companies vying for extraction rights.

The forum’s main resolution is that Isabel is not ready for mining, and delegates have returned to their communities to discuss the issues involved.

The premier James Habu says exposure to overseas communities’ experience of mining would be beneficial to resource owners in Isabel.

“But I think more importantly is the lack of experienced negotiators. We haven’t negotiated for a mine in our experience. Most of our legal people here do not have the long-term attachment to the mining industry to be aware of how you negotiate benefits.”

Isabel province’s Premier James Habu.

Radio New Zealand International

7) Fiji govt will not tolerate tax evasion

By Online Editor
12:37 pm GMT+12, 15/11/2013, Fiji

Tax evasion and tax planning by individuals and companies will not be tolerated by the Bainimarama Government.

And according to Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, it was equally important for all taxpayers to adhere to the proper guidelines and pay their taxes on time.

“To improve compliance and policing of government revenue collections, the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority will be equipped with an increased operating budget of $43.7m (US$23.6 million), an increase of $4.2m (US$2.2 million) over this year,” Commodore Bainimarama said at the announcement of the 2014 National Budget.

Despite government’s efforts to reduce the cost of certain commodities through duty reductions, Commodore Bainimarama said the price of many of those items continued to escalate.

“To address this issue, the ministries of Finance and Industry and Trade, together with FRCA will form a taskforce in the next few weeks to undertake price monitoring and surveillance on key policy items that have been granted duty concession.

“Businesses that fail to pass on the concession to consumers will have their concession withdrawn.” Responding to FRCA grants in the 2014 National Budget, CEO Jitoko Tikolevu said they were comfortable with the additional $4.2m operating grant.

“The budget couldn’t be better. Government is committed to ensuring there is consistency and a continuation of what was made available two years ago.

“The issue of us is always collection and where the money is coming from but we are comfortable with the additional grant, which will be for some of the reforms that we are doing internally.”

Tikolevu said this included reforms with information technology platform and equipment from abroad. He said a business would be as effective as the IT platform that supported it.

Meanwhile, Fiji government will remove the prohibition on credit card surcharges to allow retailers and merchants to pass on surcharges on credit card transactions.

And according to the Ministry of Finance, the policy change would lead to collection of additional revenues from value-added tax (VAT), sales turnover tax and other taxes.

Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said this measure would lead to additional revenue of about $15million (US$8.1 million).

In terms of other tax incentives, Commodore Bainimarama said government would provide a blanket tax exemption on all investments in Unit Trusts, Fiji Holdings’ mutual funds that were popular among small investors.

“The bold tax regime announced in the 2012 Budget and built upon last year will remain in effect in 2014 and beyond,” he said.

“The 2012 Budget took significant steps in liberalising our tax system by reducing personal income tax rates to a maximum of 20 per cent, benefiting 99 per cent of our individual taxpayers.

“It also reduced Customs duty rates and put in place attractive incentives for foreign investment.”

Commodore Bainimarama said the social responsibility tax rate, which was introduced in 2012, would be rectified and aligned to the 2013 incremental system.

This, he said, would ensure consistency and remove any anomalies. The incremental system would be backdated to January 1, 2012 and any applicable refund would be paid.

SOURCE” FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS

8) PNG Allegedly Looking To Buy Back Oil Search Shares
Sources claim Ok Tedi takeover linked to efforts to raise funds

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 14, 2013) – The O’Neill Government in Papua New Guinea is keen to buy back its Oil Search Ltd shares it offloaded to the Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) in 2008.

And it is still in negotiations with potential financiers, according to the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC).

The developments coincide with revelations by highly-placed sources that the move to take over the Ok Tedi Mine is allegedly connected to the hunt by the Government for collateral to enable it to raise AU$1.8 billion to repurchase the shares.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill brushed aside the reports in a recent interview with the Post-Courier saying they were baseless as negotiations were still ongoing.

“There is no truth in all this. Discussions are still going on. The final shareholding structure will be determined after the conclusion of these discussions,” he said.

Former PM and sidelined PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) chairman Sir Mekere Morauta refused to comment when approached, saying the matter (ownership of the mine) was in court in Singapore and the Washington DC.

IPBC acting managing director Wasantha Kumarasiri echoed similar sentiments to the PM saying negotiations were still underway, though he expressed concern with reports connecting investment bank UBS AG to a purported deal.

A copy of a National Executive Council (NEC) Decision (Decision No 117/2013) dated April 5, 2013 obtained by the Post-Courier showed that the cabinet had given approval for the Minister for State Enterprise to direct the IPBC management to seek funding that would be used to finance the State’s component for train 3 of the PNG LNG Project expansion.

The State’s component is estimated to be AU$1.2 billion, according to the NEC document. Cabinet also directed that the IPBC should minimise cost associated with raising funds through direct negotiations with potential financiers and the use of IPBC management.

Appropriate security options to meet the financer’s security requirements should also be provided.

According to highly placed Government sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Government through IPBC had a shortlist of five overseas financiers who were interested in providing the funding.

However, the Government’s lack of collateral to guarantee the provision of the loan appears to be an obstacle to moving with the loan negotiations. “The Prime Minister has said for us to look at all options but we advised him to let it go because getting another loan would add more burden to the people and we need that kind of money to provide health and education services,” said an official involved in the negotiations.

The Government’s takeover of the Ok Tedi Mine Ltd (OTML) and the sidelining of the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) opened up the potential of using revenue generated by the Western Province mine.

However, its efforts were frustrated by landowners splitting over the Government’s moves and litigation initiated in Singapore and America by the PNGSDP.

PNG Post-Courier: http://www.postcourier.com.pg/

LAW&ORDER:


9) PNG people to get free legal aid from local law students
By Online Editor
3:56 pm GMT+12, 15/11/2013, Papua New Guinea

People in Papua New Guinea who cannot afford a lawyer will get free legal advice from law students.

Fifty law students in PNG are providing free legal advice to residents for the next three months under an initiative run by the University of Papua New Guinea’s Law School.

The students will reach out to all provinces, including those that do not have the services of public solicitors.

The university’s Legal Aid Program coordinator Darryl Kamen told Pacific Beat the people in PNG are in need of legal aid.

“A lot of our people meet (the students) and they are not aware of what steps, what avenues or what to do if they have legal issues,” he said.

Kamen says the students can represent the residents at the district courts, but not at the national courts.

“Our students will help those who are accused of offences. Let’s say someone commits an offence and he won’t have the means to engage a lawyer, like he does not have the money to get a private lawyer,” he said.

“In the provinces where the public solicitor’s office does not have legal aid desk, our students will be stationed or will be located at the provincial administration building.”

Kamen says many residents want the program to be extended for up to a year, but the university does not have the ability to do so at the moment.

“People out in the rural area should make the best use of those students,” he said.

SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS

10) Agency to be established to protect crime witnesses, victims
By Online Editor
08:53 am GMT+12, 15/11/2013, Indonesia

Six south-east Asian countries have agreed to establish a technical agency in the region to strengthen cooperation among national agencies in protecting witnesses and victims of transnational crime.

The agreement was made by the six countries — Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Papua New Guinea, during a meeting on strengthening regional cooperation on witness and victim protection in Kuta that concluded on Wednesday.

Abdul Haris Semendawai, chairman of Indonesia’s Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) who chaired the meeting, said the technical regional agency or organization would facilitate the sharing and exchanging of information and knowledge, as well as seek technical assistance and training for national agencies on witness and victim protection.

“We have just started building a regional network to cooperate on this issue by issuing a joint statement, which — among others — recommends the establishment of a technical regional organization to strengthen the cooperation,” he said after the meeting.

Further plans on the establishment of the agency would be discussed in the next meeting, which as yet has not been scheduled.

In the joint statement, the countries also shared similar views about the urgency to revise and adopt national measures and mechanisms for the effective protection of witnesses and victims of transnational organized crime from potential retaliation or intimidation.

They also affirmed the necessity to adopt measures to establish physical protection for witnesses, including relocation and non-disclosure or limitation on the disclosure of information about their identity and whereabouts, as well as provide evidentiary rules to permit witness testimony to be given in a way that ensures the safety of witnesses.

Abdul said the countries also stated the importance of establishing procedures to provide access to compensation and restitution for victims of crime and providing physical, medical, psychological and social recovery for witnesses and victims.

“The countries are all aware that the rights of these victims and witnesses have not been adequately recognized, and are aware that victims and witnesses and others who aid them are unjustly subjected to threats, harassment, loss, damage, injury and that they may suffer hardship when assisting in the prosecution of offenders,” he said.

This meeting is a follow up from a last year’s international meeting in Nusa Dua, in which countries agreed to establish regional networks to identify possible areas of collaboration to promote international cooperation on witness and victim protection.

In the meeting, delegates from every country reported on their measures and achievements in providing protection for witnesses and victims of crime.

Cambodia delegate, Pol. Brig. Gen. Say Mengcheang said his government had already established working groups, among which cater to victim protection. The country also has a three-year national plan of action in place on the issue.

Delegate from Malaysia, asst. commissioner of police Arshad bin Abdul Jalil presented the Witness Protection Program in Malaysia through the enactment of the Witness Protection Act 2009. The country has also established a bilateral agreement with several countries on the issue and participated in the Europol network.

Delegate from the Philippines, attorney Martin T. Menez, the program director of the witness protection program at the Department of Justice, elaborated on the country’s witness protection legislation that provides rewards and incentives for state witnesses and informants.

Thailand delegates, Thanakorn Stananoda and Nareeluc Pairchaiyapoom from the Department of Rights and Liberty Protection, explained that the country had implemented two separate laws on victim and witness protection, as well as establishing a witness protection office and enacting a state compensation act providing remedial action for victims through a justice fund for certain types of crime.

The meeting also took note of various lessons learned and best practices from each country, including the importance of civil society involvement in the protection of witnesses and victims. They also learned that effective protection of witnesses and victims leads to higher conviction rates.
SOURCE: THE JAKARTA POST /PACNEWS

REFUGEE:

11) Anger over PNG shut out of Manus camp spin off businesses

Posted at 01:12 on 16 November, 2013 UTC

The Papua New Guinea prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has expressed alarm at the way Papua New Guineans are being cut out of opportunities arising from the camp for Australia’s asylum seekers.

The Post Courier newspaper reports Mr O’Neill telling parliament he will complain directly to Canberra after claims by Manus MP Ronnie Knight that locals are not benefiting from the spin-off businesses.

He says it is alarming that PNG business people do not get the opportunity to participate when that was the intention in setting up the centre.

Mr O’Neill says it is a blatant abuse of trust.

Mr Knight told parliament guest houses and hotels had benefited from the demand until recently when an accommodation barge was brought in, depleting the local hospitality industry overnight.

And he says local companies had bought machinery but now find an Australian contractor has brought in several dump trucks and other equipment to take advantage of the spin-offs.

Radio New Zealand International

CLIMATE CHANGE,CONSERVATION & ENVIROMENT:

12) Starfish pest cull in American Samoa waters after reef damage

Posted at 17:50 on 17 November, 2013 UTC

Over 2000 crown of thorn starfish have been killed in American Samoan waters in an effort to halt the damage caused by the marine pest.

The Crown of thorn starfish poses a threat to coral reefs because it preys on coral tissue.

The National Park of American Samoa brought in nine scuba divers to remove the crown of thorn in Fagasa waters.

The crown of thorns eradication is a joint effort by the National Park, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources and National Marine Sanctuary of Amerian Samoa.

The Marine Ecologist for the National Park, Dr Tim Clark, says there’s alarm at the amount of damage caused by the marine pest.

Radio New Zealand International

SPORTS:


13) Aquatic centre to be best in Pacific

By Online Editor
4:09 pm GMT+12, 15/11/2013, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is about to have one of the best swimming facilities in the Pacific, Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said

Giving reporters a Pacific Games update at the Taurama Aquatic Centre site on Tuesday Tkatchenko said the centre would cost K110 million.

He said with all venues would cost K780 million (US$303 million).

That is split into K110m for the aquatic centre, K120m for the Sir John Guise Stadium and K45m for the indoor stadium, K240m for the Games Village, K40m for the Rita Flynn Netball Courts and K30m for the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.

He said contracts for some projects had not been awarded yet.

“This site (aquatic centre) will hold the basketball, volleyball, and the two pools, the 50-metre and the 25m pools,” Tkatchenko said.

“This will be the new home for basketball, volleyball and swimming in Papua New Guinea and will be one of the best aquatic centres and indoor stadiums in the South Pacific when it’s completed.

“Fletcher Morobe has already started to lay the concrete footing and foundations and also the concrete slabs.

“They’re moving forward to have all this work completed by the end of the year.

‘I can say confidently that this project is well on schedule.

“I’m very pleased that the programmes are on track and if there are any delays, that’s usually the bureaucratic red tape that we have to go through,” Tkatchenko said.

Meanwhile, Minister Tkatchenko says he will not comment any more on the inflated contract price for the Pacific Games Village in Port Moresby.

He said that on Tuesday in reply to questions about how China Railway Construction Engineering, was awarded a contract worth more than K263 million (US$102 million) to build the 2015 Pacific Games Village at University of Papua New Guinea despite the job being valued at only K190m (US$73 million).

Documents provided to The National earlier this year show the company was not in the top three of the 10 firms that bid for the contract.

However it was given the contract at an inflated cost of K73 million over the original price.

Tkatchenko has since maintained there was nothing sinister about the awarding of the contract.

“I’ve already spoken to you about that,” he said.

“You already know that, so I don’t want to comment anymore. You already know what I’ve said and that project is on target, on budget and moving forward for the people of PNG.”

New Zealand engineering consultancy firm, Warren and Mahoney, did the scoping for the project valuing it at K190m.

Moreover, the tender evaluation committee (TEC) of the Central Supply and Tenders Board (CSTB), disqualified CRCE from further evaluation, however, it was somehow awarded the contract.

The 10 companies that bid and their respective prices were China Railway Construction Group PNG (K149, 549, 896.90), China Railway Construction Engineering PNG (K263, 973, 822.56), Associated Builders (K389, 699, 629.50), J4J Construction & Hardware Supplies (K179, 550, 813.20),  China Harbour Engineering Ltd (K153, 307, 006.19), PNG Construction Ltd (K223, 437, 500), Digara Construction Ltd (K226, 479, 798.16), Fletcher Morobe Construction (K191, 453, 653.80), JIC Niugini Engineering (K173, 236, 504.02), and China Railway Group (K189,033, 309.98).

Fletcher Morobe Construction was recommended by the tender evaluation committee of the Central Supply and Tenders Board to be awarded the contract at a cost of K191, 453, 553.80.

The other two top companies after that were China Harbour Engineering Ltd (K153, 307. 006.19), and JIC Niugini Engineering Ltd (K173, 236, 504.02).

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS

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