Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 924



1) MSG Visit To West Papua A Diplomatic Minefield

By Graham Davis

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Jan. 13, 2014) – Foreign Ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group are set to tip-toe through a diplomatic minefield with news that a MSG delegation – led by Fiji’s Ratu Inoke Kubuabola – will make its long-awaited visit to the Indonesian province of West Papua this week.

The mission is fraught with potential difficulty and will require all the diplomatic skills the Ministers can muster as they walk a tightrope between the intense sensitivity of their Indonesian hosts and the equally intense expectations of their Melanesian brothers and sisters in West Papua.

Ratu Inoke is famed for his own political dexterity – a man who has been able to weather successive upheavals in Fijian politics and still be at the centre of decision-making. So arguably no one is better placed to lead this delegation to West Papua and bring it back without fracturing relationships on either side.

The stakes are high and the pitfalls perilous. It will be one of the toughest assignments Ratu Inoke has ever undertaken, arguably more so than his patient to-ing and fro-ing with the recalcitrant Australians and New Zealanders on behalf of the Bainimarama Government.


Yet, once again, Fiji has a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership, judgment and wisdom, not only in our own foreign policy but on behalf of all Melanesians, including the people of West Papua. So our best wishes go with him as he tackles one of the biggest challenges of his diplomatic career.

Put simply, the indigenous people of West Papua regard themselves – quite rightly – as being as Melanesian as their kin across the border in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji – the existing members of the MSG. Yet they now find themselves outnumbered in their own country by the Javanese and other Indonesian ethnic groups that have flooded into West Papua since what was then a Dutch colony was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1961.

That invasion took place in highly controversial circumstances and amid an international outcry. It was eventually agreed that the United Nations oversee a plebiscite of the people of West Papua to finally decide their future. They were given two choices – to remain part of Indonesia or to become an independent nation.

But while this vote was officially described as “An Act of Free Choice”, it was conducted not by a poll of the entire population but of about 1,000 men selected by the Indonesian military. This group – described at the time as a consensus of elders – was allegedly coerced into unanimously voting to remain part of Indonesia.

And ever since, the result has been rejected by Papuan nationalists, who established what they called the Free Papua Movement (OPM). The OPM ran a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Indonesian administration over the years in which many thousands of people were killed on both sides. And while this has since tapered off, the independence movement has continued, mainly through peaceful protest and a campaign of international lobbying.

The main pro-independence group now is the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) – an umbrella group of several bodies – with a leadership largely outside the country – in Vanuatu, the United States and Europe. This group has now made a formal application to join the MSG and in doing so, has given the regional grouping a massive headache. It can’t really say no altogether because it has already admitted the FLNKS, which is not a Melanesian country but the pro-independence movement in New Caledonia, once a French territory and still part of the French Republic, though with a degree of internal autonomy as a “Special Collectivity” of France.

The people of New Caledonia are due to be given a vote on full independence from France sometime between now and 2018. But the people of West Papua are in a completely different situation.


Indonesia regards West Papua as one of its provinces and an integral part of the nation, as integral as Java, Sumatra or anywhere else. It says it will never countenance independence and fights the notion at every turn, regarding it as a threat to national sovereignty.

Part of its sensitivity lies in the humiliating manner in which it was forced to surrender East Timor, which it invaded and took from the Portuguese in 1975, but lost in 1999 after a bloody guerrilla war and a similar United Nations vote, though one carried out properly.

In the interim, Indonesia has evolved from a military dictatorship into a robust democracy. Yet the Indonesian military still sees itself as the ultimate guardian of the country’s territorial integrity and cracks down hard on any expression of dissidence or revolt over its hold on West Papua.

For Fiji and the other MSG countries, negotiating a way through this minefield is naturally going to be extremely challenging. Philosophically, they cannot exclude a substantial Melanesian population whose representatives want to join the organisation. But neither can they – nor do they want to -upset or damage the relationship of the MSG countries with Indonesia.

That relationship ranges from excellent – in the case of Fiji – to somewhat strained, in the case of Vanuatu, which has close ties to the West Papuan leaders in exile, provides them with a base and has strongly argued their case in global forums such as the United Nations. So in essence, the door has to be kept open to both the Indonesian leadership in Jakarta and the leaders of the West Papuan independence movement, a considerable challenge that now rests at the feet of the MSG Foreign Ministers and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in particular.

At the MSG summit meeting in Noumea last June, the MSG leaders decided to send a delegation led by Ratu Inoke to Indonesia for talks on the membership application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation. It’s taken more than six months of delicate negotiations to organise but finally, Jakarta issued a formal invitation for the mission to proceed.


On Tuesday, Ratu Inoke will begin sitting down in the Indonesian capital flanked by the Foreign Ministers of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, a Special Envoy from Vanuatu and a senior representative of the FLNKS, which is the current chair of the MSG. In a clear sign of how seriously the Indonesians are taking the mission, across the table from them will be the senior leadership – including the President of the Republic, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa.

The tenor of these meetings will be crucial. Neither side wants a showdown over West Papua and both will be working hard to ensure a successful outcome. But it is a challenging prospect indeed to expect the Indonesians to accept West Papua joining the MSG, except as part of the Indonesian Republic, which currently has observer status at the MSG.

Can a formula be hammered out for the Province to join as a full member, just as the Kanaks of New Caledonia have full membership but France doesn’t? Would the pro-independence exiles accept this? Can they be brought into the tent to both the satisfaction of Indonesia, themselves and the MSG? These are all imponderables at the present time yet must logically be in the mix if a successful outcome is to be achieved.

After these talks will come the most sensitive part of the visit, when Ratu Inoke and the other Foreign Ministers travel from Jakarta to West Papua itself. Their official program for the two day visit hasn’t been officially released. Yet there’s no doubt that the pro-independence lobby sees the visit as a golden opportunity to press its case.


A senior West Papuan activist, Octovianus Mote, was recently in Fiji lobbying on behalf of the WPNCL. He said the Movement was “thrilled” that the MSG Foreign Ministers would be coming to the Province and pledged that thousands of Melanesians would turn out to line the road from the airport to welcome them. Just how the Indonesian security forces will respond remains to be seen.

But the record shows that they give short shrift to any public manifestation of Melanesian nationalism and especially the raising of the Free West Papuan flag. Octovianus Mote said this would definitely happen at some stage during the visit. The MSG Foreign Ministers will be dearly hoping for restraint on both sides.

In his official announcement of the visit, Ratu Inoke appeared to play down the prospects of any dramatic outcome, stressing cooperation with the Indonesian Government and ruling out any prospect of supporting independence for the Province.”We are happy to undertake this important visit at the invitation of the Indonesian Government to be able to assess the application by WPNCL to become a member of the MSG to enable us to present a recommendation to our Leaders,” Ratu Inoke said.

“(But) we fully respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we further recognise that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. The visit will provide the opportunity to learn firsthand about the situation in West Papua and understand the aspirations of our fellow Melanesian brothers and sisters in Papua with regards to their representation by WPNCL to become a member of the MSG.”


So a softly, softly, vakamalua, approach to this most sensitive of issues – the Foreign Minister and his MSG colleagues desperately hoping their visit passes off without incident and that the whole conundrum can eventually be resolved through patient negotiation and dialogue.

From where Fiji sits, it is certainly not the time for rash provocations on the part of the separatist movement, nor a heavy handed, repressive response on the part of the Indonesian security forces.

The leitmotif of Fiji’s foreign policy under the Bainimarama Government is to be “friends to all” and that includes both Indonesia and our Melanesian neighbours. Ratu Inoke will certainly be approaching his mission in that spirit and the whole nation will be hoping that he can succeed.

Graham Davis is a Fiji Sun columnist. He is also a regional adviser to Qorvis – the global US communications giant.


2)  MSG To Assess Membership Of West Papua Coalition
Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Indonesia

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 13, 2014) – The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) will assess the application by West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) to become a member of the group.

This will be discussed at the MSG Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) in Indonesia this week, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

In an Information Ministry statement released on Saturday, Ratu Inoke said the FMM delegation would also be in West Papua for two days during the visit to meet with local government officials and other relevant stakeholders.

“We are happy to undertake this important visit at the invitation of the Indonesian Government to be able to assess the application by WPNCL to become a member of the MSG to enable us to present a recommendation to our leaders,” Ratu Inoke said.

“We fully respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we further recognise that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia.”

Ratu Inoke will also meet Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

He said the visit would provide an opportunity to learn about the situation in West Papua and understand the aspirations of Fiji’s Melanesian brothers and sisters in Papua with regards to their representation by WPNCL in the MSG.

It was envisaged that the visit would also deepen the economic ties and development co-operation between Indonesia and MSG countries.

The visit will be mandated by the MSG leaders who were at the MSG summit in Noumea in June last year.

The meeting ends on Thursday.

Fiji Times Online:

3) Vanuatu Foreign Minister Withdraws From MSG Meeting In Indonesia
Natapei says visit won’t accomplish what Leaders want

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 13, 2014) – The Vanuatu government has withdrawn from a Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Ministers delegation to Indonesia to discuss and visit West Papua this week.

The delegation, which is led by Fiji, is visiting after a resolution by the MSG to engage more closely with Jakarta over issues raised about extensive alleged human rights abuses in Indonesia’s Papua region.

A decision on the formal bid for MSG membership by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation was deferred pending the outcome of this visit.

However, Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Edward Natapei has pulled out of the visit because his government believes its scheduled programme shows that the mission is highly unlikely to achieve what MSG leaders wanted it to achieve.

MSG leaders had wanted to meet various West Papuan groups, including some leaders of pro-independence movements, in order to enhance its understanding of the Papuan’s membership bid.

Vanuatu is still part of the delegation by sending an envoy.

Radio New Zealand International:

4) Vanuatu daily news digest | 13 January 2014

by bobmakin

Radio New Zealand International carried the first report on the withdrawal of Vanuatu from an MSG delegation to Indonesia to discuss and visit West Papua. Vanuatu Foreign Minister Edward Natapei pulled out because he believes the scheduled programme would be unlikely to achieve what the MSG leaders wanted such as meetings with the leaders of the pro-independence movements like the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) which seeks MSG membership. Only “fleeting, restricted visits” to Papua and West Papua provinces were scheduled. RNZI said: “Vanuatu’s government says there is no point in visiting Bali or in going ahead with the entire visit as the MSG is unable to meet with the right people. It’s also taken an exception to a Joint Statement prepared between the MSG countries and Indonesia, saying it fails to mention the purpose of the visit or anything to do with the plight of West Papuans.” The delegation of MSG foreign ministers was to be away for a four-day visit. The move on the part of Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Natapei demonstrates his party’s continuing strong and refreshing stand against colonialism, rarely seen recently. Daily Post and VBTC have both carried the news and the Chairman of the Vanuatu West Papua Assn., Pastor Alan Nafuki, has thanked the government for its stand. Pastor Nafuki was reported as saying the programme did not include West Papua.

Radio Vanuatu has emphasized the absence of parties of the national Opposition in the municipal councillors elected to run the Port Vila Municipality. There was one Independent elected. Results show the VP and Greens each achieving 5 seats, UMP 4, GJP 2 and the one Independent councillor. National radio said it was likely that non-party candidate would join the Green Confederation, giving the Greens six seats and the privilege of choosing the mayor. The choice predicted for that post was said to be Eric Festa.

The Environment Department is re-assessing the earth-moving work proceeding at Champagne Estate opposite the University of the South Pacific. This follows the observation of faults in the exposed strata of volcanic and coralline material. Qualao Consulting Limited is assessing for the Environment Department.

Radio Vanuatu reports work on the sub-division of Beleru Plantation at Santo. Some 500 lots are being created. The VNPF will carry out the development for the benefit of its membership.


5) 1 dead, four missing in Perth bushfire

Updated at 7:14 pm today 13/1/14

One man has died and four residents are unaccounted for following a devastating bushfire in the Australian state of Perth.

The number of homes known to have been lost in the blaze in the eastern hills is 46, but that is expected to rise after authorities finish assessing the fire zone.

The blaze, which has now been contained, flared at Parkerville on Sunday morning and quickly spread to surrounding areas, including Stoneville and Mount Helena.

At least 40 homes in Stoneville and another four houses in Parkerville have been lost, with most of those residents informed that their homes have been destroyed, the ABC reports.

Residents affected by the bushfire have been told it could be days before they can return to their homes. However, authorities have said they would escort residents to inspect the damage to their properties if conditions were safe enough.

The West Australian Government has made emergency relief payments of $3000 available to those who have lost their homes, and $1000 to residents whose homes have been damaged.

The State Government has put $1 million into the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund.

Insurers have already declared the fire a catastrophic event, urging those who have suffered losses to contact their insurers as soon as they can and the claims will be prioritised, AAP reports.

Two evacuation centres were established on Sunday. The Mundaring Recreation Centre had more than 80 evacuees and a second evacuation centre was set up at Brown Park in nearby Swan View.C/- radio New Zealand.

6) ‘High chance’ of cyclone developing off Northern Territory coast, weather bureau says

Updated 12 January 2014, 10:49 AEST

The weather bureau says there is a high chance of a cyclone developing off the Northern Territory coast early this week.

The tropical low is developing over the Arafura Sea, about 500 kilometres east-northeast of Darwin, moving in a westerly direction.

Angeline Prasad from the Bureau of Meteorology says if enough of the low stays over water, it could develop into a tropical cyclone.

“For Monday we are going for a moderate chance of it becoming a tropical cyclone, and on Tuesday we have upgraded it to a high chance of becoming a tropical cyclone,” she said.

“So for Monday its a 20 to 50 per cent chance, on Tuesday its about a 50 per cent chance.”

The bureau says the system will be monitored closely for the risk of gales developing over the western coast and northern Western Australia during Tuesday and Wednesday.Radio Australia


7) Askim long PNG turisim otoriti halivim ol lokal artist

Updated 13 January 2014, 16:55 AEST
Caroline Tiriman

Turisam otoriti long Papua New Guinea imas helpim ol lokal artist na craft man na meri long soim kalsa blong kantri igo long ol turis.

Wanpla artist husat isave peintim ol piksa, Nombri Temine i mekim despla askim long wonem emi wari olsem Turisam otoriti ino save helpim ol.

Mr Temine i wanpla long ol craftmen na meri em oli save bung olgeta lastpla Sarere long wan wan mun long Ela Beach Craft maket long Port Moresby.

Mr Temine ibin mekim tokaut long wari bilong em  long craft maket long mun igo pinis we emi bin tok ol lokal artis na ol craftsman-meri isave sanap makim kalsa blong kantri na turisam ofis imas helpim.

Emi tok tu olsem, planti taem turisam ofis isave askim ol long soim ol turis long ol kaen samting em ol PNG pipal isave mekim na tu pasin tumbuna, tasol despla ino nap long wonem oli nidim moni long mekim ol despla samting.Radio Australia

8) Wok redi bilong Vanuatu long fesim ol disasta

Updated 13 January 2014, 16:57 AEST
Kenya Kala

Dispela i taim bilong yar we Pasifik i save bungim ol strong win, ren na hai si na tu saiklon na Vanuatu i mekim ol wok redi long fesim ol taim oli kamap.

Long Vanuatu  Red Cross Sosaiti igat tripla kala long wok disasta, Yellow, Blue na Red long bihainim na tok aut long mak blong saikolon oa hai wara oa taem blong disasta.

Augustine Garae, em i Disaster Management Co-ordinator blong Vanuatu Red Cross Society na i toktok long ol wok redi long disasta taem, na hau ol imas redi gut long wokim wok blong ol.Radio Australia


9) Tonga : Le cyclone Ian fait un mort

Posté à 13 January 2014, 8:41 AEST
Pierre Riant

Selon les autorités tongiennes, ce cyclone tropical s’est abattu samedi dernier sur les îles au nord de cet archipel avec des vents soufflant à près de 300 km/h.

Des poteaux électriques en travers de l’une des routes principales du côté est de Ha’apai. [Twitter : @ProudTongans]

Le royaume de Tonga s’étend sur  environ 800 kilomètres du nord au sud.

Ian s’est ensuite dirigé sur l’île principale de Tongatapu sans trop faire de dégâts.

70% des habitations des petites îles du nord auraient été détruites ou endommagées.

Les communications sont coupées et les opérations de secours ont commencé.

De catégorie 5, le cyclone aurait maintenant été déclassé en catégorie 3.Radio Australia

10) Les îles Fidji bientôt libérées de la brucellose

Posté à 10 January 2014, 8:41 AEST
Pierre Riant

Une bonne nouvelle pour les fermiers et les éleveurs qui, l’année dernière, ont dû jeter plus de 600 000 litres de lait et abattre 350 vaches pour cause de contamination.

La situation s’améliore pour les fermiers fidjiens. [Fiji Development Bank]

La brucellose, aussi appelée fièvre de Malte, est une anthropozoonose causée par une bactérie du genre Brucella. Et cette maladie infectieuse peut être transmise aux humains par le bétail.

Stephen Angus, inspecteur vétérinaire principal aux services de l’Agriculture fidjiens, est un homme satisfait. La campagne de lutte contre la brucellose s’est avérée efficace : « La campagne se déroule extrêmement bien. C’est officiel, nous maîtrisons maintenant cette maladie. C’est un jour très rare pour nous et il n’y que du positif. »

Est-ce que le succès de cette campagne était anticipé ?

ANGUS : « J’ai pris cette campagne en main en mai 2012, cela fait donc 18 mois que je suis aux commandes. Au cours de ces 4 ou 5 dernières années, la maladie avait malheureusement pris une autre direction et elle touchait 3% des troupeaux de vaches laitières, c’est l’industrie laitière qui est principalement concernée. Nous avons travaillé vraiment dur à l’amélioration des diagnostics et de nos campagnes de dépistage. Maintenant, elle ne touche qu’une fraction de 1% [des troupeaux.] »

Après avoir dû jeter plus d’un demi-million de litres de lait et tué 350 vaches, les fermiers doivent être contents ?

ANGUS : « Oui, c’est vrai. Et la suppression d’un grand nombre de vaches pourrait devenir une chose du passé. Comme je le disais, seule une fraction de 1% est touchée et c’est maintenant très rare de devoir retirer une vache d’un élevage. En fait, toutes les fermes affectées sont en cours de rétablissement. Selon les statistiques de l’industrie laitière elle-même la production de lait a même augmenté. »

Et enfin, quelle est la prochaine étape après le succès ?

ANGUS : « Maintenant que nous maîtrisons la maladie, nous sommes passés à la phase d’éradication qui devrait durer encore 5 ans. Nous allons tester chaque vache de l’archipel. L’ironie est que nous avons eu tellement de succès à contrôler la maladie que nous avons maintenant un mal incroyable à la trouver. »Radio Australia.


11) Pasifika communities mourn death of two leaders

By Online Editor
2:42 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, New Zealand

Pasifika communities in Hamilton, New Zealand are mourning the deaths of two prominent leaders and international figures.

The voice of the Cook Islands, George James Ford, and the man who helped bring independence to Niue, Terry Magaoa Chapman, MBE, died within a day of each other in Hamilton.

Ford moved to Tokoroa from the village of Vaipae on the island of Aitutaki in the northern Cook group but it was too cold for him there so he tried Hamilton.

He lived in the city for more than 40 years, serving his community, and became a radio personality with a weekly spot on Niu FM.

He worked at the Huttons factory for four decades but his daughter Mareta Ford said his greatest love was for his fellow Cook Islanders.

“He was very generous with his time, in particular with volunteering, and had a passion for Cook Islanders in Hamilton,” she said.

He helped establish the Hamilton Cook Island Association and negotiated a Ministry of Health contract to set up a Pacific health provider in Hamilton.

“Dad was pretty instrumental to set it up well and let it move on,” Ford said. “He was a cool fulla, my dad.”

He spent the last year of his life finding replacements for his community roles but continued to work until a few days before his death on January 3 after an illness.

Ford said his voice would be sorely missed around the Pacific.

“Every Monday on Niu FM they had the Cook Island programme so my dad broadcast news. His last on was the 30th of December. He continued to do that even though he was pretty ill but he enjoyed bringing the news to the wider New Zealand, Australian and Cook Island community.”

On Wednesday Hamilton’s Niuean community mourned former chief executive of the Niue government, Terry Chapman, with a three-hour service. Chapman died on January 2, also after an illness.

Chapman moved to Hamilton in 2006 to be nearer to his son, and a spokeswoman from the Niue Ekalesia Society Lorna Lakua said he made a significant contribution.

He earned a diploma in public administration from Victory University and, with Robert Rex and Young Vivian, helped bring about Niue’s independence from New Zealand in 1974.

In 1976, he wrote a book called The Decolonisation of Niue, worked at the Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton in the 1980s and became one of the island nation’s most prominent public servants.

He is credited as saying: “You cannot eat culture but you will be hungry without it.”

“He saw the need of the Niuean people here,” said Lakua. “We approached him and said, ‘Look, we need a leader here, we need to bring our Niuean people together’.

“He was not really that well . . . but he put that all aside and carried on looking after us. Every last Sunday of the month, every month, he led us in the service.

“We can see how he has brought us back together again.” .



12) Briefly

Monday, January 13, 2014


US merchant hacked

NEW YORK – US luxury merchant Neiman Marcus says thieves may have stolen customers’ credit card and debit card information and made unauthorised charges over the holiday season. The hacking marks the second retailer after Target Corp to be a victim of a cyber security attack in recent weeks. Neiman Marcus’ spokeswoman Ginger Reeder said in an email that its credit card processor notified the retailer in mid-December about potentially unauthorised payment card activity. On January 1, a forensics firm confirmed evidence that the upscale retailer was a victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion.

Police arrest journalist

CANET-EN-ROUSSILLON, France – Police have arrested a Russian journalist only a few hundred metres into a bid to sail across the Atlantic on a rickety homemade raft. Authorities picked up Andrei Novoselov in southwest France as he attempted to navigate his unseaworthy vessel up the Tet river to the Mediterranean Sea. MNovoselov’s plan was to head for the US, via Spain, after his application for asylum in France had been refused. Before taking to the waves, he had told a handful of reporters he wanted political asylum in France or the US as he feared his life would be in danger if he returned to Russia.

13) Protesters mobilise ahead of planned Thai capital ‘shutdown’

Updated 13 January 2014, 5:10 AEST

Thai anti-government protesters began mobilising in Bangkok Sunday, a day ahead of their planned “shutdown” of the capital as they step up efforts to topple the government and halt upcoming elections.

The politically turbulent country has been shaken by weeks of opposition rallies against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her divisive former premier brother Thaksin, which have caused the government to call snap February 2 polls.

Demonstrators, who have vowed to disrupt the vote, packed equipment up at their main Bangkok rally site and began fanning out to seven locations across the city ahead of Monday’s attempt to cut off transport into the capital.

“We hope everything will change in a good way tomorrow. The change we want to see is for this government to stop being corrupt or they should resign,” said Komol, a protester at the site who gave only one name.

The protesters want an appointed “people’s council” to run the country and oversee vaguely defined electoral reforms before new elections are held in around a year to 18 months.

It is the latest chapter in a saga of political instability and occasional unrest that has gripped Thailand since Thaksin was ousted from power by royalist generals seven years ago.

The billionaire tycoon-turned-politician, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, has large electoral support particularly in his northern Thai heartlands where he is adored for a swathe of popular policies implemented by his and subsequent allied governments.

But he is detested among the country’s elites and by many in the Bangkok middle class and Thai south, who see him as authoritarian and accuse him of buying votes.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former MP for the opposition Democrat party that is boycotting the elections, has said he expects a large turnout for the latest demonstration.

“There will be huge numbers of people from every province joining the shutdown Bangkok mission on Monday 13,” he told a rally late Saturday.

The demonstrators say they will block major intersections, stop officials going to work and cut off power to key state offices.

“Prime Minister Yingluck has ordered all police and military personnel to exercise upmost restraint and not to use all kinds of weapons in handling the protesters,” said deputy prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, one of several people to hold the position, at a press briefing on Sunday.

He added that security forces would only use “shields and batons” but accused some people associated with the protests of carrying weapons, including guns, improvised explosives, fire crackers and sling shots.

Some local residents say the military has become more visible around the city.

Birgitta Car lives a block away form Asok, one of the sites where protesters have been gathering, and she says the military has been setting up sites around Bangkok over the past weekend.

“There is definitely a heightened sense of military build up around the outside of the city,” she said.

Ms Car says the ongoing protests are impacting daily life in the city.

“People are feeling apprehensive about what might happen if these protests do escalate, which history shows us that they have before,” she said.

“There’s also slightly growing resentment at the moment about the toll that this is taking on the Bangkok economy and also the disruption to people’s lives in general.”

The civil strife is the worst since 2010, when more than 90 people were killed in street clashes between pro-Thaksin protesters and the military.

Eight people, including a policeman, have been killed and dozens injured in street violence since the protests began in late October.

Schools will close because of fears for students’ safety, while the US embassy has advised stockpiling a two-week supply of food, water and medicine.

The authorities say they are ready to declare a state of emergency if there is fresh unrest, and roughly 20,000 police and soldiers will be deployed for security.

Deputy national police chief Reungsak Jaritkate said there were 12 hospitals, 28 hotels, 24 schools and five fire stations within the areas affected.


14) More than 25,000 flee as Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung erupts, spews volcanic ash and lava

Updated 12 January 2014, 14:28 AEST

More than 25,000 people have fled their homes following a series of eruptions and lava flows from a volcano in Indonesia.

Officials say Mount Sinabung on the western island of Sumatra sent hot rocks and ash up to 5,000 metres in the air several times on Saturday.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency emergency response director Tri Budiarto says so far, 25,516 people have been evacuated.

“There’s nobody now within a five-kilometre radius of the crater,” he said.

“We are urging those living within seven kilometres south-east of the crater to move too.”

He says hot lava, which has been spewing from the volcano for the past two weeks, has flowed into a river and filled up valleys with pyroclastic material.

“There were small secondary explosions when lava flows came into contact with the water, but there are no casualties so far,” he added.

“We are urging people not to carry out any activity in the rivers.”

Mount Sinabung is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia that straddle major tectonic fault lines, known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

It had been quiet for around 400 years until it rumbled back to life in 2010, and again in September last year.

In August 2013, five people were killed and hundreds evacuated when a volcano on a small island in East Nusa Tenggara province erupted.

The country’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of eruptions in 2010.

Photo: People ride their motorcycles through mud and ash as they evacuate Bekerah village in Karo district (Reuters: Beawiharta)


15) Chinese film director Zhang Yimou fined more than $1 million for breaching one-child policy

Updated 10 January 2014, 8:37 AEST

By China correspondent Stephen McDonell

China’s best-known film director has been fined more than $1 million for being in breach of the one-child policy.

Zhang Yimou, who is known internationally for designing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics as well as his many movies – including Red Sorgham and Raise the Red Lantern – must pay a $1.3 million “social maintenance fee” after admitting he has two sons and a daughters with his wife Chen Ting.

In China, apart from some rural families and ethnic minorities, people are restricted to a single child.

The government of Xi Jinping is looking to reform this system, however meantime officials say Zhang Yimou and his wife were reluctant to cooperate.

The authorities in Wuxi did not accept his argument for a reduced fine because his income is variable from year to year.

The People’s Daily newspaper has reported that Zhang could faces fines of up to $28.7 million if accusations that he has fathered seven children from two marriages, and relationships with two other women, prove founded.

The director has denied he has seven children but has admitted he has three in violation of China’s strict family planning rules.

He has 30 days to pay the fine.


16) Suspended Vanuatu doctors suing government

Updated at 2:54 pm today 13/1/14.

Three senior doctors in Vanuatu who have been suspended are now suing the government.

The doctors, Hensley Garae, Len Tarivonda and Russel Tamata were suspended by the Acting Director General of the Ministry of Health, Doctor Santos Wari last year.

The doctors say they are claiming damages, severance pay and other legitimate claims worth more than one million US dollars.

The trio say they have decided to take legal action against the government because their reputations have been tarnished by Dr Wari.

They say they believe Dr Wari would not welcome them back to their respective positions, which is why they have decided to go to court.

They say Mr Wari first made allegations in their suspension letters that they are not qualified, and while suspended they have been served with other letters accusing them of serious allegations.

The case is expected to be heard in court at the end of January.Radio New Zealand.


Nyus i kam long MP mo Pati

17) Port Vila Scholarship Scheme application forms now available

Olgeta –

Application Forms for the Port Vila Scholarship Scheme for Semester 1 (2014) are now available.

The scholarships are open to all Ni-Vanuatu students enrolling in Foundation courses at USP Emalus Campus in Semester 1, 2014, who are residents of Port Vila.

Scholarships will only cover tuition fees for 1 unit per student per semester.

Scholarships will be awarded based on academic performance:
> on Secondary School results for students beginning Foundation-level studies
> on GPA for continuing Foundation-level students.

Additional criteria, to be applied at the discretion of the Selection Committee, are gender and financial circumstances of the applicant.

Application Forms are available now from the Student Academic Services Office, Emalus Campus, Port Vila, or from the GJP website.

Closing date for applications: Friday 14th February 2014

Announcement of successful applicants: Friday 28th February 2014

These scholarships will be awarded from the “Port Vila Scholarship Scheme”, which has been established with funding provided by the Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, MP for Port Vila, out of his MP Allocation.

Ta, Ralph

18) FNU eyes prime real estate

Shayal Devi
Friday, January 10, 2014

THE Fiji National University is eyeing Fenner Park and part of the botanical gardens in Lautoka on which to build a medical campus.

But the Lautoka City Council says while they welcomed FNU’s expansion plans, the botanical gardens was out of the question while the availability of Fenner Park would be decided in a stakeholder’ meeting.

During the FNU graduation on Wednesday, vice- chancellor Dr Ganesh Chand said during meetings of stakeholders in Lautoka — which included the council and Commissioner Western — agreement was reached on a number of projects.

“In addition, the Lautoka City Council has been very generous to accept our request for additional land which, at the moment, is under their custody,” Dr Chand said.

“For that, they have decided to call a stakeholders meeting within the next two weeks where our proposal would be put to the stakeholders to give a part of the land which is now known as Fenner Park and part of the botanical garden to FNU to build a $30million medical campus.

“We are also in the planning stage of developing a campus for technical training in Lautoka.

“Discussions are ongoing with the National Training and Productivity Centre and the government on the allocation of land.”


19) Fiji Election machinery needed – SOLDEPA
By Online Editor
1:46 pm GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Fiji

Fiji’s Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODEPA)says the newly appointed Electoral Commission will be ineffective until other election machinery is put in place.

The government has announced a seven member commission, headed by former president of the Fiji Law Society Chen Bunn Young, to supervise the elections promised for September.

SOLDELPA’s general secretary, Pio Tabaiwalu, says while it welcomes the Commission being appointed, the Electoral Decree should have come out first.

He says parties are working on an ad hoc basis with no idea as to how the election is going to be run.

Tabaiwalu says it is also concerning that a supervisor of elections has not been named and changes to the constitution have not been confirmed.

“We welcome it, it’s something we’ve really been working around for weeks. But we can’t really move unless the other bits come in – the rules and regulations, the supervisor of elections and the changes to the consitutiton. It cannot work in isolation and we cannot work in isolation of those other factors, although they have named the commission.”

Tabaiwalu says these issues need to resolved within a month if a fair election is to take place.

Meanwhile, a team from the Elections Office is currently visiting the Lau Group of Islands to display the National Register of Voters and to encourage new voter registrations.

The team is joined by staff from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office who have been tasked to register people who are yet to register their birth officially.

This includes not only children but adults who may not have been registered at birth and as a consequence, don’t have marriage certificates because this requires a birth certificate.

Minister for Justice and Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that the Bainimarama government is committed to providing these important services to people living in isolated communities, who normally do not have easy access to them.

“It is important for Fijians to register their births so that they can have easier access to vital government services such as health care and education,” the Attorney-General said.

He stressed that no blame was being attached to anyone who had not registered because the government recognised that this was often a product of isolation and the neglect of past governments.

“By contrast, the Bainimarama government has made it a top priority to bring government services closer to Fijians living in rural and maritime communities, and this tour of the Lau Group is an example of that commitment,” he said.

The tour commenced this morning in Cicia Island today and moves to Tuvuca Island tomorrow.

The people of Cikobia Island will served on Wednesday while the team will visit Nabavatu and Lomaloma on Thursday and Friday.

The team will visit Lakeba and Komo in the weekend while the people of Kabara, Vatoa, Ono-i-Lau, Matuku and Moala will be able to access the services next week.

Similar tours to other remote and maritime areas in Fiji will be launched in the near future.


20) Solomon Islands Women Urge Shift To Rural Development
Centralized development in Honiara causing urban drift

By Elliot Dawea

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 13, 2014) – The national government is urged to redirect its focus of development to rural areas.

President of the Western Province Council of Women Rendy Solomon made the reminder in light of the influx of young people into Honiara in search for jobs.

“If you look at our current status, everything is almost centralised in Honiara,” Solomon said.

“This is why you see more and more people leave the villages to Honiara every year,” she added.

Solomon said villages today offered nothing for young people of this nation.

“Those who tried to live and make a living in the village found it really difficult because there’s very little economic activities down there.

“As a result, they shifted and left to Honiara in search for jobs, education, and economic opportunities.”

Solomon also called on the government to address unemployment, illiteracy, poor facilities at school, impoverished clinics, and stimulate economic opportunities.

“It is high time the government redirect its focus on service delivery to the provinces to ensure the much talk about national issues is addressed.”

Solomon said there are relevant government authorities to address the issues but the will-power and drive must come from leaders.

“I applaud some politicians who are doing well to push for projects that alleviate unemployment at their provinces.

“This is what all our political leaders should be doing,” she said.

She added another area that future governments must look into is empowering of young people so that they could become responsible and better citizens.

Solomon said government’s neglect of young people has left them to become liabilities than assets the nation could rely on.

She said the issue of urban migration is becoming so serious and urgent that the government must act decisively to address it before it explodes onto its face.

Solomon Star

21) Elections office to be an independent body

Shalveen Chand
Friday, January 10, 2014

THE Elections Office has been tasked with fostering democracy and ensuring it is present in all organisations, and for that reason the Elections Office will be an independent body.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said for the office to be truly transparent, it had to be independent.

He said trade unions, sporting bodies and even parent and teacher associations had complained about the way elections in their organisations had been conducted.

He said this was how the Elections Office could help such bodies. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made the announcement while accepting four new vehicles for the use of the office.

He said the office would soon have a new structure in place and this would involve the government advertising 32 posts for the office this weekend.

Further to this, there would be 14,000 people employed just for polling day.

He said the government was looking at a cost of up to $45million, and hoping aid donors would come forward.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said different governments had helped or have pledged to help in different ways, and overseas experts have come in because Fiji doesn’t have people with their skills.

He said this had been possible with the help of donor nations and Fiji hasn’t forked out any money for them.

According to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, in the coming years, the experts hoped to pass their skills to the locals.

He said the EU’s report of the 2006 elections painted a very bad picture of how polling went. He said there were discrepancies and nepotism.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said people were chosen because they knew people, and after the elections a lot of equipment including computers and furniture were never to be seen.

He said the elections office would work on capacity-building and making career paths for people.

22a) Fiji elected to preside over UNDP/ UNFPA/UNOPS executive board for 2014

By Online Editor
09:05 am GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Fiji

Fiji’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, has announced that Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Peter Thomson has been elected as the President of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the year 2014.

Minister Kubuabola said that it was a great honour for Fiji to be chosen to chair one of the most important boards of the international system.

He said that Fiji will carry this new responsibility with the same professionalism with which it handled the role of Chair of the Group of 77 and China in 2013.

The Executive Board consists of 36 UN Member States who sit on the Board for three year periods. Fiji commenced its three-year term on the Board in 2013, and was endorsed by the Asia-Pacific Group to be its candidate for the Presidency of the Board for the year 2014.

The formal elections were conducted at a meeting of the Executive Board held today for the purpose of electing a President and Bureau for 2014.

Minister Kubuabola highlighted that the work of the Executive Board in making policy decisions and giving direction to the three agencies, UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS, is fundamental to shaping the developmental work that the UN carries out in developing countries. As such, he said, presiding over the work of the Executive Board for 2014 will be a natural follow-on for Fiji from its 2013 role as Chair of the Group of 77 and China, the primary role of which was advocating for the interests of developing countries.

Fiji’s Presidency of the Board will seek to apply the knowledge gained from the G77 Chairmanship into operational action for the funds and programmes that the Board governs.

Fiji’s Minister said that his country takes its responsibilities in the international community as a matter of highest priority.

He said that poverty eradication and sustainable development were global issues that affect every country and that Fiji had to play its part in implementing them.

He said he was confident Fiji’s term at the helm of the Executive Board would see solid progress on these global issues.


22b) Fiji on the right track: PM Bainimarama

By Online Editor
12:16 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Fiji

Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says the Pacific nation is on the right track to stability guided by the country’s new Constitution.

Commodore Bainimarama made the statement while addressing Pacific Destinationz 15th anniversary celebration in Nadi.

“Here we are at the beginning of 2014, the year that will see Fiji raise up a new parliamentary democracy, based for the first time on the principle of a common citizenry. And as I stand here and look at the year ahead, my message to you is clear: Fiji is on the right track.

Guided by the new Constitution, we are walking down a path that leads to stability, equality and prosperity. There is hope for the future where there wasn’t before and this is something to be excited and proud about,” he explained.

Commodore Bainimarama says as the country gears up to this year’s election, the public must decide for themselves the future they like.

“Each person must decide for him-or-herself what they want this future to look like. This is an individual choice and one that I urge each of you to think about seriously, especially as we move closer to elections and you are faced with different ideas and opinions.

For its part, my Government has been working to build a solid and durable foundation upon which to build the new Fiji. This has meant adopting a holistic and long-term approach to reform – electoral, constitutional, social, institutional and economic, he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said one of the cornerstones of his government reform program is that policies must be consistent.

“This is the only way they can be effective and bring real benefit to the country.

“For example, investors and stakeholders need to have confidence that if we lower tax rates one year, they won’t be raised the next. If that confidence doesn’t exist, they won’t reinvest that money, grow their businesses and create new jobs.

“Similarly, programs like free primary and secondary education and government loans for university must continue from one year to the next in order to truly benefit future generations of Fijians and our nation as a whole.

“The same is true in areas like infrastructure development. For example, if we do not continue our push to upgrade our roads and then to maintain them, before long they would fall back into the sorry state we found them in,” said Commodore Bainimarama.

He firmly believe that if Fiji continues along the path we have set and maintain our current policies, our opportunities are limitless.

“We are blessed with so many advantages in terms of our location, our people and our resources.

Indeed, many financial institutions, both local and international, agree that if we keep our hands on the controls and maintain the course we’re on, Fiji will continue to rocket ahead and in 4 or 5 year’s time we will be one of the true success stories of the Pacific,” Commodore Bainimarama said.


23a) Fiji govt still to decide on observer groups, Supervisor of Elction to be appointed soon: AG

By Online Editor
12:11 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Fiji

The Fijian Government is still to decide on countries that will send observer groups to preside over the 2014 Elections.

Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the only observer group that has been sanctioned by government has been the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) that the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama discussed last year.

“With respect to other countries that want to send observer group we have said to them that it is something to be discussed later,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“At the moment, the entire focus is resourcing the elections office, getting the required resources and system in place, ensuring that the faults that took place in the 2006 elections do not happen again.”

It is understood the EU had offered to send observers to the elections and is still awaiting the government’s decision.

Another country that was reported by the Jerusalem Post to have been approached is the Israel Government.

It is understood that Fiji’s request is being considered by the Jewish state.

For the 2006 elections, 126 international observers including reps from the EU, NZ, US the Commonwealth, the Pacific Forum were accredited to monitor elections.

The Australian Govt had five diplomats from the Australian High Commisson in Suva registered as independent observers.

Sayed-Khaiyum also said work on the new electoral legislation was being carried out.

“As you know that we had an expert come over from Canada, courtesy of the European Union, and she put together a draft which we are working on,” he said.

“We have to fine-tune that, that’s our major focus for now.”

He added the government wanted the legislation to be in place as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Sayed-Khaiyum says the Supervisor of Elections post will be filled as soon possible.

He did not reveal the number of applications, but says all the applications go to the Secretary of the Constitutional Offices Commission.

“Once the Electoral Commission has been appointed, the applications will be assessed by the Commission, then there will be a consultation by the Commission with the Constitutional Offices Commission and an appointment will be made.

All applications for the post are with the Solicitor General Christopher Pryde.


23b) Fiji Political parties can start campaign

By Online Editor
12:10 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Fiji

Fiji’s Attorney -General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has labelled politicians’ calls for the electoral legislation and appointment of electoral commission at a quicker pace as a smokescreen.

Some political parties have stated that without the Commission, the Supervisor of Elections and the electoral legislation they can not prepare for election.

“People are already campaigning. As long as they are with a registered political party and of course you have the so called independents too who are also campaigning,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“They are already campaigning, its just a smokescreen really, the fact is that the position is being advertised, supervisor of election position has been advertised, the election commissioners have been appointed, you have 32 posts being advertised this Saturday filling in 230 positions, the Constitution is very clear on these things.”

He said the media has a very important part to play in the lead-up to the election.

He added that if politicians do make such statement then the role of the media is to ask why.

The election which is set to happen before September will have Fiji as one big constituent and there will be no electoral boundaries.

Political parties, through the United Front for a Democratic Fiji, have said their election preparation is being hampered by not having the electoral legislation in place.

However, there has been no elaboration on how their preparation has been hampered.

Sayed-Khaiyum said political parties can even have candidates in an informal manner but finalise their list when the time calls for it.


24) Fiji Government Announces Electoral Commission Members
7-member body comes from wide range of professional experience

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 9, 2014) – Fiji’s Electoral Commission was announced by the Attorney General and Minister responsible for elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Suva this afternoon.

Headed by chair and former Fiji Law Society president Chen Bunn Young, the commission includes academic Professor Vijay Naidu of the University of the South Pacific (USP), tourism industry leader and marketing expert James Sowane, accountant and financial advisor Jenny Seeto, filmmaker and media specialist Larry Thomas, electoral expert and priest Father David Arms, and educationalist and civil society leader Alisi Daurewa.

The Electoral Commission will direct the elections office and Supervisor of Elections, who is also yet to be appointed. Sayed-Khaiyum said each member of the Commission brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the task of supervising the first genuine democratic election in Fiji’s history

“I want to thank them all for accepting their roles on the Commission, which is a vital component of the Bainimarama Government’s plan to hold a free and fair election to the very highest international standards,” he said.

Under the terms of the 2013 Constitution, the Electoral Commission is responsible for the registration of voters and the conduct of free and fair elections.

It is also responsible for voter education, the registration of candidates for election, the settlement of electoral disputes and monitoring and enforcing compliance with any written law governing elections and political parties.

Under the Constitution, the Chair of the Commission needs to either be a judge or a legal practitioner who is able to become a judge, a provision fulfilled by Chen Bunn Young, a senior Lautoka- based solicitor and barrister.

In a related development, the Elections Office has announced that it will soon be seeking applications for 34 key posts in the Office. Within those categories are a total of 230 positions. They include the Deputy Supervisor of Elections, the Director of Electoral Procedures, the Director of Corporate Services and the Director of Communications.

Another 160 staff will be recruited in a second phase later in the year and an additional 14,000 throughout Fiji for the day of the election itself.

Fiji will head to the polls by end of September.



25) Former Solomon Islands broadcaster dies
By Online Editor
11:27 am GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Solomon Islands

A veteran broadcaster and provincial politician in Solomon Islands has died at his home village in Central Province on Saturday.

Patterson Mae passed on after a long battle with diabetes and heart problem.

Mae started his career as a broadcaster with the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) in the late 70s.

He went to become the station’s general manager in its later years.

While heading the station, he was elected president of the Fiji-based Pacific Islands New Association (PINA) for a term.

After retiring from broadcasting, Mae went on to contest the provincial elections in Central Province.

He won a seat and became a provincial member, before becoming premier of the province.

Mae stepped down last year and remained an ordinary provincial member at his passing yesterday.

The veteran broadcaster has a unique heavy voice that made him popular and closely followed whenever he was on air.

Young broadcasters today had admired Mae’s on air presentation.


26) Parliamentary training for Journalists: MIDA
By Online Editor
11:31 am GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Fiji

The Director of the Fiji’s Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA), Matai Akauola says, the media should step up and not allow to be dictated upon.

Akauola says, the media should seriously take note of this as the country gear up for the September general elections.

“I believe one of the key things is that within the last couple of months that I took up this position is that the tendency for the media to sit back and waited on other people to be dictating things for them. They need to be reading their Constitution, they need to understand the laws of the country and we need to realize we are moving into democratic elections, that’s why we have to open up that we are working towards a nation moving forward.”

The Media Industry Development Authority is working to hold workshops for Journalists to help them understand their roles stipulated in the 2013 constitution.

It will also be organizing training on Parliamentary coverage by Journalists..



27) Arrest warrants threatens investors confidence

The National, Monday January 13th, 2014

INVESTOR confidence in Papua New Guinea is being threatened by “erratic and insensitive” politicians, a senior government minister says.
Works Minister Francis Awesa told a meeting of major road contractors in Lae on Friday that political controversies such as the warrant of arrest issue were only derailing efforts to boost business and investment in the country.
“Erratic and insensitive politicians are threatening investor confidence in this country. They don’t care about what they say or do as long as it satisfies their personal political egos,” Awesa said.
“While we play our petty political games, investors sitting in boardrooms in New York, London and other places are watching and asking whether it is safe to invest their billions of dollars in our country.”
He had said earlier that PNG was on course for major economic growth never experienced before and it was only fair that all leaders and sectors of the community work together to realise the benefits.
“Let me put it bluntly, enough damage has been done to the country already due to mismanagement, bad decisions and corrupt activities, and we cannot continue like this anymore,” he told a media conference last Thursday.
He reiterated that certain leaders were trying to destabilise the Government with irresponsible actions and statements.
“If these people have something good to offer to the country then they should sit down and talk with the Government, rather than becoming over excited and accusing it for all the wrong reasons”.
“This Government is intent on moving the country forward and will not be swayed by the actions of a few individuals who don’t have long term visions for the running of the country. This is the year of implementation and nothing will stop the Government from carrying out its plans and seeing its projects through for long term benefits.”

28) Dubai-based group eyes US$1b investment in PNG
By Online Editor
1:41 pm GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

Dubai-based AWAL Impex International (Holdings Ltd) plans to invest US$1 billion (K2.4 billion) in telecommunication, oil and gas, construction and infrastructure development projects in Manus.

Company secretary Ashwini Bharadwaj told The National that Awal had recently proposed to the National Government to develop Manus as an international free trade zone.

He said from Dubai yesterday the company had vast interests to invest right across Papua New Guinea and not only in Manus.

AWAL Impex has significant presence in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North America.

Last November, the company’s executives met with several ministers, including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and expressed their business intention.

“Our (AWAL) investment analyst is working on some research and development and our investment can range between US$1 billion to US$10 billion based on the research findings on the investment needs.

“We will be able to allocate specific projects investment allocation once we get the investment requirement from our research and development team,” Bharadwaj said.

“We have plans to invest on telecommunication, investment in Oil and gas sector, and investment in construction and infrastructure development, food and hospitality, healthcare services and children’s education.

“Apart from this we have also proposed to the Government to develop Manus as an international free trade zone.

“Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and all political leaders and Manus community welcomed our intention towards the development of the prrovince.

“Our investment plans would be towards all the provinces of Papua New Guinea,” Bharadwaj.


29) Solomon Islanders Being ‘Ripped Off’ By High Prices: Investor
Businessman says Price Control Unit not effectively regulating prices

By Daniel Namosuaia

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 10, 2014) – Solomon Islanders have been victims of their own legislation, a foreign investor says.

The investor, who asked not to be named, said 90 per cent of goods sold in the country are priced way beyond what citizens can afford.

He questioned whether the Price Control Unit of the Ministry of Commerce has regulations in place to control prices.

“I wonder if there is a policy or regulation in place to control pricing of goods imported into the country,” the investor said.

“It seems that businesses in the country take advantage of this and set their own prices five to ten times higher than what it should be,” the investor said.

He said a good example is the price of imported tin food that could only cost between $5 to $10 [US$0.68-$1.36] but was sold in the shops for more than $20 {US$2.72].

He said most of the goods sold in shops in the country are imported from China and he knew how much these should be sold in the country.

“But if you look at their selling prices, the shops were making like ten times their mark up prices.

“This is sad because they are ripping consumers off.

“Average income earnings of people in the country could not match up with these prices.

“If a good is bought by the importer for $1 [US$0.14] and paid the 30 percent import tax, that good should be sold not more than $4 [US$0.54].

“But that is not the case. Today this good could cost more than $10. Businesses are ripping customers off,” the investor said.

He added this is one of the serious factors holding back development in this country.

The investor stressed that Solomon Islands is only a small country and should not have problems to speed up its socio-economic development.

Advisor to the consumer affairs division Douglas Alex said the only regulation the country has is the Price Control Act of 1982 which urgently needs a review.

He said the current act is very narrow and does not cover most of the goods imported into the country.

Mr Alex said there is urgent need to broaden this act to cover more goods to ensure their prices are controlled.

“An order covering most of the consumable goods has already been approved by the minister and given to the Attorney General for its legal interpretation before it is gazetted,” Mr Alex said.

He said this is a move to ensure that the prices of these goods are controlled rather than what is happening now where shop owners put whatever mark up prices they want on the goods making their prices skyrocketing and uncontrollable.

He said they hope the new order will be ready this month and for them to start implementing the order.

He added that the same thing has already been done with Soltuna (taiyo) products.

However, he stressed that competition is another factor which they have to really monitor the market before setting prices, which on the other hand might disadvantage consumers.

Mr Alex said the consumer affairs division is currently looking at controlling consumable goods at this stage but will continue in the near future to include non-consumable goods.

Solomon Star

30) East New Britain subsidises Air Niugini tourism operations in Kokopo

By Online Editor
2:35 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

The East New Britain (ENB) provincial government presented K100, 000 (US$39,900) tourism subsidies to Air Niugini yesterday in Kokopo.

The fund presentation was designed to support the current Tokua-Cairns operation.

Air Niugini general manager-commercials Dominic Kaumu said the provincial government had been kind in supporting the Tokua-Cairns Operation.

He thanked the provincial government for the subsidy.

Kaumu said while ENB was supportive through its tourism subsidy, it was important that other provincial governments in the Islands region provided a similar support.

He said this was because the operation did not only benefit the people of ENB, but the entire region as well.
Kaumu said the traffic using this operation was from the islands region and from other parts of Australia, directly travelling in and out of the region.

He said the traffic load had increased to 36 passengers on every flight in the Tokua-Cairns operation.
Kaumu said the tourism subsidy would be used mainly to sell and promote the route.

“We will utilise the tourism subsidy to promote the route, this is because we want to see the operation stay,” he said.

He said that Tokua and Jackson Airport were the only two airports in the country providing international flights through Air Niugini.

Kaumu said Air Niugini would not open international operations in other airports in PNG to focus on extending its services at Jacksons and Tokua.

He said the tourism subsidy from the ENBPG had shown that the provincial government was keen on ensuring that ENB was truly reflected as the tourism hub of the country.

Kaumu said that Air Niugini was also working on special weekend package to further promote this route.
He said the costs of the weekend package were now being revised so they can be affordable to many would-be travellers.

Provincial administrator Akuila Tubal said the ENBPG was working closely with partners to make ENB a tourism hub as approved by the National Government.

He said Air Niugini was one of the main partners to work closely with.

Tubal said the ENB chamber of commerce would also work closely with other provincial chamber of commerce in the region to promote the route and boost tourism in the region.

He said there were talks with relevant stakeholders to establish visa on arrival at Tokua airport.

Tubal said there were still other services that needed to be established at Tokua airport to support the tourism industry.


31) Temotu premier disappointed over trade link with Vanuatu

By Online Editor
08:47 am GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Solomon Islands

Temotu premier Father Brown Beu says he was deeply disappointed with the national government’s failure to assist his province establish a trade link with the neighbouring Melanesian nation of Vanuatu.

Fr Beu said if he would have his way, he would go ahead without the national government’s blessing and establish the trade links with Vanuatu.

“But the province cannot do it alone. We must get the blessing from the national government,” he said.

He said establishing trade links with Vanuatu is important for his province.

The first phase of the proposed link was already signed in Port Vila early last year, and the second agreement was expected to be signed late last year.

But this could not take place due to continuing government delays to push the matter forward.

Fr Beu said he was disappointed the government ministry tasked to lead the talks has failed to do its job.

“I will make the last attempt to meet with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the time is right,” he said.

Fr Beu said he hoped things will progress this year.

He said Toba province in Vanuatu had been identified as a potential trading partner of Temotu should the links be established.

Temotu lies further east of the country and was much closer to Vanuatu.


32) More job offers for Fiji Airways
By Online Editor
11:25 am GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Fiji

As many as 131 people are expected to join Fiji’s national carrier in the 2014 financial year as plans progress to ensure more jobs and career opportunities are available for locals.

And according to Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Stefan Pichler, increasing staff numbers by 28.5 per cent was part of the airline’s five-year strategic plan to ensure it achieved more than $100million in operational profits during that period.

He said this focus also included trainee positions in order to qualify local workers in roles across the company.

“We are going to bring in more local people and train them where people can watch professionals in the areas and get the skills required to do the job. This is basically in all areas of the airline in different hierarchy levels. We will try and upskill people to be able to contribute to the airline,” he said.

The five-year plan for employment opporutnities includes an increase in the flight crew staff members by 19 from 157 for the 2013 financial year to176 for the 2014 financial year, and an increase in cabin crew by 26 people from 244 last year to 270 this year.

Other operations within the airline will also witness an increase in staff numbers from 125 people last year to 144 this year.

Of the 131 employment opportunities earmarked for this year, 99 people would be absorbed into Fiji Airways while 32 staff members are expected to join Pacific Sun.

“We are also changing the mix of pilots from two-thirds expats and one-third locals to two-thirds locals and one-third expats.

“We are going to hire 40 local pilots because we want to be a world class airline in terms of customer service, product and network,” Pichler said.

In terms of incentives for staff members, he said the airline had launched a profit share program, which was part of their vision to be the employer of choice for Fijians.

“What we try to do is pay more when we have good business and that is why we launched the program,” Pichler said.

“When the company does well and we get an underlying operational profit, we’ll share part of it with staff members — that’s the nature of the profit share program.”

Meanwhile, with  plans to add another Airbus A330-200 aircraft to its fleet by 2016, Fiji Airways says it remains focused on self-funding future projects and achieving its underlying operational profit of $100million (US$53.2 million)  in five years.

Managing director and chief executive officer Stefan Pichler said taking on the five-year commitment was a huge step for the airline.

He said repayments to Fiji’s superannuation fund for the three Airbus aircraft was on track, adding they still had not utilised the full loan amount that was available.

“We are paying that off but we haven’t used all of the funds — we don’t need to,” he said.

On whether the airline would take another loan to secure the A330-200 aircraft in 2016, Mr Pichler said they were exploring options at this stage.

“That’s too long. After the board had approved the five-year strategic plan, we are looking into finance options for the different aircraft. It’s all very open,” Pichler said.

“This plan is a huge change from where the company is now. Solid cash flow planning means all the future investments will be self-funded.

“We will be able to pay off the debt.”.



33) Five arrests in Vanuatu after Luganville shooting incident

By Online Editor
2:46 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Vanuatu

Vanuatu police have arrested five people following last month’s attempt to shoot an Australian man in Luganville.

The attackers missed John Fordham who offered a US$20,000 reward for anyone who could help police arrest the intruder who shot at him but missed.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police in Luganville, Willie Samuel, says police have confiscated the pistol that was used in the shooting.

They say the weapon was not licensed.

Police say they want to thank community chiefs for working with the police to facilitate the arrests.

Assistant Commissioner Samuel has not connected the reward offer to the arrests.


34) Damages caused by Public disorder in Solomon Islands worth million : Police

By Online Editor
12:08 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Solomon Islands

The cost of damages caused by thugs to Solomon Islands police logistics and other resource stands at around $1 million (US$138, 700).

Acting police Commissioner Junita Matanga said around five police vehicles and other resources were damaged.

“During the incident, three Police Officers were rushed to the hospital with serious head injuries that required stitches.

“Also vehicles belonging to the RSIPF and PPF were stoned during the clashes.

“Not only that but the expenses spent on officers to protect the public and uphold law and order during such events were overwhelming.

“All of these damages and costs totaled up to estimated $1million dollars.”

She also said that putting together such exercises is not at all cheap as people may think.

“Operations like that are very expensive exercises, as it involves most of the available police logistics and man-power,” she said.

Matanga said tax payers need to know that the ignorance of a few thugs can be very costly.

“This is no easy thing, therefore the public should realize and see for themselves that police alone cannot get the job than, but rather it is only through collaborating with communities and the general public as a whole that we can succeed.”

Meanwhile, forty -four people have been arrested by police during the public disorder which erupted during the Julian Marley show at the Panatina showground on Wednesday afternoon.

Matanga confirmed that a total of 44 people were arrested for allegedly taking part in the incident between thugs and police and security personal.

The much awaited and anticipated Julian Marley live performance show started smoothly until some youths standing on the hills started throwing stones at police and security officers of Solomon Security Service.

The incident went out of control resulting in some injuries but police managed to take control of the situation at dusk.

Matanga said 39 of the 44 arrests have been remanded in custody waiting to be charged.

“It was a serious incident that police managed to deal control both during and after the show.

“I praise the professionalism of all RSIPF Officers who responded and participated in the operation at Panatina.

“Their bravery and good work has resulted calming the situation and the good number of arrests made.”

The acting police commissioner said investigations continuing and that more arrests are expected.

“It is time we bring those who break the law to face justice. It is a crucial time for the country when we are trying to rebuild the country.

“The community wants peacefully coexistence therefore those who want to do otherwise will be dealt with accordingly.


35) Malaysia offers disciplined force traiinning to PNG Defence Force

By Online Editor
2:47 pm GMT+12, 10/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

The Malaysian Government is welcoming the PNG Defence Force to train under its Defence Cooperation program this year and next.

The annual program has been running for the past 15-years, a decade after PNG established its foreign mission in Kuala Lumpur in 1984.

Its aimed at training members of all disciplined forces.

Speaking from Kuala Lumpur, PNG’s acting High Commissioner to Malaysia, Stanley Arua told NBC News, the invitation is being sent to headquarters of all disciplined forces, and he is encouraging officers to take up the opportunity.

“It would be good to have more Papua New Guineans attend.

“Last year we had one from defence force, three from PNG Correctional Service and one from the Royal Police Constabulary,” Arua said.

Meanwhile the body of the former PNG Defence Force Brigadier-General, late Ken Noga, was flown to his Saroa village in Rigo District, Central Province for burial.

Outgoing Defence Force Commander, Brigadier-General, Francis Agwi,directed a full military ceremonial and administrative support for his late predecessor.

Late Ken Noga passed away peacefully at his East Boroko home in Port Moresby, over the weekend

He was PNG’s third Defence Force Commander, following Brigadier-Generals, Ted Diro and Gago Mamae.

The retired commander had a colorful career of service to the country, after leaving the army.

He also represented PNG as High Commissioner to Australia and at one stage, appointed Director-General of PN-‘s security agency, the National Intelligence Organization.

Lieutenant Colonel Siale Diro told NBC News, Noga was also the brains behind PNG’s first National Security Policy, and the 2013 Defence Force White Paper.

“In 2012 he was appointed the Team Leader of the PNG National Security Technical Working Group.

“So he led the development of the National Security Policy and he also provided great support in his role as the team leader in the NSP Technical Working Group, and further support for the development of the Defence White Paper,” Lt. Col. Diro said.

Papua New Guinea has had ten Defence Force Commanders since Independence, four of whom, have died since.



36) One Reported Dead As Category 5 Cyclone Slams Tonga
Cyclone Ian causes extensive damage in Ha‘apai Islands

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 12, 2014) – One person died on Lifuka as Tropical Cyclone Ian Category 5 ripped through the Ha‘apai Islands yesterday afternoon, causing extensive devastation, although the full extent of the impact on the low lying islands is unknown after Tonga’s first recorded Category 5 cyclone.

Sione Taumoefolau head of the Tonga Red Cross said early this morning that because of a lack of communications around midday yesterday, the extent of the devastation was not immediately clear to the NEMO meeting that was held with donor partners who were offering surveillance aircraft and support services, which were on standby yesterday. He understood that the government was trying to accept that now.

The cyclone was hitting Ha‘apai at the time and the communications networks went down.

Sione is now communicating by satellite phone to the Red Cross in Ha‘apai.

He said from what has been reported he believes that the main island of Lifuka was devastated, and there was one death there.

[PIR editor’s note: Matangi Tonga reported that aerial photos take by a Royal New Zealand Air Force flyover showed “shocking damage to an estimated 70% of homes on Lifuka, Foa and other areas.” Withcommunications networks down “organisers of the recovery effort … are finding it hard to assess the needs” of impacted communities.]

The Governor of Ha‘apai from his office at Pangai reported that he could see from one side of the island to the liku on the others side of the island “and that’s how devastated it is.”

He believed the main islands of the area Ha‘ano Lifuka and Foa are all devastated and that there could also be damage to the new causeway and foreshore at Foa.

There were reports of roads blocked with broken trees and debris.

Sione said that the Tonga Red Cross had a project last year to maintain containers of supplies in most of the islands, so he was happy that at least they have a start at relief.

The Tonga navy’s VOEA patrol boat was due to leave the capital at 8:00am for Ha‘apai, and a second patrol boat was on its way from Vava‘u, he said.

[PIR editor’s note: According to the Fiji Times Tonga’s “Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu left Nuku’alofa yesterday [Sunday] morning on board naval vessel Savea with emergency supplies for those affected by Tropical Cyclone Ian.”]

Worst damage

Digicel Tonga’s Tupou Ahomee Faupula said they have a satellite phone connection to their field officer Uaisele Fonokalafi, at Pangai Ha‘apai.

“He told us that this was the worst ever damage from a cyclone – most houses are flattened, roofs are off, trees and power lines are down.”

Digicel, one of Tonga’s two cell phone providers, is trying to restore services to their tower and expects to get a team to Ha‘apai this afternoon.


Cat. 5 Ian side-stepped, Tonga’s heavily populated main island of Tongatapu, which escaped unscathed during the night as Ian moved south west. There was little rain.

The Fua’amotu Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre said the maximum wind speed recorded during the night for Tongatapu was 32 knots from the south west recorded at the airport. The gales warning was cancelled at 7:00am today as Ian moved away to the southwest.

‘Aisea ‘Akau’ola, duty forecaster, said they believed it was the first Category 5 cyclone in Tongan waters. “There was one in 1961 that our chief met officer thought might have been category 5 but that was before we used this system.”

“Ian is still a category 5 this morning but we can tell that it is shearing, and we are lucky that it is moving away at 11 knots.”

He said the high level vertical wind shear could weaken the hurricane. “If not it would remain strong.”

Tonga Met has recorded Ian as a category 5 from 1:00am on Saturday January 11 at 18.2S / 174.9W near Late Island in Vava‘u, he said.

Matangi Tonga Magazine:


37) Venus knocked out of first round of Australian Open

Updated at 4:55 pm today 13/1/14

Ekaterina Makarova, who upset an injured Serena Williams in the fourth round of the 2012 Australian tennis Open, has eliminated older sister Venus 2-6 6-4 6-4 to advance to the second round in Melbourne.

The 22nd seeded Russian came back from 3-0 down in the deciding set as seven-times grand slam champion Williams struggled to hold serve.

Local favourite Casey Dellacqua powered her way to an impressive 6-2 6-2 victory over former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva from Russia in the opening round.

Ninth-seed Angelique Kerber shook off a second-set blip to advance to the second round with a 6-3 0-6 6-2 win over local wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova.

The youngest player in the women’s draw has knocked out the oldest, with exciting teenage qualifier Belinda Bencic ousting 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm.

The Japanese veteran succumbed 6-4 4-6 6-3 to the Swiss youngster.

In the men’s draw, eighth-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka is through to the second round after beating Andrey Golubev 6-4 4-1 when the Kazakh retired injured.C/- Radio new Zealand.

38) PNG Rugby League revamp, Meninga targets top four at next RL World Cup
By Online Editor
09:59 am GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

IT’S official Mal Meninga is the Team Kumul rugby league coach.

Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) board chairman Sandis Tsaka last week confirmed this during a press conference that Meninga has replaced Adrian Lam.

Tsaka added that contrary to media reports Lam like all Team Kumul management were on one-year contracts that expired on December 31.

This dispelled speculation that Lam was on a lucrative five-year contract.

That means all Team Kumul staff before and during the World Cup including general manager Matthew Natusch, team manager Bob Cutmore, assistant coach Michael Marum, trainers Nigel Hukula, Solomon Kulinasi, high performance manager Neil Dunkley and video analyst Brendon Lam all had their services terminated.

When questioned on Lam’s sacking, Tsaka made reference to earlier unsanctioned reports which were not entirely true.

“I must point out that it is important to get the right information. It is a natural progression like all 2013 Team Kumul management to have their contracts terminated,” Tsaka said.

He explained that because Meninga  was the only person working on the programme, and both Lam and Dunkley’s contractual obligations extend to January 31, that was why both were helping Meninga and are still on the payroll.

“By the end of this month they will all go off the pay-roll and all positions will be advertised including 15 development officers to be based around the country,” Tsaka added.

“These development officers will assist Mal (Meninga) roll out the four-year programme,” he said.

“Everybody that went to the World Cup are no longer on contract and will be given opportunity to re-apply for those positions again when it is advertised in two weeks time,” Tsaka said.

He further clarified that with the re-structure, as per Meninga’s ‘Team Kumul Rugby League Development Plan 2014-2017’ it has called for two high-performance developments positions, which is why both Lam and Dunkley have been included on the PNGRFL rugby programme development structure.

With Meninga being appointed the new coach, his services was the only one spared. Meninga also did the Team Kumul review and general development for 2013, plus the Team Kumul Rugby Development Plan 2014-2017, which he presented last week..

Meanwhile, Kumul coach Mal Meninga aims to bring Papua New Guinea into the top four in the next rugby league World Cup in 2017.

But that can only become a reality if his ‘Team Kumul Rugby League Development Plan 2014-2017’ bears fruit from its hard labour.

This long term aim was announced during the official launch of the four year plan by the PNG Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) in Port Moresby last week.

“This long term goal is achievable, but we have a lot of work to do between now and 2017,” he said.

“We can only be judged by these results,” Meninga impressed on the local media.

Meninga also added that on top of the goals includes supporting the progression of the PNG Hunters franchise to make the finals in the semi-professional Intrust Super Cup (ISC) tournament in Queensland.

The other aim is to cement the hosting of all PNG’s pool matches in the 2017 World Cup in Port Moresby.
The PNGRFL backed Meninga vision by saying that it will need commitment and support from all levels to ensure this plans reaches fruition.

Meninga further said that it is a fantastic pathway.

“We’ve got it all covered.

“It’s all about creating our heroes through this pathway and with the National Government also buying the resources…it should be a great four years,” he stated in an overview he made.

He further made the point that it was unfortunate that the development of the game in PNG has fallen drastically behind other nations.

“The World Cup 2013 was a wake-up call and a reality check of where PNG Rugby League is currently positioned,” he said.

“For a country whose national is rugby league this is unacceptable. PNG has accepted mediocrity for too long in its management and development of the game and has been stuck in a mire if infighting, instability and the inability to make drastic changes to the way rugby league is delivered in PNG and internationally,” he added.

Meninga further stated that if action is not taken immediately to remedy PNG rugby league and implement vital programmes such as the ISC, National School Boys Development, National Accreditation courses, talent identification and training, a competitive national competition and a professionally managed governing body to administer the game, PNG will fall further behind internationally. PNG is ranked sixth by the International Rugby League Federation with Australia, New Zealand, England, France and Wales.

39) Samoa-Fiji clash in May for Rugby League Four Nations spot
By Online Editor
10:00 am GMT+12, 13/01/2014, Samoa

Samoa play Fiji on 5 May for the vacant fourth spot in the Rugby League Four Nations.

The two countries last met at the World Cup quarter finals last year where Fiji or Bati sailed to a 22-4 victory. Neither of the teams has played in the Four Nations tournament before.

They play in Australia but the venue has yet to be finalised.

The annual event is run by Australian Rugby League Commission, Rugby Football League and New Zealand Rugby League representing the top three nations in the sport of Australia, England and New Zealand.

The fourth spot is reserved on alternative years for a country from the southern hemisphere or northern hemisphere.

Papua New Guinea is the only South Pacific country so far to have won the fourth spot – in 2010, after winning the 2009 Pacific Cup.

Samoa or Toa Samoa and Fiji won the right to hold a play-off to play in the Four Nations because of their performances in the 2013 World Cup. After that tournament Fiji rose in world rank to 5th while Samoa holds 8th place.

Despite the loss to Fiji and New Zealand, Samoa produced their best performances in a World Cup last year by reaching the quarter finals.Because of that Government paid for the players available to fly to Samoa for a meeting with the Prime Minister and a parade through Apia.

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