Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 925

MELANESIA:

1) MSG delegation visits Papua under heavily armed guard
By Online Editor
1:23 pm GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Indonesia

A delegation of Foreign Ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) visiting the troubled province of Papua this date were met and escorted under heavy guard by the Joint Indonesian Military (TNI) and Indonesian Police (POLRI).

Even peaceful demonstrations were banned by the Police. Around 46 indigenous Papuan activists were arrested in Jayapura for attempting to demonstrate, including well known figures Markus Haluk and Yusak Pakage. All are believed to have been released.

The MSG delegation’s visit is in response to an invitation from Indonesia in mid 2013 prompted by the MSG 19th Summit’s consideration of an application for membership by Papua in June 2013.

An application which caused significant debate within the Summit at the time and since and which has seen ceaseless efforts during the last 6 months by Indonesia to undermine the application.

Members of the Indigenous Papuan community were not given even the slightest space to be able to access let alone meet with members of the MSG Delegation, who were heavily guarded every moment of their time in Papua.

The delegation met only with Government Officials from the Provincial level of Government. The Indonesian Government’s attitude was that they invited the MSG delegation so it was the Government that would meet with them.

Students responded by blockading the main road leading from Jayapura city to the airport by burning tyres on the road. As there was no other road route to escort the MSG delegation back to the airport so they were taken instead by Helicopter from the Military Headquarters.

“By these means Indonesia has isolated Papua yet again. The Government has silenced the indigenous population of Papua and closed down any possible space for democracy. The MSG delegation wanted to visit Papua to see the situation for themselves first-hand yet they have not been able to access the people.

“The MSG Delegation was escorted by the Indonesian Armed Forces as if indigenous Papuans wanted to kill their fellow Melanesian brothers and sisters. Indigenous Papuans know and live by what is required by their culture and their religion and it’s absolutely absurd to even consider that they would harm or make things difficult for their Melanesian brothers and sisters visiting Papua. The culture of terrorists in this region is the culture of others and not of Papuans,” a statement said.

“The events of this date in Papua tell the world that the State of Indonesia is still hiding something in Papua from the rest of the world. That something is the humanitarian evil that is being committed by the State of Indonesia against Indigenous Papuans. The events of this date in Papua also tell the world that the State of Indonesia is not yet mature in its practice of democracy.”

Yan Ciristian Warinusy, a human rights activist in Papua, said the visit was in line with the preliminary agenda of the MSG summit held in June 2013 in Noumea, Kanaky-New Caledonia.

“This is an important matter, a prerequisite for them to determine how they will consider the membership of Papua into the MSG membership,” he said, “as based on the application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL).”.

SOURCE: PACIFIC SCOOP/JAKARTA GLOBE/PACNEWS

AUSTRALIA:

2) Calls to help Australia’s international students with accommodation

Updated 14 January 2014, 5:38 AEST

Australian researchers are urging the country’s education providers to do more to help international students find appropriate accommodation.

Studies funded by the Australian Research Council have revealed a lack of affordable student housing making foreign students more likely to fall victim to crime.

Monash University’s Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett has spent the past four years investigating the issue in Australia, as well as the United States and United Kingdom.

Dr Forbes-Mewett says it’s an issue that has in the past affected Australia’s reputation as a safe study destination, as students are often after budget accommodation.

“International students, all students really, who are living away from home, are seeking the most affordable accommodation they can get,” she said.

“That tends to push them into areas that perhaps have more low socio economic populations.”

Vasan Srinivasan of the Confederation of Indian Australian Association says international students also lack local knowledge.

“They are vulnerable and don’t understand the difference between north and west and east and which is safer,” she said.

Dr Forbes-Mewett says this makes the students more prone to be a target for petty crime.

“They often carry expensive equipment so they appear to be quite privileged,” she said.

Dr Forbes-Mewett says the Australian education sector needs to learn from the US and UK, which provide more safe and affordable on-campus accommodation options for both domestic and international students.

“I think that’s where we’ve gone wrong in the past, we ended up with many students more quickly than anyone anticipated and therefore there wasn’t time for that planning, to put those structures in place,” she said.

She says Malaysia has also been touted as a possible model where cheap housing is provided at a location central to several universities.http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/

TOK PISIN:

3) PNG ino nidim narapela universiti yet

Updated 14 January 2014, 16:52 AEST
John Papik

Lain Opposisen long PNG itok kantri ino nidim nupela university nau na imas stretim gut pastaim ol bikpela skul kantri igat nau.

Klostu long pinis blong mun December Praim Minista blong Papua New Guinea Peter O’Neill ibin tokaut olsem  Papua New Guinea bai igat narapela nupela University.

Neim blong dispela University bai oli kolim long Western Pacific University na bai oli wokim kamap long Ialibu long Southern Highlands Provins.

Tasol nau lain opposisen long Papua New Guinea ino ting dispela tingting blong Praim Minista Peter O’Neill long kamapim narapela University i gutpela tingting.

Tasol taim dispela nius ibin kamap Minista blong Works blong Papua New Guinea na memba blong Southern Highlands Francis Awesa itok emi hamamas stret long dispela tingting blong Praim Minista Emi tok Momase oli gat University blong Techonolgy, New Guinea Islands oli gat university blong Vudal,long Southern rijon oli gat University blong Papua New Guinea na emi gutpela long igat dispela nupela university long Ialibu long Southern Highlands.

Long 2014 badget Praim Minista bai skelim K 80 million long wokim dispela university.

Tasol Sam Basil deputi lida blong Opposisen itok dispela tingting blong Praim Minista i rong disisen.

Papua New Guinea  university igat wari yet long dinau blong em na gavaman imas traim stretim dispela wari blong ol pastaim olsem tu long university blong Goroka na Devine Word university long Madang.Radio Australia.

FRENCH:

4) Le Fer de lance en Indonésie

Posté à 14 January 2014, 8:44 AEST
Pierre Riant

Les ministres des Affaires étrangères du Groupe mélanésien Fer de lance, conduits par le chef de la diplomatie fidjienne, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, ont pour mission cette semaine d’évaluer la requête de la Coalition nationale de Papouasie occidentale pour la libération (WPNCL) qui désire faire partie du Fer de lance.

Réunion coutumière du Fer de lance en Nouvelle-Calédonie.

La délégation de cette alliance mélanésienne passera deux jours en Papouasie occidentale, une province indonésienne, et rencontrera des responsables indonésiens locaux et les parties prenantes concernées.

Selon le Fiji Times, le ministère de l’Information fidjien a publié le communiqué suivant : « Nous sommes contents d’entreprendre cette importante visite sur invitation du gouvernement indonésien afin d’être en mesure d’évaluer la requête de la WPNCL pour devenir membre du Groupe mélanésien Fer de lance et nous ferons part de nos recommandations à nos dirigeants. »

Et le communiqué d’ajouter : « Nous respectons pleinement la souveraineté et l’intégrité territoriale de l’Indonésie. En outre, nous reconnaissons que la Papouasie occidentale fait partie intégrante de l’Indonésie. »

Pour Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, cette visite donnera [au Fer de lance] l’opportunité d’en savoir plus sur la situation en Papouasie occidentale et de comprendre les aspirations « des sœurs et des frères mélanésiens de Papouasie occidentale ».

Le Vanuatu a décidé de ne pas envoyer de ministre des Affaires étrangères mais un envoyé spécial. Pour le chef de la diplomatie vanuataise, Edward Natapei, cette visite n’accomplira pas ce que les dirigeants du Fer de lance veulent qu’elle accomplisse.http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/

5) Tonga : des milliers de personnes sans abri

Posté à 14 January 2014, 8:39 AEST
Pierre Riant

Le cyclone Ian s’est abattu le week-end dernier sur le royaume et les régions au nord et au centre de l’archipel ont le plus souffert.

Cet archipel qui s’étend sur environ 800 kilomètres du nord au sud est composé de 3 groupes d’îles : Vava’u au nord, Tongatapu, l’île principale, au sud et entre les deux, le groupe d’Ha’apai.

Le cyclone a frappé avec des vents de 287 km/h et dimanche, Ian s’est éloigné vers le sud-est après avoir causé des dégâts considérables dans les 23 îles du groupe d’Ha’apai.

Nous avons pu contacter notre consœur et reporter, Mona-Lisa Palu, qui était hier sur le terrain à Ha’apai : « Je suis en ce moment même en train de regarder des enfants qui jouent près d’un gros arbre déraciné et je peux voir un bateau sur le bord de la route. Ce qui montre la puissance de cyclone. Les habitants ici m’ont parlé de vents hurlants. Un responsable officiel local m’a dit qu’il avait survécu à 2 cyclones mais que celui-là était le pire. »

Les îles d’Ha’apai regroupe 8 000 personnes qui vivent principalement sur l’île de Lifuka où une dame âgée a été tuée. Aucun autre détail n’a été donné sur les circonstances de son décès.

Des bateaux de patrouille tentent de visiter chacune des îles et selon le directeur des services d’urgence, Leveni Aho, 70% des habitations ont été détruites ou endommagées et les communications avec les îles d’Ha’apai se rétablissent lentement : «  Les deux îles principales sont OK, nous communiquons avec elles. Mais 80% des communications n’ont toujours pas été rétablies dans ce groupe. Nous nous concentrons là-dessus et le gouvernement néo-zélandais nous a offert un avion pour que nous puissions faire un relevé aérien de la région. »

Un cyclone un peu particulier aux yeux de Leveni Aho : « Le sillon du cyclone était très étroit. Il a frappé certaines îles alors qu’à 40 ou 50 kilomètres de là, rien n’a été touché. »

La Croix rouge et l’ONU ont uni leurs efforts pour fournir les premiers secours aux victimes. Sione Taumoefolau, de la Croix rouge, indique que des tentes ont été envoyées dans le groupe d’Ha’apai. Elles seront données aux personnes qui ont tout perdu : « Beaucoup de maisons sont tombées, 80% des bâtiments ont disparu, les gens sont dans des centres d’évacuation. »

Sune Gudnitz appartient au Bureau des Nations Unies pour la coordination des affaires humanitaires. Son équipe devrait arriver aujourd’hui à Ha’apai : «  Le moment où nous serons sur le terrain, nous pourrons mobiliser notre équipe humanitaire du Pacifique et des experts qui pourront soutenir les efforts du gouvernement pour fournir des abris et travailler avec nos partenaires sur le terrain. »

En fait toutes les agences d’aide sont en train de se mobiliser. Et il faut se dépêcher car la population locale attend désespérément de l’aide.

On retrouve Mona-Lisa qui a réussi à grimper à bord du premier avion de secours et qui indique que la ville de Pangai, la ville principale de l’île de Lifuka, est privé d’électricité et que les habitants sont à la rue : « C’est désastreux de voir des maisons qui étaient là le mois dernier complètement détruites, de voir des familles dehors qui fouillent dans les débris pour voir ce qui peut être sauvé. Des gens m’ont dit qu’ils se sont réfugiés dans des salles paroissiales [et des bâtiments gouvernementaux] pendant le cyclone. »

À noter que le groupe d’Ha’apai dépend en grande partie de l’agriculture et du tourisme et les dégâts laissés par le cyclone vont beaucoup affecter  la population locale et il faudra plusieurs mois pour qu’elle puisse se remettre sur pied.

Toujours est-il que les opérations de secours se poursuivent mais les experts indiquent que si Ian est le premier cyclone de l’été, il ne sera pas le dernier. Neville Koop est conseiller pour le climat au PROE, le Programme régional océanien pour l’environnement : « Nous avons dans le Pacifique une série de cyclone tropicaux les plus erratiques au monde. Dans le Pacifique Sud ils se comportent moins bien que dans le reste du monde. Et on a vu ça la semaine dernière avec Ian qui s’est déplacé à droite et à gauche dans le Pacifique avant de repartir vers le sud. »

Effectivement Ian s’est dirigé vers Tonga pour ensuite changer de direction vers Fidji et revenir sur Tonga tout en s’intensifiant rapidement. Une chose est certaine, la saison des cyclones n’est pas terminée : « Certainement pas, nous n’en sommes même pas à la moitié de la saison 2013/2014 ; une saison qui commence officiellement le 1er novembre et qui finit le 30 avril. Et la deuxième partie de cette saison est la partie la plus active. C’est en février que l’on observe la plus forte activité cyclonique dans le Pacifique sud-ouest. »

La saison des cyclones devrait donc encore se poursuivre pendant au moins 12 semaines.http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/

WORLD:

6) Dutch want prisoners to pay for cells

Updated at 6:42 am today 14/1/14

Prisoners in the Netherlands may soon have to pay for their cell accommodation, if a bill tabled in parliament becomes law.

Deputy Justice Minister Fred Teeven “believes that a convicted prisoner serving jail time will have to pay partly for their incarceration”, said ministry spokesman Wiebe Alkema.

“The minister think it’s only fair that not all the costs should be shouldered by the state and society when you lock somebody up.”

Prison time costs the government around 250 euros per day per prisoner, he said.

If passed by parliament, AFP reports convicted prisoners will pay a suggested flat rate of 16 euros per day for a maximum of two years.

Coalition parties agreed on the bill after winning an election in 2012. If approved, it will become law on 1 January, 2015.

A separate bill that would require prisoners to contribute to the costs of the investigation that led to their conviction is also under consideration.

The two bills would generate 65 million euros per year for the prison system which, according to official statistics, holds 12,100 inmates.

The Netherlands last year announced it would close at least 19 prisons as a result of budget cuts.c/- Radio New Zealand.

7) India now over polio

Updated at 8:32 am today 14/1/14

India is marking three years since its last reported case of polio.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad hailed it as a “monumental milestone”.

The World Health Organisation removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries in 2012. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria remain on it.

The agency is expected to formally certify India’s polio-free status next month after testing its last samples.

The BBC reports only one case of polio was recorded in India in 2011, down from 741 in 2009. It came from the eastern state of West Bengal.

Polio is the second disease in India that has been eliminated through immunisation. Smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

Nearly 2.3 million volunteers vaccinate 170 million children under five years of age during every round of immunisation.c/- Radio New Zealand.

8) 19 new cardinals named by pope

Updated at 5:39 am on 13 January 2014

Pope Francis is to appoint 19 new cardinals next month. Among those chosen are men from countries like Haiti, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

A Vatican spokesman said that this was in keeping with the Pope’s drive to put the world’s poor at the core of the Church’s mission.

Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Catholic Church below the Pope.

Francis named them during his weekly, Sunday address to worshippers gathered in St Peter’s Square.

They come from all corners of the world, including Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile and the Philippines.

The BBC reports the new cardinals will be formally instated at a ceremony, known as a consistory, on 22 February.c/-Radio New Zealand

EDUCATION:

9a) Internet scare

Nasik Swami
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WHAT started off as innocent flirting on a popular social networking site turned into a nightmare for a 15-year-old Suva girl.

Last year, the teenage girl began communicating online with a 22-year-old man from Ba and eventually started an internet-based romance with him.

The unsuspecting youngster, after numerous email exchanges with the man, decided to visit him in his home town of Ba, taking along a small group of friends.

Upon reaching Ba and meeting the young man, the girl was allegedly defiled by him, leaving her confused and scared.

The case was reported to the Social Welfare office in Ba in October last year and was then handed over to the Fiji Police Force for further investigations.

“While the investigation continues to gather more information in relation to the incident, we are cautioning social networking users to be vigilant and cautious about the people they share information with,” said police spokesperson Ana Naisoro.

“People must always be on the side of caution especially as information shared on such sites can sometimes be false or misleading.”

Women’s rights activist and executive director of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre Shamima Ali said it was important to note that defilement could mean rape.

“Defilement can have an element of rape to it, I would say that there should be more education around the internet, the usage of internet and Facebook,” she said.

“People get onto Facebook and they talk about anything and post all kinds of pictures and there are all these monsters lurking around and they will pounce on young girls who are doing it for fun and you know it’s that age where they flirt and look for romance.”

She said she was aware of the existence of people who preyed on children such as the 15-year-old teen.

“Parents themselves don’t know about Facebook and the kids are a lot more educated and know how to do this on the internet.”

Echoing Ms Ali’s sentiments was Minister for Women Dr Jiko Luveni who said it was a frightening thought that what seemed only to be happening abroad was happening in Fiji.

“They have to be very careful about getting information from the social media because such cases have happened overseas and it’s happening in Fiji as well,” she said.

“This girl is 15 years old and her parents should also be responsible — going all the way from Suva to Ba — that requires some responsible decisions from the parents.”

Dr Luveni said victims of such cases can seek assistance from the ministry if they are rejected by their family or could not live a normal family life.

“They can come to our office to seek assistance.”Fijitimes.

9b) Giving to Philippines street kids

Source:
The National, Monday January 13th, 2014

IN a world in which hungry children scour rubbish heaps for food and orphans are cast out on to the streets, a PNG student in the Philippines is making a change.
Hazel Navuru, a student at Fashion Institute of Design and Arts (FIDA) in Cebu City, expressed the essence of sharing and loving on New Year’s day through giving out food and drinks to the street children around the city.
“It is very sad to see homeless kids along the streets begging for food, especially in the season when the whole world is happily celebrating,” Hazel expressed.
Hazel is one of the 200 PNG students pursuing university degrees in the Philippines through Paradise International Education Consultancy (PIEC), a Filipino-based education placement agency.
“My little niece who suffered from cancer passed away on 2010. Every Christmas, we go to the children’s hospital back in PNG to visit the sick kids and give them food and gifts,” she adds sharing how she began her humble deed.
Instead of spending on party celebrations, Navuru decided to celebrate the first day of the new year along the city roads giving out hamburgers and drinks to the street kids.
“It’s really priceless seeing the kids smile,” Navuru said.
Navuru came to the Philippines to pursue fashion designing in May last year.
She is now looking forward to finishing her course this April and build her own fashion brand in PNG.
“You know you have done something good when you sacrifice things for other people.”

10) Australian-led research to uncover voices of children in PNG and Vanuatu
By Online Editor
2:38 pm GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

Australian-led research to uncover voices of vulnerable children with disability in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea

A team of Australian and Papua New Guinean researchers are embarking on an innovative study of children with disabilities in the Pacific, finding out what they think about the world, their daily experiences and what they would like to change.

The project team, led by Deakin University and Save the Children, will develop and test a number of ‘tools’ like picture and sound libraries, which better enable children with disabilities to give their views.

The tools will then be used to assist government agencies, NGOs and community based organisations in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and activities for children with disabilities and their families.

“The voices of children with disabilities are not heard enough and this research will explore ways of including them in the development of important services for vulnerable young people,” said Kevin Murfitt, from Deakin University.

“We are all intrigued to hear what some of these children have to say.”

The project is being undertaken in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and is based on collaboration between the PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons, the Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association Vanuatu, Save the Children and Deakin University.

Guna Yogomul, acting Country Director of Save the Children, said, “The project is innovative and provides the opportunity to interact directly with children with disabilities and their families to enable them to communicate and identify their own priorities and concerns.

“We want children with disabilities to take part in the research every step of the way, from commencement to data collection and data analysis, in drawing conclusions and determining findings as well as identifying key actions to come from the research.”

The research is being funded through the Australian Government’s Australian Development Research Award scheme.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

11) New PNG University A ‘Bad Public Investment’: MP
Sam Basil says plans in Southern Highlands ‘politically motivated’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 13, 2014) – Deputy Opposition leader and Bulolo MP Sam Basil has described the proposed K80 million [US$31.2 million] University of Western Pacific in Southern Highlands as a bad public investment.

Basil lashed out at the government for its decision to establish the new university in Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s Ialibu-Pangia district.

He said Papua New Guinea did not need a new university at this time. “This is a politically motivated decision on the part of an unjust government, which is seen to be encouraging and promoting regionalism and nepotism, thus destabilising national unity,” Basil said in a statement yesterday.

“The establishment of the proposed university and the most recent appointment of the Brigadier-General (of the PNG Defence Force) are clear evidence of the O’Neill Government’s one-sided decisions on national issues.”

Basil said the government should undertake investments in upgrading the institutional capacities of existing universities and other higher education institutions.

He said such undertakings would produce talented Papua New Guineans of the highest academic standards who could stand on equal footing with university graduates from other countries and compete with them for employment opportunities locally and internationally.

“The University of Papua New Guinea is expected to face financial difficulties this year with its budget deficit of over K80 million, which has accumulated over the past academic years.

“With such a huge deficit, the university’s budgetary appropriation for 2014 is expected to be absorbed in off-setting that, hence forcing the country’s oldest university to be financially crippled.”

Basil said funding for the University of Goroka had not seen any increase from last year when there was a shortage of staff housing, furniture, office space, poor internet access, for academics, poor staff living conditions and the new five-star dormitory had yet to be completed because of the lack of funding.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

POLITIC:

12) New passport rule for Britons in PNG

Source:
The National, Tuesday January 14th, 2014

BRITISH nationals in Papua New Guinea applying for a new passport will see changes in the application procedures, says Acting British High Commissioner Rebecca Brett.
She said from yesterday British nationals would need to send applications directly to Her Majesty’s Office in the UK instead of the regional processing hub in Wellington.
“The British nationals in PNG will need to send their applications to a different address but the processing times will remain the same,” Brett said.
She said if people were renewing their passports, they should allow at least four weeks from the date the fee was taken and all the correct documents received.
“If they were applying for the first time or for replacing a lost or stolen passport, they should allow at least six weeks.
“The current helpline call charges will be removed instead of paying for a premium rate phone line. Applicants will now pay for the cost of call to UK,” she said
Brett said those who needed to travel urgently but their passports were unavailable, damaged, expired or had insufficient validity should contact the consular assistant team at the high commission in PNG. They would issue emergency travel document valid for a single specified journey.
British nationals who need advice can call the customer service centre on +44 (0) 300 222 0000. The service operates from 8am to 8pm (UK time).
Applicants with email access can contact overseasNewportCCC@hmpo.gsi.gov.uk.

13) Official Says Only Government Can Review Vanuatu Constitution
Private group recently announced plans to evaluate document

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 13, 2014) – The Office of the Prime Minister has voiced its concern that a private independent body intends to review the national constitution of Vanuatu.

The Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office is responding to an article in the Daily Post issue of Wednesday by Philemon Hango, who stated that he has established an independent private group to review the national constitution of the republic of Vanuatu.

“The government is not aware of this body and cannot support its initiatives because it is acting outside the jurisdiction of where the need for the national constitutional review is. I am here to tell the leader of this independent group that the Government is the only legal body through which the review of the national constitution can be undertaken,” Parliamentary Secretary Yatan told Daily Post.

“The government of the day has already included and planned out the review of the national constitution of Vanuatu in its 100-day program,” said MP Yatan.

He said Philemon Hango must understand that MPs are the legal voice of the people of the Republic of Vanuatu, whether he likes it or not.

“The MPs are the voice of the nation when it comes to deciding and passing laws for the country, whether Philemon Hango’s candidate is in parliament or not. All 52 MPs represent the whole population of Vanuatu. And one of the important matters on the present government’s agenda is a review of the national constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu – something the previous government took only half way and left it at that. This government will complete the review for and on behalf of the people of Vanuatu,” Yatan said in reply to the setting up of Hango’s independent review.

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

14) Fiji’s Electoral Commission Neutral, Independent: Member
Father David Arms worked on previous commission in 2007

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 13, 2014) – Fiji’s newly appointed Electoral Commission will be neutral and independent, says Commission member and electoral expert Father David Arms.

Father Arms whose name was announced by Attorney General and Elections Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the 7-member Commission last Thursday in Suva in an interview with Radio New Zealand said he expects elections to go ahead this year, as planned.

Father Arms, who was also a member of the former Electoral Commission set up in 2007, says it is an honour to be appointed again.

“A lot of preparations have already been made and things are well-advanced already. Even though there’s a lot of things yet to be done, I’m quite confident we just have get down to it and try to make sure these run as well as possible.”

He said he expects to meet with the other members of the commission this week.

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

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International reports that Naidu is looking forward to a government in Fiji that has been elected democratically, and one of the commission’s first steps will be to establish its terms of reference. Naidu also expressed optimism that the elections will go ahead, as the government has made commitments to the international community. Meanwhile, Fiji’s SODELPA party says the new commission will be ineffective unless other elections machinery is put in place. General secretary Pio Tabaiwalu says the election law should have been released first, and he says parties have no idea how the election will be run. Elsewhere, The Fiji Sun reports that the Media Industry and Development Authority will campaign and conduct workshops about the constitution and electoral process for media in Fiji.]

Following the announcement, 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.

The Electoral Commission will direct the elections office and Supervisor of Elections, who is also yet to be appointed.

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

15) Fiji gets more donor funding for September poll

Updated at 2:55 pm today 14/1/14

The Fiji minister responsible for elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says the government keeps receiving assistance from donor countries to prepare for the elections.

Voters will go to the polls by September in the first election since May 2006.

The minister has told FBC News that different countries have offered various types of assistance, citing India which had previously offered things like indelible ink.

He says other countries have verbally said they will, for example, provide polling booth kits.

Funding pledges are led by Papua New Guinea, which has committed 10 million US dollars towards the election.

The Fiji regime has allotted eight million US dollars in the budget for this year’s election.c/- Radio New Zealand

16) ‘Aisake Eke appointed new Tongan Finance Minister


By Online Editor
2:40 pm GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Tonga

Dr ‘Aisake Valu Eke has been appointed as Tonga’s new Minister of Finance and National Planning effective from Friday, 10 January 2014.

King Tupou VI approved Dr ‘Aisake Eke’s ministerial appointment Monday, 13 January on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s Office stated the appointment was pursuant to Clause 51 (2), (3) and (4) of the Constitution.

‘Aisake is the People’s Representative for Tongatapu 5 to the Legislative Assembly of Tonga and a former Secretary for Finance and National Planning with more than 20-years experience working in Government.

He replaces Lisiate ‘Akolo, who last week refused to step down after the Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano called for his resignation, supported by Cabinet.

SOURCE: MATANGI TONGA/PACNEWS

17) Five islands excluded from return of submerged lands to CNMI

Updated at 10:45 am today 14/1/14

Five islands in the Northern Marianas are expected to be exempted from President Barack Obama’s proclamation transferring control to the CNMI of the lands and waters surrounding it.

Our correspondent in the CNMI says Farallon de Pajaros, Maug, and Asuncion are part of a national marine monument, while Tinian and Farallon de Mendinilla are leased to the United States Department of Defense.

CNMI’s governor Eloy Inos says his understanding is that the three northernmost islands that are part of the monument would be exempted from the transfer of control until a co-management agreement has been finalized.

The governor says a presidential proclamation is expected on or before January the 16th, which he says is the statutory deadline by which the president must proclaim the transfer.

A ruling by the Ninth Circuit court in 2005 said that the submerged lands had belong to the US.c/-Radio New Zealand.

BUSINESS:

18) Wheelbarrow Boys meet

Samuel Berenyi
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update: 2:22PM THE Suva City Crime Free Wheelbarrow Boys Association held its AGM at Suvas Civic Centre today.

The aim of the meeting was to address bylaws and develop solutions for the issues concerning the association members.

The meeting, held every three years, was attended by 80 association members.http://www.fijitimes.com/

19) PNG Power Delays Increased Fees For First Quarter Of 2014
Company directed by public enterprise minister to hold off


By Charles Moi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 13, 2014) – Electricity customers will not pay the 5.9 per cent tariff increase in the first quarter of this year, PNG Power Limited chief executive officer John Tangit announced yesterday.

Tangit said the postponement of the Jan 1 increase followed a direction from Public Enterprises and State Investment Minister Ben Micah.

He told a media conference in Port Moresby that Micah had directed the company in a letter dated Jan 11 not to increase the tariffs that were approved by the Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC).

“The Government, in consultation with PNG Power management and the board, will not increase or apply the electricity tariff for the first quarter,” he said.

Tangit revealed that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Micah had promised government support of K10 million [US$3.9 million] for the maintenance and upgrading of aging power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure throughout the country.

“This is more than the expected revenue from the ICCC approved tariff increase,” Tangit said.

He said it was the first time for the Government, as a shareholder in PNG Power, to inject capital into the company.

“PNG Power has inherited a lot of legacy challenges that the new board and executive team are now developing strategies and plans to address past and current major issues and challenges affecting power generation, transmission and distribution business,” Tangit said.

He apologised to its customers on what he claimed was a “misrepresentation of information” in the media regarding the increase in electricity tariffs.

PNG Power had come under heavy criticism by the business community and other sectors of the community for its decision to increase tariffs.

The business sector said the increase was unjustified and called on the Government to allow other competitors in the electricity industry, which had been monopolised by PNG Power and its predecessor, PNG Electricity Commission, for the past 50 years.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

20) Samoa Power Company’s Proposed Fee Hike Shocks Clients
Businesses feel increases will ‘penalize’ commercial users

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 12, 2014) – Samoa’s Electric Power Corporation (EPC) is proposing a price increase for electricity, much to the shock of the local business community.

Some of them feel they are being “penalised” by the utility company.

Their unhappiness was voiced during a public meeting held at the Samoa Business Enterprise Centre at Saleufi on Friday.

There, business owners – who make up 46 per cent of EPC’s revenue base – were not afraid to take issue with the State Owned Enterprise.

“The question has to be asked if Samoa wants to progress in its financial development or stifle it by adding more costs to businesses to handle,” said Papali’i John Ryan.

“The people who are providing the finance for EPC to operate are the business people, the big business people, people who pay WST$100,000 [US$42,369] a month.”

More In4 : Samoa Observer: www.samoaobserver.ws/

21) Malekula In Vanuatu Exports 1,000 Metric Tons Of Copra
Previous amount in Sept. 2012 was over 402 metric tons

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 13, 2014) – The Vanuatu Copra and Cocoa Export (VCCE) recorded Malekula’s biggest direct copra export ever at 1,000 metric tonnes to Philippines this week.

This figure has more than doubled, compared to the first direct export on September 9, 2012 at over 402 metric tonnes.

Despite the absence of the government’s copra subsidy, VCCE has the leading edge in purchasing at the lucrative price of Vt32,000 [US$331] per ton of copra and this has pushed the farmers to produce copra.

“This week we record the biggest copra export since the establishment of the company in Malekula to date,” Dyson Wilson, assistant General Manager of the Vanuatu Copra and Cocoa Export VCCE Limited who was in Malekula to oversee the operations confirmed to Daily Post.

“This historic export of over 1,000 metric tons is another testimony to VCCE’s development.”

The copra vessel arrived on Malekula early Sunday morning and operations kicked off. Two local barges were chartered.

The Valery (barge) assisted in the handling of cement, a total of 250 tons of cement selling at a very competitive price due its direct import-around Vt200 [US$2.07] cheaper per bag compared to other retailers.

“VCCE utilised around 240 local labourers from seven villages on Malekula, comprising mostly farmers who supply copra to VCCE,” the assistant VCCE GM explained.

More In4  : Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com

22) Phosphate Mining Could Resume On Island In Tuamotus
Australian company granted exploratory license by government

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 13, 2014) – The French Polynesian government has granted a licence to an Australian company to explore the viability of starting up phosphate mining on the atoll of Makatea in the Tuamotu archipelago.

The move reverses last year’s decision by the previous government which rejected a bid by the Australian company, Avenir Makatea, to assess the atoll’s resources.

The company said in its bid that it believed that there might be sufficient phosphate in the old mining areas to allow a feasible mining programme.

The atoll was heavily mined from the late 19th century until 1966.

Local media reports say work could start next month.

When the bid was rejected in May, Tahiti-Infos said the local population was against the resumption of mining amid inconsistencies between the outline of the project and the information given to the landowners.

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

LAW&ORDER:

23a) Call from Solomon Islands for Canberra to settle Moti claim

Updated at 6:51 pm today 14/1/14.

The Solomon Islands pressure group, the Malaita Ma’asina Forum is calling on the Australian government to settle the claims of Solomon Islands’ former attorney general Julian Moti.

The current attorney general Billy Titiulu is in Australia to discuss a settlement for Mr Moti’s wrongful deportation to Australia by the Solomon Islands government towards the end of 2007.

The Forum’s President Charles Dausabea says the group believes Canberra had a stake in the decision to deport Mr Moti, a Fiji-born lawyer, to Australia.

Mr Dausabea says the decision to deport Mr Moti and the subsequent termination of his contract was not solely by the Solomon Island government and says the Australian Government should foot the claims as a form of compensation to Honiara.

The Australian High Commission says it is not in the position to respond, as its high commissioner is new and is still familiarising himself with the role.C/-Radio New Zealand.

23b) Who should pay Moti?

By Online Editor
1:15 pm GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Solomon Islands

By Ednal Palmer

The controversial Moti saga has resurfaced recently but with an interesting twist that if succeed would put to bed the entire long standing battle.

The Solomon Islands Government has reportedly sent the Attorney General to discuss with Julian Moti for a possible compensation payment.

Moti who was brought into the country and became the country’s Attorney General during Manasseh Sogavare’s reign in 2007, was forcefully deported from the country in December that year.

When he was ordered to leave, he launched an appeal which was successful but local authorities in collaboration with Australian authorities ignored the court ruling by magistrate Esther Lelapitu and went on and forcefully removed him from his then residence and whisked him away to the airport to be sent back to Australia.

He fought a lengthy legal battle and came out victorious at the end on a rape allegation framed to smear his profession.

He vigorously stood firm on grounds of ethical principles and his commitment and patience on the quest for justice paid off.

Justice has return to haunt the Solomon Islands for defying a court ruling that could have saved us from spending millions in compensation for the wrongful deportation.

The question some speakers are asking now is why should tax payers pay millions to protect the ignorance of a few authorities who did not want to listen in order to make sound decisions on the matter in 2007.

Some people suggest investigations should be carried out to identify who authorized those erred decision and for whose interest.

“It was the ignorance and bad decisions made by those few leaders that will now cost tax payers millions. Why should they be spared for their incompetence to make sound decisions?

“I think the Solomon Islands public must not make to pay for what should not have happened if those leaders and authorities did the right thing,” one speaker said.

Another who wants to be referred to as Simon Peter said the right thing for leaders and authorities then was to be humble and follow the correct procedures set out under the laws of the country and the accepted international protocols.

“My view is that those individuals who were responsible for making the wrong decisions and moves in handling Moti’s employment contract and his eventual deportation to Australia should be held accountable for their actions.

“It is not fair on the public of the Solomon Islands if those certain individuals acting ultra voires to the rule of law are allowed to escape justice.”

Therefore who should be held accountable to pay up the compensation bill for Moti remains a question that the public might want to discuss and speak out their minds on.
SOURCE: SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS

24/25) Online fraud hits Westpac website

Source:
The National, Tuesday January 14th, 2014

WESTPAC PNG yesterday warned its customers to be on their guard against online fraud after authorities discovered a website that replicated Westpac PNG online banking page.
That was done in an attempt to trick customers into handing over their account details, Westpac PNG said in a statement.
Earlier this week, a site was discovered by Hong Kong authorities that mimicked Westpac PNG sign in page and was accessible via a conventional website.
Geoff Toone, general manager, Westpac PNG, said this recent example is just one of a number of sophisticated online scams being attempted by fraudsters.
“By appearing authentic, these ghost sites can trick customers into releasing their account details online,”  he said.
Toone advised that customers must check that the site’s URL.
“It’s important to note that a legitimate online banking page will always use the word ‘Westpac’ in the URL and can only be accessed via our homepage athttp://www.westpac.com.pg/.
“The fraudulent website we discovered this week featured an unrecognisable address, including the letters ‘hkys.hk /language/en-GB’.
It’s a good reminder that if a URL looks unfamiliar, it’s usually a red flag.”
Toone said customers can also reduce their vulnerability to online fraud by regularly changing their passwords.

26) Port Moresby governor considers liquor ban after betel nut
By Online Editor
1:19 pm GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

Alcohol abuse is a major issue in Papau New Guinea’s National Capital District (NCD) and will be addressed after the betelnut ban.

NCD Governor Powes Parkop during said in a recent press conference in Port Moresby that the National Capital District Commission would ban the sale of alcohol in all unlicensed premises or outlets.

He said there are no tough regulations in place to control the sale and consumption of alcohol.

“The alcohol issue will be dealt with after the ban of betelnut as it appears to be a cause of all social related problems in the city and the communities,” he said.

“The consumption rate of alcohol by Papua New Guineans is excessive and leads to so much disorder in the communities, to law and order issues, and we should take the lead in dealing with this issue in the NCD.”

The Governor said most alcohol abuse resulted in fights, road accidents, broken marriages, deaths and so many other related problems.

Parkop said he was adamant to change the face of the city and would pursue this through addressing alcohol issues in the city after the betelnut ban.

“If it means baning alcohol from the city, we will do that and will only allow for it to be sold in hotels, nightclubs and other licensed premises,” he said.

He said the NCDC would also be buying used and littered plastic bags, plastic bottles and other plastic substances from the public who wish to collect and sell to the commission.

Most people in Port Moresby over the past months have made positive comments and commended the Governor for his initiatives. He had over 80 percent support from the general public including those who chew and sell betelnut.

Meanwhile, despite numerous pleas, including death threats to Governor Parkop to lift the betelnut ban, he is still adamant of pursuing the total ban which has already been passed as an NCD Act.

The Governor said it was time to get rid of filth in the city and restore some pride and lost dignity in terms of being the capital city not only of PNG but of the Pacific.

He said Port Moresby was going through a major facelift in preparation for the upcoming major events such the Melanesian Festival of Arts mid-year, the Pacific Games in 2015 and the APEC meeting in 2018.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

REFUGEE:

27) Australian detention centres to close

Updated at 9:18 pm today 14/1/14

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced the closure of four asylum seeker detention centres, which he says will save $A88.8 million a year.

The decision comes as the Australian government moves to divert all asylum seekers offshore, with more than 2000 currently held on Christmas Island and new arrivals being sent to centres on Nauru and Manus Island, the ABC reports.

Mr Morrison says the centres are no longer needed because the number of boat arrivals has slowed.

“That’s the first downpayment on the dividend of stronger border protection,” he said on Tuesday.

The Scherger detention centre in far-north Queensland, the Port Augusta residential housing in South Australia and Leonora alternative place of detention are all set to close by the end of February.

The empty Pontville facility in Tasmania will be handed back to the Department of Defence at an unspecified date.

The government has been reviewing the future of Australia’s various detention centres as it aims to divert all new boat arrivals offshore.c/- Radio New Zealand

CLIMATE CHANGE,CONSERVATION & ENVIROMENT;

28) NARI can assist drought victims

Source:
The National, Tuesday January 14th, 2014

THE National Agricultural Research Institute has technology available to help communities affected by droughts, according to an expert.
Responding to recent media reports of food shortage experienced by communities on Misima Island due to a prolonged drought, team leader of the NARI drought project Dr Akinapally Ramakrishna said they had available technology to help affected communities in terms of food and nutrition security.
Ramakrishna said through the NARI drought project, many improved crop varieties and livestock species had been identified and were available to help communities affected by such situations.
He said communities on Misima and others facing similar problems could benefit from technology developed from NARI’s scientific research.
Ramakrishna said communities and provincial authorities must come forward to work together with NARI, especially in terms of logistics.
Some of the technology available include salt-tolerant banana for atolls, early maturing sweet potato for lowlands, varieties of taro, cassava for lowlands, African yam, yams from Milne Bay promoted by NARI, rice, corn, soyer and mung beans.
He said apart from crop species, NARI had available appropriate farming practices from atolls research project identified at other sites which could work on Misima.
Other technology include compositing technique, rope and washer pump for harvesting water for irrigation and household use, crop rotation techniques, moisture conservation through hedge rows and mulch systems, improved fallows technique and food processing and preservation techniques.
He said, NARI is aware of a similar drought being faced by Manam and Long Island in Madang province.

29) Flood washes away bridge
Source:
The National, Tuesday January 14th, 2014

THE West Coast Highway to and from Vanimo, West Sepik, has been cut off after the bridge at Daunda Creek was washed away by floodwaters.
The wooden bridge between Lido and Vanimo town was washed away in the early hours of Sunday after the creek burst its banks.
It cuts off the access to Vanimo town for people from Lido, Waromo, Yako, Mushu and Wutung.
They cannot access the Batas Market on the border with Indonesia at Wutung.
It affects people travelling to Vanimo from inland Bewani.
They will have to go back to Green to use the East Coast Highway to get into town.
Overseas surfers at Lido had to use boats to reach Vanimo and catch the Sunday flights to Port Moresby.
Landowner Nick Nati said it was the fourth time the bridge had been washed away.
Nati said he wanted to see a proper and permanent bridge built over the creek so that it did not get washed away too easily.
He said the Department of Works at Vanimo had conducted an assessment of the damage.

30) Honiara Water Source Reopened In Solomon Islands
Kakau Valihelu tribe, government sign agreement

By Daniel Namosuaia

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 13, 2014) – The Solomon Islands government will pay SBD$150,000 [US$20,370] to Kakau Valihelu tribe for the re-opening of Kovi water sinkhole.

This follows a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the government, Kongulai water trustees and the Kakau Valihelu tribe on Friday 10th January 2014.

Under the MOU, the government has agreed to pay SBD$150,000 to the tribe as a token of appreciation for re-opening the Kovi sinkhole.

Spokesman for Kakau Valihelu tribe said Honiara residents should not expect water problems again if the government and the Kongulai water trustees honour the agreement they signed.

Bernard Supoua said now that they have signed an MOU, the water sinkhole is now open and water should resume as normal.

“Our tribe is happy that the government has recognised our concerns and we hope to get what we demand for when the new lease agreement is reviewed,” Supoua said.

The tribe has also agreed to remove any restrictions, diversions and or closure on the flow of the water from Kovi sinkhole.

The tribe further agreed that there shall be no further closure, restriction and or disruption to the Kovi sinkhole.

It was also agreed that both the tribe and the Kongulai trustees to meet and discuss customary issues in relation to the Kovi sinkhole within the next 30 days of the MOU.

And that the tribe’s representative (Bernard Supoua) to ensure that water flow from the Kovi sinkhole shall continue uninterrupted until such time when the current lease agreement between the trustees and the government is reviewed.

The Kovi sinkhole was closed on 24th of December last year when landowners called on the government and the Kongulai water trustees to consider their demands.

The tribe would like to get 60 percent of the payment made under the lease agreement and that they must also be part of the board of trustees.

For the past twenty years, the Kakau Valihelu tribe has been left out of any benefits from the water source royalty payment since all the funds benefited only the Kongulai water trustees and their tribe but not the tribe who owns Kovi water sinkhole.

Meanwhile Mr Supoua said they are willing to discuss and negotiate with the government and parties involved to ensure no more water disruptions in the future.

Adding they are also willing to sit with the government over its plans for the land acquisition of Kovi catchment area.

However he said they will not give away the Perpetual Estate (PE) to the government.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, a major water infrastructure project for Honiara has been set back after two test bores failed to produce adequate results. Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project advisor Naoko Laka said the tests were done after disturbances to the Kongulai source, but after the two tests failed to extract enough water for the systems to run, both systems will be stopped so as to avoid potentially drying the boreholes or sucking in sea water. The multimillion dollar project was meant to improve Honiara’s poor water supply and lessen reliance on the Kongulai source.]

Solomon Star

31) Zero tolerance on child begging in Fiji

Updated at 5:29 pm today 14/1/14

A taskforce on beggars in Fiji has declared zero tolerance on child begging.

The taskforce, which is spearheaded by the Fiji Ministry of Social Welfare and police, has carried out a comprehensive profiling exercise to determine the root causes of begging in Fiji.

The Ministry’s permanent secretary says it has become a concern that some families are using children for begging.

Dr Josefa Koroivueta says the team is working with the police to ensure children are not exploited by their families to beg for money on the streets.

Dr Koroivueta says the profiling exercise in Suva has found detailed information on 40 beggars and their families.

He says the taskforce is working towards finding a rehabilitation facility for beggars who are mentally challenged and homeless.c/- Radio New Zealand

32) Most Tonga cyclone victims now under shelter

Updated at 2:55 pm today14/1/14

The director of Tonga’s National Emergency Office says most people in the northern Ha’apai islands devastated by Cyclone Ian over the weekend now have temporary shelter and emergency supplies.

Leveni Aho says though people are suffering they are back on the street and welcoming those who have come over from the main island of Tongatapu to help.

Annell Husband reports.

“The category five storm ripped houses from their foundations and flattened the fruit crops, leaving the Ha’apai Island group’s eight-thousand strong population almost wholly dependent on imported food supplies.

Mr Aho says people should dig up their root crops, to help keep them going for a couple of weeks before the vegetables start to rot.

Mr Aho says the pumped water supply on the island of Lifuka has been restored and he has assurance it is safe to drink.

But he says on the other five islands most badly affected where there is no reticulation – Foa, Ha’ano, Mo’unga’one and ‘Uiha – water from tanks must be tested and purified as well as boiled before drinking.

Aid groups predict it could be years before life on the islands returns to normal and are urging people who want to help to donate money rather than food or clothing.”Radio New Zealand:

33) Crews save hundreds more Perth Hills homes from destruction

Updated 13 January 2014, 21:28 AEST

Up to 450 homes could have been lost in the Perth Hills bushfire but for the efficient response of emergency services, the Western Australian Government says.

Fifty houses and two sheds have been confirmed destroyed by the blaze, which flared at Parkerville yesterday morning and quickly spread to surrounding areas including Stoneville and Mount Helena.

The fire burnt through 400 hectares and has now been contained but with only 70 per cent of the fire zone accessed, authorities say the number of homes lost could rise.

Essential information

In a life-threatening emergency call 000
Read the latest bushfire warnings on the Department of Fire and Emergency Services website
You can also view warnings on the ABC Emergency WA state warnings page
Bushfire updates are also available by phoning 1300 657 209
Main Roads WA has further details on road closures
Road reports are also available by phoning 138 138
Federal Government disaster relief assistance.

Authorities held concerns for four people who have since been found safe and well.

State Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis says computer modelling shows the situation could have been much worse.

“Had the resources not been immediately placed on this fire that were placed on it, it could have been 450 houses,” he said.

“The modelling’s there, the maps are there, we know which direction the fire was heading, we know how fast it was heading.

“I know that doesn’t help those people who already lost their homes.”

Mr Francis says it is understood the fire may have been started by a privately-owned power pole.

“I don’t want to set that in concrete, we’ll find out exactly what happened,” he said.

DFES Commissioner Wayne Gregson, who lives in Perth Hills, says there were over 400 homes in front of the fire, which was so intense that firefighters had to work from the flanks to bring it under control.

At least 40 homes in Stoneville and another four houses in Parkerville have been lost and residents have been told it could be days until they can return to their homes.

More than 500 residents affected by the fires have been told at a community meeting in Swan View that the fire zone is still too dangerous to return to their properties.

Authorities say those who have lost their homes will be allowed a supervised visit back to their properties tomorrow.

“We are working as quickly as we can to allow people to have access back to their homes, but we must make sure the area is safe before we allow people to return into the area, that is our primary concern,” Mr Gregson said.

Residents say they are being kept in the dark

Mount Helena resident Noelene Michels attended an earlier community meeting and said emergency services had been “keeping people in the dark”.

‘Like a scene from Apocalypse Now’

ABC News producer Tony Carr tells the experience of leaving his home in Stoneville behind with his wife and son as firefighters water-bombed overhead.

“The bloody shire [president] wasn’t told it was up to 44 houses [lost], the ABC had to tell her. That’s pathetic. She’s kept in the dark and we’re kept in the dark,” she said.

“My son’s [in the fire zone] and I can’t contact him because he’s been told ‘go here, go there’.”

Stoneville resident Mark Schnell also criticised an “actual lack of information” and said it was only a matter of time before the area went up in flames.

“It’s been a long time coming; there’s no two ways about it,” he said.

“I mean, that place has been dying and regrowing, dying and regrowing for years and there hasn’t been a real major fire like that go through for a fair while, so it was inevitable.

“You get a lot of people with properties who don’t trim down their trees, so complacency could be part of the cause.”

Mr Gregson says emergency services are very aware of people’s concerns.

“We understand people are frustrated, we understand people want to know what has happened to their home but we ask them for patience and forbearance,” he said.

“We want to do it systematically and we want to do it safely.”

About 1,000 households are without power and it is estimated more than 150 power poles and six kilometres of power line will need to be replaced.

Western Power is working with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to make areas safe, but says repairs are not expected to start before Wednesday.

The utility says the replacement process could take two to three days and homeowners may need an electrician to check internal wiring before power is switched back on.

The WA Government has announced emergency relief payments of $3,000 for those who have lost homes and $1,000 for residents with damaged homes.

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

The Federal Government will provide payments of up to $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. The details can be viewedhere.

Gallery: Homes lost in WA bushfire

Insurers declare Perth Hills area a catastrophe

The Insurance Council of Australia’s Campbell Fuller says Perth Hills has been declared a catastrophe zone.

“What that means is that the industry has escalated its response and has set up a taskforce to talk to governments and government agencies, non-government organisations and the local community,” he said.

“Insurers will escalate and prioritise those claims and do their best to reduce the stress that these families and these communities are already experiencing.”

Mr Fuller said homeowners who are insured should contact their insurance company as soon as possible and start discussing the claims process.

Residents can call the Insurance Council’s disaster hotline on 1800 734 621.

The fires come on the back of a heatwave in Western Australia over the weekend, with temperatures on Saturday reaching 44 degrees Celsius in Perth.

That heat is now moving across the country, with temperatures in Melbourne and Adelaide expected to surpass 40C over several days this week.

External Link: Interactive animation shows temperatures around Australia over the past week/ Radio Australia.

SPORTS:

34) Australian Open: Serena Williams overpowers Ashleigh Barty as Novak Djokovic advances

Updated 13 January 2014, 22:44 AEST

Serena Williams took 57 minutes to defeat Ashleigh Barty, while Novak Djokovic also progressed in the Australian Open.

Ruthless world-number-one Serena Williams took less than an hour to end 17-year-old Australian Ashleigh Barty’s Australian Open on Monday night.

Williams, the hot favourite to claim the Melbourne Park major for a sixth time, delivered a thundering message that she fully deserves that favouritism with her 6-2, 6-1 dismissal of Barty.

In the earlier big match on Rod Laver Arena, defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic raced into the second round with a straight-sets win over Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko.

Barty, the world number 155, is just starting her first full year on the WTA Tour but has shown enough in her brief career to indicate she has a bright future.

Her most recent match had delivered an impressive win over Slovakian star Daniela Hantuchova, in the Brisbane International late last month.

She had not played since because of a left adductor injury and entered Rod Laver Arena on Monday night with her left thigh strapped.

Despite coming off that injury, Barty had expressed excitement pre-match at the opportunity to take on the world’s dominant female player.

But Williams, chasing an 18th grand slam title, did not take long to assert control, with the enormous power of her serves and groundstrokes having Barty almost constantly on the defensive.

Cheered on by an appreciative crowd, Barty fought gamely to stave off a break point and win the opening game of the match.

But Williams won eight of the next nine points to quickly take the next two games.

While Barty managed another hold of serve to reach 2-3, the American raised her level even higher to win the last three games of the first set and first four of the second.

Barty sheepishly raised her arms and smiled in mock delight, after she won the fifth game of the second set to break a run of seven straight games for the rampaging American.

It was a brief respite for the Australian, who ended last year as the second-youngest player in the world top 200 and made three grand slam doubles finals with partner Casey Dellacqua.

Barty staved off one match point, but could not stop Williams the second time as the American clinched the match in 57 minutes to set up a second round meeting with Serbian Vesna Dolonc.

Rusty Djokovic eases into second round

Photo: Racing through … Novak Djokovic sped away to a straight-sets win over Lukas Lacko. (AAP: Joe Castro)

Defending champion Djokovic wore down Lacko to win his first competitive match under new coach Boris Becker.

The Serbian world number two, bidding to win a fourth consecutive Australian title and fifth overall, had to work hard to subdue the 96th-ranked Slovak.

But after taking the second set in a tiebreaker, he swept to victory 6-3, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 in one hour and 50 minutes. He will face Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the next round.

With tennis great Becker courtside, Djokovic looked far from his best and made 30 unforced errors. But he interspersed them with some glorious stretched volleys for winners.

“It’s my first competitive match this season after a five to six week break and I was rusty in the first two sets,” Djokovic said.

“I was struggling to find rhythm on my backhand side.”

Becker has been brought in to improve Djokovic’s game after a disappointing 2013 by his own high standards and with his regular coach, Marian Vajda, keen for more family time.

Djokovic won the Australian Open but lost to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final, then again in the semi-finals of the French Open, as well as bowing to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final.

Six-time grand slam champion Becker will spend around 20 weeks a year on the ATP Tour with Djokovic.

Djokovic lost his service but broke the Slovak twice to take the opening set in 30 minutes.

The defending champion’s backhand misfired in the opening set and he made seven errors on that flank.

Lacko fought hard in the second set and conceded his first break point in the ninth game before the set went to a tiebreaker.

But Djokovic comfortably wrapped up the tiebreaker 7/2 to go two sets up after almost 90 minutes.

He skated through the final set in just 23 minutes as Lacko’s level dropped and the six-time grand slam champion stepped up a gear.

In the other late matches, Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov beat Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 7-5, 7-5, 6-2, while Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko edged Poland’s Lukasz Kubot 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a see-sawing encounter.

Australian Open favourite Marcos Baghdatis was also a first-round casualty, losing to Denis Istomin 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

AFP

35) PNG cricketers beat Kenya

Updated at 11:28 am today 14/1/14

Papua New Guinea have opened their Cricket World Cup qualifying campaign with an emphatic eight wicket win over Kenya in New Plymouth.

Lega Siaka and Assad Vala both notched centuries, and Raymond Haoda bagged four wickets, as the Barramundi’s chased down their target of 250 in the 43rd over.

Vala was named man of the match for his 104 not out, which anchored the PNG innings, in what was a welcome return to form.

Barramundi’s coach Peter Anderson says, after a heavy diet of Twenty20 cricket over the last few months, he was pleased with how his squad adapted to the one-day game.

“We haven’t had a lot of 50 over cricket but the guys have responded very well. I mean it’s very difficult going so much diet of 20 [over] cricket to 50 over but the guys have responded well and yeah it was a really good batting display today. We had a couple of rocky warm-up games and maybe it’s going to be back to front this time from [The Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers in] Dubai where we started very strong and fell away a little bit”.

Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands were also winners on day one of competition.

The Barramundi’s next match is against Uganda in New Plymouth on Thursday.c/- Radio New Zealand

36) Numapo blasts PNG Rugby League
By Online Editor
10:01 am GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

Former Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) chairman John Numapo says the sacking of Adrian Lam as Kumul coach is a “smoke screen” to please the public.

“Now why am I not surprised that Lam has been returned but for a different role but still under Team Kumul,” Numapo said.

Lam’s re-engagement was revealed during the launch of the ‘Team Kumul rugby league development plan 2014 to 2017’ last week.

PNGRFL board chairman Sandis Tsaka confirmed that Lam’s services has been retained to assist newly appointed Kumul coach Mal Meninga as his contractual obligations extended to January 31.

Tsaka had also explained that Lam and those under Team Kumul are still on the payroll, but stressed that as of January 31 everybody will be removed from the payroll.

This has came as no surprise to Numapo, as he explained that clauses 2.1 and 2.2 of the high performance contract agreement signed between PNGRFL and Team Kumul Limited clearly stated that Meninga and Lam are engaged as consultants to Team Kumul Limited for a period of five years from February 1, 2013 to January 31, 2018.

“Unless the contract is terminated and there is no evidence to suggest that it has been terminated,” he said in a statement.

Numapo said both Lam and Meninga effectively remain as consultants to the Team Kumul and will continue to do so until 2018 as per the terms of the contract.

“For all intended purposes, this is a legally binding agreement and is enforceable as law if breached,” he said.

Numapo said the PNGRFL after realizing that the decision to sack Lam was wrong and the possibility of being sued for unlawful termination, they did a 180 degree turn and are now saying that Lam and all the others were contracted only for 12 months and that their contracts expired on December 31, 2013.

And they can all re-apply again when the positions are advertised. If that is the case, why can’t Mal Meninga be also terminated? he questioned.

Besides that, Clause 10.1 of the contract only allows the Minister for Sport to terminate the agreement by notice to the other party.

“This means that the PNGRFL have no authority whatsoever to terminate Lam’s contract to Team Kumul Ltd,” he said. “Furthermore, by virtue of Clause 3.2 only the governing board comprising the Minister for Sport and other members appointed by the Minister is responsible for overseeing the operations of the Team Kumul,” he explained.

“Therefore, the PNGRFL has no jurisdictions whatsoever over the Team Kumul Ltd and its management and therefore, the decision by PNGRFL to sack Lam may be unlawful,” Numapo said.

“There is a lot that the public wants to know about these two new entities called the Team Kumul Ltd and PNGRFL Foundation Ltd and the people behind them.

“The public deserves to know who is really running the show,” Numapo said.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS

37) PNG and Hong Kong cause World Cup qualifying upsets
By Online Editor
09:57 am GMT+12, 14/01/2014, New Zealand

Boilovers on day one; just what the Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament needed yesterday.

The Netherlands and United Arab Emirates, expected to be the frontrunners to win the final two spots in the field of 14 in New Zealand and Australia next February, won their opening games comfortably enough.

They beat Uganda and Nepal respectively.

However, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong put more pep into the event with wins over more-fancied Kenya and Scotland.

Lega Siaka and Assad Vala crunched centuries for PNG as they chased down Kenya’s 249 for eight with ease at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.

PNG reached 250 for two in only 42.5 overs.

Vala hit eight fours and six sixes in his 105 not out; Siaka needed only 83 balls for his ton.

In 1996, Kenya beat the West Indies of Lara, Richardson, Ambrose and Walsh by 73 runs at the World Cup. They have appeared at the past five World Cups; making this one might be a struggle.

Hong Kong hit 263 for seven at Queenstown Events Centre and despite a century from Durban-born Peter Mommsen, the Scots, coached by former England batsman Paul Collingwood, came up 17 runs short.

The Netherlands eased past Uganda, in Mt Maunganui, with half centuries from Wesley Barresi and Christchurch-born captain Peter Borren; while the UAE produced the opening day’s biggest total, 297 for eight, with Shaiman Anwar hitting 109, one of five hundreds in the day.

Tomorrow Canada make their debut against the UAE at Rangiora, while the Dutch play Namibia at Mt Maunganui.

First day’s play

Mt Maunganui: Uganda 151 (46.1 overs) (R. Mukasa 44, A. Mutyaguba 36) lost to the Netherlands 155-3 (27 overs) (W. Barresi 61 not out, P. Borren 50) by seven wickets.

New Plymouth: Kenya 249-9 (50 overs) (C.Obuya 106, T. Odoyo 42; R. Haoda 4-50) lost to Papua New Guinea 250-2 (42.5 overs) (L. Siaka 103, A. Vala 105 not out) by eight wickets.

Rangiora: United Arab Emirates 297-8 (50 overs) (S. Anwar 109, S. Patil 74; B. Regmi 3-43) bt Nepal 195 (48.1 overs) (S. Vesawkar 54, S. Gauchan 37 not out, B. Bhandari 37; K. Shazad 3-46) by 102 runs.

Queenstown: Hong Kong 263-7 (50 overs) I. Ahmed 75, Y. Azfal 42; I. Wardlow 3-57) bt Scotland 246 (48.4) (P. Mommsen 118, M. Machan 34; N. Ahmed 4-37, H. Amjad 3-53) by 17 runs.

Points

Pool A: UAE 2, Hong Kong 2, Scotland, Nepal and Canada 0.
Group B: Netherlands 2, Papua New Guinea 2, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda 0.

SOURCE: FAIRFAX NZ/PACNEWS

38) Fiji confirmed for Wellington Sevens
By Online Editor
10:06 am GMT+12, 14/01/2014, New Zealand

The Fiji Sevens team will remain a key feature of the Wellington Sevens at Westpac Stadium next month, the tournament confirmed today.

The Pacific Island nation’s rugby union has had all funding from the IRB stripped due to governance and financial reporting issues, but general manager of the Wellington Sevens Martin Donoghue says the team’s participation at round five of the World Series in Wellington will not be affected.

Logistical costs including food, accommodation and travel is covered by the tournament, which has been the case for all competing teams over the years.

Donoghue said the Fijian team is a huge feature of the tournament, and always has been.

“We’ve had a discussion with the Fiji Rugby Union and know their players and coaches are preparing as per usual for the next two tournaments,” Donoghue said.

“We’re looking forward to having them back here in a couple of weeks and no doubt they will bring with them that fierce rivalry and entertaining style of rugby that they always do.”

“Every time that Fiji plays the stadium gets a certain vibe to it. Given their great performance over the last couple of tournaments, we are looking forward to them when they here playing to that level in this tournament and leading up to the Olympics and it wouldn’t be the same without Fiji in it.”

Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board says the suspension of direct funding to the Fiji Rugby Union will not affect the national team from playing in the World Sevens Series.

In responding to questions from FBC Sports, IRB Sevens Operations Manager, Beth Coalter, says, “the situation with the Fiji sevens is completely unaffected and they are forging ahead with training and planning for the tournaments.”

She further says they do not see any reason whatsoever of the suspension of funds to impact the Fiji sevens playing in the remainder of the 2013/2014 season.

The IRB announced on the weekend that it is to suspend all direct financial support to the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) with immediate effect until the union adopts key financial reporting, administration and governance reforms.

The Wellington Sevens will take place on February 7-8.

SOURCE: TVNZ/ FBC SPORTS/PACNEWS

39) It’s now or never, Pacific Games Organisers say 2014 is crucial
By Online Editor
10:04 am GMT+12, 14/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

The next 12 months has been named the “Call to Action” year as the Games Organising Committee steps up efforts into preparations for Pacific Games in Port Moresby.

Games Organising Committee Chief Executive Officer Peter Stewart said it was all systems go with a number of significant events to take place this year and into next year that will set the atmosphere in place for the region’s biggest sporting event.

Stewart said to set the pace with the official launch and unveiling of the 2015 official Games Mascot next month to be followed by an all Sports Technical delegates and officials meeting involving the 28 participating sports which will also be held in February.

“Obviously our calender is tight leading into the games and the Games Organising Committee has kicked off our work schedule. We have begun work to ensure we achieve our collective ambition to make the 2015 Games the best ever.

“The National Government has shown its commitment with its budgetary and political support and we ask the people of Papua New Guinea and in particular the people of Port Moresby to focus towards the 2015 games and play their part in ensuring a safe and clean environment as many visitors will be coming into the country beginning this year and for the Games.”

The Pacific Games Council will also be held at the same time as the Sports Technical Delegates meeting where they will be briefed on the preparations of the games.

Stewart said work on the games infrastructure is progressing well and the Games Organising Committee is confident all will be in place before the games starting date.

He says the GOC will be recruiting more staff as the workload increases and they would begin the process of identifying and recruiting volunteers in September.

“We have advertised for the relevant people to join the GOC and will recruit about a 100 additional staff and by games time we will be supported by more than 3,000 volunteers. Further to this we have also invited Expressions of Interest for the Creator and Producer of the opening and closing ceremonies and a Games Relay Project Manager“.
“For the provinces, we are also seeking a Live Site Project Manager who will be responsible for establishing ‘live sites’ for people who cannot come to watch the games in Port Moresby to able to see the games through big screens.”

Stewart said: “2014 is the Call to Action Year, so let’s all work together towards making the 2015 Pacific Games a memorable sporting event and a legacy for our children.

The 2015 games will be the catalyst for a new and modern Papua New Guinea.”

The 2015 Pacific Games will be from July 4-18 in Port Moresby.

PNG won the bid to host the games in 2009 during the Pacific Mini Games in Cook Islands.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS

40) Arsenal survive late scare at Villa to go top of EPL

Updated at 11:21 am today 14/1/14

Arsenal survived a late scare to regain top spot in English football’s Premier League with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa.

Both the Gunners’ goals arrived in the space of a minute with Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud scoring just after the half hour mark before Christian Benteke’s header 14 minutes from time made it a nervy finish for Arsene Wenger’s side.

England midfielder Wilshere opened the scoring after 34 minutes with an accurate left-foot finish and Villa self-destructed, conceding possession from the kick-off before French striker Giroud doubled the visitors’ lead.

Benteke’s stooping header raised hopes of an unlikely Villa comeback and the Belgian striker came close to an equaliser as Arsenal hung on.

Arsenal began the day in third place after wins for title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City but responded in style to move a point clear at the top.c/- Radio New Zealand

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