Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 932

MELANESIA

1a) Vanuatu daily news digest | 29 January 2014

by bobmakin

2014 is not the time to make accusations against others, PM Carcasses says: it is when we must find solutions. He said this when officially opening a government retreat this morning. Ministers, first political advisers, DGs and directors, statutory agencies and state owned enterprises (SOEs) were to be present. The Prime Minister said the retreat should enable acceleration in the establishment of government policies. “All platforms must be presented to clear the air and find solutions,” he said. “We need to put all our cards on the table and not allow any misconceptions.” It would seem there are many of these, presently, or there should be no need for such a retreat. One wonders what was achieved in the regional meetings of the CoM. Certainly ten months after its formation any government should be able to show policies working rather than still in gestation. And these policies are anyway now obliged to fit an existing budget.

The shortcomings of the Comprehensive Reform Programme (CRP) are further broached in Daily Post today. This overseas economic reform package, or model, adopted by the government, started in 1997. The failures are as revealed through research of the former Trade Ministry economist Dan Gay. “Vanuatu remains one of the most unequal societies in the world,” Gay says. “The CRP did nothing about this inequality. The underlying point is that outside reform programmes don’t work, even if a few public servants are persuaded to support them. Countries must own their own policies.” He ended: “The model took absolutely no account of local characteristics. It urged tighter spending resulting in lower levels of domestic investment when exactly the opposite is required in developing countries.”

Radio Vanuatu News says economists have determined thatservice businesses in Vanuatu “represent 70% of the population of Vanuatu”. This 70% is the number of people who work for every service of government, VBTC said, and the private sector which contributes greatly to the economy of Vanuatu. The Director of the Department of External Trade, Sumbue Antas, said that previously many people claimed that agriculture was the backbone of the economy, but now the contribution by way of “service” has become the bigger element. Antas made the statement to VBTC News at the regional workshop in trade matters. From Independence, Antas said, people mostly acquired their income through agriculture such as copra or cocoa production, livestock raising or kava business. Now, however, services such as telephone and telecoms, which have increased significantly, inter-island shipping and tourism have taken over. No further proof is needed, it appears, that successive governments have abandoned the farmers and their families who still constitute the majority of the voters in the country today. Charlot Long Wah’s wise and continuing appeal to government and primary producers to “add value” to the produce of the majority still goes unheeded.

The number of confirmed dengue cases now reaches 45, Daily Post tells us today. The Ministry of Health offers advice in the news report.

Radio Vanuatu News today repeated the information that money won by the government from the Capital Investment Immigration Plan (CIIP) must be handled by the Ministerial Budget Committee with parliamentary oversight. Prime Minister Carcasses told the media he was totally against any trust fund to handle such income.

Building of a regional police school is not about to start yet in Fiji, despite earlier promises. The Fiji Defence Ministry said work could not start in 2011 because of unavailability of funds. With Fiji now concentrating on its elections, work is not expected to start in the foreseeable future either.

AUSTRALIA

1b) Corrupt dealing

Abc
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Union officials have formed corrupt relationships with organised crime figures, receiving kickbacks in exchange for arranging lucrative contracts in the construction industry.

A joint investigation by ABC’s 7.30 program and Fairfax Media has discovered that bribery, extortion and threats of violence are used to cement the influence of crime figures on Australia’s construction sites.

Companies connected to major crime figures have won contracts on private and government projects, including Victoria’s desalination plant and the Barangaroo development in Sydney.

Evidence including covertly recorded conversations, bank records, police intelligence files and whistleblower accounts implicate a number of senior members of the influential Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in New South Wales and Victoria in corruption.

NEW ZEALAND

2) PM Key tests water for NZ flag change

By Online Editor
3:54 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says he will consider changing the national flag at this year’s election if there is a public appetite for it.

Key said this morning that he would consult with senior ministers about a new flag, and would not rule out a referendum on the issue as part of the general election.

He believed a change was unlikely but he wanted to test the waters to see if the public wanted a change.

“I’d like to see a change. But one of the problems is that firstly it’s not the single … biggest issue that we as a country face. And secondly, even with those who want to change there’s not universal support for what we should change to.”

He added: “We’ll have a discussion with our senior ministers, and say ‘Is there any appetite to progress that?’. And if the answer’s no then we’ll park it up.”

Key said that if ministers agreed, Government would choose the design of the flag and ask the public to vote yes or no.

He believed that the public was divided 50/50 over whether the flag should be changed.

“If you’d asked the question before the Rugby World Cup, it might’ve been more 60/40 in favour.”

The Prime Minister’s personal preference was for a silver fern on a black background, but he said it would be very difficult to get a consensus on a new design.

Key had earlier said that he hoped Waitangi Day this year would be a day of celebration instead of being marred by protests.

He wished New Zealand’s national day was similar to Australia Day, with shows of patriotism such as flag-waving.
SOURCE: NZ HERALD/PACNEWS

TOK PISIN

3) SI nau igat nambawan meri ai dokta

Updated 29 January 2014, 17:55 AEST

Solomon Islands meri igo pas olsem nambawan meri ai dokta blong kantri.

Long 10-pla 10, Dr Pikacha ibin pinisim skul blong em long Fiji School of Medicine na statim wok blong em nau wantaim Fred Hollow Foundation long Honiara.

Bikpela wok blong em nau em karim aut ol wok blong klinim ol ai sapos oli gat sampela pipia long ol oa cataract surgery long Honiara Referral Hospital.

Dr Pikacha itok em em i hamamas tru long go bek long ples na wok wantaim ol pipol blong kantri.

“Bikpla wok em bai mipla mekim, em long saet blong cataract opereisin, long klinim ai we i doti,” em ibin tok.

Long kamap wanpla dokta, em i save kisim planti yar long kisim displa mak na luksave.

Dr Pikacha i tok laik blongen long kamap ai dokta ibin kamap taem em i wokim residency blongen long Honiara.

Dr Pikacha i bihainim narapla biknem Solomon Island ai dokta, Dr John Szetu, husait i ritaia long las yar bihainim planti yar blong wok long ai dokta, insait long Pacific.radio australia

4) PNG PM i pinisim lukluk raun blongen igo long Bougainville

Postim 29 January 2014, 17:47 AEST

Praim Minista blong Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill i pinisim nambawan lukluk raun blongen igo long Bougainville wantaim ol tok aut blong kamapim gut kem planti ol development projekt raun long kantri.

Odio: NBC niusman long Bougainville Augistine Kinnna
Papua New Guinea Peter O’Neill  ibin stap insait long tripla dei lukluk blong em igo long Bougainville long stat long Mande long traim stretim sampla heve emi stap namel long national gavman na Autonomous gavman blong Bougaiville.

Despla  emi nambawan taem tru long 16-pla yia we wanpla praim minista blong PNG igo wokabaut long Bougainville.

Dispela lukluk blong Praim Minista, ibin kisim em igo long ol ples olsem Buka, Buin, Panguna.na Arawa.

NBC niusman Augustine Kinna long Bougainville i lukluk bek long sampela ol bikpela samting Praim Minista ibin mekim long dispela wok
about blong em.radio australia

FRENCH

5) Nauru accuse les expatriés australiens de népotisme

Posté à 29 January 2014, 8:30 AEST
Pierre Riant

À Nauru la crise judiciaire dure puis plus d’une semaine suite à l’expulsion de l’Australien Peter Law, le magistrat résident et représentant du Commonwealth à Nauru.

Un autre juge a aussi été éliminé du paysage nauruan : Geoffrey Eames, lui aussi Australien, et Président de la Cour Suprême de Nauru qui devait rentrer à Nauru mais n’y a pas été autorisé.

Le visa de Geoffrey Eames aurait été supprimé parce qu’il aurait tenté d’annuler l’expulsion de Peter Law qui lui affirme qu’il aurait été mieux traité en république démocratique du Congo qu’à Nauru.

Charmaine Scotty, la ministre de l’Intérieur de passage à Brisbane a accepté de nous parler.

SCOTTY : « Il s’agit des critiques les plus inexactes à l’encontre de Nauru et de son peuple. C’est injuste et douloureux. »

Pouvez-vous nous donner les raisons de l’expulsion de Peter Law.

SCOTTY : « Le magistrat résident a été limogé pour des raisons spécifiques associées à sa capacité de bien remplir ses fonctions. L’inquiétude du gouvernement est que des personnes dans les hautes sphères, tout spécialement notre personnel expatrié, ont un système qui leur appartient et qui est en pratique depuis longtemps avec le gouvernement précédent.
Un système de népotisme qui nuit au système judiciaire de notre pays. C’est la raison principale pour laquelle il a été limogé. »

Et qu’en est-il du Président de la Cour suprême ?

SCOTTY : « Malheureusement, le Président de la Cour suprême fait partie de ce réseau de népotisme. Ils ne cessent de concrétiser des décisions aux dépens du bien-être de notre peuple et de notre pays.
Ils sont persuadés que leur façon est la meilleure qui soit et ils ne comprennent pas que pour être le leader d’un pays, il faut que vous puissiez diriger ce pays et ils ne nous autorisent pas à être les dirigeants de notre propre pays.
Le système de népotisme est en vigueur depuis longtemps à Nauru et ils ont des affinités avec l’opposition. Leur système c’est, si c’est bon pour eux, c’est bon pour nous.
Mais le peuple nous a donné un mandat pour éliminer le népotisme et pour que le contrôle de Nauru soit restitué au peuple de Nauru. »

Et pourquoi Rod Henshaw, un Australien responsable des services de presse auprès du gouvernement de Nauru a lui aussi été expulsé ?

SCOTTY : « Rob Henshaw était un expatrié. Un expatrié  qui travaillait à Nauru pour les services média et son contrat a été résilié. Au lieu de quitter Nauru puisque son contrat a été résilié, il a obtenu un visa d’affaires via ses petits amis et il est resté sur l’île. Je ne pense pas que cela soit un bon comportement.
Mais tout cela signifie que nous voulons contrôler ce qui se passe à Nauru parce que cela fait trop longtemps que les Nauruans ne contrôlent plus la situation.
Notre plus grand mandat est que le peuple veut que le gouvernement soit le gouvernement du peuple contrôlé par le peuple et non pas par le système de népotisme des expatriés. »

Au milieu de cette crise judiciaire l’opposition a tenté hier de renverser le gouvernement avec une motion de censure qui a maintenant échoué par 11 voix en faveur du gouvernement contre 7.Radio australia

6) Nomination du nouveau Gouverneur général d’Australie

Posté à 29 January 2014, 8:45 AEST
Pierre Riant

C’est l’ancien chef des forces de défense, le général Peter Cosgrove, qui remplacera Quentin Bryce au poste de Gouverneur-général. Le mandat de cinq ans et demi de Mme Bryce arrivant à terme au mois de mars.

Le Gouverneur général est nommé par la Reine d’Angleterre dont il est le représentant officiel en Australie. Une nomination sur proposition du Premier ministre australien, en l’occurrence, Tony Abbott.

Le rôle du Gouverneur général est essentiellement protocolaire.

Peter Cosgrove s’est engagé à rester à l’écart de la politique.Radio Australia

WORLD

7) State of the Union: Barack Obama vows to go it alone on growth, challenges Congress to ‘give America a raise’ by hiking minimum wage

Updated 29 January 2014, 17:12 AEST

US president Barack Obama has used his State of the Union address to lay out a strategy for getting around a divided Congress, starting with a wage hike for federal contract workers.

Outlining plans to act unilaterally to raise pay for employees of federal contractors, Mr Obama challenged House Republicans to follow suit and “give America a raise” by increasing the federal minimum wage.

“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” he said in the annual televised address.

“Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you, but America does not stand still – and neither will I.

Analysis by the ABC’s Lisa Millar

The state of the union is – divided.

That was the overwhelming sense as Americans began watching Barack Obama’s speech.

They’re sick of the gridlock on Capitol Hill and Mr Obama knows it, telling congressional members that Americans instead wanted them to “focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations”.

It was not the overly confrontational speech some were predicting, but he’s put income inequality front and centre.

His message to congress and in particular Republicans: look what I’m doing to help America. Now you do something.

He’s going to start with a dozen executive actions, including one announced earlier on minimum-wage increases for new federal contract employees.

This was a domestic issues speech – more so than previous years. Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran were all mentioned at the back end.

The big challenge ahead is finding clean air space in a year that will be dominated by other politics.

The campaign has begun for the midterm elections in November, and there’s already an enormous amount of chatter about possible candidates in the 2016 presidential election.

They keep flinging around the term “lame-duck presidency”. Mr Obama wants to make sure the term doesn’t stick.

“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

The speech reflected the president’s scaled-back legislative ambitions after a tough first year in his second term.

“Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. And too many still aren’t working at all,” Mr Obama said.

The president said he planned to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors from $US7.25 an hour to $US10.10.

He called on Congress to follow suit and raise the federal minimum wage to the same amount – a proposal that he has raised before and never seen enacted.

“In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own,” he said.

“In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $US10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

“Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board.”

Mr Obama’s reputation was scarred last year by a botched roll out of his signature health care law, budget clashes with Republicans and perceived missteps abroad.

But today’s address was seen as a chance to chart the early going for mid-term elections in November, in which his Democrats are in danger of losing the Senate.

What do you think of Barack Obama’s state of the union address? Have your say

Obama vows to veto any new sanctions on Iran

On foreign policy, Mr Obama said he would use his presidential veto to shut down any congressional attempt to impose fresh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

In November, Tehran struck an interim deal struck with six global powers, under which Iranian leaders agreed to scale back their uranium enrichment in return for sanctions relief.

“It is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade,” Mr Obama said.

Answering criticism from some lawmakers about negotiating with Iran, Mr Obama said the US was “clear-eyed” and any deal would not be based merely on trust but on verifiable actions.

“The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it,” he said.

He also said this year should be the year to finally close the US prison at Guantanamo Bay – a key pledge in his first election campaign five years ago.

The president said the prison camp should be closed down as America downgraded its military role in Afghanistan and shifted away from a “permanent war footing”.

“This needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” Mr Obama said.

“Because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.”

But he stopped short of offering any new prescriptions on how he intends to empty Guantanamo of its remaining 155 prisoners. They were rounded up overseas after the September 11, 2001, attacks and have been held without trial ever since.

Republicans to promise Americans an ’empowering’ agenda

In their response to Mr Obama’s address, Republicans also addressed contracting middle class opportunity, an increasingly important theme in American politics.

Republican congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, however, differed in how to address the middle class crunch.

She promised viewers an agenda that “empowers you, not the government”.

“It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you,” she said.

“It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable.”

House speaker John Boehner had earlier scoffed at the president’s plan to boost the minimum wage for federal employees.

“I think the question is, how many people, Mr President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero,” he said.

ABC/wires

8) Online petition for Bieber to be deported

Updated at 7:03 am on 29 January 2014

More than 40,000 Americans have signed a petition calling for President Barack Obama to revoke pop star Justin Bieber’s visa and deport him to Canada following his arrest last week.

The petition was launched on Whitehouse.gov hours after Bieber’s arrest.

Bieber, 19, was charged in Miami, Florida, on Thursday with driving under the influence, resisting arrest without violence and driving without a valid licence.

It states: “We the people of the United States feel that we are being wrongly represented in the world of pop culture. We would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive, and drug abusing Justin Bieber deported and his green card revoked.

“He is not only threatening the safety of our people but he is also a terrible influence on our nation’s youth. We the people would like to remove Justin Bieber from our society.”

The campaign has garnered more than 40,000 signatures, but must reach 100,000 before White House staff will agree to review it and “ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts”.

The White House petition is not the only campaign that has been launched following his arrest – 17 additional petitions calling for the same action have appeared online.c/- radio new zealand.

9) Tycoon’s daughter defends sexuality

Updated at 9:14 pm on 29 January 2014

The lesbian daughter of a Hong Kong tycoon, who offered more than $US100 million to find her a male suitor, has issued a heartfelt open letter urging him to accept her sexuality.

In the letter, which starts “Dear Daddy”, socialite Gigi Chao asked her father Cecil to treat her partner Sean Eav as “a normal, dignified human being” – the couple have been together for nine years and are reported to have married in France in 2012.

“I know it’s difficult for you to understand how I could feel romantically attracted to a woman; I suppose I can’t really explain it either. It just happens, peacefully and gently,” she wrote in the letter, published in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday and circulated to other Hong Kong media.

Her plea came after property developer Mr Chao, 77, who refuses to recognise that she is a lesbian, was reported last week to have doubled the “marriage bounty” on his daughter, AFP reports.

An initial offer of more than $50 million two years ago attracted 20,000 candidates, with the bizarre dowry attempt making international headlines.

In her letter, 33-year-old Gigi said that she forgave her father because he was acting in her best interests and took responsibility for “misleading” him into thinking there might be other options for her.

“I’m sorry to mislead you to think I was only in a lesbian relationship because there was a shortage of good, suitable men in Hong Kong. There are plenty of good men. They are just not for me.”

In a plaintive message to her father she told him of her sadness that he was unable to share in the life she had made for herself.

Mr Chao, who owns publicly listed property developer Cheuk Nang, is a fixture of Hong Kong high society and regularly appears at public events with his latest young girlfriend. He reportedly once claimed to have slept with 10,000 women.c/- radio new zealand.

10) Britain agrees to take Syrian refugees

Updated at 4:51 pm on 29 January 2014

Britain has announced it will give temporary residence to several hundred of Syria’s most vulnerable refugees.

The United Nations has called on western countries to take in 30,000 Syrians.

Until now the British government has refused, stressing that instead is is giving more than $US1.2 billion in aid, the BBC reports.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Britain couldn’t provide safety for everyone who needed it but that it could reach out to those who needed it most.

Mr Clegg said the highest priority would go to women and girls who had experienced or were at risk of sexual violence, the elderly, survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities.

Government sources say there is no target, but they expect overall numbers of those given refuge to be in the hundreds.

Peace talks end early

Syrian peace talks being held in Geneva have broken up early amid opposition demands that the government address the question of a transition of power.

The talks are at an impasse, with people divided over the future role of the President, Bashar al-Assad, the BBC reports.

The opposition say they want the Syrian government to have time to come up with a proposal on a transitional governing body.

UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said the talks also failed to make progress on getting aid to the city of Homs. Despite the lack of a breakthrough, he says the talks are continuing and that is “good enough”.c/- radio new zealand.

HEALTH

11a) Fundraising night for ProMedical & FrenchTouch Party// Friday 31 January from 5pm @ Alliance française de Port-Vila

Bonjour

Vendredi 31 janvier: Soirée de soutien à ProMedical

Inline images 1

Vanuatu Emergency Medical Services Association Committee – ProMedical (VEMSA) est une organisation non – gouvernementale (ONG), caritative et enregistrée localement.

ProMedical assure un service d’urgence pré-hospitalisation fonctionnant 24 heures sur 24 ainsi qu’un service ambulancier et de soins intensifs aux standards internationaux sur l’île d’Efate. ProMedical peut également répondre à des situations d’urgence sur d’autres îles.

ProMedical a fait le constat de la nécessité de développer le service de sauvetage et d’intervention en cas d’accidents de la route ( Road Accident Rescue services : RAR ) opéré actuellement par la VMF.

ProMedical envisage ainsi de mettre sur pied un service RAR au standard international rattaché au service d’ambulance. Ceci nécessite un équipement très spécialisé à importer des États-Unis et une formation importante de son personnel et de bénévoles. Ce projet permettra notamment d’intervenir auprès de personnes se retrouvant piégées dans leur véhicule après un accident. Il sera alors possible d’apporter une aide médicale immédiate tout en étant en mesure d’extraire les personnes, en toute sécurité, des véhicules accidentés, et de les transporter rapidement à l’hôpital.

Le coût du projet est estimé à 3 millions de vatu. Aussi, ProMedical recherche des parrains. Les parrainages sont divisés en 3 parties: Platinum sponsor – > 1,500,000VT, Gold sponsor > 500,000VT and Silver sponsor 100,000 – 500,000VT. Les sociétés qui parrainent auront leur logo apposé sur le véhicule et seront mentionnés dans tous les articles de presse.
Pour tout information, vous pouvez contacter Michael Benjamin, Directeur des opérations de ProMedical (manager@ProMedical.com.vu /  5950232)

L’Alliance française a décidé de soutenir cette action en organisant une soirée de collecte de fonds le vendredi 31 janvier.
A noter que le groupe Smol Fayah se produira en version acoustique pour le plaisir de tous. Le « fundraising » sera suivie d’une soirée FrenchTouch.

Venez nombreux ! Faites passer le message !

17h : kava, bar et grillades
18 : concert acoustique de Smol Fayah
20h : soirée FrenchTouch

Credit : Charlie Timpoloa Harrison// VANGO Secretariat vangosec@gmail.com

11b) Fiji President queries 2013 AIDS figures

By Online Editor
2:12 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Fiji

Fiji’s President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau believes those responsible for tallying the number of HIV/AIDS cases reported around the country last year may be “sleeping on the job”.

“Twenty-eight days into the new year and the ministry does not have the relevant figures of cases from 2013,” he said.

“We still do not have figures of HIV/AIDS from last year because there is someone who is sleeping on the job and not doing their job out there.”

He made the comment while speaking to students of Labasa Sangam College during his HIV/AIDS awareness campaign Tuesrday.

Ratu Epeli added that with HIV/AIDS one would want to know the bad news as soon as possible and not wait around and have to ask for information.

“Fiji is still rated a low HIV/AIDS prevalence country but the occurrence of HIV has been increasing steadily since the country’s first case in 1989,” he said.

“In the last four years, the nation recorded 43 cases in 2009, while 33 cases were reported in 2010, 54 cases for 2011 and 62 cases for 2012.

“Now out of the combined total of 116 cases in 2011 and 2012, 100 were from the iTaukei population, while 11 cases were in the Fijians of Indian decent populace and 4 in the others category.”

Ratu Epeli said 70 per cent of the 62 cases from 2012 were from the Central and the Western divisions within the provinces of Rewa and Tailevu.

“In December 2012 there were a cumulative total of 482 registered cases of people living with HIV out of which 243 were males and 232 females while seven were unknown.

“The majority of the cases were from the Central Division followed by the Western Division and the Northern Division.”.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS

EDUCATION

12) Handover Of Tourism School To Solomons University Lauded
SINU plans to allow students from elsewhere in Pacific to enroll

By Elliot Dawea

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 28, 2014) – The handover of the first ever tourism school in the country to our very own Solomon Islands National University (SINU) will boost the country’s human resources to engage in tourism industry after they completed their studies.

Project manager of the ministry of culture and tourism Savita Nadan uttered the statement following the opening of the school yesterday.

She told the Solomon Star the tourism school complemented governments’ flagship policy to develop tourism in the country as the alternative revenue earner for the country.

Asked about the standard of training, she said the curriculum is of international standard from the Auckland University of Technology.

“I want to assure this nation that this school will ease the cost to send students to study tourism at various universities and institutions overseas.

“Students will be learning about hospitality, catering, reception, housing keeping and amongst the few.”

She expressed the skills they will obtain in the school will qualify them to work in the country and abroad.

“Courses offered in this school are of international standard and SINU is planning to open its intake to Pacific countries to undertake their tourism studies here.”

She confirmed to this paper this building is now fully completed. Inside the complex a restaurant and other services will be provided.

It cost the Solomon Islands Government SBD$12 million [US$1.62 million] to have the school completed.

Present during the ceremony were minister of tourism Samuel Manetoali, government ministers, diplomats, senior officers in the office of the Prime Minister and other top government officials.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, the Solomon Star reports that work on the Malaita Tourist Information Centre in Auki is expected to begin as soon as the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination approves work plans, according to Ministry of Culture and Tourism permanent secretary John Wasi. Elsewhere, Solhoust Tourism owner Joyce Konofilia says government must invest more in the private sector if it wants to see Solomon Islands tourism grow, adding that many entrepreneurs have struggled financially to provide visitor-related services.]

Solomon Star

POLITIC

13) EU hails MSG monitors

Shalveen Chand
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

THE appointment of the Melanesian Spearhead Group as observers for the upcoming elections in Fiji has been welcomed by the European Union’s Ambassador to the Pacific.

Andrew Jacobs told Radio New Zealand International he still hasn’t heard whether the EU would be invited to send a delegation of observers, but he would be happy if it was to be invited back.

Mr Jacobs said the announcement of elections observers, and the work experts from the EU, Australia and New Zealand have been doing with the elections office, are very positive signs of progress.

He added there would certainly be a lot of logistic challenges to get the elections organised and the EU is confident that things are certainly moving very well in the right direction.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stated that there would be observers but so far they are yet to be confirmed.

Apart from observers, some nations have vowed to help in other ways other than money, such as providing polling booths and indelible ink.Fijitimes

14) PNG re-establishes consulate in Cairns

By Online Editor
09:59 am GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

The Papua New Guinea Government has re-established a PNG consulate in Cairns to provide visa and other consular services.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato revealed this Tuesday in Port Moresby.

The consulate had Tuesday commenced issuing visas to foreigners travelling to PNG after the successful deployment of the Border Management System by the Australians and PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority.

Consular support services will also be provided to PNG citizens living in the North Queensland area.

Minister Pato said that the establishment of the consulate will assist business communities in PNG and Australia by further enhancing current services provided by the other three established PNG overseas missions and posts in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

He also said the operations will further boost PNG’s trade and investment interests in PNG and Australia, particularly in the North Queensland area.

This would include the tourism industry drive to implement direct international flights from Cairns to designate provincial airports in PNG.

The minister commended the efforts of the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority, and the Department of Foreign Affairs for effectively implementing Government initiatives through the establishment of vital overseas missions or posts at strategic locations.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

15) Government To Assist Bankrupt Port Vila Municipal Council
Vanuatu PM says council must also help itself, as necessary

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 28, 2014) – The Port Vila Municipal Council is bankrupt, but Vanuatu’s Government will assist the council, says Prime Minister Moana Carcasses.

Prime Minister Carcasses did not mince words when he addressed the new Lord Mayor, Deputy Lady Mayor and the new Port Vila Municipal councilors last Friday afternoon in front of the Government Minister MPs and officials, Private Sector representatives, and political supporters and the public.

“Political election is like a soccer game, one must win and the other must lose but in this case, all winners in this election are part of the present national government coalition composition,” PM Carcasses pointed out.

He appealed to the councilors to work together for the good of the Council and the services to the population of Port Vila city.

“The Port Vila Municipal Council is bankrupt, due to inherited problems including political interference in the past administrations; legal interferences by lawyers, no proper planning and definite roles of the administrators and councilors. All these must be stopped.

“The Council must look for a way forward. There is money out there not being collected that must be collected to benefit the community of Port Vila city.

“There are challenges ahead and I appeal to the new councilors to support the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayor to strive and work together to rebuild the Port Vila Municipal Council to the status and standard expected of the Council to provide an effective service to the population of Port Vila.”

Prime Minister Carcasses assured the new Lord Mayor, the deputy Lady Mayor and the new Council that the government he is heading will assist the new Council to ensure it is functional.

At the same time he warned that the Council itself must carry out restructuring of its administration if necessary and do everything to turn the situation around from being bankrupt to a profitable state with its own strong financial base to provide the services to the public of Port Vila and Vanuatu as a whole.

He said to his knowledge there are staff who should go into retirement but could not due to lack of funds and added that there is also the need to review the administrative staffs.

“The Council needs staff recruited on merit and with qualifications to provide effective administrative service in working together with the Council to the public in Port Vila,” the Prime Minister advised the new Port Vila Municipal Council last Friday afternoon after the election of Mayor Sumptoh and the deputy lady Mayor.

“The national government will not only assist the new Council with funding but also ensure that each and every new councilor receives appropriate training of their roles are as Municipal councilors.

“It will assist the councilors to be more effective in policy decision making processes of the Council. A proper system is also needed to be in place that will direct the Council in its focus and new roadmap,” he said.

The Prime Minister strongly recommended a professional Financial System in place for the collection of property tax and other taxes to be properly managed and address needs of the population of Port Vila rubbish collection and much more.

“The national government I lead will assist with funding to the new council, but the council must start by looking at its own restructuring while at the same time I as Prime Minister also expect the council to review its existing contracts with other agencies.

“The council’s committees that will be form to carry out all these tasks must take careful and cautious approach and need to liaise closely with the government in doing so,” said Prime minister Carcasses.

He called on the new council to liaise closely with the Minister and the Ministry of Lands when it comes to property and other related taxes so that revenues are collected and staff wages and services deliveries are carried out in a much more professional manner than where it is now.

“So much is needed to be address and redress that needs the new roadmap by this new council that become more effective in its services deliveries as expected by the population of Port Vila city,” the Prime Minister said in his speech to the new Port Vila Municipal Council.

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

16) Indonesia Says Papuans Managing Their Own Affairs
Representative disputes claims made before EU committee

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 28, 2014) – The Indonesian government has denied that Papuans haven not enjoyed greater autonomy.

West Papua was described as a place marked by fear, violence, and isolation, during a hearing with a European Union parliament committee.

West Papuan campaigners gave testimony at the Human Rights subcommittee in Brussels on Friday into the situation in the region.

The committee was told that after 15 years of Indonesian reform there is no fundamental change of approach by the government to deal with Papuan issues

But the Indonesian government’s representative, Arif Havas Oegroseno, disputed that.

“To say that nothing changes since the last 15 years is rather misleading. We the government believe that the dialogue since 1999 established Papuan policy that moves away from a security approach to a prosperity approach (and) facilitated Papuans to manage their own affairs through wide-ranging autonomy.”

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

17) West Papuan claims Fiji, Solomons benefited from Indonesian visit

By Online Editor
10:09 am GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Vanuatu

The head of the West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation, Andy Ayamiseba, said the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s (MSG) fact-finding mission to Indonesia and West Papua fell short of its mandate.

“To me and the West Papuan National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL), the so- called Melanesian Spearhead Group ministerial delegation visit to Indonesia and West Papua was a conflict of interest for Fiji and the Solomon Islands,” Ayamiseba told Vanuatu Daily Post

“I condemn the spirit of the visit and I salute Vanuatu for her stand in boycotting the so-called MSG ministerial delegation mission.

In fact, I want the Pacific and world to know that to me and the organization I represent, that instead of the visit being a fact finding mission, Fiji and the Solomon Islands diverted it to become a promotion of economic ties between Fiji and the Solomon Islands for their cooperation and development advantages with Indonesia,” Ayamiseba alleged

SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST/PACNEWS

18) PNG Prime Minister, ABG President Conduct Reconciliation
Traditional, modern currencies and gifts exchanged in ceremony

BUKA, Bougainville (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 28, 2014) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President John Momis Monday took the final step in their reconciliation.

At Buka’s Bel Isi Park, and witnessed by a large crowd, the two leaders conducted the final traditional ceremony to complete what they had begun in Port Moresby last week.

The Prime Minister, accompanied by chiefs and Parliamentarians from East New Britain and New Ireland, gave traditional shell money and modern paper currency to three regional Bougainvillean paramount chiefs and the ABG President as a symbolic gesture that all ill feeling from the Bougainville Crisis was finished.

The New Guinea Island contingent who included Minister for Public Enterprises Ben Micah, Mining Minister Byron Chan and East New Britain Governor Ereman ToBaining Jr, spoke of how Papua New Guinea was united and there was no more animosity.

“We are moving forward,” they said.

Micah paid homage to Momis as a founding father of Papua New Guinea, reminding the people that he had helped to write the PNG Constitution.

He said Momis, Sir Michael Somare and Sir Julius Chan were the only original leaders left in the nation’s politics after all these years.

One of the New Ireland chiefs emphasised that they were not in Bougainville to make peace as this had already been achieved. He said they were in the Autonomous Region to perform the traditional and symbolic rituals to confirm the peace. Two huge pigs and one smaller pig along with bags of sweet potato were laid out on the oval and exchanged as part of the ceremony.

After the money was given to the Bougainvilleans and the pigs were kicked, the Prime Minister and President broke bows and arrows as a symbolic gesture. Witnessing the ceremony were members of the Prime Minister’s party plus members of the AGB and the Bougainville Administration.

The audience responded with enthusiasm as the leaders came together and put aside past differences.

The Prime Minister and his close associates will travel around the Autonomous Region by helicopter.

The Prime Minister has a busy three-day schedule in Bougainville, flying south to Buin and Siwai today. In Buin he will open a one-day cultural festival being co-ordinated by the Bougainville Tourism Division. On Wednesday morning he will travel to Panguna, site of the decommissioned giant copper mine – the tinderbox for the Bougainville Conflict. As such, the Prime Minister’s visit there is an historic and significant one.

The people in Panguna are making preparations for the visit and there will be a 21-gun salute to welcome O’Neill.

On Wednesday afternoon the party will travel to nearby Arawa, the former mining township.

The visit is significant for Bougainville as the Autonomous Region forges ahead with its peace process and looks forward to Referendum for Independence sometime within the next five years.

It is the first time a Papua New Guinean head of state has visited the region since the cessation of hostilities.

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

19) Solomons Government To Settle COLA Pay Rise In July
Public servants to see 3% in cost of living adjustments

By Eddie Osifelo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 28, 2014) – The Solomon Islands Ministry of Finance and Treasury will settle the 3 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) payments in July.

Permanent secretary, Shadrack Fanega confirmed this yesterday after some public servants raised their concerns to the media.

Mr Fanega said the payments will apply to all public servants including teachers, police, health workers plus politicians and will not be backdated to January.

He said the payments for politicians will go in line with their Parliamentary Entitlement Regulation (PER).

Mr Fanega said the payment was part of Government’s generosity to help public servants for their good work and hardship faces as a result of increase standard of living every year.

“From 2011 to 2013, these payments have come under an agreement for Government to pay COLA of 2 percents to public servants.

“This year’s COLA payment is outside of the agreement,” he said.

Mr Fanega said the COLA payments were budgeted for and cabinet had approved it.

He said the COLA payments will cost the government’s about SBD$15 million [US$2.03 million].

Minister of Finance and Treasury, Ricky Hou announced this COLA payment when he handed down the government’s 2014 budget last month in Parliament.

Solomon Star

20) Travel exemptions for Fiji diplomats

By Online Editor
2:08 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Fiji

Fijian diplomats Brigadier-General Ioane Naivalurua and Isikeli Mataitoga were granted temporary travel exemptions to travel to New Zealand, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Murray McCully said Tuesday.

But McCully told the Fiji Sun: “Travel sanctions on military personnel remain in place.”

Brigadier-General Naivalurua, the former Police Commissioner, is the highest-ranking Fijian military officer on military or civilian duties to visit New Zealand after the 2006 takeover.

Diplomatic sources say it is a strong indication of the rapid thawing of relations between the two countries as Fiji prepares for the general election.

Brigadier-General Naivalurua and Mataitoga, who has extensive legal experience as a lawyer, are meeting NZ government officials about public sector reforms and related issues. They are in NZ until tomorrow.

McCully said despite the sanctions “there is discretion to provide temporary exemptions for individuals”.

He said: “New Zealand has progressively eased sanctions in response to progress towards credible elections in Fiji in 2014. Last year, we formally lifted all sporting sanctions.  We intend to continue to review sanctions as further progress is made toward free and fair elections.”

McCully added: “Brigadier-General Ioane Naivalurua, Ambassador at Large, and Ambassador Isikeli Mataitoga, Fiji’s Ambassador to Japan, Russia and the Philippines are visiting New Zealand this week to meet with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the State Services Commission as part of a study tour on public sector reform. Both Ambassadors were granted temporary travel exemptions to travel to New Zealand.”

Brigadier-General Naivalurua was recently appointed as Ambassador at Large in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which means he can take on any diplomatic role assigned to him.

In his trip to New Zealand, his designation is Prime Minister’s Special Envoy. That’s a very special assignment and the PM has rewarded him for his loyalty

This means that he represents Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. He can speak on any issues on behalf of the PM as he meets his NZ counterparts.

Brigadier-General Naivalurua was earlier touted as one possible candidate for the post of Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces when Commodore Bainimarama steps down next month. It now appears he is being groomed for a new career in the diplomatic service.

SOURCE: FIJI SUN/PACNEWS

MEDIA

21) Prime Minister Tony Abbott says ABC not on Australia’s side in interview with 2GB

By Online Editor
3:55 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Australia

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has stepped up his criticism of the ABC, accusing the national broadcaster of being unpatriotic in its coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks and asylum seeker abuse claims.

Abbott also questioned the ABC’s newly established Fact Check unit, saying he wanted the corporation to focus on straight news gathering and reporting.

“A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s,” he said in an interview with Ray Hadley on Sydney radio station 2GB.

“I think it dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone’s side but its own and I think it is a problem.”

Asked if he shared those sentiments, Abbott said he was “worried and concerned” by the ABC taking a lead in reporting leaks from Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor.

The NSA leaks revealed Australia’s spy agencies tapped the phones of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudohoyono and his wife in 2009.

The revelations caused a rift in the Australia-Indonesia relationship early in Abbott’s prime ministership.

“The ABC seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor,” Abbott said.

“The ABC didn’t just report what he said, they took the lead in advertising what he said, and that was a deep concern.”

Abbott’s attention was also drawn to a Facebook post published by an ABC researcher seeking off-the-record discussions with Navy personnel.

In the post, the researcher said her “boss” doubted asylum seekers’ claims they were mistreated during a boat turnback operation.

The asylum seekers say they suffered burns when Navy personnel forced them to hold onto hot pipes coming out of the boat’s engine.

The Navy has denied the allegations and the Government has strongly defended the military, without confirming or denying the operation took place.

“You can’t leap to be critical of your own country and you certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian Navy and its hard-working personnel the benefit of the doubt,” Abbott said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the ABC should apologise for casting doubt on the reputation of Royal Australian Navy sailors if the organisation felt it was wrong.

“If the ABC now finds that these allegations were utterly unsubstantiated then it should come out and say so,” Bishop told reporters in Brisbane.

“Meanwhile, people’s reputations are under question because of the ABC’s reporting of this matter, so I trust that the ABC will do the right thing.”

Abbott also raised questions about the cost and necessity of the ABC’s new Fact Check unit, saying “surely that should come naturally to any media organisation?”.

Abbott also empathised with Hadley, who complained that he and fellow host Alan Jones “who lean a bit to the right” were “belted over the head” “n a regular basis” by the media regulator, the Australian Communications Media Authority, while the ABC was left to its “own devices” and “self-regulation”.

“I can understand your frustration,” Abbott told the radio presenter.

“At times there does appear to be a double standard in large swathes of our national life.”

Critics within the Government have been pressuring the Prime Minister to rein in the ABC ever since the Coalition won power.

The issue was raised in the partyroom last year, with Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi calling on the Government to partly alleviate its budget crisis by slashing the broadcaster’s budget.

Senator Bernardi’s colleague Ian MacDonald has previously told the ABC there are many Government MPs who feel the ABC’s charter should be made legally enforceable to address concerns of left-wing bias.

SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS

22) Nauru deports former media adviser Rod Henshaw

By Online Editor
4:05 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Nauru

Nauru”s Minister for Justice has signed an order deporting former media adviser Rod Henshaw from the country.

Henshaw was escorted by police to the airport where his flight is expected to depart for Australia on Wednesday afternoon.

After a late-night sitting in parliament, the Immigration Act was amended which allows the minister to sign deportation orders without appeal.

Henshaw says no reason was given for his deportation and his lawyers are currently in the process of requesting a stay of the deportation order.

“As a result of the act which went through last night in parliament which basically turns this place into a dictatorship with no right of appeal or no obvious rights of appeal,” he said.

“I do have seven days but that doesn’t come into play at all but they have now transported me to the airport where I am at the present time.”

Last week the Nauruan Government deported the country’s magistrate, Australian Peter Law, and cancelled the visa of the Chief Justice, Geoffrey Eames.

Justice Eames says it has implications for Australia, which has an asylum seeker detention centre on the island.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has described the upheaval in Nauru’s justice system as a “domestic issue”.

“Our representatives in Nauru are being briefed by the government about it,” she said.

“I expect to hear more in the days ahead but it’s very much focused on a domestic situation in Nauru.”

Justice Eames says the Nauruan Government did not agree with rulings made by  Law, which stopped the government from deporting  Henshaw and another Australian businessman who had been declared “prohibited immigrants” by Nauru’s justice minister.

It is believed Henshaw, a former ABC broadcaster and media adviser, had been running a bar at a government-owned hotel in Nauru.

SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS

BUSINESS

23) Pacific Niugini hits more broad gold zones at Garaina

By Online Editor
3:53 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

Pacific Niugini continues to return high-grade gold assays from Kusi, within its Garaina copper-gold project in Papua New Guinea.

Drilling intersected intensely altered porphyry-style mineralisation with assays up to 35 metres at 3.04 grams per tonne gold from 136 metres, with 4 metres at 18.75 grams per tonne.

Significantly, these high-grade results were part of a much broader intersection which returned 106 metres at 1.32 grams per tonne from 109 metres.

And the results are from a depth extension hole that previously intersected 20 metres at 2.89 grams per tonne from 107 metres, with 2 metres of core loss.

This brings the total intercept to 126 metres of continuous gold mineralisation.

Visual chalcopyrite and covellite was observed in quartz-monzodiorite porphyry dykes and potassic altered wall rocks, indicating the presence of a copper-fertile porphyry system.

Mineralisation and alteration is very similar in both holes, but with more intense potassic alteration and increased porphyry style veining present in the extension, suggesting the new hole is closer to the primary source.

Pacific Niugini has only received multi element results to 264 metres depth from a total hole length of 460 metres, and molybdenum assays remained strong at this junction.

The project is in joint venture with MGL Limited, whereby MGL can earn up to a 70% interest by spending $21 million on exploration.

SOURCE: PRO ACTIVE INVESTORS AUST/PACNEWS

24) No plan to sell Telikom PNG

By Online Editor
2:06 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Papua New Guinea

Telikom PNG is cutting costs and trimming its operations but has no plans to sell it, a top official says.

Independent Public Business Corporation managing director Wasantha Kumarasiri said the government had no plans to sell Telikom as claimed by the PNG Communication Workers Union yesterday.

The union claimed that the Telikom board and its management were scheming to deplete the communication company’s value and eventually sell it.

Kumarasiri said he was not aware of any scheme to sell Telikom.

He said the company was only undergoing reforms to deliver efficient and cost effective service to the public and businesses.

Telikom board chairman Mahesh Patel also said: “We (Telikom) are in the process of building up from a very tired organisation – not killing it”.

Union general secretary Emmanuel Kairu said the Telikom board and the executive management had been collaborating to “kill” the organisation by scheming to deplete its value and eventually putting it up for sale.

Kairu said the union had documents pertaining to the valuation and re-zoning of Telikom’s properties at its 4-Mile depot and the surrounding areas in Port Moresby.

He claimed that the Lae Telikom Training College and the Telikom depot next to Lae market were included in the deal.

Kairu further claimed that certain functions of Telikom had also been outsourced rendering staff useless in office and vulnerable to early retirement.

“If the undercurrents are going the way we forecast, then we fear that the worse will be the truth,” he said.

But Kumarasiri said: “All state-owned enterprises have been asked by the State through its shareholder IPBC to focus on controlling costs and eliminate waste to lower the cost of goods and services to the public.
“The IPBC Act contains certain provisions to guard investments and divestments including disposal of land and properties from dubious transactions.

“IPBC also now have a process of regular review of performance and actions by the SOEs on major transactions.

“PNG has embarked on reforms to the telecommunication industry to allow the efficient use of assets and related investments and promote completion in order to allow best price and service to the public.

“In line with the NEC directive 2011, IPBC is implementing these reforms and it will require vesting some of the historical assets to Telikom to a new entity called DataCo. DataCo is a 100% state-owned.

“There have been sufficient media releases on DataCo (which) will act as a wholesale service provider while retail service entities compete and provide service to the public.

“This reform also will allow opportunity for new entrants to the market dictated by market forces.
“IPBC is aggressively working towards completing DataCo commercialisation.”

The union with members in Telikom, Post PNG, NBC and NICTA will meet today to prepare an information paper for stakeholders including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS

25) Nauru charges $6000 for business visa

By Online Editor
2:19 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Nauru

Nauru has raised the cost of business visas from $400 to $6000 (US$450 – US$520) as the tiny Pacific island cashes in on an economic boom from hosting Australia’s refugee processing centre.

The dramatic increase in visa charges has generated confusion as it is yet to be set out in official regulations.

Public administration on Nauru has been in turmoil in the past week since the island’s magistrate was deported and the Chief Justice banned from entering the country.

Australia already pays a visa fee of AUD$1000 each month for each asylum seeker held on Nauru, though it seems Australian officials and private contractors working at the detention camps will be spared the latest rise.

But there are fears many Chinese small business owners who run small shops selling food and petrol could be driven out of the country by the extra fee.

Visa charges are now the biggest source of revenue for the Nauru government, estimated to deliver AUD$18 million to the national budget.

Half that revenue comes from asylum seeker visas.

Meanwhile,the MP for Boe, Mathew Batsiua, says the move needs to be properly implemented and gazetted before being put into action.

He says some business people have already started to pay the higher figure.

“This fee hasn’t been properly introduced so in a sense it’s unlawful. The government has begun to collect it. And so I think the government’s got a lot to answer in that regard to make sure the fees they collect are supported by law and they can’t just ignore due process.”

Batsiua says the significant Chinese business community will feel the impact and some may be encouraged to leave.

SOURCE: SMH/RNZI/PACNEWS

26) Vanuatu Government Puts Rusted Vessels Up For Bid
Plan to use ships for profit-making never materialized

By Thompson Marango

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 28, 2014) – Eight years after two Chinese-funded vessels were built and handed over, the Vanuatu government is putting up MV Northern Star and MV Southern Star for tender, because the original plans they had for the two ships failed to materialise.

The two ships are now covered in rust, what is left of them that is, as it is understood that most of its easy-to-remove parts have been stolen.

What the government actually gained out of the two brand-new on arrival ships is in question, but what is known is that the two companies to which the government gave the ships owe the government Vt28 million [US$288,660] each.

The Southern Star was the last to cease operations in 2012 after the Minister of Public Utilities and Public Works terminated the contract the government had with the company operating the ship, as it breached their agreement.

The then Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, the late Harry Iauko, alleged in a public meeting, when the contract was terminated, that the ships had been handed over by the government to political allies, which is why the they were rundown.

The two ships were also the center of a controversy in 2012 when the government agreed to compensate Captain Patunvanu for his services in relation to work with the Chinese boat builder on the two ships. He claimed Vt11,620,000 [US$119,794].

Interestingly, ship-designer and engineer Apia Toara claimed he was the designer and still had the blueprints for the two ships, which he had designed after his ship.

According to a very reliable source, the government’s proposed strategy to run the two ships was first initiated by the Government Business Enterprise Unit (GBEU) on the request of the government.

The proposal was for the management of the two ships to be contracted out to a suitable person or company which had to meet the criteria set out by the GBEU.

According to the GBEU’s proposal, the contractor had to be a local company or sole proprietor, have over 5 years of shipping management experience and have sufficient funds to cover three months’ rent in advance, to kick-start operations and to cover insurance.

Our source revealed that the proposal set out by the GBEU revolves around the idea that the two ships would be used to generate more funds that would be used to renew a merchant fleet.

The proposal was approved by the Council of Ministers and an expression of interest advertisement was issued which received a lot of interest from private sector players in the merchant marine industry.

“When the two ships arrived the Council of Ministers met and canceled the proposal, but came up with a new plan to give one of the ships to the three northern provinces and the other to the southern provinces,” said our source.

He revealed that the original idea was to have the two ships operated by the same company in order to maintain economies of scale, and allow for profit-making routes to subsidise loss-making routes to remote areas.

Unfortunately, the ideas never materialized. When announcing the termination of the companies concerned, the late Minister Iauko confirmed that both companies operating the two ships only made payments for two months of rent, equivalent to only Vt600,000 [US$6,185].

When the contacts were terminated it was discovered that there was no funds left in the companies’ bank accounts.

MV Southern Star and MV Northern Star were put on tender along with two other government vessels, MV Tekoni II and MV Moli Vatu.

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

27) Offshore Companies In Samoa Invested $1 Billion In China
Samoa allegedly 2nd biggest tax haven for large Asian economies

By Jason Brown

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Jan. 27, 2014) – Samoa was the tenth largest source of foreign direct investment in China in 2012, according to figures compiled by overseas media.

Chinese companies registered under this country’s tax haven status are among those pouring billions back into China.

Roughly US$1 billion in foreign direct investment from Samoa to China is shown on a graph published by an overseas newspaper last week.

This represents around $2 billion tala of funds sent through companies registered here as offshore companies in Samoa.

Overall, “The sums involved are huge,” said Tom Holland, an analyst for the South China Morning Post.

Out of US$118 billion in foreign direct investment in China last year, Mr. Holland estimates that some US$50 billion actually came from mainland China companies, hiding money overseas then bringing it back disguised as ‘investment’.

“Taking the money out is just the first step; it’s all about sending it back under the guise of foreign investment and enjoying the taxman’s largesse,” he wrote.

One study into tax payments in China showed that local companies paid an average 8 per cent on income while foreign owned companies paid just 3 per cent – less than half as much.

He headlined his piece, “The US$50b a year reason China’s elite love tax havens”, quoting investment figures from CEIC, a Singapore-based data company.

Publication of investment figures by the South China Morning Post came a day after the release of 37,000 new records showing that Samoa is the second biggest tax haven destination for three of Asia’s largest economies.

Release of the leaked records the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism marks a second wave of revelations started by ICIJ in April last year.

Where last year’s exposes focused on relatively minor players, mainly in the west but also the east, last week’s revelations highlighted billions in hidden wealth among top Chinese officials, including the brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping.

Although officially waging a campaign against corruption, officials in China rushed to block websites carrying stories quoting ICIJ, and attacked release of the records as having a “hidden agenda.”

This is despite President Xi promising to target the “tigers” as well as the “flies” of corruption.

“With the heads of many powerful state owned enterprises, titans of private industry — and the president’s own brother-in-law — now revealed to be hiding massive wealth abroad, Xi’s anti graft drive faces a make-or-break challenge to its credibility,” commented the Vaughan Winterbottom,

writing at the Interpreter column for the Lowy Institute, in Australia.

The importance of Samoa to Asian businesses is shown by the fact that, while British Virgin Islands is the leading offshore finance centre for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Samoa is the second largest, all other centres are lumped together under the category of “others”.

Unexpectedly, given the close links between Samoa and China, it was Taiwan that emerged with the biggest number of companies registered here – 43% of all registrations in Samoa, from Taiwan, in the database of 2.5 million records.

Taiwan had nearly 13,000 companies registered here, according to ICIJ database figures compiled by the Global Mail, an Australian news site.

Hong Kong was the largest holder of offshore companies, with more than 14,000 companies registered in tax havens – 7 per cent of them here in Samoa.

The same percentage applied to China holdings in tax havens, with 7 per cent of 7,000 companies registered in Samoa.

ICIJ stated that, by some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left the country since 2000.

The growing onshore and offshore wealth of China’s elites “may not be strictly illegal,” but it is often tied to “conflict of interest and covert use of government power,” said Minxin Pei, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California.

“If there is real transparency, then the Chinese people will have a much better idea of how corrupt the system is [and] how much wealth has been amassed by government officials through illegal means.”

Eastern use of offshore finance centres and tax havens is dwarfed by the amounts held in mostly Western countries.

However China has been identified by industry analysts as the biggest source of future growth in the offshore finance industry.

“PricewaterhouseCoopers, UBS and other Western banks and accounting firms play a key role as middlemen in helping Chinese clients set up trusts and companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and other offshore centres usually associated with hidden wealth, the records show,” reported ICIJ.

There was data on 122,000 shell companies and trusts, in connection with which 130,000 names came to light.

“From those names, more than 35,000 were Chinese,” said Christoph Giesen from the German newspaper, Südddeutsche Zeitung, one of the media outlets examining ICIJ China data since last July.

The consortium held back details of the Asian companies until journalists from Beijing, Taipei, New York, Madrid, Washington, Berkeley and Munich had examined documents on 37,000 company office holders.

As well as writing stories, the consortium has also uploaded raw data to its online database for public review.

Stories from ICIJ and its media partners were carried by some 20,000 news outlets globally, according to a story count in Google News.

These latest revelations come as members of the Samoa offshore industry attended a workshop last week in Apia.

The workshop, held by the Samoa International Finance Authority, the country’s official tax haven regulator, was not publicly announced.

In fact, SIFA has not announced anything on its website, ever, with the page for press releases still completely blank.

Since the ICIJ exposes began last year, SIFA has refused to take any public steps in response to the controversy, other than adding a news feed from the BBC to its website.

However the news is general and does not focus specifically on offshore finance.

Samoa Observer: www.samoaobserver.ws/

28) Fiji Tuna rescue deal

By Online Editor
2:07 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Fiji

The government has responded to the distressing pleas of tuna fishing companies in the country following news of the industry’s near-collapse earlier this month.

Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA) president Grahame Southwick told this newspaper that the association received a direct verbal offer regarding a proposed Industry Stabilisation Plan which would contain measures which would hopefully assist the industry.

“The government has responded to the desperate situation facing the Fiji tuna industry, with an offer directly from the Prime Minister’s Office,” Southwick said in a statement yesterday.

“The briefing, although only verbal at this time, contained a number of proposed measures that would assist the industry.”

Southwick said it was important to understand that the association was still yet to get written confirmation of the proposal.

“We are awaiting the written details so there is no confusion. We will obviously study the offer deeply and analyse what it could mean to the industry’s survival chances.

“The challenge we all face now is how to deal with the real and most damaging aspect of the problem — the gross over fishing by foreign, highly subsidised vessels which are plaguing the region.”

Solander Pacific Limited general manager Radhika Kumar said she thought the plan was a good start to help relieve pressure on the industry.

“They came verbally and had a meeting with us and it was good, I think they’ve done some good.

“They have confirmed on the number of licences and various other things and so some of these things will be implemented straight away and some we will have to make sure are implemented.”

Hangton Pacific Limited general manager Jitendra Mohan said a committee was set up by the government to assess all issues brought forth by stakeholders.

“And we have just been informed that the Prime Minister agreed to all the recommendations which should augur well for stabilisation of the industry.

“But the real deal is, when the fish catches and market prices will improve, both these conditions are beyond government’s control.”

Fisheries Minister Lieutenant Colonel Inia Seruiratu told this newspaper the government was working on numerous ways to get the industry out of the rut, saying they had to control issues that were within Fiji’s influence.

“We have listened to the concerns of the stakeholders and we are looking at ways we can assist them. We’ve been having a series of meetings with the industry stakeholders last year and in December because of the critical situation that we are in.”…
SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS

LAW&ORDER:

29) Accused fraud got visa despite PNG plea

By Online Editor
3:57 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Australia

Australia allowed one of Papua New Guinea’s most wanted men to enter the country on a 457 skilled worker visa despite a PNG government request for him to be barred, diplomatic cables reveal.

The decision to allow accused fraud Eremas Wartoto to stay in Australia and avoid prosecution prompted Australia’s high commissioner in Port Moresby, Deborah Stokes, to declare the case could be used to “prove that Australia is a haven for the proceeds of crime from PNG”.

The PNG government’s request to “bar [the] businessman from travelling to Australia” was documented in a cable sent by the Australian high commission to Canberra on August 24, 2011.

At that time, Wartoto – a politically connected businessman – had been arrested in PNG as part of a major fraud inquiry into misappropriation of taxpayer funds involving allegedly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Despite the PNG request,  Wartoto – who is being represented by a law firm owned by PNG’s foreign minister – was granted entry to Australia on a 457 visa in September 2011. His skilled worker visa was issued after the Cairns car hire company he owns sponsored him on the basis there was a shortage of “general corporate managers” in the area.

A diplomatic cable marked “secret limited distribution” to Foreign Minister Bob Carr in July 2012 states that Wartoto left PNG ”to avoid prosecution” after an anti-corruption taskforce accused him of a $30 million fraud.

However, despite knowing he was residing in Australia to avoid prosecution, the federal government made no effort to force Wartoto to return to PNG to face charges.

Fairfax Media revealed in May that Wartoto had been able to use his 457 visa to return to Australia after regular trips around Asia.

These trips were taken despite his lawyers lodging medical certificates in PNG’s National Court stating he was too ill to return home.

Frustrated anti-corruption investigators and police in PNG believe Wartoto’s case is a prime example of Australia failing to act on suspected corrupt politicians, officials and business people using Australian banks and real estate markets to hide ill-gotten gains.

Shortly after Fairfax Media revealed Wartoto’s presence in Australia, Senator Carr cancelled Wartoto’s visa.

SOURCE: THE AGE/PACNEWS

CLIMATE CHANGE,CONSERVATION & ENVIROMENT

30) Cyclone warning: North Queensland residents continue emergency preparations as Dylan forms

Updated 29 January 2014, 21:12 AEST

Emergency preparations are continuing in north Queensland as a potential cyclone approaches the coast.

The system, which will be named Tropical Cyclone Dylan if it continues to develop, is expected to make landfall just north of Townsville on Friday.

There is a cyclone warning for coastal and island communities from Port Douglas to Mackay, with a cyclone watch extending to St Lawrence.

The cyclone threat comes amid king tides that are expected to reach 4.1 metres on Friday, with authorities warning of dangerous storm surges.

Strong winds and heavy rain will hit the state’s north as the low pressure system approaches.

Residents are being urged to take precautions and in Cairns supermarket shelves are emptying, with many shops already running out of long-life milk and bread.

Cyclones explained

Tropical cyclones explained
Jenny Woodward explains Cyclone Oswald’s path of destruction

Local disaster management groups have been mobilised, while state disaster officials met in Brisbane this afternoon to discuss cyclone preparations.

Extra resources are being deployed to the region, including an extra swift-water rescue team.

Residents between Port Douglas and Hamilton Island are being warned of a dangerous storm tide.

Flooding is a concern in low-lying areas in Townsville, with the storm system’s impact coinciding with king tides.

Queensland Fire and Rescue’s Wayne Preedy says Townsville residents should prepare appropriately.

“People who are new to the area [should] talk to their neighbours about what’s likely to happen, take some defensive measures about their property with the use of sandbags or use of tarps, etc,” he said.

External Link: Cyclone tracker map: Tropical low forms off Queensland coast

The high tides have already caused localised flooding in parts of Cairns and Townsville.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill says around 4,000 residents in low-lying areas need to prepare for inundation.

Storm surge: what you need to know

We’ve all heard about the risk of a storm surge, but what are they and how can we be prepared?

“Think about getting some sand bags and tarpaulins and blocking entrance ways where water could seep through,” she said.

“It’s really more about the wind whipping those high tides over the 4.1 metres we’re looking at having on Thursday or Friday and pushing that water further up through our suburbs.”

The Townsville Port has suspended all commercial shipping operations.

“Larger commercial ships are all the larger ships that are carrying commodities, so ferries and other recreational traffic aren’t affected at this stage and the harbour master will continue to make announcements as he sees appropriate,” acting chief executive Ranee Crosby said.

Emergency Management Queensland recommends that a home emergency kit contain items such as a portable radio, a torch, spare batteries, essential medications and a first aid kit.

Cyclone information

BOM: Preparation and safety checklist
EMQ: Cyclone action advice
ABC Emergency: Plan for a cyclone

Radio australia

31) Weather office issues alert for heavy rain

By REPEKA NASIKO
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Update: 10:18AM THE heavy rainfall experienced throughout the country is expected to continue over the next few days, says the Fiji Meteorological Services director Alipate Waqaicelua.

Mr Waqaicelua says an active convergence of low pressure located to the West of the Fiji group is slowly moving towards the country, bringing more heavy rain.

“The system is moving towards us and right now the whole of Fiji will be affected by rain,” he said.

“Certain places received substantial amount of rainfall but we wont single out any particular area because the whole country is affected by the system.”

He added a heavy rain alert has been issued by the weather office.Fijitimes

32) FSM’s Mori declares state of emergency over grounded fishing vessel

By Online Editor
10:02 am GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Micronesia, Federated States of

Federated States of Micronesia President Manny Mori has declared a state of emergency from 22 January to 22 February following a declaration from Pohnpei Governor John Ehsa regarding environmental threats from the grounded fishing vessel, Ping Da 7.

Ping Da 7 ran aground on the Pohnpei reef on the early morning of Dec. 11.

“The MV Ping Da 7 remains aground with a substantial amount of dangerous fuels, gas, chemicals remaining on board, posing a substantial environmental threat to the people of Pohnpei state and the Federated States of Micronesia,” the Presidential Declaration states.

Reports of oil leak from the vessel have been confirmed.

The declaration states that during the period of the state of emergency, “all immigration, customs, and quarantine processing and clearance may be temporarily relaxed to facilitate and expedite the dispatch of experienced personnel, specialized vessels and equipment to deal with the matter at hand in order to save life or minimize damage to property, the environment, livelihood and quality of life of all the people of the Federated States of Micronesia.”

The joint task force on the Ping Da 7 situation and the FSM Office of Environment and Emergency Management have been instructed to look into specific actions that must be undertaken following the state of emergency declaration

SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS

SPORTS

33) Scotland down PNG Barramundis in Cricket World Cup qualifiers

By Online Editor
4:18 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, New Zealand

PNG Barramundis ‘ stalwart, Mahuru Dai’s 50 runs could not save the side as they went down by a mere 52 runs against Scotland in the second round of the Super Six stage of the One Day Cricket World Cup qualifiers at Hagley oval in Christchurch, New Zealand Tuesday.

Dai batting at number eight put aside his previous case against UAE, did not have much choice to collect the required runs under 10 overs as he had to collate with the tail end batsmen for a remedy.

Other batsmen who contributed at reaching double figures included Vani Vagi Morea (57), Lega Siaka (13), Assad Vala (33), Geraint Jones (12), Jack Vare (12) and Charles Amini (22).

Scotland opened their innings with a good blasting from Preston Mommsen who scored 94 runs before caught by Chris Amini from the bowling of Willie Gavera.

Mommsen laid the foundation and rest of the runs just managed to flow through with additional scores from Mathew Cross (49) bowled by Mahuru Dai, Pulsie Poll (48) run out, Calum MacLeod (29) caught Jack Vare off a Norman Vanua bowling. They set the target at 9/288 runs but the PNG boys lost control of their batting and were unable to put a strong resistance.

Scotland’s runs came through the expenses of bowlers Norman Vanua who took 2/62, Willie Gavera 2/54, Mahuru Dai 2/52 and Raymond Haoda 2/48. The loss has given the Barramundis a slim chance of entering the 2015 World Cup but hopes are still high for their third Super Six match against Hong Kong tomorrow.

They will have to improvise on their batting and score big for a better run rate and stay within the contention of the challenge.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS

34) Flying Fijians Head Coach, 4 Others Sacked By Rugby Union
Former employees mum, FRU says it is restructuring organization

By Anasilini Ratuva

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Jan. 28, 2014) – Flying Fijians head coach Inoke Male was given his termination letter by the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) yesterday.

And also given the boot are logistics manager Semi Rogoyawa, sevens administrator Priya Cook, storeman Maretino Atonio and groundsman Kaveni Raitamata.

When SUNsports contacted Male yesterday, the Raralevu man refused to comment but referred the matter the Fiji Rugby Union.

“Just speak to the Fiji Rugby Union,” Male said.

Rogoyawa told SUNsports that he has accepted the termination letter in good faith.

“I get my salary from the grants provided to the High Performance Unit by the International Rugby Board (IRB),” Rogoyawa said.

“I’ve no hard feeling since the IRB has suspended funding to FRU.”

Cook did not want to comment when contacted yesterday.

“I have no comments to make,” Cook said.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Radio New Zealand International, Male had no warning his contract would be terminated: “They just called me and gave me the letter. The CEO just called me in his office about 11 o’clock… the same day that I was terminated. I think they should have asked me earlier or just given me a notice a few months earlier it could be better,” he said. The move comes weeks after the International Rugby Board suspended over US$1.5 million in FRU funding.]

According to an FRU statement sent yesterday, they have terminated the contracts of five employees effective immediately.

“The FRU have made some positions redundant while the responsibilities of some positions have been absorbed by current staff and some positions will be re-advertised.”

The FRU further stated that they have begun the restructure of FRU taking into consideration the financial constraints and the review by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Rugby House has implemented the termination clauses in their FRU contracts and will be paying employees two to three months salary as specified in their respective contracts.

The position of National 15s coach will be advertised locally and internationally.

FijiSUN: http://www.fijisun.com.fj/

35) SIDS to cost Samoa $40million

By Online Editor
4:30 pm GMT+12, 29/01/2014, Samoa

Hosting the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will cost Samoa $40million (US$20 million). The money will be funded by taxpayers and “plenty of donations.”

That’s what Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi revealed yesterday during a press conference held at the Central Bank of Samoa (C.B.S).

The media conference followed a meeting between the Prime Minister and the United Nations Planning Mission, which is being headed by the United Nations’ Under Secretary for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo.

Hongbo and his delegation visited several facilities yesterday as part of their mission to Samoa.

Questioned about the cost, Tuilaepa said such things are taken care of by the “budget office.” He said it’s about the 50th time reporters have asked about the cost.

“Fourty million tala,” he said. “Well you don’t ask about the donation… plenty of donations.”

At this point, Hongbo stepped in and said both the Samoan government and the U.N. reached the consensus that they want a sustainable conference.

“Which means we are trying to reduce the cost as much as possible,” he said. “And also the venue we prepared for the conference will not be a once for all event, they will be reused for future events of this nature.”

To which the Prime Minister agreed, pointing out that these conference preparations would not only serve the SIDS delegates but would also service the Youth Commonwealth Games to be held next year.

“So here we are killing two birds with one stone,” he said.

Meanwhile,Hongbo raised concerns over where certain aspects of the preparations were at. He said while Samoa was on the right track in regards to preparations, there was more to do in the next few months.

“The prime purpose of my colleagues and I during this mission is to go over all the technical details in preparation for the conference,” he said.

“To identify the areas that needs to be accomplished earlier or areas further efforts should be made. And we together will work out a way forward.”

Asked about the areas where further effort needed to be made, he pointed to the construction site for the venue.

“I understand you have had some heavy rain in the past few days,” he said. “The process has been delayed. Some roofs were being done and I was told that without re-roofing it is difficult to work inside.

“So this is understandable. And we are trying to encourage our local hosts to do more to catch up with the time.

“Because we have unpredictable weather in the future.”

During his short address, Hongbo acknowledged the strong leadership of Tuilaepa and the hard work of the local SIDS National Task Force.

“Since last April a lot of progress has been made both in political preparation and the logistics preparation,” he said.

“I am confident through the visit I had this morning we will together make a difference in preparing this SIDS conference.”

During the conference at C.B.S., Tuilaepa said the conference was a timely opportunity for S.I.D.S and their partners to renew their commitments towards an agenda of shared responsibilities.

“To ensure that SIDS key priorities are captured in the post 2015 development agenda and implemented successfully,” he said.

“For Samoa this is the opportunity, for the U.N. members and the world to experience and to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of our country, our people and our culture and how we and other Small Island Developing States in our region address some of the vulnerabilities we contend with through working side by side with out partners.

“This is also an opportunity to show the world our Samoan hospitality in welcoming the estimated 3000 participants of the conference.”

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Press Secretariat the SIDS Conference will focus on issues that will help close the gaps that obstruct development in the small island nations.

“The conference is open to the 193 U.N. countries, observers, representatives of major groups, organizations and the media with the expected official participants numbers to be around 3000,” the release reads.

“The Conference will place SIDS issues front and centre on the international stage, and Samoa will be ready to show the world firsthand the SIDS reality – both the challenges and the opportunities.

“At Rio+20, countries reconfirmed that small island developing States remain a special case for sustainable development because of their small size, their remoteness, small natural resource base and their vulnerability to exogenous events such as the impacts of climate change and financial crises.

“The planning mission will have a week of bilateral working meetings with the Samoa National Task Force to discuss preparations and other arrangements for the Conference.

SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS

www.voiceofmelanesia.com

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