Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 964


1) Vanuatu government withdraws airport motion


Vanuatu’s government has withdrawn a motion regarding a loan from China’s EXIM Bank for the country’s proposed 350 million US dollar airport development.

The government will instead send all documents and information relating to the plan to a committee that has been set up to vet the plan which will report back to parliament on the 28th of June.

The opposition leader, Ham Lini, who threatened an opposition boycott of parliament to protest the way the government was dealing with the project, says he considers the move a victory.

“The way it is proceeding, we do not agree with that because it will cause a lot of burden for the people of Vanuatu if we had gone ahead and did what the government wanted us to do.”

Ham Lini says there are a lot of issues surrounding the proposal, such as landowner rights, that need to be addressed before it can move on.Radio NZ

2) Vanuatu daily news digest | 15 April 2014

by bobmakin

It is voting day today for the vacant seat in Port Vila. Not a lot of hard news: instead here is an editorial …

A short history of Vanuatu scams

  • Vanuatu leadership is continually bedazzled by the schemes or scams of the super-rich (from whatever source) to make themselves increasingly wealthier here in a country which possesses the greatest asset available anywhere, an environment which gives well-being freely to all. (Economic well-being has been splendidly dealt with by its premier exponent in the VBTC news today.)
  • In today’s Daily Post, Dr Tobey Huff points out the sheer nonsense of the government’s spin on a project (yes, the Rentabau / Greenfield airport) which has just involved the country’s Parliament in a costly and totally pointless exercise to show that at least the Parliament has received documents which the creators of the scheme and Prime Minister believe has now to be proven for negotiations to proceed.
  • Tobey Huff also points out the almost total impossibility of land owners agreeing in reasonable time for the leasing of their land under the new legislation, as they are required to do. He should know of the demands Eton / Rentabau custom owners may have for their land since he resides at Eton. Eton should seriously start to consider the government guarantees they would require if the huge airport project, un-wanted by all except VTDL executives and Government leaders, was forced upon them.
  • Vanuatu as a tax haven has suffered from the same sorts of scams, some quite criminal, for so long now our leaders ought to be decidedly more sceptical. So often they involve banks, casinos and pirivileges for investors, like passports. These should be the give-away. Failed Australian property developer John Avram offered all of these and a 400 million dollar tourism complex for Moso Island in 1994. Fortunately it never eventuated.
  • Not much later, however, there was the Olilian Group proposing an offshore financial centre and a free trade zone (not the last) for Santo. This was intended to bring some 3,000 wealthy Asians to buy Vanuatu passports. It failed when the promoters were charged with fraud in 1995.
  • Resort Las Vegas Group came next when PM Vohor and Foreign Minister Soksok gave the group (also known as the South Pacific Immigration Authority) the right to sell citizenship. Its principal was Jai Yong Jung who had criminal convictions and fled South Korean serious fraud charges. He claimed he would build a $100 million hotel at Tukutuk, west Efate. Up to 80,000 Asians would reside in this tax haven country. He had a money-making citizenship programme for Vanuatu which was supposed to bring Vanuatu $ 350 million. Ombudsman Marie-Noelle Patterson exposed the scheme’s fraudulent elements and it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds parliamentary majority. Media coverage assisted the parliamentary failure.
  • Then, of course, there was the Vohor Government’s approval of the Volani International plan for an upgraded airport, luxury housing and a large casino-hotel complex for Asian visitors on a state-within-a-state at Santo. And the international airport would be transferred to the Vanuatu Government after 25 years of operation. Again Ombudsman and media efforts had the scam put down.
  • Next on the scene, and with assistance from DPM Willie Jimmy and Lord Keyes of the UK House of Lords, and other MPs and civil servants still at post, came the Mondragon Free Trade Zone, wanting 80,000 hectares of Santo. Nevada real estate developer, Michael Oliver, had sponsored Vemerana secession of the New Hebrides and Vanuatu since the Seventies, but the Kumul Force rather put an end to his chances. Oliver’s colleague, Stefan Mandel, took over, Mandel being the Mondragon man-in-Vanuatu. Oliver severed connections with Mandel when Vanuatu Trading Post exposed the dubious past of Mandel and his bankruptcy in Australia in 1995 was revealed. Ombudsman Alatoa concluded that Mandel had financially assisted Willie Jimmy and three other government officials improperly. It’s all there in the report and its annexes. You can read all about the plans for the Big Bay Free Trade Zone in the Ombudsman Report. The Big Bay International Airport for 747 and 767 planes (then still viable) only became the subject of a further, but smaller, scheme which custom owners to this day claim has never been honoured by Mondragon.
  • Not a lot of honour is apparent anywhere in this history. Lots of promises there are, whether needed to be backed by bank or government promissory notes, or not. But not a lot of honour, and nothing to contribute to the well-being of the Vanuatu nation. Can we not learn something from the Rentabau / Greenfield efforts of the two Chinese? After all, for a start they only wanted a tobacco project on Tanna. And now, together with civil servants’ efforts and planning, and calling themselves VTDL, the project is aiming to build an outdated airport at Rentabau on land they do not own or lease. And which happens to be the country’s only certified organic beef production area.

I think an Ombudsman report is called for.


3) Tonga opposition leader says no need for new palace

15 April 2014

Tonga’s opposition leader says there is no call for a new palace and new government buildings in Nuku’alofa.

This comes as Radio Tonga reports the Deputy Prime Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, is in China to finalise a deal for office space and what is to be known as the St George Palace.

But Akilisi Pohiva says King Tupou the 6th does not require a new palace while Nuku’alofa has plenty of office space still available in the capital after the Chinese financed rebuild of the city centre.

“So there is no reason for the Government to put up that project [ the new palace] while the loans from China are still out there and the future of that loan is very uncertain and I don’t see any opportunity for the Tonga Government to repay any time in the next 20 years or so.”

The leader of the Tonga Democratic Party, Akilisi Pohiva.Radio NZ

4) Tonga Military, Nevada National Guard Enter Into Partnership
US Army’s State Partnership Program to focus on education, renewable energy

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 14, 2014) – Tonga’s army has entered a formal partnership program with the National Guard of Nevada that will strengthen their military cooperation in a new working relationship.

The partnership declaration was signed in Nuku’alofa on April 11, by Brigadier General Tau’aika ‘Uta’atu of His Majesty’s Armed Forces and Brigadier General William Burks of the National Guard of the State of Nevada, USA.

Brig. Gen. Burks said that they have mutual interests, “Education is foremost and renewable energy is huge…”

He said that Tonga and Nevada have their similarities, but also their differences. One is that Tonga has 100,000 square miles of water dotted with a few islands, while Nevada has 110,000 square miles of desert with a few dotted of water. There are about 6,000 Tongans in Nevada.

He believed that from a military opportunity standpoint, their cooperation would be limited only by their imagination. “There will be Peace Keeping Operations, counter narcotics, counter terrorism, special training of enlisted officers, and civil engineering.”

He said that the essence of the program was to promote a better understanding and trust between the National Guard of the State of Nevada and His Majesty’s Army – the second army to sign a State Partnership Program with them, and the first in the Pacific. The United States Army has State Partnership Programs with 68 countries world-wide.

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and the man who was credited by both Brig. Gen. ‘Uta’atu and Brig.Gen. Burks for his vision for the State Partnership Program, stressed the good working relation between Tonga and the United States of America. He pointed out that Tongan soldiers fought alongside American soldiers in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tonga formalized its working relation with the USA in 1972. The State Partnership Program Declaration was initiated in 2009 and formalized on Friday.

Matangi Tonga Magazine

5) Samoa Deputy PM, Associate Minister Found Guilty
Traffic stop related conviction includes obstructing police work

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, April 14, 2014) – The Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo and Associate Minister Muagututagata Peter Ah Him have been found guilty by the District Court this morning.

Muagututagata was found guilty of making an unlawful U-turn in a forbidden area and one of failing to comply with performing a breathalyzer test.

Fonotoe was guilty of obstructing police work.

Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai has reserved the reasons for his decision until the defendants are sentenced 25 April 2014.

Both Members of Parliament pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The incident which led to the charges happened on the 8 October 2013.

Muagututagata was stopped by a patrol police vehicle after making the U-turn and police tried unsuccessfully three times to breath test him.

The Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe stopped alongside the police as they attempted to breath test Muagututagata.

According to police evidence before the court, Fonotoe interfered and told Muagututgata to drive off.

Muagututagata did drive off followed by Fonotoe.



6) Texas Governor Named Honorary Consul For Palau
Rick Perry on island helping look for lost U.S. servicemen

NGERULMUD, Palau (Oceania TV News, April 15, 2014) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry was given the title of Palau honorary consul on Thursday by the Olbiil Era Kelulau, Palau’s bicameral legislature.

Perry, who is making his first visit to Palau, is assisting the BentProp Project in the search for missing American servicemen who fought in the Battle of Peleliu during World War II.

In his address to the joint session of the OEK, Perry recognized the special relationship the United States shares with Palau, and pointed out similarities between this small island nation and the great state of Texas.

Perry is accompanied by his wife and daughter as well as U.S. military veterans Romus Valton “R.V.” Burgin and Marcus Luttrell in assisting the BentProp team.

In addition to working with BentProp, Perry’s wife was scheduled to tour the Belau National Hospital and meet with the Palau Nurses Association.

Perry and his family are scheduled to return to the U.S. on April 17, 2014.

Marianas Variety


7) Badgerys Creek: Second Sydney airport gets Federal Government approval

Updated 15 April 2014, 15:04 AEST

By political correspondent Emma Griffiths

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has left the way open for Sydney’s second airport – to be built in the city’s west at Badgerys Creek – to operate around the clock.

Mr Abbott and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss this afternoon announced Federal Cabinet approval of Badgerys Creek as the site of the new airport.

After decades of debate about the location, Mr Abbott – who wants to be known as the “infrastructure prime minister” – says he wants to “get cracking”.

“The planning and design work will start immediately, and my expectation is that construction will begin in 2016,” he said.

“This is a long-overdue decision.”

Badgerys Creek ready for takeoff

Successive state and federal governments have debated the need for, and location of, a second Sydney airport.

However, he says the first flight will “realistically” take off in the mid-2020’s and when it does, it may not be subject to any limits on flight times.

Two Liberal MPs based in western Sydney, Fiona Scott and Alex Hawke, have this morning stated they want a curfew imposed on the Badgerys Creek site to save residents from overnight flight noise.

“I don’t support a 24-hour airport,” Ms Scott told Sky TV.

On ABC Radio’s AM program Mr Hawke said that if the Kingsford-Smith airport at Mascot “retains a curfew this airport at Badgery’s Creek should have a similar curfew”.

But Mr Abbott has made no commitment either way.

“We are certainly not saying there will be a curfew. We are certainly not saying that,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he believes the “noise issue” will not be as significant as it has been in relation to the Mascot airport.

What it could mean for Sydney’s west

During construction, 1,529 jobs could be created over seven years
By 2050 the airport could create between $11.6bn and $15.2bn additional economic activity
Once operating fully, the airport would generate between 16,252 and 20,013 jobs
The airport could create 35,216 to 46,285 full-time equivalent jobs by 2050 directly or indirectly

Source: Economic impact of a Western Sydney Airport

“First, because, quite frankly, people don’t want to travel in the middle of the night. And second because we are just dealing with far, far fewer people,” he said.

Mr Abbott added that 4,000 people live in the “noise footprint” for Badgerys Creek compared with 130,000 impacted by Mascot flight noise.

Mr Truss says technological advances will also lead to less noise.

“The modern aircraft are so much quieter than all of those that preceded them,” he said.

“The 787 is 60 per cent quieter than the models it’s replacing, and so the noisy aircraft that was such a burden at KSA [Kingsford Smith Airport] for such a long period of time are not in the air anymore and new models will be quieter and therefore more neighbourhood friendly.”

The announcement of the Badgerys Creek airport has divided residents in the western Sydney, with some voicing concern about the project’s impact on local infrastructure and the environment.

Government to take ‘roads first, airport second’ approach

In making the announcement, Mr Abbott focussed on the jobs and infrastructure that will flow from the project, saying the Government is taking a “roads first, airport second” approach.

“We don’t want the people of western Sydney to have to have an airport without having the decent transport infrastructure that western Sydney deserves,” he said.

Badgerys Creek airport: five facts

Badgerys Creek airport will begin as a single-runway facility but a parallel runway is planned.
Owners of Sydney’s existing airport will first be offered the chance to develop operate the airport.
Construction involves earthworks of 51 million cubic metres, relocating high-tension power lines and realigning the Northern Road.
Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport is Australia’s busiest airport but the smallest by land area.
Western Sydney will be home to half of Sydney residents by the mid-2030s.

The Goverment estimates 4,000 jobs will be created in the construction phase and that 35,000 could be generated by the development of the airport by 2035.

It says it has the potential to contribute $24 billion to GDP and create 60,000 jobs by 2060.

The Prime Minister said the private sector will bear “the vast bulk of the cost” of the airport’s construction.

“There will be some expense to the Commonwealth in terms of planning and design, but the $2.5 billion – which is widely quoted as the cost of building the airport itself – is something that will come from the private sector,” he said.

Successive state and federal governments have debated the need for, and location of, a second Sydney airport.

Mr Abbott said the Government will make further announcements about specific road projects to support the new airport in coming days.

Mr Truss said the Government will engage with Southern Cross Airports, who have a right of first refusal to build the airport at the Badgerys Creek site, owing to a clause in the sale of its Mascot site in 2002.

“This process will take at least 12 months and perhaps a little more, and is laid down in the legislation that dealt with the sale of the Kingsford Smith Airport,” he said.

The airport has been a political hot potato for four decades, with both major parties having been forced into backdowns and backflips in the face of intense community opposition.


8) Boda long PNG na Indonesia i kamap long soim wol long ol heve ol i bungim long West Papua

Updated 15 April 2014, 12:12 AEST
Caroline Tiriman
West Papua pipol long Papua New Guinea i tok ol heve emi wok long kamap nau long bodamak wantem Indonesia i wanpla kempein blong pulim luksave long wol pipol long ol heve ol i bungim iet.
Piksa i soim wanpla protes long Vanuatu long sapot blong ol pipol blong West Papua na Papua Provins blong Indononesia
Odio: Fred Mambrasa wanpla lida blong West Papua community long Papua New Guinea.
Ol pipal blong West Papua na Papua Provins blong Indonesia i tok ol heve em i wok long kamap nau long bodamak wantem Indonesia em blong pulim luksave blong ol kantri long wol na tu Papua New Guinea long laik blong ol long lusim Indonesia.

Long wik igo pinis ikam inap nau ol memba blong OPM oa Freedom fighters  iwok long fait klostu long boda, we ol i ibin kukim ol bilding blong gavman blong Indonesia.

Ol ripot ikam displa wik long Papua New Guinea kepital, Port Moresaby i tok ol Papua New Guinea Gavman ofisa ibin kukim ol haus blong West Papua tu.

Fred Mambrasa, wanpla lida blong West Papua komuniti long Papua New Guinea, itok ol i refuji na em i no save wai na gavman i luksave moa long ol asailam sika long Manus Provins na i lus tingting long ol

“Displa ol trabol long boda em long soim wol olsem mipla ino laik stap insait long ileksen blong Indonesia.”Radio Australia.


9) Environmental activist deaths on the rise: Global Witness

Posted 15 April 2014, 15:51 AEST

Lobby group reports a sharp rise in deadly violence related to the environment and land grabs in the Asia Pacific.

There has been a sharp rise in violence related to the environment and land grabs in the Asia Pacific region, according to a new report.

Transparency lobby group Global Witness says between 2012 and 2013, at least 908 people were killed in 35 countries globally, while protecting land rights and the environment.

Brazil was ranked the most dangerous for land rights defenders.

In the Asia Pacific region, environmental activists in the Philippines are most at risk.

“The Philippines emerges as the worst affected country in our particular region, with 67 killings over the period that we looked at,” said Oliver Courtney, senior campaigner for Global Witness in London.

Mr Courtney told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific, most of the killings (42) are related to the mining sector, especially in areas where there is opposition to mining activity.

He said while the Philippines was keen to encourage business in the mining sector, there is little transparency over how business activities are carried out.

“There’s very little transparency in what’s going on, whether or not the people who’ve lived on the land for generations were consulted, and whether or not the social and environmental costs were taken into account before some of these deals went through,” Mr Courtney said.

“There’s very little information over who is actually behind these killings.

“In the vast majority of cases the perpetrator has not been convicted. ”

The Global Witness report looked at killings of land and environmental activists between 2002-2013.

It found the number of killings rose due to pressure on natural resources increasing as demand soars across the world.

“We think it’s going unnoticed and unpunished because governments are failing to monitor threats to environment and land activists, and failing to prosecute those responsible for the crimes,” he said.

In the Asia Pacific region, Mr Courtney blames the influence of small powerful elites.

“We see time and again small powerful elites selling off land, forests and other resources, which belong to the country as a whole – and particularly to the people that live in them, in secretive deals with large companies,” he said.

“Often the benefits are lost to the people who live on the land, they then lose their land and are often forcibly evicted.”

The collation of the data was prompted by the killing of prominent Cambodian forest activist and Global Witness employee, Chut Wutty.

He was shot dead by police while investigating illegal logging in Cambodia.

A provincial court dropped charges against his alleged killer.

10) Giving albinos a voice

Dawn Gibson
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TANZANIA has become almost synonymous with albinism and witchcraft in past years, and the international community has long expressed disappointment at the killings of people in and around Tanzania who have albinism.

So, with this in mind, UK film-maker Harry Freeland spent the past seven years of his life documenting the stories of albino communities in Tanzania and the struggles they face on a daily basis, from discrimination, to hate and even being killed because of their appearance.

Freeland recently screened this 85-minute film at the Islands in the World Oceania International Film Festival at USP.

The film follows the lives of two albino men, one a student fighting for education and the other a fierce albino rights activist fighting for the rights of albinos in the face of discriminatory murders.

“We see so many negative films coming out of the continent and it was very important to me, although I knew that this would be a sad journey and ultimately a sad story,” said Freeland.Radio Australia


11) TB warning

Radio Australia/ Pacnews
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SYDNEY – Medical experts are warning that drug-resistant tuberculosis is now such a problem in the Asia Pacific region that it could overwhelm health systems.

In a recent hard-hitting editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia, four leading Australian TB experts warn that the area is now home to more than half of the world’s drug-resistant tuberculosis, and it is spreading.

They are calling on the Australian government to lead a comprehensive regional response.

“I can’t think of a greater health challenge, together with drug resistance in general, in all bacteria and viruses for the Asia Pacific region,” said Dr Ben Marais from University of Sydney’s Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, and one of the report’s authors.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis takes two years to treat and costs many times more than the milder form of the disease.

The editorial warns without additional funding an extra one million lives could be lost globally before the end of 2016.

“TB is especially of concern because it is a disease which is spread via the air and we have got very dense populations throughout South East Asia and pockets of high vulnerability,” Dr Marais said.

“It will definitely be one of the biggest challenges for the region going forward.”

Lead author Dr Suman Majumdar from the Centre for International Health at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne says the challenge posed by drug-resistant TB globally is now “similar in scale and impact to HIV infection in the 1980’s”.

“Both diseases have had quite devastating effects on peoples lives and on health systems,” he said.

“The HIV story is remarkable. When it emerged it was killing thousands and it has killed millions each year and our international response has actually been quite incredible.”

Unfortunately, the global response to tuberculosis has not been on the scale of the response to HIV.

Dr Marais says one of the big problems with TB is that it has never been seen as a “sexy” disease.

“We know there is a lot of stigma associated with being a TB patient, but there is also a lot of political stigma associated, so countries don’t want to acknowledge a TB problem. It is viewed unfavourably,” he said.


12a) PNG government failed on West Papua issue, says Namah

15 April 2014

Papua New Guinea’s opposition leader says the government has failed to address ongoing problems on the border with Indonesia.

Belden Namah says people in his electorate, Vanimo Green, are subject to continued incursions by Indonesian military forces hunting West Papuan rebels.

He says Vanimo people living near the border are harassed by the Indonesians who block access to the Papua New Guineans’ traditional hunting and fishing territory which agreements between the two countries are supposed to guarantee.

Mr Namah says PNG’s O’Neill government is misguided in its claims that trade agreements with Indonesia can address the problems along the West Papua border.

“It’s a totally different issue, it’s an issue about identity, it’s an issue about the land, the motherland. So you can’t mix those issues, you’ve got to address them separately. If it’s an issue about trade, it’s a totally different issue, it’s the trade between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, but if it’s an issue about West Papua, it’s about self-determination.”

PNG’s opposition leader Belden Namah.Radio NZ

12b) 2497 more Fijians registered for election

By Online Editor
4:49 pm GMT+12, 15/04/2014, Fiji

In February, 2,497 Fijians registered to vote as the Fijian Elections Office continued in its efforts to give every Fijian the opportunity to register to vote in Fiji’s first election since 2006.

This is a significant increase compared to 1769 Fijians who were registered in February.

The number brings to 547,554 the total number of Fijians registered to vote in the September 17 election.

Also last month, the Fijian Elections Office replaced 1148 lost voter cards and changed 418 voter details.

In the 2006 election, the total number of Fijians registered to vote was 479,674.

Meanwhile, Fiji Labour Party (FLP), the National Federation Party (FNP) and Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) have expressed their appreciation to the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections for the regular updates ahead of the 17 September.

Last Friday’s meeting in Suva was the third to be held with the Fijians Elections Office.

FLP president Lavenia Padarath says they now could see a clearer path atlhough there are still alot to be done.

“I think this has been lacking – the dialogue with those in power,” Padarath said.

“We are beginning to see that they are making progress and it was also an opportunity for us to voice our concerns.

“Things are clearer now. At one time we thought we were running out of time given the September 17 date. There were alot of improvements in the meeting.”

NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said they were satisfied with the updates and the meetings because they were also able to voice their concerns.

He said the party would also work within the timeline set out by the Fijian Elections Office (FEO).

SODELPA general secretary Pio Tabaiwalu says their executives will need to go through the timeline and work out how it would be feasible for the party.

“It’s been very helpful, but its one thing to plan on paper and it’s another to implement.

“So, we will be liasing very closely with the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Election in this regard.”

The  Political parties still insist the ballot paper needs changing.

Tabaiwalu suggested that the Electoral Commission should write very strongly to the government to change the ballot paper.

“We need a simpler system to make it easier for every voter.

“In 2006 we had a huge number of invalid votes. With a system like this, the numbers could be higher.”

In the 2006 election, there were 74,855 invalid ballot papers or nine per cent of the total vote largely because of different interpretation of the Electoral Act and lack of voter education on the proper way to cast votes

Elections Supervisor Mohammed Saneem had said voters would be taught on the conduct of elections, how to cast their votes and restrictions that applies prior to, during and before election day through an extensive voter education exercise to be carried out by the Fijian Elections Office.


13) PNG, Indonesia Agree To Investigate Border Clashes
Defence Minister confirms PNG attack on rebel camps

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, April 14, 2014) – Papua New Guinea and Indonesia have agreed to jointly investigate recent clashes at the border involving suspected separatist militants and Indonesian soldiers.

PNG’s Defence Minister Fabian Pok says the investigations will be led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and involve other government departments.

He says PNG officials will work closely with Jakarta to try and resolve the issues.

Mr Pok says the PNG government has also flown in additional Defence Force troops to try and eliminate suspected OPM rebel camps on their side of the border.

He says they have been told to free the PNG side of any rebel activities and ensure the security of Papua New Guinea citizens living in the border areas.

The Minister has also confirmed that PNG solders attacked a suspected OPM camp and burnt down garden shelters used by PNG villagers.

Radio New Zealand International


14) Fears about social media reform in PNG unfounded – PFF


A Pacific media watchdog group, the Pacific Freedom Forum says fears about the Papua New Guinea government’s proposed cyber crime policy are unfounded.

Some bloggers and other internet users are concerned the proposed policy could go too far in policing social media, and be used to block criticism of government.

But the co-chair of the forum, Titi Gabi, says the forum is working to closely with cabinet to ensure freedom of expression remains.

“Actually, they’ve been very good. We’ve been able to exchange views and positions, y’know, have a little friendly go at each other and then try to understand each other. We also network with those that have put the submission together and so far they’ve been fair.”

Titi Gabi says everyone in Papua New Guinea needs to act responsibly on social media.Radio NZ

15) Abbott to break ABC ‘no cuts’ promise

By Online Editor
4:40 pm GMT+12, 15/04/2014, Australia

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is poised to break a key election promise by cutting funding to the ABC, with the question now being how much money should be cut.

In a pledge his colleagues are now wishing he never made,  Abbott said on the night before the 2013 election: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

But the Prime Minister and his colleagues on the expenditure review committee – the powerful cabinet group responsible for finding billions of dollars worth of budget savings – are considering a number of proposals for trimming the ABC’s budget. All proposals involve cuts to the ABC and conversations are now being had about how deep to cut and what cuts are politically feasible.

Fairfax Media believes one of the options involves introducing an efficiency dividend to the ABC budget – an annual funding reduction used to achieve deep and continuous cuts to government agencies.

The ABC was allocated AUD$1.03 billion in the 2013 federal budget. A 2.25 per cent efficiency dividend would see the broadcaster forced to strip around AUD$22.5 million from its budget in the first year – a figure equivalent to almost half the ABC’s annual budget for TV drama.

Further cuts would then be applied in each subsequent year. The ABC is one of only three government agencies, along with SBS and Safe Work Australia, currently exempt from the efficiency dividend.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister referred questions about the ABC funding promise to the office of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

A spokesman for Turnbull said: “We don’t speculate on the budget”.

It is believed the Abbott government does not consider an efficiency dividend on the ABC to be a broken promise, as nearly every other government department has one and savings need to be found across the board.

Despite Abbott’s categorical pre-election promise, there are political precedents for such a reversal. John Howard promised to maintain existing ABC funding levels before the 1996 election but then proceeded to cut the broadcaster’s budget by AUD$11 million and AUD$55 million over the next two years.

The Prime Minister’s colleagues, including Treasurer Joe Hockey and the Communications Minister, Turnbull, have refused to repeat Abbott’s promise not to cut ABC funding. Turnbull also refused to commit to maintaining ABC funding when asked directly by the ABC Friends lobby group in a meeting earlier this month.

Nationals senator John Williams said if the Coalition does cut the ABC budget it should spare regional radio services, which were “the heart of the bush”.

Liberal backbencher Craig Laundy, a vocal supporter of the ABC, said he would support plans by his colleagues to make the ABC “more efficient” even if it meant breaching Abbott’s election eve promise.

“If we can run the ABC more efficiently while maintaining the quality of the product and save taxpayers money, we should,” Laundy said.

ABC managing director Mark Scott told a Senate estimates hearing earlier this year that he could not guarantee any services would be spared if the broadcaster’s funding is cut. He also said that he – and the ABC audience – would hold Abbott at his word not to cut funding.

But behind the scenes the ABC’s most senior executives have been planning how they would deal with major funding cuts. High-level working groups have met over recent weeks to investigate how ABC divisions could absorb budget reductions.

There is heightened concern within the ABC because of the May federal budget, the federal government’s commission of audit and a separate efficiency study into ABC and SBS operations.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is also considering stripping the ABC of its AUD$223 million contract to provide the international broadcasting service, the Australia Network.



16) Cargo deal

Felix Chaudhary
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FIJI Airways has announced new cargo agreements with five airlines, which will provide new opportunities for export and boost Fiji’s profile as a cargo hub of the region.

The agreements with Korean Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines open up freight markets to Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the US.

“We’re always on the lookout for new partnerships which enhance our network and position Fiji Airways and put Fiji as a great country on the map of international aviation business,” said managing director and CEO Stefan Pichler

“I’m pleased that we were able to sign up those new interline deals, as they open up export opportunities for Fijian exporters, and also provide further Fiji businesses new opportunities for importing products.”

He said the national carrier would provide the airlines cargo feeds from 34 flights and, in return, would be able to link up with 47 international flights.

“Our freight customers will be able to ship cargo to new destinations like Beijing, for instance, through Hong Kong Airlines.

“The Etihad Airways arrangement will complement our cargo interline deal with Emirates, expanding our reach in the Middle East and Europe.

“We’re giving further cargo capacity to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines through Auckland and Sydney.

“And Fijian businesses are now able to import products from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

“In addition to this, we are also strengthening relationships with local freight agents. This is a major area of focus for our freight department. And as we are, by design, limited to grow cargo capacity ourselves, we continue to look for ways to enhance business opportunities for our cargo partners.”

17) Phone company ready to introduce E-education in Vanuatu

15 April 2014

Vanuatu’s telecommunication company, Telecom Vanuatu Limited, which is owned by interests in Mauritius, says it will help introduce E-education to classrooms if it receives a request from the government.

Its chairman, Sarat Lallah, was speaking to participants at the 18th general meeting of the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association in Port Vila this week.

Mr Lallah says internet-based education and tablet use in classrooms has been very beneficial to school children in Mauritius.

He says now that Vanuatu has been connected to a submarine cable, his company can introduce E-education if it gets the green light.

“We must think of the digital classroom. A tablet is just a device that helps the student to connect to a cloud of services, and from there they have access to the contents. What is more important is the digital contents for the child to learn.”

The chairman of Telecom Vanuatu Limited, Sarat Lallah.Radio NZ

18a) New Caledonia economy set to end stagnation

15 April 2014

New Caledonia’s economy is poised to pick up this year after stagnating last year.

An assessment by the organisation in charge of issuing the territory’s currency says possible growth could be affected by the outcome of next month’s election and the low nickel price.

It says since 2011 there has been a decline after the euphoria of the preceding decade when major investments were made in new nickel plants.

The institute says while the business climate has deteriorated because of the election, the number of people in employment has gone up.Radio NZ

18b) Horizon Oil’s PNG project cleared

By Online Editor
4:23 pm GMT+12, 14/04/2014, Papua New Guinea

The government of Papua New Guinea has approved Horizon Oil’s Stanley gas condensate development project.

Petroleum and Energy Minister Nixon Duban intends to grant a petroleum development licence and pipeline licence for the project and will sign a gas agreement with Horizon Oil covering the project’s fiscal terms and commitments to local content.

Granting of the development licence is the final step in completing Horizon Oil’s sale of 40 per cent of its PNG asset to Osaka Gas. This will trigger the transfer of the balance of the sale proceeds plus adjustments of approximately $US77 million in total to Horizon Oil.

The nation has also approved benefit sharing arrangements among project area landowners.


19) Fiji Foreign Affairs Minister Seeks Direct Flights From China
Ratu Inoke hopes to enhance cooperation, boost tourism from China

By Torika Tokalau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 15) – China should introduce one of its airlines and have direct flights to Fiji.

This was a proposal by the Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola during a courtesy visit in Suva yesterday by Lu Guohao, the vice director-general of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province.

The proposal by Ratu Inoke would enhance the spirit of co-operation between the two countries and boost tourism from China, a statement from the Information Ministry read.

Discussions were also held on a potential memorandum of understanding between Zhejiang Province and a sister province to be selected from Fiji for a cultural and friendship exchange program.

Mr Guohao discussed the potential for linkage with the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

The statement said Zhejiang has had a long tradition of interacting with foreign countries and wished to explore opportunities to further enhance relations with Fiji. The province is traditionally known as the “Land of Fish and Rice” and is one of the richest in China.

Fiji Times Online.

20) Data stolen

Bbc News
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A LEADING UK site for parents and the Canadian tax authority have both announced they have had data stolen by hackers exploiting the Heartbleed bug.

Mumsnet — which says it has 1.5 million registered members — said it believed that the cyber thieves may have obtained passwords and personal messages before it patched its site.

The Canada Revenue Agency said 900 people’s social insurance numbers had been stolen.

These are the first confirmed losses.

The Mumsnet site’s founder Justine Roberts told the BBC that it became apparent that user data was at risk when her own username and password were used to post a message online.

She said the hackers then informed Mumsnet’s administrators that the attack was linked to the Heartbleed flaw and told them the company’s data was not safe.

“The worst case scenario is that the data of every Mumsnet user account was accessed.”

21) GSK probe

Bbc News
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

UK drug company GlaxoSmithKline is facing a criminal investigation in Poland for allegedly bribing doctors, BBC Panorama has discovered.

Eleven doctors and a GSK regional manager have been charged over alleged corruption between 2010 and 2012. A former sales rep said doctors were paid to promote GSK’s asthma drug Seretide.

The company said one worker had been disciplined and it was co-operating with investigations.

If the allegations are proved, GSK may have violated both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

A former sales rep for GSK in the Polish region of Lodz, Jarek Wisniewski, said: “There is a simple equation. We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions.

“We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.

“We cannot go to doctors and say to them, ‘I need 20 more prescriptions’. So we prepare an agreement for them to give a talk to patients, we pay GBP100 ($F308.53), but we expect more than 100 prescriptions for this drug.”


22) Bainimarama probe outcome needs to be announced soon – academic


An academic on Fiji says the outcome of a police investigation against Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama needs to be announced soon because of its potential implications on the September elections.

The Fiji police have said they are investigating the regime leader for campaigning without having his party registered and displaying an emblem similar to the coat of arms on his campaign bus.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in jail and a 27,000 US dollar fine.

An Auckland University academic, Steven Ratuva, says depending on the outcome of the investigation, Rear Admiral Bainimarama may want to defend himself and the case could end up in court.

“It would need to be investigated pretty early, and whatever decision they’re going to make has to be quite early because it has implications in relation to the formation of a new party and also in relation to campaigns before the election.”

Auckland University’s Dr Steven Ratuva.Radio NZ

23) Domestic violence tops list

Luke Rawalai
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FOUR out of the eight assault cases received at the Nabouwalu Police Station this year were domestic violence cases.

This was revealed by Inspector Eroni Soqosoqo at the Lekutu district meeting on Tavea Island last week.

Insp Soqosoqo told the district reps that even though the numbers of offences were not really critical, it was still a concern since 50 per cent of the cases involved the beating of housewives by their husbands.

“Please, remind villagers under your leadership that the Fiji Police Force has taken a no-drop policy for domestic violence cases,” he said.

“This means all cases of that nature will be treated seriously and only the courts may have the final say in such matters.

“Gone are the days when couples could reconcile before the cases proceeded to court, enabling such matters to be settled out of court.”

Mr Soqosoqo said most cases of domestic violence they’d received involved those stemming out of heated arguments between couples.Fijitimes


24) ‘Climate refugees inevitable’

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WASHINGTON – Australian Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson has told an audience in Washington it appeared inevitable that Australia would have to resettle climate change refugees in the coming decades.

Dr Parkinson had just given a speech about international economic co-operation at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies when an audience member from Fiji asked a question that deftly linked two of the Australian Government’s most sensitive issues — climate change and refugee policy.

He wanted to know what role Australia would play in resettling people from the region faced with the impact of climate change.

Dr Parkinson, whose relationship with the government has already been fractured over the issue of climate change, did not duck the question on Thursday evening.

“We are seeing it already in some of the small island countries where you are seeing potable water degradation in fresh water wells.

“If climate change plays out the way scientists believe, then it will be inevitable that there will be climate change refugees in our region and it would naturally fall to Australia and New Zealand to welcome any of those because of our historic links with those countries,” said Dr Parkinson.

He said Australia already assists countries in the region adapt to the changing climate and to cope with natural disasters such as cyclones.

25) Bougainville Red Cross says about 50 houses wrecked by quake

15 April 2014

The Red Cross in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville says it hopes aid can quickly be got to the victims of two strong earthquakes which struck the south of the province last Friday.

The provincial deputy chairperson, Ida Kenneth, says about 50 houses collapsed and some food gardens were wrecked.

One child was killed in Buin when a building collapsed.

She says the Red Cross will make a formal report to the provincial disaster co-ordinator on Wednesday.

Ms Kenneth says people will need help with temporary shelter and rebuilding.

“To provide tarpaulins for temporary shelter while they have to rebuild their houses. There are some also, like widows, who will find it very difficult to rebuild so we are hoping that when we discuss with the co-ordinator we can maybe recommend that he provide some hardware, like nails and stuff like that, just to support them.”Radio NZ

26) Authorities assess earthquake damage in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

By Online Editor
4:47 pm GMT+12, 15/04/2014, Papua New Guinea

Officials are still assessing the damage caused by two large earthquakes in Bougainville in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

On Friday, a magnitude 7.1 quake hit off the coast of Bougainville.

A magnitude 7.6 quake struck 100 kilometres south of Kira Kira, the capital of Makira Province, in Solomon Islands early on Sunday.

The large quake and aftershocks off Solomon Islands generated a tsunami warning which was later cancelled.

The Government’s National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) has reported zero casualties or damages.

Assistant Director of the Geophysical Observatory in Port Moresby, Chris McKee says there are reports that one small child was killed after a house collapsed in Bougainville during the quake.

He told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat the damage in Bougainville appears quite widespread.

“The numbers are something like about 15 houses at Buin in southern Bougainville, but there are many other settlements in the area of southern Bougainville so it looks likely that there’s more damage than what has been reported so far,” McKee said.

McKee said water supplies were also hit.

“Water tanks commonly burst when there’s strong earthquake activity and some water tanks were actually shifted off their foundations.”

On Sunday a magnitude 7.5 quake also struck south of Kira Kira just before midnight and there have been a number of aftershocks since.

The US Geological Survey says the likelihood of casualties or damage from the quake was low.

McKee says it’s not unusual for aftershocks to continue after quakes like those in Bougainville and Solomon Islands.

“This is a typical pattern of aftershock activity. Normally with a large magnitude earthquake the aftershocks can continue for days or weeks or sometimes months,” he said.

The Solomon Islands Government has conducted aerial surveys of the tsumami-hit areas on Makira island to determine how much clean-up is required after the quakes.

The Australian High Commission has sent a civilian engineer and a disaster management expert to help with the assessment.

High Commissioner Andrew Byrne says the aerial surveillance confirmed there has been no significant damage to buildings and crops, and no signs of inundation.

“Importantly, that enabled Solomon Islands disaster management authorities to put that aside and come back to focussing on their response to the flooding disaster on Guadalcanal,” Byrne said.

The quakes have come as Solomon Islands continue to deal with the aftermath of devastating flash flooding on April 3.

The flooding killed at least 21 people and washed away homes and bridges in Honiara. At least two people are still missing.

There are still 50,000 to 60,000 people homeless – most without shelter and fresh water.

Major roads throughout Guadalcanal are ruined and bridges have collapsed, making it hard for emergency teams to assess the damage.

Last week Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced a $3 million aid package to help the recovery effort.



27) Vanuatu’s Amicale through to O-League semis

15 April 2014

Vanuatu’s Amicale FC have stunned defending champions Auckland City 1-0 to clinch top spot in Group B and confirm their place in the Oceania Champions League football semi finals.

Both teams went into the deciding group match with a perfect record and it was Dominique Fred who grabbed the only goal of the game with a header in first half stoppage time.

Goalkeeper Tamati Williams joined the Auckland attack as City attempted desperately to conjure an equaliser in the dying minutes but to no avail.

So Amicale join Fijian champions Ba in the final four with the Group A winner to be decided on Tuesday.

Auckland can still advance as the next best finisher overall but need Pirae to beat Waitakere United or Waitakere to win by five or more goals to stay alive.

Meanwhile in a dead rubber match AS Dragon thumped an under-strength Nadi 5-0.Radio NZ

28) PNG continue run at AFL South Pacific Cup

15 April 2014

The Papua New Guinea Binatangs continued their unstoppable run at the AFL South Pacific Cup in Coffs Harbour, thumping Oceania 83-14 on Monday, with Katah Siwee and Cyril Baki both landing four goals each.

PNG play another match against New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon, in the final game of the tournament, before a combined South Pacific Side takes on a combined Indigenous Boomerangs on Wednesday.

A South Pacific Development team take on the All Nations team at the same time.Radio NZ

29) Western Sydney Wanderers beat Ulsan Hyundai 2-0 in brilliant Asian Champions League night for A-League teams

Updated 16 April 2014, 6:32 AEST

The Wanderers made it two wins from two ACL matches for the A-League with a 2-0 away win over Ulsan Hyundai.

Ulsan denied … Shannon Cole keeps the ball away from Ko Chang-Hyun. (Credit: Getty Images)

Second-half goals from Mark Bridge and substitute Brendan Santalab lifted Western Sydney Wanderers to a crucial 2-0 AFC Champions League win over Korean powerhouse Ulsan Hyundai.

The win capped a big night for A-League teams, with Melbourne Victory keeping their Champions League hopes alive with an upset 2-0 win over reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande.

The win on Tuesday at the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium pushes the Wanderers to the top of Group H for the first time in what is the club’s first tilt at the continental competition.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic elected to start without several key personnel including marquee man Shinji Ono, midfield ace Aaron Mooy and regular goalkeeper Ante Covic, while Socceroos defender Mathew Spiranovic unusually started in midfield.

There was a paucity of gilt-edged chances at either end until Bridge broke the deadlock on the hour mark with a towering header after latching onto a Shannon Cole cross.

Bridge then turned provider in latching onto a defensive error and teeing up Santalab for a close-range finish 10 minutes from full-time.

The match contrasted markedly with the previous contest between the pair in Sydney two months ago when Ulsan were comfortable 3-1 winners.

Despite the change in personnel, the Wanderers were solid defensively and replacement goalkeeper Jerrad Tyson was rarely called into action.

Ulsan’s hulking 196cm striker Kim Shin-Wook was well shackled throughout by the Wanderers’ central defensive pairing of Nikolai Topor-Stanley and captain Michael Beauchamp.

Group H



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