Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 1088 ( Thursday 15 March 2017 )


1) PM Sogavare on final leg of second MSG tour
5:32 pm GMT+12, 13/03/2017, Papua New Guinea

Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has arrived in the Papua New Guinea to complete his second visit of the MSG capitals.

Sogavare already visited two other MSG capitals of Port Vila, Vanuatu, and Suva, Fiji in January this year.

He did not travel to Port Moresby because his counterpart, Peter O’Neil was unavailable at the time.
Sogavare did meet New Caledonia’s FLNKs representative in his January visit to Port Vila.

The MSG Chair uses his MSG Capital visits to discuss issues affecting and of concern to MSG Members.

His meeting with his PNG Counterpart is scheduled for Wednesday 15 March.

Today, Sogavare will pay a courtesy call on Governor General, Bob Dadae.

Sogavare is accompanied by Madame Sogavare, the Secretary to the MSG Chair, Rence Sore and two other officers from the Prime Minister’s Office and two Close-Protection Police officers.


2/3 ) All SABLs unlawful, PM O’Neill confirms cancellation of all licenses to thwart illegal land grabbing

5:30 pm GMT+12, 13/03/2017, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has confirmed that the National Executive Council (NEC) has cancelled all licences and SABLs are illegal.

He said this in response to a community advocacy group Act Now which had been vocal about the land grab issue in relation to SABL – special agriculture and business leases.

“I have made a decision that I can make that is legally required of me and NEC, that is that we have cancelled all the licences, all the SABL licenses are illegal in this country,” PM O’Neill said.

“I think that its best that you ask the agencies like Lands and Physical Planning Department why are these licenses are still operating, that’s a very good question, you should ask them why they are still operating, somebody is not doing their job.”

“SABL licences are illegal in this country, but some people have disregard for the decisions that we are making and this is where Police and Lands and Physical Planning Department and agencies of our government should work together and stop these people”

“Most of them are not Papua New Guineans so why are they still in the country, they should be put on a plane and sent back home,” O’Neill said.

Act Now says a new report, published by the US-based Oakland Institute, was a bold attempt to redress that balance, highlighting the suffering caused to ordinary women, children and whole communities by the failure to cancel the unlawful leases or control the logging and palm oil industries; people, like Ana Sipona, from Pomio who has seen her land stolen.

“The situation has gone from bad to worse. The land has been taken away from us. The land – it’s our life. For generations we have lived on this land and our ancestors survived on the land. Their livelihoods were based on the land and the forest. Now, it’s like the rug has been pulled from under our feet. There are lots of problems that we face because of the alienation of the land from the people. Things have changed drastically for the worse,” the community advocacy organisation said.

Since 2013, the Prime Minister had repeatedly promised the unlawful SABL would be cancelled and in June 2014 the NEC endorsed the recommendation of a commission of inquiry that the leases be revoked.

Land Minister Benny Allen has not responded to calls and text messages seeking his comments on the SABL issue.


4) PNG Minister Urges Australia To Shift From Policy Of Aid To Trade, Investment

Submitted by PIR Editor on Thu, 03/09/2017 – 14:42

Abel participated in 25th PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum

By Gorethy Kenneth

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 10, 2017) – Papua New Guinea is pushing Australia to make dramatic changes to its foreign aid to the country.

At the 25th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum in Madang the PNG Government sent signals that by 2020, Australian aid, which is worth more than A$500 million [US$378 million], should be channeled through the PNG budget system.

PNG is the biggest recipient with more than 60 per cent of Australia’s total assistance package for foreign countries.

Currently, Australian aid targets specific programs outside PNG’s development budget and the government has complained about this, saying it does not conform with its development priorities.

National Planning Minister Charles Abel said yesterday that there was now a need to continue to evolve the relationship to one based on a mutually beneficial trading and investment partnership.

Mr Abel said that as the planning minister and head of the aid program, he requested that a significant trade and investment package be included and that all programs continued to be more focused and visible with fewer programs and less focus on technical assistance.

“We want trade not aid. We just want them to come in and support the PNG Government system…they are channeling their aid, which is recognised in our budget, but it’s not really passing through our budget,” he said.

“We want you to continue the work, you helping us, but you have to make it more strategic and more visible and thicker, not thinly spread everywhere.

“All we are saying is we have established our government plans, we have our targets and we want you to come in and work through our plans.”

Mr Abel said that aid used to be budget support in the 1990s, but Australia moved away from that because there were issues they were not comfortable with.

He said that based on the Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) 2 and the 2015 PNG Development Cooperation Policy, the PNG Government’s desire is to move the aid program to budget support by 2020.

“The aid can be program-based but must come through PNG’s systems,” he said.

Successive MTDPs promote critical development indicators that the PNG Government and its development partners, like the Government of Australia, commit to addressing in a comprehensive, robust and dynamic manner.

Mr Abel said it is important to have a structured approach to aid co-ordination, and the Australian Government and other development partners must recognise and subscribe to the development aspirations of the Government and people.

PNG Post-Courier

5) Fiji committed to border security
8:47 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Fiji

We’re very much committed to border security because we believe that as a Government we must ensure that all our borders are secured, says Fiji’S Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

“The borders must not only be secure but we must ensure they adhere to international practices and international law because it is only through the adherence of a co-operative, regional and international approach will we be able to ensure the survival of our individual economies,” he said.

The A-G said through these the border security agency would also be able to minimise illegal cross-border transactions.

Sayed-Khaiyum was giving the keynote address during the welcome ceremony of the 18th World Customs Organisation Asia/Pacific Regional Heads of Administrations Conference in Suva.

He said his ministry yesterday hosted a delegation from Nepal who were here to look at Fiji’s anti-money laundering practices and how Fiji was adhering to international laws and implementing those laws.

“It is through this collaborative approach, we believe, that we can not only learn from each other, but be able to impart some knowledge that we may have specific to our jurisdictions that others can learn from,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said the nature of cross-border transactions had changed now, in particular the change in technology, and so was the use of technology by those who carried out cross-border transactions both legal and illegal.

“I think it is very critical that all our organisations, all of our countries all of our staff are equipped with these new knowledge; are equipped with new technology to ensure that we’re able to minimise those risks but also at the same time enhance international trade.”

“Because these approaches are not only about curbing criminal activities, but it’s also about enhancing investment and trade,” he said.

He said the globalised world demanded us to be able to trade with each other.

“It is in recognition that some of our countries have different skill sets, different areas of specialisation and in order for us to be able to have access to those goods and services, we must have a seamless flow of goods across our borders.

“Because if we become an impediment to that flow of trade and investment, that is to our own detriment; the detriment of globalised international trade and investment.”

Sayed-Khaiyum also welcomed WCO secretary-general Kunio Mikuriya and all the delegates.

“On behalf of the Fijian Government, you have our commitment to ensure that the WCO mandate, objectives and indeed the vision will be implemented by the Fijian Government.”

WCO Asia/Pacific vice-chairperson and CEO of Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority Visvanath Das, also welcomed the delegation. “The 24 countries represented here today at this conference is a sign of our individual country’s commitment to working together to make our region better and subsequently connected better to the global challenges and directions to the World Customs Organisations.”

He also thanked the regional customs administrations for supporting Fiji as the Asia/Pacific vice-chair of WCO.


6) Attitude ‘affects iTaukei’

Luisa Qiolevu
Wednesday, March 15, 2017-Fijitimes

.GROWTH, development and wealth of the iTaukei people live within their own reach, but a self-centred attitude has affected prosperity in life, says Ministry of iTaukei Affairs senior officer Niumaia Gucake.

At the leadership and management training for villagers of Nasekula Village in Labasa yesterday, Mr Gucake said they were concerned about the increase in the number of iTaukei people who continued to face poverty.

“The Ministry of iTaukei Affairs has seen that a growing number of iTaukei people are faced with poverty while other races are doing well in life,” he said.

Mr Gucake said the self-centred attitude that exists among some people resulted in division among clans and villages.

“When they become self-centred, a lot of other problems arise like the division of people in the village or community and hatred among themselves,” he said.

“These issues lead to delay of developments in a certain village or community.”

Mr Gucake said compared with other ethnic communities, the iTaukei people still had a lot of potential areas to tap into.

“The iTaukei is supposed to be one of the richest people in our country because they have assets, but that’s not the case so we need to ask ourselves why,” he said.

7) Families Of Vanuatu Seasonal Workers Who Walked Off Jobs Asked To Help Find Them

Submitted by PIR Editor on Tue, 03/14/2017 – 15:30

Minister of Labour concerned reputation of country’s seasonal workers at stake

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 15, 2017) – Vanuatu’s Commissioner of Labour has appealed to the families of five seasonal workers who have run away from the farm they were working on in Australia.

Four of the workers left in February, and another this week.

Their visas have since been cancelled.

Lionel Kaluat said he was greatly disappointed with the worker’s behaviour, which could damage Vanuatu’s reputation.

He appealed to the workers’ chiefs and family members to help the government to bring them back to Vanuatu as soon as possible.

Radio New Zealand International


8) Obamas expected in French Polynesia15 March 2017

Former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are reportedly due to arrive in French Polynesia tomorrow for a month-long stay.

Tahiti Nui TV reported that several sources had confirmed that Mr Obama would initially stay at the Brando resort on Tetiaroa.

The French Polynesian presidency said it had been advised of Mr Obama’s arrival but no details about his stay had been given.

The reports said during their visit, Mr and Mrs Obama would also spend time on Bora Bora.

They said there would be no formal welcome when the couple arrives in Tahiti.RNZI

9) Tonga’s PM calls state broadcaster ‘enemy of government’
10:57 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Tonga

Tonga’s Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva wants to review the role of the state broadcaster because it has become “an enemy of government”.

Pohiva said he was not happy with how the Tonga Broadcasting Commission (TBC) operated and a review would be carried out over the next month.

The prime minister said the services may be better carried out by a different provider.

Pohiva, who has long been at loggerheads with the management of the TBC, said the broadcaster was an obstacle and a real constraint on the work of government.

“They have become an enemy of government. They claim the freedom of media should be allowed, should be the same with any other media in Tonga but they should understand there is a basic difference between a private media and also government media. Their main role, to me, is to facilitate the work of the government.”

Pohiva said the TBC had also been running at a loss for the past 10 years.


10) Two men arrested for passport forgery

5:25 pm GMT+12, 13/03/2017, Tonga

A Tonga police taskforce has made two further arrests over passport scams.

Last Friday police arrested a 44 year-old Tongan man from Kolofo’ou on forgery and false declaration charges.

A 54 year-old man from Tofoa was charges with forgery and knowingly dealing with forged documents.

They have been remanded on bail.

Since the taskforce was set 18 months ago there have been 23 arrests, with 12 people convicted.




12) Federated States Of Micronesia Voters Again Reject Dual Citizenship

Submitted by PIR Editor on Tue, 03/14/2017 – 15:50

Most incumbent 2-year members of congress returned by voters

POHNPEI, Federated States of Micronesia (Kaselehlie Press, March 15, 2017) – Last week voters in the Federated States of Micronesia turned out to elect their representatives for the two-year seats in the FSM Congress and to decide whether or not the Constitution should be amended to allow for dual citizenship.

The National Election Commission has already sent a letter to President Peter Christian with the certified results of the election.

In his letter to the president, the national election director, Tony Otto, explained that the results were a bit delayed because the State of Chuuk was late in sending its final results.

The proposed constitutional amendment to allow dual citizenship failed to pass. For a constitutional amendment to be passed, 75 percent of the voters in the states need to vote “yes” to amending the Constitution.

Eighty-five percent of Kosrae voters voted for the amendment, but Pohnpei’s votes fell short of the standard by 4.79 percent and only 61 percent of Chuuk’s voters approved the amendment. In Yap, it was only 52 percent.

Kosrae’s representative to the FSM Congress for the next two years will be incumbent Paliknoa K. Welly, who ran unopposed for the seat. Pohnpei has three two-year seats. Incumbents Ferny S. Perman and Esmond Moses will occupy two of those seats. Dion G. Neth will take the seat currently occupied by Sen. Berney Martin.

Chuuk has five two-year seats. Voters chose Florencio Singkoro Harper, Victor “Vicky” Gouland, Tiwiter Aritos, Doresio Konman, and Robson Romolow to take those seats.

Isaac V. Figir retains his two-year seat for Yap.

This year’s election offered voters the opportunity to potentially select the first two women to serve in the FSM Congress. Though the women made a good showing in the election, voters did not choose them.

The Kaselehlie Press


13) Australia i helpim PNG NARI helpim kantri grouim rice

Postim 15 March 2017, 15:24 AEDT
Sam Seke

National Agriculture Research Institute blong Papua New Guinea i luksave long rice olsem wanpela impotant kaikai long sait long food security blong kantri.

Na Papua New Guinea gavman ibin tokaut pinis olsem em i laik lukim PNG i kamap indipendent long sait long rice na kamap expota blong rice.

Long Papua New Guinea iken kamap indipendent long sait long rice indastri, NARI ibin wok long mekim research long kamapim ol kaikain rice we i gutpela long grouim long ol kainkian hap long kantri – we i save gat planti kaikai longen.

Director General long NARI, Dr Sergie Bang i tok narapela samting ol rice fama long PNG i save painim had tru longen em long milling oa pasin blong rausim skin blong rice.

Long dispela nau, Dr Bang em i tok tengkiu long halivim blong gavman blong Australia aninit long Incentive Fund blongen – long help long wanpela Rice Milling Technology research long Morobe Province.

Foran Minister blong Australia, Julie Bishop nau i lonsim dispela Rice Milling Technology taim em i visit long Lae long wik igo pinis.





15) ‘Heavy handed’ NZ clamps down on Tokelau spending
4:27 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Tokelau

As Tokelau’s ninth government takes shape, the new leader is raising concerns over New Zealand’s treatment of its last remaining Pacific territory.

Ulu-o-Tokelau Siopili Perez used his opening speech at the General Fono (Parliament) last week to protest against proposed veto powers for New Zealand’s Administrator to Tokelau.

The changes would put Administrator David Nicholson in control of the use of Tokelau’s development funds for any projects more than $500,000 (US$345,000) — oversight not seen since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) relinquished it to the General Fono in 1996.

Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio said power over Tokelau’s affairs should lie with the General Fono, not New Zealand.

“This kind of heavy handed approach smells of arrogance and I think it would be an affront to a nation that is seeking self-determination,” he said.

Tony Angelo, a constitutional adviser to Tokelau’s Taupulega (Council of Elders), said the veto powers could compromise New Zealand’s compliance with the United Nations decolonisation requirements.

The UN ruled in 1960 that all peoples have the right to free political status and economic, social and cultural development.

“I think the result would be, as the Ulu says, a step back from what has been relative autonomy,” said Dr Angelo.

Auckland University anthropologist Dr Judith Huntsman said the administrator’s move was unusual at a time when Ulu was promising the relocation of government offices in Apia, Samoa to Tokelau.

“[Tokelau is] pushing to get that office under the control of the people of the islands rather than that being viewed by outsiders and [MFAT] as the centre of Tokelau,” she said.

Su’a said MFAT was “stuck in colonial thinking that belongs to a bygone era” and it made no sense to have the office in Apia.

He said Foreign Minister Murray McCully was travelling to Apia to meet with Ulu to discuss his comments at the General Fono.

MFAT confirmed McCully would be in Samoa this week but did not respond when asked about Su’a’s claims.

The proposed veto powers come less than a month after it was reported Tokelau spent millions on two helicopters to circumvent the 24-hour boat journey from Apia, without proper certification or certainty the aircraft could make the lengthy trip.

McCully told 1News at the time that the purchases were “extravagances” and New Zealand would “reflect on its own budgetary arrangements” with Tokelau.

“Given there appears to have been a breakdown in Tokelau’s governance, New Zealand is reviewing the oversight it has of capital expenditure,” McCully said in a written statement.

Although the funds for the helicopters reportedly came out Tokelau’s income from fishing licences, Dr Huntsman said this would still have to be sourced from Tokelau’s International Trust Fund.

The fund, set up in 2004, was started with contributions from New Zealand’s government and sat at over $78 million at the end of the 2014 financial year.



16) Pacific SIDS rallied to use the UN Oceans conference to push for their interests in oceans governance
11:01 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Fiji

Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) have been told to step up and use the global space created by the United Nations Oceans Conference in June co-chaired by Fiji and Sweden, to ‘project our voices and protect our interests.’

The call was made by Ambassador Marlene Moses, the chair of the Pacific SIDS in New York, the group of Pacific countries leading the negotiations on oceans on behalf of the region. The June conference in New York is the first ever on oceans governance after 193 world leaders endorsed the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015.

Oceans Governance comes under SDG Goal 14 of ‘Life below Water.”

Reflecting on the work of PSIDS in New York and the hosting of the global oceans conference, Ambassador Moses said the focus on oceans or ‘blue economy’ had been on the PSIDS discussion since 2011 when the region was preparing for Rio+20.

“As a result, oceans was reflected in the Rio+20 and in the outcomes of the Third SIDS conference in Samoa, now known as the SAMOA Pathway. The SAMOA Pathway has a robust section on oceans.

“Our diplomatic efforts have been successful in the past six years with the convening of the UN Oceans conference and Fiji as one of the co-chairs of the meeting.

Ambassador Moses challenged delegates at the multi-stakeholder regional preparatory meeting in Suva today to ‘act now when the focus is on ocean governance and the means to implement strategies to support development priorities of UN member states.

“We have worked hard to get to this point. We must now project our voices and protect our interests.

For the conference, the three key outcomes will be on improving oceans governance, ensuring means of implementation and building national capacity and institutions to deliver on the goals of the conference.

“We need to actively engage with development partners and demand more from UN agencies on what they can do to support our development priorities based on our needs.

At the same time, she has urged governments to ‘have their houses in order’ and ensure that they have the capacity to access and deploy resources for our communities.

Ambassador Moses said sustainable development in the Pacific is not be possible if climate change is not addressed.

“We need to breathe life into global agreements like the Paris Agreement on climate change, the SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway. These agreements are inseparable because they link climate change with ocean health and food security.’

The three day regional preparatory meeting in Suva will prepare and firm up the positions of Pacific SIDS and other regional stakeholders on the outcome of the New York conference. The Oceans Conference is will deliver a political declaration through a Call for Action statement, convene partnership dialogues and call for voluntary commitments from UN Member States.

The meeting in Fiji is an opportunity for Pacific Governments and stakeholders to have an input into the proposed outcomes of the New York conference in June.



17) Fijian students to attend budget consultations

Wednesday, March 15, 2017-Fijitimes

Update: 5:08PM TEN students from schools around the country will be requested to attend the budget consultations leading up to the formulation of the 2017-2018 National Budget.

Director Secondary Emosi Lutunaika today advised school heads during the Fiji Principals Association Conference that Year 12 and 13 students wiould be involved in this exercise.

“Ten students per school except a few areas – Navua, Nadi, Ba and Tavua as well as Savusavu, these schools we will request about 20 students because of the number of schools in that area so we will need more students,” Mr Lutunaika said.

The national budget consultation will begin next month.



19) No Electronic Voting in 2018: Fiji Supervisor of Election
4:36 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Fiji

There will be no electronic voting in Fiji’s 2018 General Elections.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem clarified this during a submission to the Fijian Parliament Public Accounts Committee Tuesday.

“As far as practicable, all the process and systems from the 2014 will remain in 2018. So the same system where you come in the line, go get your names crossed off and you go and get your ballot paper go to the voting screen which is the cardboard screen and you go and get your finger inked drop your ballot paper and your exit. That is the process. There is no electronic voting involved.”

Saneem’s response came after Opposition MP, Aseri Radrodro raised the question on whether the Fijians Elections office is planning to conduct electronic voting in the next general elections.

Meanwhile, Saneem has informed the Public Accounts Committee that they’re still in the process of recovering money mispaid to polling workers in the 2014 General Elections.

He was responding to the mispayment identified in the 2014 Auditor General’s report.

Saneem says the situation arose due to incorrect information provided by the polling workers.

“One example I can give you the person wrote his bank account number as his mobile number and his mobile number as bank account number so the classic case that happened that the payment went to somebody else, so out of the 9000 plus staff that FEO had miss payment were made for 38 people and the amount is also $9000 (US$4,326), out of the $2 million (US$1 million) plus we paid out.”

Saneem has assured the Public Accounts Committee that efforts are being made to recover the money.

The Elections Office will be implementing a fully computerised recruitment system that will do its own verification for each applicant in the 2018 General Elections.



20) Fresh-Beat Solomon Islands nius long internet

Postim 14 March 2017, 14:11 AEDT
Sam Seke

Solomon Islands hemi garem nao wanfala niu internet nius sevis wea olketa i kolem Solomon Fresh-Beat Online wea olketa ibin lonsim long Honiara long last wiken.
Man wea hem statim nius sevis, Ednal Palmer hem se target blong olketa nao hem olketa yangfala wea save iusim internet fo faedem nius an enikaen infomesen.

Hem se Solomon Fresh-Beat Online bae save putum olketa nius stori online kwik taem, an bae olketa stori i save niu an fresh.

Mr Palmer hem se olketa niuspela i save putim stori online tu bat, olketa stori ino fresh bikos olketa kanduit putum olketa stori ia long internet bifoa niuspepa hem kam aot long moning.

Hem se PNG hem garem finis kaen online nius sevis wea hem PNG Loop, an Fiji tu hem garem Fiji Live, an hem gud fo pipol i save lukim tu olketa fresh stori an infomesen blong Solomon Islands.ABC

21) Safety of Fiji media personnel comes under the spotlight
4:25 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Fiji

The safety of media personnel in Fiji has come under the spotlight yet again after an attack on a journalist on Monday.

In a shocking incident a remand prisoner threw a stone at a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) news reporter whilst in the presence of a police escort outside the Suva courts.

To make matters worse the police at the scene refused to take any action against the remand prisoner even though the reporter was also verbally abused.

FBC journalist Praneeta Prakash was shooting footage of a man sentenced in a corruption related case in Suva when a remand prisoner being escorted by police to the cell block threw a stone at her which struck her stomach.

Fijian Media Association (FMA) General Secretary Stanley Simpson says reporters cover court stories in order to inform the public and to ensure that justice is served under the law.

“The journalist needs to be left to do their work because in the end it benefits everyone. We saw a Fiji TV reporter was man-handled, we saw a Fiji sun reporter get attacked recently now we see the terrible incident of a stone being thrown at a journalist. In these public spaces and especially in the public interest the journalist has every right to be there to take footage.”

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro says they will carry out a thorough investigation on the incident..

“We have had some incidents where members of the public have attacked journalists again we would request them to respect the rights of the journalist. Their simply doing their jobs, they’re not breaking any law.”

Meanwhile, Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Director, Ashwin Raj says it is deeply concerning that journalist are exposed to such situations and they must have a safe environment where media is able to discharge their duties.






24) Damaged crossings a worry for villagers

Kalesi Mele
Wednesday, March 15, 2017-Fijitimes

VILLAGERS of Nayavutoka in Ra are concerned about the safety of their children and commuters because of the deteriorating condition of roads and crossings.

Village headman Timoci Nabunobuno claimed bus operators sometimes refused to service the area.

Mr Nabunobuno said three crossings from Nayavutoka to Bureiwai Village remained damaged since the flooding associated with TD04F in December last year.

“There has been no maintenance done to the three bridges since it was damaged,” he said.

“We have consistently requested help from relevant authorities, but still nothing has happened.”

He said the damaged crossings affected more than 800 people from 11 villages.

The crossings allow passage across the Wainivesi, Naqeleqaqa and Bureiwai rivers.

“We are worried about the children who cross. There are no culverts. The villagers near the crossings have done what they can by burying the damaged crossings with soil to allow vehicles to cross.

“With the ongoing bad weather, we fear for the lives of commuters who sell at the markets and go to school.”

Fiji Roads Authority CEO John Hutchinson said reinstatement works in the three areas had been delayed because of the wet weather.

“FRA contractors are carrying out reinstatement work on a number of crossings in the Ra Province,” he said.

“Fulton Hogan Hiways have reinstated the Burewai crossing and they are carrying out this work on behalf of Higgins who are the area maintenance contractors. Unfortunately, the flood has also impacted the contractors (Higgins) progress.

“For example, another two crossings are still left to be reinstated and this is because the machinery needed was stuck in Burelevu due to a crossing washout resulting from the recent rain and floods.

“Reinstatement work is scheduled to commence late next week (this week).”


25) West Papua villagers fight for forest rights

8:37 pm GMT+12, 14/03/2017, Indonesia

Villagers in West Papua have vowed not to let their forests be encroached by logging and palm oil companies, like what happened on Sumatra and Kalimantan where massive deforestation has posed threats to the natural environment.

Although Papua is still home to vast forests, which provide a livelihood for many villagers, the island is not free from the palm oil industry or illegal logging.

In recent years, West Papua saw expansion of the palm oil industry as business boomed in certain regencies. However, villagers have been fending off the expansion of the palm oil industry in several regions, like Sira village in South Sorong regency.

“We can’t live peacefully if companies enter our area. This is where we live. If companies expand into our area, sago plantations will be closed and destroyed,” 54-year-old Yoel Semere said while sitting on a hill overlooking a large swath of pristine forests.

The village, home to 37 households and 186 people living on 2,000 hectares with 1,850 ha making up the forest area, is no stranger to industry expansion. The villagers recorded that from 1995 to 2003 a logging company was in the village’s forests, which are home to merbau trees, the number one timber commodity on the island.

The villagers successfully campaigned against the company with the help of several non-governmental organisations, forcing the company to stop its operation in the region.

Still, the villagers cannot rest easy as palm oil companies have started to expand operations in the region in recent years.

The villagers rely on the forests. Besides growing sago as their main food, the villagers sell nontimber products, such as rattan, at the market at Tanembuan, the capital of South Sorong, some 10 kilometers away from the village.

Data from Greenpeace Indonesia shows there are about 48 palm oil companies that have permits in Papua and West Papua, with the size of each concession ranging from 25,000 to 45,000 ha.

After fighting to keep companies out of their areas, the villagers of Sira along with the neighboring Manggroholo village became the first villages on Papua to have their rights to manage their forests acknowledged by the government.

The South Sorong administration handed over the permits to manage the forests, called hutan desa (village forest) permits, to the village representatives on Thursday.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry defines a “village forest” as a state forest managed by a village to improve its welfare.

Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Kiki Taufik heralded the acknowledgment as a landmark decision as it marked the first time villagers in Papua received rights to manage their own forests under the village forest scheme. The scheme was part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s land reform plan, which included the distribution of 12.7 million ha of land to local communities. He said the two villages had been targeted by palm oil companies that wanted to claim the land to be converted into oil palm plantations since 2013, and he commended the fight by the villagers to manage about 3,500 ha of government-acknowledged forests.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s chief of social forestry department in the Maluku and Papua region, Sahal Simanjuntak, said the government hopes to grant more forest permits to villages in the future.

“We are planning to approve 58,000 ha this year in Maluku and Papua,” he said.





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