Spearhead group to observe elections
FIJI – The Melanesian Spearhead Group says it’s preparing to send a mission to Fiji to observe the elections planned for September. The Programmes Division Director at the MSG, Barbara Age, says they are in the process of consulting with member countries on the composition of the team. “We are also in consultation with the government of Fiji on our preparations which will include conducting a couple of workshops for the observer mission because this will be the first time that the MSG will be participating as an observer in any election.” Papua New Guinea will also play a key role in the mission and the MSG welcomes working with other organisations or countries involved. Fiji recently asked the Australian government to head the international observer group.
Shooting at PNG-Indonesia border
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – The Papua New Guinea government has called in the Indonesian ambassador after another shooting at the troubled border between the countries. The Post Courier newspaper reports Indonesian troops opened fire on a PNG Defence Force border patrol on the weekend. Rimbink Pato says while there were no reports of casualties, the Indonesian government must ensure that such an incident doesn’t happen again. The incident follows a similar shooting on April 19. The newspaper says PNG defence force soldiers are under strict instructions not to return fire if they are engaged or caught in a crossfire between the OPM and members of the Indonesian army. The PNG ambassador to Indonesia, retired Commodore Peter Ilau, will lead the PNG delegation a requested the border liaison meeting.
Heavy machinery a boost for Niue
NIUE – New Zealand is buying heavy machinery for Niue as part of its assistance to the country’s Asset Maintenance Programme. The new High Commissioner, Ross Ardern, says the equipment includes a large bulldozer and a loader and will replace machinery that is past its best. He says the loader is used at the island’s quarry and for road maintenance and the bulldozer for clearing plantations and road work. Ardern says it is expensive equipment but vital for the island. “It’s really essential for the infrastructure of the island, to maintain what we have and to build on what we have.”
Vanuatu protests over marine park
VANUATU – The Vanuatu government has protested to France over New Caledonia’s new Natural Park of the Coral Sea because it will encompass the disputed Matthew and Hunter Islands. Both France and Vanuatu claim the uninhabited islands. New Caledonia has set up the 1.3 million square kilometre park covering its entire exclusive economic zone. But in a protest letter to the French Ambassador to Vanuatu, Michel Djokovic, on Friday, Vanuatu’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Edward Natapei, expressed his government’s concerns. Natapei says it objects to New Caledonia’s unilateral decision to establish the marine reserve when it knows full well ownership of part of the area is being disputed.
Efate chiefs back airport plan
VANUATU – The chiefs on Vanuatu’s main island, Efate, have told the government that they back plans for the construction of a new international airport on Efate. The chairman of the Vaturisu Council of Chiefs of Efate, Henry Manlaewia, says Efate is the gateway to the country so it is only logical that it be built there. Earlier last week, the chief of Mele Village Ati George Sokomanu, told the parliamentary committee investigating the controversial development that it would benefit the Singaporean investors but not the local people. Meanwhile political leaders on Santo are pushing for the project to be sited at Luganville’s Pekoa international airport. The airport development is reportedly set to cost more than US$370 million.
Memorial service for flood victims
SOLOMON ISLANDS – The Solomons Islands government is to convene a National Memorial Service next Sunday, May the 11th, to remember the victims of last month’s flash floods. At least 22 people died in the flooding which affected tens of thousands of others around Guadalcanal. A Committee comprising officials from various Government ministries has been set up to organise the event and draw up a programme for the service. which is to be held at the Saint Barnabas Anglican Cathedral in Honiara.