PACIFIC BRIEFS - 18/08/2018

Wednesday April 18, 2018 Written by Published in Regional

FIJI – Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office says more than 800 homes on the island of Kadavu have sustained damage from this month’s Cyclone Keni. The NDMO Director Anare Leweniqila says 804 houses have been damaged, 201 of which were fully destroyed. Mr Leweniqila said 104 evacuation centers remain active with 803 evacuees. He said the relief and recovery phase continued in Kadavu with assessment teams to work through the 75 villages in the area by the end of the week. FBC News reported the collective cost of damage for the Western and Northern Divisions was expected to be finalised by Friday.  Leweniqila said the assessment for the West and North would cover the combined disasters in relation to Cyclone Josie, Tropical Depression 13F and Cyclone Keni.


BOUGAINVILLE – An MP in Bougainville’s autonomous regional parliament says it’s important that there is a strong, emphatic vote by Bougainvilleans in next year’s independence referendum. The Papua New Guinea autonomous region is to hold a referendum in June next year under the terms of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. PNG’s national parliament has been tasked with the final say on the referendum outcome. Rodney Osioco from Kokoda constituency said a strong majority vote would ensure Bougainvilleans’ self-determination aspirations are ultimately approved by PNG’s national parliament. “That is why the members are doing more awareness to the people that we must all fully vote one hundred percent to our aspirations so that that outcome can be rectified in the parliament, because parliament is the only legitimate authority who makes laws in the country.” 


FRENCH POLYNESIA – A petition has been launched in French Polynesia in a bid to defer this month’s territorial election to remedy irregularities in the registration process. The newly-formed group Our Movement said within three days, its online petition had been signed by 2000 people. It was launched in response to obstruction by administration officials who allegedly refused to certify documents needed for candidates to stand. The new party’s leader Tevai Haumani said some of his candidates withdrew after being threatened with job losses. He said because of this interference his party couldn’t lodge its list of 73 candidates on time.  Haumani had also written to the French president Emmanuel Macron asking for protection of aspiring politicians for there to be a democratic choice. Leaders of another new party list, A Ti’a Mai, also said it faced obstruction and therefore couldn’t meet the nominations deadline for the election April 22.


- IN SAMOA 59 sailors preparing to leave for work on board cargo and cruise ships in Europe have been warned not to drink alcohol. During a farewell ceremony the acting Prime Minister, Papalii Niko Lee Hang said this is the main challenge faced by local seamen now working overseas. Papalii said that the government’s zero tolerance on alcohol consumption remained and if the new group  misbehaved overseas they would be sent home and no longer be considered for further service on foreign ships.


Anti-plastics initiative

VANUATU – Britain and Vanuatu are leading a new Commonwealth initiative to fight plastic pollution in the Pacific and other oceans. The British government has committed US$88 million dollars to the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance.

The funding package is billed at helping to boost global research and assist Commonwealth countries stop plastic waste from entering the oceans in the first place.

Speaking ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London next week, PM Theresa  May annnounced that New Zealand, Ghana and Sri Lanka had joined the Alliance.

Together with Vanuatu as joint chair, Britain called on other countries to pledge action on plastics.

This can include a ban on microbeads, cutting down on single-use plastic bags, or other steps to eliminate avoidable plastic waste.

Developing countries who sign up to the Alliance are eligible to bid for partnership support to improve waste management systems and implement other initiatives to reduce the plastic waste reaching oceans.


Aid spending unpopular

PACIFIC – Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says the vast majority of Australians do not want increases in aid spending.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 80 per cent of Australians do not support any further spending on foreign aid.

Fierravanti-Wells  called for Britain to partner on infrastructure development in the Pacific. Speaking to aid agencies on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, she said the Australian aid budget will be kept at US$3 billion and would not increase until the economy was back on a sustainable footing.

Fierravanti-Wells said the government polling had exposed a “big schism” between the community and those working in the aid sector.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the opposition Labor Party’s belief that the government’s cuts to foreign aid have allowed China to move into Australia’s backyard by showering poorer Pacific Island nations with aid and cheap development loans.


Island evacuation pending

VANUATU – A patrol boat loaded with police and mobile force personnel is being deployed to the Vanuatu island of Ambae this afternoon to help with an intended mass evacuation.

A state of emergency has been declared on the island, with the volcano at the island’s centre continuing to erupt, blanketing much of the island in ash.

A spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Office, Presley Tari, said the mass evacuation will begin once the forces arrive and establish themselves which is likely to be later on this week.  The government announced last week that a mass evacuation would again take place, with people from the islands north, west and south being moved to the far east coast or nearby smaller islands.

Ambae is in Penama Province and the provincial government has secured land on the island’s east side for victims of the ongoing eruption. This comes as the central government’s ministerial task force is still yet to complete negotiations to acquire land for resettlement on either Maewo or Pentecost.

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