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Pacific news in brief

Thursday 25 August 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Pacific news in brief
Photo: 123RF

China helping PNG's fight against illegal drugs; Vanuatu chiefs want presidency; and increase in HIV in Fiji.

The Chinese government has pledged to build a national narcotics laboratory in Papua New Guinea to boost the capability of the country's police amid growing transnational organised criminal activities.

The Post Courier reports that such networks have already created threats on the PNG sea borders and in the Pacific, through drug trafficking, people smuggling, environmental crimes or cybercrime.

China's Ambassador to PNG, Zeng Fan Hua, has said that China will help PNG build an anti-narcotics laboratory to be used for testing of suspicious drugs and illegal items getting into the country.

Police Commissioner David Manning said this assistance allows the force to not only deal with the current narcotics challenges, but assist in other areas as well.

He said PNG is a member of a larger community and what they have seen in the past shipment of dangerous drugs such as cocaine where PNG is being used a transit point for such illegal activities.

"The building of the narcotics laboratory is a sign of the future and will place the police and other enforcement agencies in a good position," Manning said.

"Not only will we be able to test suspicious substances, but also be able to present those results in securing convictions."

Vanuatu chiefs want changes to presidency

The Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs has recommended the Vanuatu President's position should be given over to the chiefs.

The Daily Post reports the 22 Island Council of Chiefs stressed that electing chiefs to the position will minimise the risk of political interference in their decisions.

They say the chiefs in their respective islands are already serving as symbolics of peace and unity.

The chiefs also want Parliament to make a legislation on the establishment of an Upper House to re-look into bills passed by Parliament, before they can be gazetted by the President.

They said the Upper House will ensure any bills related to custom, cultures and tradition are not contrary to custom governance.

Over 200 chiefs from around Vanuatu presented their recommendations to the caretaker government last Saturday.

Increase in HIV/AIDS deaths and infections in Fiji

Fiji has increased its estimated new HIV and AIDS infections by 129 percent over the last decade.

The just-released Global AIDS Monitoring 2022 report for Fiji also shows a 173 percent increase in AIDS related deaths between 2010-2021.

The report estimates there are 1400 people currently living with HIV in Fiji.

The report said actions to tackle the inequalities driving these new infection rates through revitalised sexual health knowledge and awareness to influence practice can get the national response back on track.

UNAIDS Pacific Country Director, Renata Ram, said Fiji needs to stop being complacent and bring HIV back on the agenda.

"If we are not making rapid progress then we are losing ground, as the AIDS pandemic thrives amidst COVID-19, mass displacement, and other crises. We need to stop being complacent and bring HIV back on the agenda," said Ram.

Kiribati minister takes up Fisheries Agency role

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFC) has appointed a new chairman.

The Kiribati government said its Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development, Ribanataake Tiwau, will lead the agencies' meetings for the next 12 months.

The outgoing Chair, Semi Korolavesau from Fiji, has been in the role for the past two years.

Tiwau said coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, while working together means sustainable success.

"I have a dream that one day our Pacific Region will become the tuna cartel of the world, where we control the supply and dictate the price of our tuna resources for the benefit of our people.

"We have the means to fully maximise our social and economic benefits from our tuna resources, along the tuna value chain. Among our membership, we have those with a fishing, processing, marketing and trading capacity.

"What is needed is a complementary approach that will pool in those advantages for the benefit of us all."

United candidate for anti-separatist parties

The leader of New Caledonia's MPC party Gil Brial has been named as the anti-independence parties' candidate for next week's election of the Congress president.

The position is currently held by Roch Wamytan of the pro-independence Caledonian Union, who is serving his third one-year term.

The choice of Brial was announced by Sonia Backes, the president of the Southern Province and who since June has been a junior member of the French government.

She said during talks with other party leaders it was agreed to field a united candidate.

In the Congress, the ethnic Wallisian and Futunan party, Pacific Awakening, has been holding the balance of power since its launch in 2018 and opted to back Wamytan.

Samoa Airways makes further payout

Samoa's financially strapped national airline, Samoa Airways, will spend a further $3 million tālā to pay unpaid redundancy entitlements for 30 staff who lost jobs during the closure of international borders.

Interim Chief Executive, Fauo'o Fatu Tielu, said staff were hired to work on a now aborted proposed jet airplane service to reboot international routes.

He added there are still 140 staff working for the airline, which currently only flies between the Samoas and domestically.

Fauo'o also warned there may still be more staff cuts in future adding that some staff have yet to be fully compensated for redundancy entitlements.

Flights to Solomon Islands province capital suspended

Solomon Airlines says it has suspended all flights to Lata, the provincial capital of Temotu Province, effective immediately due to the deteriorating condition of the runway.

The carrier plans to resume services as soon as the runway is restored to a safe condition.

The Solomon Times says flights to Lomlom are also affected due to no fuel supply being available at the Airport.

The Northern Marianas has recorded its 40th Covid-19 related death.

There has been a surge in cases with 99 new positive infections recorded in the latest reporting period to August 22.

This brings the CNMI total to 13,050 cases since March 28, 2020.

The CNMI is in COVID-19 Community Level Medium.