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Friday 6 February 2015 | Published in Regional


NEW ZEALAND – The New Zealand Prime Minister used his annual Waitangi Day breakfast speech to make a pitch for a new flag.

John Key, who plans to hold a referendum on the issue, told the more than 100 guests at the breakfast that it is time to create a new flag that is distinctly New Zealand’s. Key later told reporters he raised changing the flag during the speech to show how much New Zealand has changed since the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. He said he would like a new flag raised at Waitangi by 2040, when the 200th anniversary of the signing of the treaty is celebrated. “The flag itself is of no great consequence other than a graphic representation of who we are as peoples, but I think we can do a better job.” Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said he also thought the flag needed changing, but it should go hand-in-hand with a review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.


TONGA – A Tongan noble, Lord Tu’ilakepa, has been fined US$4862 dollars on five weapons charges. Lord Tu’ilakepa, who is the nobles’ representative for Vava’u, had been convicted on various counts of illegal firearms and ammunition possession charges that date back to 2010. Radio Tonga reports Justice Charles Cato says Lord Tu’ilakepa is a good Tongan man despite his failure to license the guns and bullets. His lawyer had told the trial that the guns had belonged to Lord Tu’ilakepa’s cousin who had died. Lord Tu’ilakepa avoided a prison sentence – under a reecnt Tongan law amendment a sentence of more than two years which would have forced the lord to relinquish his rights as a member of the nobility.


TONGA – The hospital in the Tongan islands of Ha’apai is to be replaced by a new building further inland to make it less vulnerable to the elements. An Asian Development Bank funded project will place an up to 40 bed hospital a couple of hundred metres inland and on slightly elevated ground. The director of health Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola says the move is a must because the hospital is currently 10 metres from the sea and the front lawn is already suffering major erosion. Dr ‘Akau’ola also says the site is an earthquake risk. “The most concern for us is an earthquake because the hospital is built on sandy foundations and we are sure that it’s soaked with seawater because it is so close to the sea. Another further shake, the foundation would be very soft and we risk major damage.” The new hospital is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Samoan apple pickers strike resolved

SAMOA – In Samoa, the Prime Minister, Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has told local reporters a strike by apple pickers from his country working in Australia under the seasonal scheme has been resolved. Tuila’epa said the CEO of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has left the country for talks with Australian authorities on the matter. The prime minister did not go into details, but says the workers have accused a Tongan man managing the job of being discriminatory against the Samoans and favoring people from his home country. He says earning money from the scheme is important, which is the reason the government sent a senior government official to discuss the differences, with the hope that it does not to happen again in the future.

PNG opposition worried by piracy

PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Papua New Guinea’s opposition leader Don Polye is calling on law enforcers and the courts to apply tougher penalties on intellectual piracy. Polye says he has learnt that a few individuals have been in the business of piracy to make money at the expense of hardworking painters, writers, singers, designers among others. He is urging law enforcers to crack down on the crime syndicate. Polye says market places and bus-stops are a safe haven for the sale of pirated items. He says under the opposition’s policy, a state agency would be immediately established to regulate and implement policies and regulations on protecting intellectual property rights, copyright and the register of patents.