Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ABC Radio Australia Asia Pacific News, 15 June 2011

PNG acting PM's adopted son arrested

Police in Papua New Guinea have arrested the adopted son of the acting Prime Minister Sam Abal, and expect to charge him with murder.

Police say a woman's body was found at Mr Abal's house on Monday morning.

Witnesses have told investigators Teo Abal, Mr Abal's adopted son, brought the woman to the house early that morning and they went into a banana garden.

Twenty minutes later they heard a scream, then Teo Abal came out of the garden and said he'd killed the woman.

Police are yet to comment on the cause of death or release the woman's identity.

Sam Abal released a statement on Monday night saying his family will cooperate with police and they'll be treated like everyone else.

Fiji 'expects' Australia to extradite former officer

The interim Fijian Government says it expects Australia to respond positively to a request to extradite Ratu Tevita Mara.

The former Fijian military commander fled to Tonga four weeks ago to avoid sedition charges and is currently in Australia.

Fijian attorney-general Aiyaz Sayyed Khaiyum has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the extradition papers were sent this week.

He says Suva has assisted Australia with similar requests in the past.

"We have also of late assisted Australia regarding the Hague conventions, in a way," he said.

"For example, children have been abducted or taken away by one parent to Fiji and they've sent us their documentation.

"We've facilitated that and obviously to do with extradition also. So we expect a similar response from the Australians."

The Australian government has declined to comment on the Fijian request.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General says the government does not disclose whether it has received an extradition request until the person is arrested or brought before a court.

Solomons rebuff

The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Danny Philip, says he would not grant entry to the Ratu Tevita if he attempts to visit.

Mr Philip told Australia Network he could not afford to damage Solomon Island's relationship with Fiji.

"We have just made peace with Fiji and the MSG (Melanesian Spearhead Group) group," Mr Philip said.

"We cannot afford to have anything else put some more cracks into that relationship.

"I think I'll stick to my policy of embracing Fiji for some time."

PNG pension fund cries foul over online 'smears'

Papua New Guinea's largest pension savings fund is offering a financial reward for information about the identity of people it says are posting false information on the internet about its board of management.

Unions have threatened to strike over NASFUND's $US48 million loan to the PNG government, which they have described as illegal.

They say Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal confirmed in a meeting with unions that the transaction was illegal.

NASFUND joint chief executive Rod Mitchell said there was nothing wrong with the loan.

He told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that comments about the deal online and in local media are part of a smear campaign.

"No one begrudges fair comment whatsoever," Mr Mitchell said.

"We believe in openness and freedom of expression. But freedom of expression doesn't go as far as making unsubstantiated allegations like certain board members or management taking corrupt payments."

New Caledonian film opens old wounds

Old wounds are being reopened in New Caledonia by a film that tells the story of the Kanak revolt of the 1980s.

'Order and Morality' is to be released in September but is already generating debate because of allegations of executions by French officers.

It contains revelations from an ex high-ranking police officer that Kanak were executed in Ouvea by French security personnel.

He claims no one was charged, as an amnesty was signed as part of the Matignon Accords in 1988.

Philippe Legorjus says he was on the brink of an agreement for the release of hostages, when orders were received from the French government in Paris for aggressive military intervention.

David Chappell, associate professor of Pacific Islands History at the University of Hawaii told Asia Pacific the film, and the book on which it is based have reopened some old rifts in New Caledonian society.

"Both sides of the sort of ethnic divide in New Caledonia have reacted to the film and on the one side you have the families of the police and soldiers and these sorts of people who are still unhappy that they lost their loved ones in this incident and want some of the Kanak prosecuted more," he said.

Professor Chappell said there are Kanak who say Philippe Legorjus' revelations are proof of a French cover-up of the execution of captives.

Volcanic ash disrupts more Australian fights

The disruption from the Chilean volcano ash cloud is spreading to Western Australia, with Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar all cancelling flights to and from Perth.

All three airlines say they will cease their Perth services from 1:00pm AWST as the ash plume streams over south-west Australia.

The move came after forecasters warned that the ash cloud which has already forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled in Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania and New Zealand was heading into Western Australian air space.

Virgin says the ash plume is forecast to be as low as 15,000 feet and it is not prepared to risk passenger safety.

Virgin Australia spokeswoman Melissa Thomson says the airline cannot say when the Perth services will be resumed.

"I couldn't put a time on it at this stage, we will monitor it throughout the day and we will only commence services when it's safe to do so," she said.

Sally Cutter from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre says the lower band level does pose a risk.

"Volcanic ash makes it dangerous to fly, particularly for jet engines, due to the fact it can cause the engines to stop, so it's really up to each individual airlines to assess the risk they're prepared to take," she said.

Cook Islands MP in Japan on diplomatic mission

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna is visiting Japan on a mission to establish diplomatic relations.

The trip comes after Japan formaly recognised Cook Islands as a state on March 25.

Under a free association arrangement, the Pacific island state is fully responsible for internal affairs, while New Zealand takes responsibility for external affairs.

During his five-day visit, Mr Puna will meet his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan to discuss ways of deepening bilateral relations and cooperation.

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