Friday, June 24, 2011

Radio New Zealand International Pacific News, 24 June 2011

Tonga rejects Fiji bid to extradite former officer Mara

The Tongan government has advised Fiji that a former Fiji senior officer, Lieutenant Col Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, won’t be extradited.

Fiji requested his extradition last month after Col Mara escaped Fiji while being on bail on a sedition charge.

A government statement issued in Nuku’alofa says a diplomatic note sent to Fiji states that due to Tongan laws, the government is unable to extradite him.

Col Mara has been issued with a Tongan passport and he has visited Australia.

As a former coup co-conspirator, he has denounced the human rights abuses by the interim regime and called for a return to democracy.

Fiji has said it will lodge an extradition request with every country which Col Mara may visit.

PNG’s Somare intends to stand down this year

The president of the ruling Papua New Guinea National Alliance Party says it’s in the interests of the party that a new leader emerges this year to take the party into the 2012 elections.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Sir Michael Somare, who’s been in the top job since 2002, is in Singapore recovering from heart surgery.

The party president Simon Kaiwi has confirmed that the 75-year-old intends to step down later this year.
“According to the constitution it is an issue that can only be discussed at the party caucus meeting and that caucus meeting is scheduled to be held in August this year but the Prime Minister in his own mind, he made his intention known, that he’d like to leave the leadership available for a younger or for somebody else to take over some time this year.”
In Sir Michael Somare’s absence, the acting prime minister Sam Abal has sacked Don Polye, who has had leadership asperations, prompting the Highlands executive to ask for Mr Abal to be dismissed from the party.

Vanuatu top politicians faulted in China embassy audit

A report by Vanuatu’s auditor general office into mismanagement and irregularities within the diplomatic mission in China has faulted a number of prominent political figures.

The report details shoddy practices and makes allegations of corruption, following the opening of the Embassy in Beijing five years ago and its later offshoots, the consulate in Shanghai and travel office in Shuhai.

Don Wiseman reports:
“The auditors say former cabinet ministers, Sato Kilman, George Wells and Bakoa Kaltonga, had released diplomatic passports without proper documentation and to people in questionable positions. They say, Moana Carcasses, when he was internal affairs minister, had failed to revoke visas despite being informed that they shouldn’t have been issued. The report says another MP Patrick Crowby, who returned to cabinet this week, had established the Shuhai office without having any right to do so. The audit report accuses leading government official, Jean Sese, of gross negligence for failing to take action despite being aware of the illegal activities undertaken by the China mission. And it says current ambassador and former cabinet minister, Willie Jimmy, appointed staff without authority, hasn’t filed his annual returns form and has failed to remit revenue to Port Vila. It also accuses Mr Jimmy of corruption.”

US to consult Pacific amid unease over Fiji

The United States says most Pacific Islands governments have quietly expressed growing unease about the situation in Fiji.

The Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell says he will consult further during next week’s tour which will take him to Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Island.

Fiji’s leader, who is accused of human rights abuses, has said he will stay in power until at least 2014 despite calls since the last coup to return the country to democratic rule.

Mr Campbell says the US is looking to New Zealand and Australia to take the lead in dealing with Fiji.
“We are concerned by what we’ve seen. We’ve maintained sanctions on Fiji and we would like very much a civilian government return to power in a transparent, inclusive and open process.”

Vanuatu TI says corruption worsening

The president of Transparency International in Vanuatu says corruption at the political level in the country is getting worse.

Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson says the current instability, which has seen five changes of leadership in just over six months with another possible this Sunday, is fomenting the corrupt behaviour.

She says the politicians want power to have access to funds and because they’re not sure how long they’ll retain power they rush into obvious and terrible things to make as much money as possible.

Mrs Ferrieux Patterson says in Vanuatu this often involves the controversial granting of land leases.
“What happens is that the ministers basically grant leases to friends or to people who might be paying them money. And that has happened. We have seen examples, especially when Minister Iauko was there, but I think successive ministers have done similar things.”
Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson.

Samoa PM dismissive of Fiji 2014 election pledge

Samoa’s prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, says a promise by Fiji’s leader to hold elections in 2014 is not taken seriously by Pacific Islands Forum leaders.

Tuileapa says this is because Commodore Frank Bainimarama has been consistently dishonest in his dealings with the leaders and therefore cannot be trusted.

He says Commodore Bainimarama’s latest election promise is also not consistent with his actions as he continues to fill up the top public service ranks with his cronies in the military and elsewhere.

Tuilaepa has invited him to Apia and says should his visit coincide with that of the former Fiji military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Mara, the three of them can enjoy cold Vailima beers under the swaying coconut trees.

He says perhaps what the situation in Fiji requires, is a cold Vailima solution.

Alluding to Fiji’s military coups, Tuilaepa says Samoa doesn’t have coups, unless, as he puts it, it’s a chicken coop.

Pacific’s first private hospital in Samoa goes broke

The first ever private hospital in the Pacific Islands has gone broke and its fate is now being decided by stakeholders.

The MedCen Hospital in Vailima, Samoa, was set up in 1998 and provides emergency care and essential health services by local professionals and visiting specialists.

Last month, the Chief Executive Officer of the Development Bank of Samoa, Tuiasau Saumani WongSing, said the government might have to take over MedCen’s assets and equipment.

The Development Bank made an initial 850,000 US dollar investment in the hospital and Saumani says he’s trying to recoup the funds.

The hospital received international certification status in 2003.

The hospital’s director Dr Emosi Puni says a committee has been set up to decide how the hosptial will continue to be financed.

The government is in negotiations with the Development Bank and Dr Puni is hopeful the hospital’s future is secure.

A decision is expected next week before the financial year ends.

Vanuatu chief says court system is foreign

The chairman of a council of chiefs in Vanuatu says more cases such as divorce proceedings and land disputes should be resolved through custom not through the court.

Chief Claude Tabi, who is the head of the Pentecost Council of Chiefs in Port Vila, says the court system is difficult to understand because it’s foreign, whereas people are familiar with customary systems.

He says in court there’s always a losing party but when a chief presides over a dispute there’s more room for compromise.
“If you go to the courthouse 100 percent one will win, and hundred percent the other one is loser. You need to go to the customary court to make sure that you check the case according to customary law, you’ve got some sort of understanding about culture, tradition and custom.”
Claude Tabi says if cases were dealt with through a customary process it would save time and money.

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