Monday, June 20, 2011

Radio New Zealand International Pacific News, 20 June 2011

Solomons govt allocates money for 2012 Pacific Arts Festival preparation

The Solomon Islands government has allocated five million US dollars this year for preparations toward hosting the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts next year.

The Solomon Times reports that a third of the money has been given by Taiwan.

The funding will reportedly be used for preparatory work on performance and accommodation facilities, as well as public amenities, for the July 2012 event in Honiara.

More than 3,000 artists and cultural practitioners from 27 Pacific Countries are expected to converge on Honiara to showcase their work.

The national organising committee is hoping to obtain extra direct funding for 2011 from the government in the upcoming supplementary budget.

Scientists have theory for marine deaths in Solomons’ lagoon

Scientists believe low oxygen levels are the most likely cause of the large number of deaths among marine animals in Marovo lagoon in Solomon Islands.

From early this month locals reported seeing dead creatures including fish and crocodiles in the lagoon.

The co-ordinator of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community office, Mia Rimon, says scientists are still on the ground but have a good idea what caused the deaths.

She says they think there’s been a process of algal blooms dying-off, resulting in oxygen depletion.

She says her office and the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme have offered assistance.
“Scientific technical assistance, for some resources with immediate relief, things of that nature, putting in fads to help to secure food security for the people who have lost their fishing grounds.”
Mia Rimon says recent mangrove culling could have contributed to the algal bloom crash.

Vanuatu annuls recognition of Abkhazia - report

Reports from Georgia say Vanuatu’s new government has annulled last month’s decision of the former government to recognize Abkhazia’s independence.

A Georgian foreign ministry official Zurab Aleksidze has told media in Tbilisi that the administration of Edward Natapei has reversed the decision by his predecessor, Sato Kilman, to recognise the Russian-backed breakaway region of Georgia.

Mr Aleksidze says this means that Vanuatu supports the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.

Apart from Russia, only three other countries, including Nauru, recognise Abkhazia’s sovereignty.

Bougainville rebel group lays out demands before mining will be given go-ahead

The leader of a Bougainvillean group that claims the backing of most people in the Papua New Guinea province, says there’s no chance of the huge Panguna mine re-opening until demands for reparation first made more than 20 years ago, are met.

The Me’ekamui Tribal Nation and its self styled president, Philip Miriori, says before any development will be allowed a monument to the island’s civil war dead must be built and outstanding human rights issues addressed.

He says, in addition, the longstanding demands for financial redress from the mining giant Rio Tinto for the destruction caused by the mine must be satisfied.
“Those demands were being put in place 20 years ago, and nobody made any response then on those demands. Ten billion kina, that was for environmental damage and the other issue is the compensation issue.”
The Me’ekamui Tribal Nation’s Philip Miriori.

Bishops in PNG want end to MPs abuse of slush funds

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea has called for an end to the current system of allocating constituency development funds for MPs to distribute.

The Conference has decided to take a stand against corruption among parliamentarians who the Bishops largely blame for the misuse of millions of kina of public funds.

It warns that there are increasing signs of the so-called slush funds being used by MPs for electioneering and personal profit.

The general secretary of the Conference, Father Victor Roche, says that leaving the distribution of the funds to an MP’s discretion has become a massive waste of public money.
“We not only do not support these slush funds, we also do not ask any of the parliamentarians to give us any of these handouts. And we will go for proper accounting, proper budgeted projects that will help the electorates, is transparent and accounted for.”
Father Victor Roche

Businesspeople told PACER Plus trade deal without Fiji has no validity

Fiji’s interim regime says any agreement which excludes Fiji will be ineffective for the region’s trade and development.

The interim minister for Trade and Industry was speaking to business people in Nadi who’d gathered to look at the regions’s Pacer Plus agreement currently being negotiated.

Sally Round reports.
“Fiji has been excluded from formal talks between Pacific Island Forum countries on the PACER Plus trade and economic treaty, but member countries have committed to keeping Fiji informed. Fiji’s interim Trade and Industry Minister Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum told the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council meeting that because Fiji hasn’t been involved in the negotiations it’s safe to assume it won’t serve the interests of Fijians. He says Fiji can’t accept it would be asked to join the talks at an advanced stage without having a a say on all aspects of the package. Mr Sayed Khaiyum says the focus should first be on implementing regional and sub-regional treaties like the Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade Agreement instead of new agreements with what he called dubious benefits.”

Report finds Tonga government ill-advised in claims that city rebuild funds misused

A report has found that the prime minister and cabinet in Tonga have been ill-advised over the progress of the Nuku’alofa rebuild.

Economic development consultant Melino Maka and academic Dr Teena Brown Pulu were commissioned by the government to investigate the handling of the reconstruction.

Mr Maka says they found the rebuild itself is being well managed and remains on schedule.

But he says advisors to the prime minister and cabinet have made inaccurate claims against the previous government over missing funds and criticised the Project Management Unit, and construction company.
“All they had to do is to ask for information that was already there. There is a contractor who actually managed the project, they kept very good records of progress - you can’t go and make allegations without asking for information first.”
The report singled out the Nuku’alofa project director - Tukua Tonga, the Foreign Affairs advisor Noble Akau’ola, and prime minister’s communication advisor - Ahongalu Fusimalohi.

Prize-winning Pacific history book reframes traditional view

The author of a new account of the Pacific’s 19th century history says it deviates from the traditional approach by focusing on the lives of specific historical figures.

Islanders: the Pacific in the Age of Empire, which came out at the end of last year, was recently awarded the internationally prestigious Wolfson History Prize.

Nicholas Thomas says his book highlights how much more cosmopolitan the Pacific was at that time than historians generally acknowledge.

He says Pacific people took advantage of as well as suffered from the effects of European colonisation.
“This was an extraordinary process of interaction that had all sorts of consequences I think for the ways islanders imagined who they were, what they were engaged in, what their political projects were, what their possible futures might be.”
Nicholas Thomas says his book tries to give a sense of the complexity of movement within the Pacific.

Vanuatu interim leader appoints cabinet ministers ahead of prime ministerial vote Thursday

Vanuatu’s caretaker Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, has appointed six new ministers to his cabinet.

The changes come after Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek last week ruled that the election of Sato Kilman as prime minister in December last year was null and void and Mr Natapei was restored as interim prime minister.

The six ministers are Samson Samsen, the new agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister, Patrick Crowby the minister for internal affairs, the new minister for youth and sports is Eta Rori, Dominique Morin becomes lands minister, Joshua Kalsakau is the new minister for infrastructure and public utilities and Paul Telukluk becomes minister for ni-Vanuatu business.

The VBTC reports that those retaining their posts from the previous Natapei government are foreign affairs minister Joe Natuman, finance minister Sela Molisa, Bakoa Kaltongga as minister of justice and education minister Charlot Salwai.

Mr Natapei says all ministers will remain in their caretaker role until Parliament meets on Thursday to elect a new prime minister.

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