24 Feb 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific for 24 February

3:28 pm on 24 February 2021

A former Customs Officer in Samoa pleads not guilty to drugs charges, a new judge is confirmed in American Samoa, Samoa Breweries lays off staff and online classes in the CNMI cancelled.

Samoa's courthouse

Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

A former Customs Officer in Samoa fights drugs charges

A former Customs Officer in Samoa has pleaded not guilty to one charge of illegal importation of drugs, namely methamphetamine.

TV1 Samoa reported the charge stems from a shipment addressed to Pueleo Sefululua Peseta which was intercepted by Customs and police officers at Apia wharf earlier this month.

The matter has been referred to the District Court.

Peseta has been bailed to reappear in court on 17 June.

New judge confirmed in American Samoa

American Samoa has a new judge after the territorial Senate confirmed the nomination of local attorney Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde as District Court Judge.

Tauiliili-Langkilde has been servicing as District Court Judge Pro Tempore or temporary judge since 2015.

Under US territory law, only the Senate confirms nominations to the bench. Such nomination, submitted by the governor, is based on recommendation from the chief justice of American Samoa.

In his recommendation letter, Chief Justice Michael Kruse, said Tauiliili-Langkilde's "appointment will ease the work load" on District Judge Elvis Patea, who, as an Acting Associate Justice of the High Court, continued to have an active role in the High Court presiding over pending cases originally assigned to the late Associate Justice Lyle Richmond.

Samoa brewer lays off staff

Samoa Breweries Limited says it laid off 25 local staff when it decided to stop producing Coca-Cola products on island.

The Samoa Observer reported General Manager Brent Adams saying the decision was not taken lightly, but was necessary to secure the company's future.

Adams said the staff were given two months notice and generous severance packages to compensate.

He said some staff had been retained for temporary work.

The brewery had to close its sugary drink operations late last year, partly in response to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

All Coca Cola products are now imported in plastic bottles and aluminium cans.

Online classes cancelled in the CNMI

Online classes at public schools in the Northern Marianas have been cancelled following a technical glitch that has affected the learning system Blackboard Ultra.

The system had been used since the Covid-19 outbreak last year, with classes unable to be held in person.

But Education Commissioner Alfred Ada said this week, it was discovered the issue with the Blackboard Ultra system was a world-wide one.

The glitch has forced the schools to transition their classes to asynchronous instruction where students are given instructions and assignments that they can complete on their own.

Ada said students have been assured they won't be penalised for attendance due to the complicated situation.

He said teachers had been instructed to email each of their students learning packets that they can then complete on their own time.