15 Apr 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

2:54 pm on 15 April 2021

Fijian government services hit by cyber attack; Tropical storm Surigae brings heavy rain to Micronesia; and tobacco tax in American Samoa to rise.

Fiji's government says a cyber attack this week has resulted in disruptions to some of its online services and networks including GovNet.

Fiji Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Fiji Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: Fiji government

The Attorney-General and Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says as a measure of 'extreme precaution advice had been disseminated across government to protect network integrity'.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the cyber attack on Tuesday has resulted in a temporary disruption to the government network.

He says the network is gradually being brought back online in accordance with the Department of Information Technology and Computing (ITC) Services internationally-recognised security protocols.

But, Sayed-Khaiyum adds, government services may take several days to be fully and securely restored.

He said a preliminary forensic investigation revealed the source of the incident was likely a government server housed separately from the ITC department.

Sayed-Khaiyum said as the investigation revealed more about the extent of the incident, Government's cybersecurity measures would be adapted to evolve alongside new cybersecurity threats.

Tropical storm Surigae brings heavy rain to Micronesia

A tropical storm that has brought heavy rain over the western part of Micronesia this week is heading towards the Philippines.

Tropical Storm Surigae is bringing heavy rains to Palau, after doing the same to Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia earlier this week.

According to Indonesia's met service, the maximum wind speed around the Surigae Tropical Cyclone system is up to 40 knots, or 75 kilometres an hour.

But the storm is expected to bring stronger winds as it passes Palau's northernmost state of Kayangel in the coming hours.

Philippines-based media reports that Surigae is expected to become a powerful typhoon in coming days as it moves east of the country.

Pasifika Air puts plans for Cooks service from NZ on hold

Plans for a new New Zealand-based airline servicing the Pacific have been put on hold.

Pasifika Air says in a statement that continued uncertainty over quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands has forced the move.

The company is headed by high profile Christchurch businessman, Mike Pero, who has Cook Islands heritage.

He told RNZ Pacific in December he planned to have flights connecting Christchurch and Wellington directly to Rarotonga by May or June.

There were plans to eventually extend beyond the Cook Islands but Pero said Pasifika Air had faced challenges because of Covid-19, particularly the seeming reluctance by the New Zealand Government to open up travel to the Pacific.

Because of this uncertainty he said, he decided now was not the time to launch the airline.

Last month the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said he expected two-way travel with New Zealand to begin in May.

Nauru sets goal on vaccine rollout

The Nauru government is urging everyone eligible to ensure they are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Shots of the Covaxdelivered AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered over the past four days in Nauru with 700 of the 7,000 eligible people receiving their first dose.

The government says with Nauru maintaining regular cargo and passenger flights to Brisbane the likelihood of Covid-19 entering Nauru remains a possibility.

It says it wants everyone on the island aged over 18 to get vaccinated.

By July, Nauru hopes to have a fully immunised population, which could be a world first.

President Lionel Aingimea said Australia was looking at easing border restrictions around October, but Nauru hoped that achieving its vaccination goal will allow the link to open earlier.

Union official's trial date set

The trial date for Fiji's National Workers Union General Secretary, Felix Anthony has been set for November.

Anthony is charged with conducting a malicious act.

The charge relates to alleged false statements that the unionist made two years ago to a reporter from the Fiji Times.

The statements in question relate to the expiry of employment contracts of the Water Authority of Fiji workers which the Director of Public Prosecutions alleges tended to create or foster public anxiety.

It is alleged that Anthony purposely spread false news by way of his comments to the Fiji Times.

The matter has been adjourned for mention on 8 November.

Hike in tobacco tax

Tobacco excise tax will increase soon in American Samoa after the governor, Lemanu Peleti Mauga, signed into law legislation, which increase the excise tax by 3 cents.

The measure also repeals the 2 percent wage tax, which is paid by all wage earners in American Samoa.

Currently the tax is 33-cents per cigarette or cigar and for each 10 grams of smoking tobacco.

The approved legislation will increase the tax to 36 cents per item.

Efforts over the years to repeal the wage tax had been unsuccessful, and it has been called by lawmakers an "unfair" tax, because only wage earners pay this tax.