10 May 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

12:27 pm on 10 May 2021
A health worker takes a swab from a man at a Covid-19 testing centre in Port Moresby. Rates of testing in PNG are incredibly low.

Photo: AFP

Tongan parliamentarians criticised in scathing speech by King; China draws up plans to upgrade an airstrip and bridge on Kiribati; Asian Development Bank has a five-year plan to help Pacific, and more.

Tongan parliamentarians criticised in scathing speech by King

Tonga's king has chastised the country's parliament, questioning members' honesty and ability to run the government.

King Tupou the sixth's warning came in a particularly frank speech from the throne to open parliament.

In a blunt and lengthy speech, King Tupou made no secret of his displeasure.

He told of his concern with how the government was managing the country's affairs, saying it had lost sight of the key issues - health, education and the economy.

King Tupou also highlighted his concerns with nepotism, and the way it was funding pressing problems.

He also bemoaned a lack of honesty, asking where annual reports were, and why the pa'anga had dropped.

He warned the public to be vigilant in electing their representatives, with elections due later this year.

Over 200 new Covid-19 cases in PNG

Papua New Guinea has recorded 223 new COVID-19 cases increasing the total number to 11,630.

The cases were reported in 14 provinces with the Morobe Province recording the highest number with 59 followed by the National Capital District with 47 and East New Britain with 36.

Samoa's Office of the Electoral Commission makes it easier for people to vote

Samoa will revert back to special voting booths and make it easier for people to vote in the snap election being held on May the 21st.

TV1 Samoa is reporting caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi as saying the chaos of voters cramming into ferries and buses to vote at their electoral constituencies has given the Office of the Electoral Commission a lesson in logistics.

Voters travelling to and from their electorates on all four inhabited islands also had to pay their own travel and accommodation expenses.

Tuilaepa said people will now be able to vote where they live.

He adds that cameras will operate in the polling stations to ensure everything is lawful.

Tuilaepa said the days from May 19th to the 21st will be public holidays to ensure a high turnout.

ADB has five-year urban development plan for Pacific.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has a five-year plan to help Pacific countries improve their urban development, including water and sanitation services.

It has a road map which identifies major constraints for the delivery of urban services in the Pacific, including fragile economies, limited public land and capacity issues.

The bank also found women and girls having less access to services and resources.

The road map will be used to guide, among other things, the design and implementation of sustaining urban services, such as water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management.

It will also improve spatial planning and help prepare for climate change including flood and drought management.

Niue Govt forms committee to look into Telecom and broadcasting

Concerns about both the Niue Broadcasting Corporation and Telecom Niue have prompted an investigation.

The Niue government is setting up a parliamentary select committee to look into the two under-performing entities.

A motion from the MP for the district of Tamakautoga, Ricky Makani, led to the move, the first of its kind in Niue.

Another MP, Terry Coe, who voted for the committee, said there's widespread concern at the operations of both government businesses.

He said some areas, like Tamakautoga, haven't had TV reception in six months.

"The repeaters, they fixed it and then it dropped out again three days later and then they did something else and the same thing happened. And now they said they got the wrong part from China so they are going back to China to get another part," he said.

Terry Coe said Telecom is in the gun for a number of reasons, including its failure to have connected the new undersea Manatua cable, which reached Niue's shores nearly a year ago.

China draws up plans to upgrade an airstrip and bridge Kiribati's Kanton island.

China has drawn up plans to upgrade an airstrip and bridge on a remote Kiribati island.

The plans, which have not been made public, involve construction on the coral atoll of Kanton where only two dozen people live.

The site hosted military aircraft during World War Two

Kiribati opposition lawmaker Tessie Lambourne told Reuters she was concerned about the project.

She said while the government hasn't released details, it has carried out a feasibility study on the rehabilitation of the runway and bridge.

In 2019 Kiribati severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China.

Indonesia deploys more troops to Papua

Indonesia has deployed 400 more soldiers in Papua region, an army spokesman has said.

President Joko Widodo has ordered a crackdown on separatists after an intelligence chief in Papua was shot dead in an ambush.

The 315/Garuda Battalion, whose soldiers earned the nickname 'Satan troops' after its role in East Timor, are being brought in amid ongoing violent exchanges between Indonesian military and the West Papua Liberation Army.

A spokesman for Indonesia's military described their deployment as a routine rotation.

An exiled pro-independence Papuan leader, Benny Wenda, who is the head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, warned this could be the military's biggest security operation in the region in decades.

Meanwhile, the Australian West Papua Association is urging Australia's foreign minister to demand the Indonesian Government to halt all military operations in the territory, and to rethink its policy of training the Indonesian military.

Supplies to be sent to flood-hit Bougainville atolls

Bougainville's MP for the Atolls, Raymond Masono, says a ship will shortly depart Buka to take much needed supplies to the remote Carterets and Nukumanu atolls.

Earlier this week Ursula Rakova of the civil society group, Tulele Peisa, which has been rehousing people from the Atolls on the mainland, said the islanders were in a terrible state, with some starving.

Rakova said that flooding in January, caused by King Tides, had made it impossible to grow food, while coconut trees were no longer producing fruit.

She had called for a state of emergency to be declared by the government in the autonomous Papua new Guinea region, but Mr Masono said that won't happen, although aid is in the process of being sent.