27 Jul 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

7:23 pm on 27 July 2021
An ambulance enters the Taaone hospital in Papeete, the French overseas territory of Polynesia. (2014)

Photo: AFP

NZ concerned at detention of Fijian politicians by police

The New Zealand government is concerned about reports that a number of political figures in Fiji have been detained.

Several politicians including two prime ministers, opposition party leaders and indigenous rights advocates were taken in by police for questioning about their criticism of the government's proposed changes to the Land Act.

Fiji's Opposition National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad has been taken in today by police for a second time in three days.

Professor Prasad has been critical of the proposed Land Bill saying the amendment removes any protection for landowners.

New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade said it's monitoring the situation closely.

A spokesperson said the New Zealand High Commission in Suva is also making further inquiries.

Fiji police chief warns public

Fijians have been warned that anyone who incites civil unrest will be investigated.

Acting police commissioner Rusiate Tudravu says the warning comes after the force noticed an increase in the number of hate speeches and threats of unrest being made on social media about the proposed Land Bill.

Tudravu said people should not allow their emotions to cloud their judgement when making comments on the proposed Bill, warning that any threats of violence will result in arrest.

"We don't want vulnerable people, people that can be influenced by all this misinformation that are going on.

"My advice is for us to continue to do what we have been doing rather than taking the law into our own hands."

New Caledonia's anti-independence camp divided over Congress presidency

New Caledonia's anti-independence parties have failed to agree on who should be their candidate in tomorrow's election of a new Congress president.

For the past two one-year terms, the position has been held by the veteran pro-independence politician Roch Wamytan, who is seeking re-election.

The ethnic Wallisian party Pacific Awakening, which holds the balance of power in Congress, has said it will only vote with the anti-independence camp if it proposes a single candidate.

Both the Future with Confidence group and the Caledonia Together party put up candidates amid a suggestion that they be elected as president and vice-president and then swap position after a year.

However, the proposal has failed to secure universal endorsement.

The anti-independence side is keen to secure the Congress presidency after Louis Mapou became the first pro-independence politician to be elected president of New Caledonia's government earlier this month.

Another death in Tahiti Covid-19 outbreak

The worsening Covid-19 pandemic in French Polynesia has claimed another life, bringing the death toll to 146.

The territory recorded another 107 infections over the weekend.

17 people with Covid-19 are in hospital - four of them in intensive care as the virus keeps spreading.

Two weeks ago, French Polynesia had the first day in 11 months without a Covid-19 patient in hospital.

Covid-19 re-emerged in the community last August when the border was reopened for quarantine-free travel to boost tourism.

A total of 71,844 people have received both covid vaccination doses while 84,078 have recived just one. French Polynesia's population is 279,287.

New Caledonia records two Covid-19 cases

New Caledonia has detected two more Covid-19 cases in its quarantine facility.

The two individuals, who were tested at the end of their isolation, have been transferred to the main hospital's Covid-19 unit.

New Caledonia, which is Covid-19 free, had a lockdown last year and this year to suppress a community outbreak.

A total of 133 cases have been recorded since the start of the pandemic in March last year.

The border remains closed.

Solomons Covid-19 scare after crew on departed cargo vessel test Covid-19 positive

Authorities in Solomon Islands are calling for calm after members of a vessel that had stopped in Honiara later tested positive for Covid-19 in Nauru

The MV Papa Mau, which arrived in the capital on July 14, was boarded by customs and ports officials before it departed for Nauru.

Nauru authorities there report all but one of the 14 crew have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Solomons Health Minister Culwick Togamana said all the locals involved in processing the vessel are now in quarantine, and so far their Covid-19 test results have come back negative.

" It was a great relief. However, as part of ensuring that any slightest chance of this virus entering our communities is prevented all those in quarantine will continue to remain in quarantine for another 11 days and undergo further testing," he said.

Mr Togamana said all officials involved in boarding the vessel were fully vaccinated against the virus.

Detention for Tahiti man insulting Macron

A man in French Polynesia has been taken into custody for questioning for insulting the French president Emmanuel Macron shortly after he had arrived at Tahiti's airport.

Tahiti-infos reports the individual joined demonstrators lined up along the route of the presidential convoy to Tahiti's hospital.

Demonstrations by anti-nuclear groups and the pro-independence opposition are banned for the duration of the president's four-day visit..

Reports say the groups distanced themselves from the individual, saying he wasn't one of their members.

He is due in court and expected to be tried for insulting a person in public authority.

Taro, kava among top Fijian exports to NZ

Fijian rootcrops such as taro and cassava, kava and other vegetables topped agriculture exports to New Zealand amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was highlighted during the webinar on Exporting to New Zealand this week and hosted by Investment Fiji's Carline Bentley who looks after the New Zealand market.

Ms Bentley said Fiji is New Zealand's 19th largest trading partner and New Zealand is Fiji's 3rd largest export destination of goods with seven per cent of Fijian exports to New Zealand.

She said major Fijian exports to NZ include taro, medicaments, kava, cane molasses and garments.