20 Aug 2021

In brief: news from around the Pacific

4:43 pm on 20 August 2021
Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga

Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga Photo: Supplied

Preliminary test results in Cook Islands negative for Covid-19

Preliminary test results for Covid-19 in the Cook Islands have come back negative for the coronavirus.

The Cooks this week suspended its travel bubble with New Zealand, which is locked down at alert level 4 with health authorities trying to contain a community outbreak of the delta variant of Covid-19.

The Cooks remains at alert level 2 with concerns one of the thousands of Kiwi tourists who have been holidaying in Rarotonga over the past few weeks may have imported the virus.

Cook Islands News reports health officials were hoping to have tested around 1500 visitors by Thursday evening. Results for the first 340 tests all returned negative.

Late Thursday, the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said his nation would extend the suspension of the travel bubble at least until midnight Monday as a precaution.

He said New Zealanders currently in the Cooks, who have not been at a location of interest in relation to the New Zealand outbreak and do not have Covid symptoms, will be able to return home on a scheduled flight.

Fiji minister attacks MP's dresscode in parliament

In Fiji's parliament, Agriculture Minister, Mahendra Reddy attacked the dress code of an opposition MP.

Reddy was addressing the house, advising the opposition's Lynda Tabua to visit his ministry's website to access a report, when he took aim at her attire.

"Mr Speaker sir, look at her dress code, is this Parliament, this is not a flea market," he said.

Reddy subsequently withdrew his comment, after the opposition told the Speaker that it was misogynistic and shameful.

Polish man in West Papua jail doing okay, says lawyer

A Polish man imprisoned in an Indonesian jail after visiting West Papua as a tourist is doing okay, according to his lawyer.

Jakub Skrzypski is serving a seven-year sentence for treason after being arrested in Papua in 2018 when he was found to have consorted with Papuan pro-independence activists.

Skrzypski, who denied the treason charges, has been held at Wamena prison in Papua's highlands.

Advocates for political prisoners have been concerned about the health of Skrzypski.

However his Indonesian lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar, told RNZ Pacific that he is currently healthy.

She said the Polish consul in Indonesia had planned to visit Skrzypski in Wamena but his visit was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

Siregar said Skrzypski has applied to Indonesia's President Joko Widodo for clemency, with the application still pending.

Fiji's Consumer Council found 41 businesses violated consumer protection laws between June and August.

The watchdog noted numerous online advertisements with exclusionary clauses, which are illegal under the Commerce Commission Decree.

The chief executive of the Consumer Council of Fiji, Seema Shandil, said customers with faulty items were well within their rights to refunds, repair or exchange.

However, the uptake of business being done online due to the pandemic has come with a rise in "no refunds" notices.

Shandil said retailers should not be infringing on the right for redress.

She said it was imperative that all goods sold were of merchantable quality.

Consumers coming across businesses displaying exclusionary clauses either on digital shopping platforms or in-store, are encouraged to lodge a complaint with the Council.

US Peace Corps return to Solomons back on track

US Peace Corps volunteers could finally be returning to Solomon Islands after more than 20 years.

From 1971 to 2000, more than 700 Peace Corps volunteers served in Solomon Islands.

They were withdrawn during the Pacific country's bloody ethnic conflict at the turn of the century.

The Solomon Islands government says Peace Corps volunteers could possibly begin arriving in the country next year.