18 Oct 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

4:25 pm on 18 October 2021

Death toll rises in Hawaii; MP shocked at hunger on Bougainville island; and Marshalls' census nearly finished

Four more covid deaths in Hawaii

Hawaiian Department of Health officials report four new coronavirus-related deaths and 140 new confirmed and probable infections statewide.

The latest figures brings the state's totals since the start of the pandemic to 866 fatalities and 82,250 cases.

State health officials have been including probable infections in its total case counts.

Health officials also said the state's total infection count - 2,208 cases - are considered to be active.

PNG's O'Neill found not guilty on abuse of office charge

Papua New Guinea's former prime minister, Peter O'Neill, has been found not guilty of a charge of abuse of office.

The MP was charged over the approval of state funds for the purchase of two diesel generators from an Israeli company when he was prime minister in late 2013.

It was alleged that O'Neill failed to follow due processes under the Public Finances Management Act in the 14-million US dollar purchase.

But Justice David Cannings ruled that the State had failed to prove that "any abuse of authority had occurred, let alone wilful abuse".

O'Neill said the purchase was necessary to address frequent power blackouts.

51 new cases in Guam

Fifty-one new cases of Covid-19 were reported by Guam's Department of Public Health over the weekend.

The Guam Daily News says additional test results are pending from other clinics.

Guam has had 16,846 officially reported cases, including 222 deaths.

There are 3,098 cases in active isolation.

MP shocked at levels of hunger on island

A Bougainville MP is calling on the government to act for the hungry people of the Carterets in Papua New Guinea.

Amanda Masono-Getsi regards the remote atolls as her home and visited there this past week.

Bougainville Atolls

Bougainville Atolls Photo: courtesy of Cathnews

She said she was stunned by what she found on the low-lying islands, which have been suffering the impact of climate change for some years.

The MP said sea water intrusion means few foods can now be locally grown so people have a poor diet.

"You go home and you see people smile but the reality is they probably have not had breakfast or lunch. Although they have a surplus of marine resources that can be supplemented by pawpaw, right now those other garden plants are not grown back in the islands. So what they eat now is just banana and breadfruit, the conditions are really hard."

Extra food supplies are delivered by the government in Buka from time to time but Ms Masono-Getsi says it is not enough.

She wants a comprehensive study into what can be done to help the islanders return to a sustainable existence.

There is already a scheme to move people to the mainland and Ms Masono-Getsi said more want to make such a move.

She said the government should step up here as well and ensure these people have full access to land.

Marianas action on rubbish

The Northern Marianas is looking at universal rubbish collection as a way of addressing its decades-old problems with trash, littering, and illegal dumping.

Governor Ralph Torres has formed a task force to look into the problem.

He said likely solutions include better use of landfill, increasing recycling, and harnessing the transformation of waste to energy in the long term.

Mr Torres said the task force is responsible for reviewing existing plans, studies, and recommendations for the establishment of a Universal Garbage Collection system.