29 Oct 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

11:16 am on 29 October 2021
Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa.

Photo: 123rf

American Samoa population drops by 10 percent in a decade

American Samoa's population count in 2020 decreased by 10.5 percent from the 2010 census.

The US Census Bureau has released the 2020 Census population and housing unit counts for American Samoa.

It says that as of April 1, 2020, the American Samoa's population was 49,710, down from the 2010 Census figure of 55,519.

The housing unit count was 11,807 in 2020, representing an increase of 7.7 percent from the 2010 Census housing unit count of 10,963.

Attack on Bougainville minister condemned

The Police Minister in Papua New Guinea's autonomous region of Bougainville has condemned an attack which left a former chief secretary hospitalised.

Emmanuel Carlos Kaetavara said the attack in Baba on Paul Kebori was the work of what he called 'criminal elements.'

Kebori is now the project manager of the new Bana Special Economic Zone, Mr Kaetavara, who is also the local MP, said the attack had nothing to do with that role.

He said the attackers were after trucks and equipment, adding that such lawlessness put the future of Bougainville at risk.

He says these people are ignoring Bougainville's aim to prove the region is secure, ready for independence and able to attract investors.

Minute of silence for Covid victims to be held in French Polynesia

French Polynesia's government is calling for one minute of silence on Tuesday 2nd November to remember the victims of Covid-19

More than 45,000 contracted the virus in the territory and 535 died from it.

In a statement the government says French Polynesia continues to suffer from the health crisis, and says, "they are our loved ones for whom we cherish lasting memories."

It says all flags on public buildings will be lowered along with the one minute of silence.

The government says it wishes to recall the heavy price paid by French Polynesia and encourage all Polynesians to remain cautious in the face of this crisis.

Resolution against nuclear weapons adopted at UN

A United Nations committee has adopted a Japan-sponsored draft resolution calling for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

In the vote, 152 countries, including Pacific Islands countries, supported the resolution, while four countries including two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia opposed it, with 30 abstaining.

Of the five major nuclear-weapon states, Britain and the United States co-sponsored the document while France, which abstained last year, voted in favor of it.

The draft resolution is expected to be formally adopted at the UN General Assembly in December.

Fiji's Rabuka confident of luring MPs

Fiji's former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka claims that opposition MPs in the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) are ready to defect and join his new People's Alliance party.

Speaking to the Fiji Times, he claimed lack of discipline and internal structural issues had highlighted how SODELPA, which he was formerly the leader of, is in disarray.

Rabuka said the manner in which SODELPA MPs and supporters openly attacked each other on social media indicated the party was not well-structured.

Earlier SODELPA leader Viliame Gavoka defended the party, saying it would "not rely on superstars", and that it was "a strong brand", more than capable of winning next year's election on its own.

Oil giants front up on climate

Senior executives from four US oil giants are giving evidence to the US House of Representatives, responding to claims the companies misled the public about climate change.

Officials from Exxonmobil, BP America and Shell are to testify, with the Oversight Committee chair, Congresswoman Caroline Maloney, saying big oil had escaped responsibility for too long.

The oil companies say they'll use the hearings to highlight their committment to tackling global warming.

This comes as Pacific Island nations, who are on the frontline of severe impacts of climate change, pin their hopes on meaningful action on reducing carbon emissions being taken at the COP26 talks in Gasgow which start on Sunday.

Gap identified in Pacific mental health services workforce

A report has found a gap in the workforce for Pacific mental health services in Aotearoa.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission has released its independent report into the New Zealand government's progress with improving the country's mental health landscape.

A large gap has existed since October 2020 between the number of staff contracted and those employed directly within mental health services.

The Commission found recruitment into the workforce challenging for Kaupapa Māori and Pacific services.

It also called on the rollout of services for Māori, Pacific peoples, and youth to be accelerated - nine Pacific services are running in seven DHB areas; but only 53 per cent of contracted staff have been hired.