23 Nov 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

5:49 pm on 23 November 2021

More New Caledonia domestic flights, Fiji police hunt Covid-19 vaccine card fakes, Vanuatu Ombudsman found in breach of law; and more.

Fiji police investigating vaccination card sales

Fiji police are investigating the alleged sale of fake Covid-19 vaccination cards by health workers.

The health ministry was working with officers to help identify culprits, the police said.

Health minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said he was concerned that "some members of his staff" had allegedly been issuing the fake vaccine passes.

More than 90 percent of eligible people in Fiji are fully vaccinated.

More New Caledonia domestic flights

More domestic flights in New Caledonia will be available from tomorrow, with links to Mare reopening.

Air Caledonie had its services disrupted for weeks, in part because of opposition to the Covid-19 health pass needed for air travel.

Last week, it restarted flights from Noumea to the outer islands Ouvea, the Isle of Pines and Lifou.

The carrier says with occupancy at around 50 percent, there will be three flights a week, but from mid-December daily flights are expected to resume.

Air Caledonie

Air Caledonie Photo: supplied FB

Lockdown lifts in Bougainville

Life in Bougainville has returned to a degree of normality this week after two weeks of lockdown to try to control the spread of Covid-19

The 14-day lockdown ended at midnight Sunday night.

Regional Pandemic Controller Clement Totavun thanked the people for following directions and said this was the reason they could now lift the restrictions.

Markets and schools are now open, while nightclubs must stay shut.

Totavun has reminded people to continue to follow the health protocols.

Tonga airline sale could be imminent

Tonga's government is reportedly preparing to sell off its airline Lulutai to private company Flyniu.

Real Tonga failed last year, leaving the country without domestic services.

News outlet Kaniva Tonga has now reported that the government has reached an in principle agreement to sell.

Interim Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu'i'onetoa previously said the government established the start-up Lulutai Airlines to make sure services continued after Real Tonga failed.

New Caledonia electoral roll restrictions to ease after referendum

A leading anti-independence politician in New Caledonia says after next month's referendum on independence from France the current restricted electoral roll will be gone.

Under the term of the Noumea Accord, only long-term residents and indigenous Kanaks can vote in the referendum, which excludes tens of thousands of more recent arrivals.

Southern Province president Sonia Backes said such an expansion of the electorate would be in line with the assessment of the Noumea Accord by the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2023, Paris wants to hold another vote on New Caledonia's future status, and Backes said all voters should then be allowed to take part.

The pro-independence parties have called on their supporters to abstain from voting next month after France rejected repeated calls to postpone the vote until next year. They said the impact of the pandemic on the Kanak people was not conducive to campaigning.

In the two previous referendums under the Noumea Accord, a majority rejected full sovereignty.

90 percent of Fiji population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The Fiji Ministry of Health says 90 percent of the country is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

It says as of 17 November, 600,140 people or 97.1 percent of the eligible population had received one dose, with 556,322 or 90 percent having got two doses.

The Ministry says although these milestones mean the easing of restrictions, Covid-19 is still in Fiji and people must continue to exercise caution.

Fiji eases curfew

Fiji's curfew hours have been moved to midnight until 4am, effective last weekend.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in October that once 90 percent of the target population were fully vaccinated, the curfew would be moved to midnight from 11pm.

Fiji reopened its international borders on 11 November and will welcome vaccinated tourists on 1 December.

Vanuatu Ombudsman found in breach of law

Vanuatu's Court of Appeal has deemed a search warrant granted to the Ombudsman, Hamlison Bulu, illegal.

Bulu had sought a search warrant for the home of the Director General of the Ministry of Finance, Letlet August.

Vanuatu Ombudsman, Hamilson Bulu

Vanuatu Ombudsman, Hamilson Bulu Photo: RNZ Pacific / Heather Maraki

But the warrant was granted by the Magistrate's Court, not the Supreme Court, as the law requires.

The judges declared the search warrant unlawful and ordered Bulu to pay August $US1533.

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