16 Nov 2022

Pacific news in brief for November 16

2:33 pm on 16 November 2022
Students eating lunch at Marianas High School

Students eating lunch at Marianas High School Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Food payment for CNMI school children; rent avoidance probe demand; and geopolitical forum being held in Noumea

Marianas kids get backdated food coupons

The Northern Marianas has received $US6.3 million from the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service for food coupons for children who missed out on school meals more than a year ago.

The funding will be administered under the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program.

The program provides food stamp benefits to school-aged children who lost access to school meals because their school was closed or operating with reduced in-person attendance due to Covid-19.

The cover for about 11,000 children is for the period from August 2021 until May 2022.

Demand for probe into non-payment of rent in PNG

Papua New Guinea's Shadow Public Service Minister has called for an investigation into the non-payment of rent that has resulted in a number of government departments getting locked out.

Elias Kapavore has accused senior government officials of corruption and a "dereliction of duties."

The PNG government spends $US130 million every year on office rental.

But in recent months, the National Planning Department, Finance, and the Internal Revenue Commission were all locked out for non-payment of bills.

"The knock-on effects are far-reaching as the machinery of government comes to a standstill. Service delivery is compromised and provincial and local level governments are affected," Kapavore said.

Geopolitical questions being discussed in Noumea

An Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) forum is taking place in New Caledonia at the end of November.

The Association will host 50 people from Norway, Denmark, France and the European Union.

It will discuss geopolitical questions of the ocean surrounding these territories and the funding of new projects.

New Caledonia's president Louis Mapou told La Premiere the talks have high stakes.

"It is especially maritime zones that are responsible for debates and are of high geopolitical concern, therefore to be a member of OCTA is something substantial," he said.

The association represents close to 1 million people and 13 island territories.

Canada renews climate warning system for four more years

The Canadian Government has renewed its $US7.5 million climate risk early warning system, which will benefit a number of Pacific Island countries' meteorological services.

PacNews reports Canadian Minister for Environment, Steven Guilbeault, announcing the additional money at a COP27 side event, where Niue and Tonga metservices represented the Pacific.

Canada's funding recognises that developing countries in Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and increasing severe weather events.

Elders condemn language of pro-independence leader

New Caledonia's Committee of Elders has condemned the weekend speech of the head of the pro-independence Caledonian Union.

Daniel Goa warned that if France decided unilaterally to leave the decolonisation process and the Noumea Accord, it would have irreversible consequences for peace in New Caledonia.

The Committee of Elders, which was first appointed in 2017 at the behest of a former French prime minister Edouard Philippe, was tasked to watch over the language used during the referendum campaigns so as to avoid harm and tension.

It said if the goal is to impose a political vision of the future of New Caledonia, the Caledonian Union must understand that a solution can only be found through negotiation free of all pressure.

Opposition party in Samoa confirms court move over suspension

The deputy leader of Samoa's opposition Human Rights Protection Party has confirmed the party is heading to court to challenge the two year suspension imposed on their party leader and party secretary.

The Samoa Observer reports Fonotoe Lauofo Meredith was responding to comments from the Speaker of the House that Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is not recognised as the opposition leader during his suspension, but remains the leader of the party outside parliament.

Fonotoe said that it is not certain what the Court will decide in the upcoming challenge and whether the penalty can be reduced.

Mauga looking to allow licenses to purse seiner vessels

American Samoa's governor, Lemanu Mauga, has proposed legislation to give the Department of Port Administration authority to issue porting or landing licenses to US

purse seiner vessels entering the Port of Pago Pago.

A purse seiner vessel has a large fishing net.

According to the legislation, the Department of Port Administration and the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources has identified a need to establish a local licensing system for US-flagged purse seiner boats.

Tonga hosting youth rugby championship

Oceania Rugby has confirmed Tonga will host the 2022 Oceania Rugby Under-20 Trophy from November 29 to December 3.

The annual Oceania Rugby Under-20 Trophy, introduced in 2015, is a key qualification competition providing pathways for age-grade teams.

Teams from across the region are eligible to participate, excluding teams already qualified to the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.