22 Nov 2022

Pacific news in brief for November 19

11:20 am on 22 November 2022
People wait for eye care in Vanuatu

People wait for eye care in Vanuatu Photo: Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Fiji Elections Office says it has so far received applications from almost 3,500 postal voters

The Fijian Elections Office says it has so far received applications from almost 3,500 postal voters when postal voting for the December polls opened on Thursday.

Elections supervisor Mohammed Saneem said postal voters, both overseas and local, will receive their ballot papers from courier services, DHL, EMS and the elections office.

Saneem said all postal ballots must reach the elections office by 6pm on December 14.

"Once the voters receive their postal packages, they must use the voter identification booklet and identify the candidate that they wish to vote for and then return the prepaid return envelope. This process is the same for local and overseas voters," he said.

Saneem said overseas voters can request DHL to collect their ballots from home once they have marked it.

Fiji's human rights boss has a new role

Fiji's national human rights boss has been appointed to a senior public service role just three weeks before the country holds its general elections.

Human rights and anti-discrimination director Ashwin Raj will start his new role as the permanent secretary for women, children and poverty alleviation, two days before the national polls.

During his time as the human rights director, Raj faced criticism from opposition and human rights groups for failing to call out the government on its human rights record.

The Fijian Government announced his appointment via its official Facebook page, along with 12 other permanent secretary appointments.

It said Raj, who resigned on Thursday, has significant experience as a practitioner in the field of governance, rule of law and human rights.

It said he replaces Jennifer Poole, who resigned to pursue other interests.

RNZ Pacific has contacted the Fiji human rights commission for comment.

Fred Hollows Foundation celebrates 30 years of restoring sight

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ has celebrated 30 years of restoring sight in the Pacific.

This year the foundation reached a milestone of more than one million eye care consultations throughout the Pacific, alongside local partners.

The foundation began working in the Pacific in 2002 with local partners to restore sight, train local eye health specialists, and work to strengthen local health systems.

This partnership has seen more than 81,000 people have sight-saving surgeries.

327 people have trained and graduated as eye care specialists.

There is at least one eye doctor in all of the seven key Pacific countries where the foundation works.

The Fred Hollows Foundation started as a small charity to continue the work of Kiwi eye surgeon, Professor Fred Hollows, and is now a global organisation that works in more than 25 countries.

Frebault departs from Tapura Huiraatira party

In French Polynesia, former union leader Angelo Frebault has announced his departure from the Tapura Huiraatira party.

Frebault announced the news through a letter sent to the president of the French Polynesian territorial assembly, Gaston Tong Sang.

No official announcement has been made by the party.

Frebault was previously expelled from the opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party.

He then became an independent French Polynesian assembly member before the joining the Tapura Huiraatira.

Twelve people in Solomon Islands arrested for roadblocks

Officers of the Royal Solomon Island Police Force at Yandina have arrested 12 suspects for setting up roadblocks.

Provincial Police Commander of Central Province Superintendent David Soakai said a group of men from Alocan village set up roadblocks at a logging camp armed with knives, spears and axes.

Soakai said the men entered the logging camp site, threatened them to stop their operation, and demanded $500,000 Solomon Islands dollars' cash from the company.

He said the local landowner got hold of two logging excavator keys and threatened the employer of the logging operation to stop.

The situation on the ground is still tense.

The 12 suspects have been charged with unlawful assembly and demanding.