22 Dec 2022

Pacific news in brief for December 22

2:06 pm on 22 December 2022
President Surangel Whipps Jr delivers his inaugural address, January 21.

President Surangel Whipps Jr delivers his inaugural address, January 21. Photo: Richard Brooks

Palau businesses oppose new tax

Palau businesses are petitioning the government to delay a new tax, set to come into force on New Year's Day.

The Island Times reports the petition letter, signed by more than 400 business owners, warns the Goods and Services Tax will cause undue hardship to low and middle-income Palauans and residents.

The letter states that even without the new tax law, the prices of domestic goods have increased by 4 percent, while imported goods have increased by 13-point-5 percent, citing a consumer price index report from the Ministry of Finance.

The petitioners request the new tax be delayed for at least three years to allow economic recovery.

President Surangel Whipps Jr last week warned businesses not to say that prices will increase by 10 percent due to the new tax law.

He said businesses are already paying 4 percent, and at the most, they will be adding is 6 percent.

President supports troop plan for Papua

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said he supports plans to scale back the presence of troops in West Papua.

The country's military has been accused of human rights abuses in tackling a long-running independence movement, which it denies.

Jokowi, as the president is known, says the reduction of military troops in Papua is good, but they need to continue to be stern, after appointing a new chief of armed forces.

He said otherwise armed rebel groups will always continue to operate there and "the problem will never end".

It was unclear when and by how much the military presence in West Papua would be scaled back.

When asked whether troops in Papua would be reduced, new military chief, Yudo Margono, said he would go to Papua and evaluate the situation before making a decision.

Niue government's new covid approach

The Government of Niue has announced changes to its Covid-19 response following the current community outbreak.

The response will now focus solely on managing positive cases - contact tracing and isolating close contacts will cease.

Positive cases still need to to isolate for seven days.

The number of active cases in Niue exceeded 5 percent of the resident population, as of Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, Niue had 107 active cases.

Dangerous Vanuatu prisoner escapes

A rapist and another inmate have escaped prison in Vanuatu.

The Director of correctional services, Johnny Marango, says the inmates escaped in the early hours of the morning (2-3 am) by pulling decrepit grill away from the Vanuatu Correction Medium risk facility.

One of the escapees, Simon Pakoa Willie from Tongoa Island, had been convicted of rape, and sentenced to 9 years and 10 months in jail.

The second, Pascal Daniel, from Tanna has been charged for theft and possession of cannabis.

Mr Marango says any inmate who escapes will face the consequences of up to five extra years added on to their time.

Marianas bank raided by agents

The Northern Marianas bank, the Bank of Saipan, has been raided by FBI agents.

The bank administers federal funds for small businesses and the headquarters of the police.

The raid was conducted just days after the FBI stormed the Department of Public Safety and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles last Friday, for reasons yet to be disclosed.

A bank employee said the reason the FBI raided the bank was because of an ongoing investigation into the administration of the former governor's BOOST Program, which the bank administers.

Tala move up in netball rankings

Tonga has risen place to 8th in the world netball rankings.

That's based on only 15 games the Tala have played this year, while other teams in the top ten have played up to 71 times.

Also in the rankings, the Fiji Pearls drop two places - from 15th place to 17th.

This is after the Pearls lost to Botswana twice in the Nations Cup in Singapore earlier this month.

The Cook Islands are 16th, Samoa 18th, and Papua New Guinea 36th.