4 May 2023

Pacific news in brief for May 4

5:27 pm on 4 May 2023
Bryan Kramer.

Bryan Kramer. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

Papua New Guinea - Kramer

Dismissed Papua New Guinea cabinet minister Bryan Kramer lost his parliamentary seat because he had impugned the chief justice in posts on Facebook.

Kramer, who had been on suspension for charges of misconduct, was dismissed on Monday by the Leadership Tribunal.

RNZ Pacific's correspondent in PNG Scott Waide said he believes the critical issue was a post that the former prime minister Peter O'Neill was soliciting help from the chief justice.

"And that they had submitted fabricated documents that could mislead the court and that the warrant of arrest against Peter O'Neill was defective. Now the judiciary has come back hard on this claim," Waide said.

"There were also other charges - that he had made illegal appointments within the District Development Authority Board. And so all of that together has brought him to this recommendation for dismissal."

Waide said the decision will affect how other politicians now use Facebook and other social media.

Kramer said he will appeal the decision, though Scott Waide said this process could well take years.

In the meantime, the voters in his Madang Open seat have no representation in parliament.

Samoa - TikTok

The Samoa government will not ban TikTok, following the New Zealand government's ban on putting the video app on government devices.

Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology, chief executive Lefaoalii Unutoa Auelua Fonoti told the Samoa Observer that Samoa, like other sovereign countries, would always discuss best practices and mechanisms to best keep citizens safe.

The CEO says it was not within the mandate of the ministry to discourage every Samoan from any ICT opportunity to receive and access information for their greater opportunities.

Lefaoalii said the Ministry is also working with the Office of the Regulator to revisit current legislation and advise on relevant amendments that require further protection and usage of social media and other platforms.

New Zealand's parliament has banned TikTok from all parliamentary devices, amid mounting international security concerns.

Vanuatu - court

The Vanuatu Supreme Court has declared vacant one of the seats of Malekula, ruling MP Asang Sanick was not qualified to stand.

The court found that Sanick should not have stood in last year's snap election, in which he won one of the six Malekula seats.

The court found that Sanick was under a suspended prison sentence for domestic violence and for breaching the Leadership Code, making him ineligible to stand.

At the time of the conviction he was a deputy speaker in Parliament.

The sentence is due to lapse in August this year.

The date for a by-election is yet to be announced.

Samoa - Fiame

Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa is among 18 Pacific Island leaders invited to meet with US President Joe Biden later this month in Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea will host both President Biden and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Fiamē will be in Port Moresby at that time for the India-Pacific Islands Cooperation Forum.

President Biden will have a bilateral meeting with PNG prime minister James Marape and meet with 18 Pacific Island leaders of the Pacific Island Forum, including Prime Minister Fiamē.

Guam - military

Public consultations are due to begin in Guam on the United States military's proposal to install a new missile defence system on the island.

This was confirmed in a statement from the territorial government on Tuesday.

It said US joint region Marianas commander, Benjamin Nicholson notified Guam's acting governor Joshua Tenorio of the US missile defence agency's plans to publish a notice of intent in the Federal Register.

This will initiate a public comment period (May 5 - June 7) for an environmental impact statement on a proposed 360 degree Enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defence System.

This will combine Army and Navy defensive missile systems with improved radar.

The move is a response to potential missile threats from North Korea but also occurs amid ongoing tensions with China over Taiwan and disputed jurisdictions in the South China sea.

Guam already hosts three major US military bases and around 10,000 troops.

Vanuatu - sink

Vanuatu currently has no search and rescue resources, which will mean delays in responding to distress calls in the near future.

The Daily Post newspaper reported the Vanuatu Maritime Safety Authority confirming it was unable to respond to a recent distress call issued by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Noumea when the LC Urata Riki was sinking off Efate on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Urata Riki, MP John Amos, says the vessel had just spent 40 days on the slipway, at a cost of US$131,000 and was in perfect condition.

He told the paper that many parts of the vessel were replaced with brand new parts.

Amos said the vessel was also not overloaded as many had speculated on social media.

The vessel was bound for the southern islands, carrying aid assistance for the victims of the twin cyclones two months ago.

Papua New Guinea - power

The money owed by Papua New Guinea electricity provider, PNG Power, to the country's independent power producers is more than $US142 million.

Chair of the IPPs David Burbidge said these companies provide most of the electricity used by PNG Power and the increasing debt could lead to collapse.

The Post Courier reported that power blackouts are common around the country, but it quotes the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rio Fiocco, saying it is worse in the smaller cities.

He said in Moresby power blackouts have been happening fairly regularly lately, in towns such as Wewak, Vanimo, Kavieng and others, they have blackouts that sometimes last the whole day.

Focco said that was because PPL is not supplying diesel for the generators.

Pacific - shipping

Participants from Marshall Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati have gathered in Suva to discuss a strategy for negotiations at the International Maritime Organizationon.

The six country representatives are workshopping on charting the way forward to reduce shipping emissions which is in line with the UNFCCC's 1.5 degrees target.

It is day two of the briefing and organisers say its been productive thus far with discussions on levels of ambition and governing principles.

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