24 May 2023

Pacific news in brief for May 24

2:04 pm on 24 May 2023
Palau Chief Compact Negotiator and Finance Minister Kaleb Udui Jr and US Special Envoy Joseph Yun sign the agreement watched on by Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Palau Chief Compact Negotiator and Finance Minister Kaleb Udui Jr and US Special Envoy Joseph Yun sign the agreement watched on by Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Office of the Palau President

Palau/US - compact signing

Palau and the United States have formally signed the Compact Review Agreement in Papua New Guinea.

Under this second Compact Review, Palau's Whipps administration says it has secured a financial package of $US 889 million over a 20-year period.

The Island Times reports $20 million is for annual funding of government operations for 20 years, with $5 million in annual funding for infrastructure and $5 million annual funding for maintenance.

Included under the new Compact Review Agreement are also non-financial programmes such as the continuation of the US Postal Service to Palau.

PNG - defence agreement

The US is waiting on PNG before publishing both the Shiprider agreement and Defense Cooperation Agreement which were signed in Port Moresby on Monday.

A spokesperson for the US embassy in PNG says the document is to be made public.

At their end all the boxes have been ticked but PNG still have a formal process to go through.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has promised the agreements will be made public when the process is complete.

The US will publish the pact on the state treaty website after getting the all clear from PNG, to respect their process.

French Polynesia - nuclear weapons

A French Polynesian member of France's National Assembly has queried France's compensation to the territory for nuclear weapons tests.

Tematai Le Gayic used the debate about defence spending to ask what the real level of compensation has been for French Polynesian families affected by the tests.

He said France prides itself for having a nuclear deterrent but noted that Paris would not have condoned nuclear tests 300km from Paris.

Le Gayic said such proximity to populated islands existed when the French military tested its weapons at Moruroa.

Samoa - rainbow issues

The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa is to ask the Samoa Government to refrain from discussing same-sex marriage and transgender issues.

These developments follow discussions in Parliament earlier this month, during which, the Human Rights Protection Party deputy leader Lauofo Pierre Lauofo, said that Samoa's "third gender" is accepted into the community and society.

Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa has said previously that while Samoan law is vague on matters such as same-sex marriage, it is still illegal for people of the same sex to have intimate relationships.

Cook Islands - cannabis

A Cook Islands government spokesperson says members of the country's Cannabis Referendum Committee aim to go to New Zealand next month as they prepare to make medicinal cannabis legal.

The spokesperson said the committee will investigate lessons learnt for licensing and prescribing medicinal cannabis products on the trip.

The committee chairperson, Tingika Elikana, said in order to develop a regulatory framework for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis research needs to be carried out in countries where it is legal.

French Polynesia - meth

Two corrections officers in French Polynesia have been remanded, accused of smuggling methamphetamine into Tahiti's Tatutu prison.

La Premiere reports the two - a man and a woman - had been held for questioning for four days before charges were laid.

The report said the two had allegedly provided drugs and a mobile to an inmate, who is serving an 18-year jail sentence for murder.

Last month, a video surfaced of another inmate smoking methamphetamine with a prison guard.

That inmate was due to be tried next week but has since died.

Fiji/India - medal

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received Fiji's highest medal - the Companion of the Order of Fiji.

Fiji's Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka presented the medal to Modi in a personal meeting in Port Moresby during the 3rd Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation conference.

On Facebook, Modi expressed his gratitude for the award and commended the strong ties between India and Fiji.

Cook Islands - budget

New Zealand's Prime Minister has promised $NZ15 million in emergency budget support to the Cook Islands in its ongoing recovery from the impacts of covid-19.

Chris Hipkins said the support was confirmed during a meeting with the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown in Papua New Guinea.

Hipkins said the Cook Islands' 41 percent economic contraction from covid-19 can not be under-estimated.

He said the funding would go to the Cook Islands Government to continue delivering essential services.

New Caledonia - fugitive

A fugitive convicted drug dealer wanted in France for 15 years has surrendered to police in New Caledonia.

The public broadcaster La Premiere said the man, originally from New Caledonia, gave himself up at Noumea's international airport.

He had been sentenced to seven years in prison in France for running drugs internationally.

The man, who is in his late 40s, said he used several identities and of late, he was hiding in the Philippines.

But being unable to meet family members he said he decided to surrender, because he felt he was living in an open prison.

He is now due to be tried again in France in a month.

Pacific - bees

An Australian academic is hoping the first-ever Beekeeping Congress in the Pacific Islands will foster the growth of family businesses in the region.

More than 200 beekeepers from 10 Pacific countries are in Nadi in Fiji to network, share lessons learnt and gain new skills and knowledge.

Southern Cross University lecturer Cooper Schouten is leading the project that follows research funded by Australia's Centre for International Agricultural Research.

Dr Schouten said a key focus is develop capabilities in regional honeybee bio-security development.