26 Jul 2023

Pacific news in brief for July 26

6:41 pm on 26 July 2023

Bougainville- defence

The navy of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is to enter Bougainville on humanitarian grounds.

The PNG Defence Force and other armed forces have not been allowed into Bougainville since the end of the Bougainville Crisis in 1997 and the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001.

Under the Peace Agreement, engagement of the PNG armed forces in the region can only be allowed through approval by the Bougainville Government.

According to the Post Courier, the national government has announced the PNG Navy was being deployed to Bougainville to assist with relief efforts after Mt Bagana erupted.

Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama had asked PNG Prime Minister James Marape for help.

The continuing volcanic eruption has dumped ash and smoke over a wide area of Central Bougainville Island, polluting waterways and destroying food gardens, with a number of traditional houses collapsing from the weight of the ash.

Pacific - climate

The Commonwealth Secretary-General is calling for a more inclusive fiscal system that drives financial resources towards climate action, particularly for climate-vulnerable countries.

The World Tourism Organization's Summit is underway in Mauritius, East Africa.

Baroness Patricia Scotland, who is there, told RNZ Pacific states were disproportionately impacted by debt, climate and economic risks, something she is to highlight in her speech.

Solomon Islands - citizenship

A Solomon Islands MP says the Citizenship Act should protect Solomon Islands from immigrants who take advantage of opportunities and the country's weak administrative systems.

West Kwaio MP Claudius Tei'ifi said there was widespread abuse and exploitation of locals, especially women and girls, from immigrants who come through the process under this Act just to serve their own interests and hidden agendas.

Tei'ifi, who is also the Opposition MP, cautioned the Citizenship Commission Board to be vigilant when accepting immigrants.

He said the Commission should carry out audits on the citizenship status of immigrants annually.

Niue - office

The Asian Development Bank, or ADB, has opened an office in Niue.

The bank's Director General for the Pacific, Leah Gutierrez, says the Niue office will boost responsiveness to the development needs of the bank's newest member.

The ADB is helping Niue in developing its renewable energy sector, in collaboration with the New Zealand Government.

The bank is also helping the country build resilience against economic shocks and supporting its recovery from the pandemic.

Niue - tax

The Niue Government says it will investigate the country's high departure tax.

There has been ongoing criticism that, at $NZ150 dollars per person, it is too high.

BCN reported that that rate makes Niue's tax the highest in the world, and four times that of Tonga.

It means high airfares, with the tax built in, while there are fears that yachties will see it as prohibitive and by-pass the country.

Niue's finance Minister, Crossley Tatui, said the government will look into the real impact of charging the high departure tax and make a determination based on the facts.

Solomon Islands - court case

Solomon Islands police are calling for calm in the capital Honiara as a judicial challenge to the government's controversial extension of the life of the current parliament is listed for mention in the High Court on Thursday.

The civil case challenges the legality of a constitutional amendment, passed in 2022, deferring the dissolution of the country's parliament scheduled for this year, by seven months.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said at the time this was necessary as the country did not have the funds to host the Pacific Games, which kick off in November, and hold an election in the same year.

However the opposition leader, Matthew Wale, decried the move saying it was a violation of the democratic rights of Solomon Islanders and a ploy to hold onto power.

Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau urged members of the public to remain calm and called on businesses to remain open saying the court appearance was simply for mention and not to make any decision or ruling on the case.

American Samoa - inmates

Inadequate staffing was cited by those in charge of the American Samoa Correctional Facility as the reason why inmates can escape.

American Samoa has opened a new detention facility at the Territorial Correctional Facility.

American Samoa has expanded its Territorial Correctional Facility Photo: RNZI Monica Miller

According to warden Papali'i Marion Fitisemanu, 326 inmates are currently detained at the TCF, of whom 222 have not had their cases adjudicated.

He told a hearing of the House Public Safety Committee that sometimes only 3 or 4 guards look after more than 300 inmates.

The hearing focussed on why the inmates continually able to leave the TCF and the same ones escaping each time, without any appearance of something being done to prevent them from doing so.

Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui, Representatives Manavalofa Manase, Ape Mike Asifoa, Sauasetoa Toloai Ho Ching and others said the prison escapes are concerning because the lives of people are at risk every time an inmate leaves the TCF.

Department of Corrections director, Tauanuu Semo Faisiota, when asked about inmate Joeita Faaaliga who holds the record for the most escapes, he said whenever the inmate was hungry, he leaves the jail.