8 Aug 2023

Pacific news in brief for August 8

1:46 pm on 8 August 2023
Police seized 891 cannabis plants from a converted bank in Temuka’s main street.

Police seized 891 cannabis plants from a converted bank in Temuka’s main street. Photo: NZ Police

Vanuatu - medicinal cannabis

Four licences have been granted for the production and export of medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp.

The Daily Post reports this was confirmed by the director general of the agriculture ministry Moses Amos.

Amos said more applications are expected to be submitted with clearance required from Interpol before they are granted.

Fiji/Cook Islands - agreement

A new development cooperation agreement between Fiji and the Cook Islands is being brokered in Suva this week.

Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown arrived in Suva yesterday and has met with his Fiji counterpart Sitiveni Rabuka.

The new agreement will focus on advancing economic cooperation, air transportation connectivity, trade and tourism, labour mobility and addressing climate change.

Later this week the two Pacific leaders will be joined by Tonga's prime minister Huakavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni for their Troika meeting as the past, present and future chairs of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Bougainville - independence

Bougainville leaders are hoping MPs in the Papua New Guinea national parliament are now better informed about the forces driving the push for independence.

The MPs will soon be asked to vote on the outcome of the 2019 referendum, in which Bougainvilleans vote 97.7 percent in favour of independence.

After a recommendation during the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting last week, Bougainville leaders spoke with the MPs on Wednesday, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding of Bougainville's historical and political background.

The MPs were told with the overwhelming referendum result it's now essential to embrace and openly discuss its outcome.

New Caledonia - drug arrests

Police say three people suspected of leading a network selling narcotics in New Caledonia were arrested last week in Nouméa.

France's interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, promised that the government will continue to strengthen the security services.

The arrests came after an anonymous tip-off.

Samoa - green event

The 2023 Va'a Federation World Distance Championship Regatta in Samoa aims to be green and plastic-free.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has partnered with Samoa's government and the Samoa Outrigger Canoe Association (SOCA) to make this happen.

Businesses and vendors contracted for the regatta have to comply with the event's plastic-free objective, and to use only eco-friendly take-away food and beverage containers.

SPREP through the Australian government funded Pacific Ocean Litter Project, will provide $US24,000 in funding support to SOCA in making the regatta single-use plastic free.

The regatta will be held in Apia from Thursday to August 19, and more than 1000 people from overseas are expected to attend.

Samoa - RSE scam

The ministry of commerce, industry and labour in Samoa says some employment agencies have been charging as much as $1000 tālā for overseas employment.

The Samoa Observer reports the minister, Leatinuu Wayne Sooialo, saying the government will clamp down on the practice.

The agencies involved are those that don't work with the ministry but directly with overseas based companies.

Tonga - dialysis

Years of talks and negotiations have resulted in a ground-breaking ceremony at Veitongo village to mark the start of the building of a new dialysis centre for Tonga.

The Minister of health, Dr Saia Piukala, said the centre is expected to open by April 2024.

He said it would be named after Siaosi Brown, a Tongan man who died while hiking Bell's Canyon in the US in 2017.

Tonga does not have a dialysis centre, forcing people who suffered from diabetes and renal failure to travel overseas to countries including New Zealand, Australia and the US for treatment.