14 Aug 2023

Pacific news in brief for August 14

5:31 pm on 14 August 2023
Aiyaz Musa, left, with Fiji Football Association president Rajesh Patel. Picture from December 2019.

Aiyaz Musa, right, with Fiji Football Association president Rajesh Patel. Picture from December 2019. Photo: Fiji Sun

Fiji - businessman convicted

A prominent Fijian businessman has been sentenced to four years in jail for "importing and exporting illicit drugs" across the region.

FBC News reports a joint investigation between Fiji and New Zealand Police has resulted in the successful conviction of Umarji Aiyaz Mohammed Musa.

Musa appeared at the Auckland District Court last Wednesday for sentencing regarding his involvement in three separate drug importations into New Zealand in 2017.

In June, Musa was re-elected as the Fiji Football Association vice president and is also a member of the FIFA governance, audit and compliance committee since May 2021.

"Chief of Intelligence and Investigations ACP Sakeo Raikaci said Musa was the mastermind behind a syndicate importing and exporting illicit drugs throughout the Pacific," FBC News reported.

He said Musa's four other associates have also been convicted and sentenced.

He will serve his term of imprisonment in New Zealand.

Hawaii - wildfires

Four members of a Tongan family have been identified among those killed by wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii last week.

Hawaii News Now reports the immigrant family were found in a burnt-out car near their home.

The victims are husband and wife Mauifonua and Faaoso Tone, along with their daughter Salote, and grandson Tony.

A statement issued by family said "the magnitude of our grief is indescribable".

93 fatalities have so far been recorded as a result of the fires.

Samoa - shark death

A 41-year-old man has been killed by a shark in Samoa when he swam to deal with a dolphin carcass.

As first reported by Radio Polynesia, the dead risso dolphin was first seen in Asaga and then floated to Lano.

Witnesses reported the dolphin was leaving a trail of blood and the man was attacked by several sharks.

He was taken to hospital but succumbed to his injuries.

Samoa - airport upgrade

Samoa's international Faleolo Airport is set for an upgrade ahead of the Commonwelath Heads of Government meeting in October 2024.

Government-owned Savali Newspaper reports an estimated 3000 or more overseas delegates and media personnel are expected to attend, including King Charles the Third.

One of the major investments from the the Samoa Airport Authority is the construction of a new VIP Lounge.

Chief executive Silimanai Ueta. Jr Solomona said construction should be completed by August 2024 and will cost the Authority $6 million tala.

A partnership with the New Zealand government sees screening equipment being donated and funded through the Pacific Security Fund at a cost of $1.5 million tala.

New Caledonia - tax reforms

New Caledonia's Territorial Chamber of Accounts is recommending the local government accelerate tax reforms to improve efficiency and modernise the tax system.

The Chamber carried out an audit of the management of tax jurisdiction used by New Caledonia between 2017 and 2021.

The period was marked by the introduction of the general consumption tax (TGC), equivalent to the VAT applied in mainland France.

The report noted a drop in tax revenue due to a lower than expected tax return from the TGC.

It said delays in undertaking a set of tax reforms by the territorial government led to massive borrowing to overcome budgetary difficulties.

Northern Marianas - bike patrol

The CNMI Department of Public Safety has relaunched its bike patrol unit in the main tourist district on Saipan.

The move was welcomed by the Marianas Visitors Authority.

The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands had earlier called for the return of bike patrols in Garapan, citing the rise in crime against tourists in the past.

The hotel association chair says with every dollar spent to attract tourists, one petty crime incident can cost thousands of dollars of damage in doing the opposite of attracting them.

Vanuatu - climate

Vanuatu has a new brand identity for climate information - Klaemet Save.

The new brand has been developed to focus attention on information products that increase the ability of ni-Vanuatu to plan for, and respond to climate impacts.

Vanuatu faces many extreme weather events such as cyclones, high temperatures and heatwaves on land and sea.

The nation has also seen more coastal flooding and inundation, and an increase in drought intensity.

Klaemet Save is an initiative of the Climate Information Services for Resilient Development in Vanuatu Project.

Samoa - MPs inquiry

A Commission of Inquiry has found Samoa has been over-represented in Parliament since its independence.

Samoa Observer reports that compared to other Pacific countries like Fiji, Vanuatu and others, the findings show there are too many Samoan MPs relative to its population and economy.

There are 51 Members of Parliament.

The commission offered recommendations for re-organising parliament including reducing the numbers to 45.

The inquiry report has been referred to a Parliamentary Committee which is to report back to Parliament with its findings.

Samoa/UN - appointment

The UN Secretary-General has appointed Themba Kalua of Malawi as the UN Resident Coordinator in Samoa.

Based in Apia, Kalua's job is to head the Samoa Multi-Country Office, and coordinate the UN development operations in the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau.

He took up his position earlier this month.

Kalua had previously served as the UN Women Country Representative in Papua New Guinea as well as doing other roles in the country.