1 Dec 2023

Pacific news in brief for 1 December

5:58 pm on 1 December 2023
Former prime minister Tuilaepa Sai'lele Malielagaoi (left) and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi

Former prime minister Tuilaepa Sai'lele Malielagaoi (left) and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi Photo: Supplied

Vanuatu/France - rebuild

Members of the French army based in New Caledonia have been deployed to Port Vila, Vanuatu, to help rebuild a French school.

Most of the buildings of Sainte Jeanne D'Arc were destroyed by the twin tropical cyclones, Kevin and Judy, early this year, and the administration building was severely damaged.

More than 1,000 children have been doing this year's school programme under tents and temporary shelters.

The school's administration says the army was assigned to repair two buildings and the hall, due to the availability of funds and materials.

Samoa - fined

Samoa's Attorney General has fined Samoa Airways after the airline allowed Samoa's former Police Associate Minister Fepuleai Faasavalu Faimata Su'a to board the flight without a valid permit to enter American Samoa.

The Samoa Observer reported Su'a was subsequently asked to resign from his post.

He did not have a 30-day entry permit and he did not obtain a seven-day waiver for an entry permit or an 'OK to Board' permit prior to his arrival in American Samoa.

Samoa Airways has been fined US$500.

The airline's chief executive and Samoa government officials have apologised for the non-compliance.

Samoa - ruling

The decision on the Speaker's appeal on Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese's ruling that quashed the suspension of the Human Rights Protection Party leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and the party secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi has been reserved.

The Speaker's appeal stemmed from the Chief Justices ruling against Parliament's decision to suspend Tuilaepa and Lealailepule for two years.

In May 2023, Chief Justice Perese found Tuilaepa and Lealailepule guilty of Contempt of Parliament and referred the matter back to Parliament to revisit its earlier decision as the suspension was for an "indefinite" period of time.

Parliament then set a two-year suspension for both Members of Parliament and again the matter ended up in Court which o quashed the two-year suspension as unconstitutional and for Parliament to reinstate the MPs.

That Supreme Court decision is the focus of the Speaker's appeal.

Samoa - remuneration

The Samoa opposition members reinstated by the Supreme Court with orders that they are entitled to their remuneration and backpay since suspension, have only received a portion of the payment.

Opposition Leader, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, and party secretary, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, were reinstated by the court in July this year, and it also ordered that they be paid their back pay from May 2020.

But while Cabinet has endorsed payment for the pair, neither has received payment for the first suspension.

Tuilaepa confirmed this is a recent press conference.

This prompted a follow-up letter from the member's lawyer, Fuimaono Sefo Jr Ainuu, to the Speaker of the House and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly querying the matter.

Fiji - pregnancy

Fijian authorities are struggling to come up with effective policies to address the high number of teenage pregnancies in the country.

This week, the country's health ministry revealed that over 5-thousand cases of teenage pregnancies have been recorded between 2018 and 2022.

Majority of the cases involved girls between the ages of 15 and 19, while about 100 cases involved girl under 15 years old.

Health Minister Atonio Lalabalavu told FBC News his ministry's role is to ensure the safe delivery for teenage mothers.

He said a "crucial strategy" to address the issue for his ministry is to be more present in schools and rural communities.

American Samoa - regulations

American Samoan Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga has served notice to directors of government agencies that they need to follow the procurement rules and regulations on all projects.

He said any project underway without a properly executed contract must stop.

In a statement, Governor Mauga wrote that good governance and financial management practices require that the established procedures for government contracting are followed.

He further ordered that from 8 December, vendors or contractors working on projects that are not in compliance with the procurement and contracting rules and procedures won't be paid.

Cook Islands - rats

A rat eradication programme that started in mid-August on a remote Cook Islands atoll has wrapped up.

Palmerston Island, which has fewer than 50 residents, is about 500 kilometres away from Rarotonga and can only be accessed by boat.

Four and a half tonnes of rat bait was distributed across 70 hectares in three applications.

The island's executive officer Arthur Neale said rats have been a problem on the atoll for over a century , but he hopes seabirds will now return.

Northern Marianas - medical

The Northern Marianas' Healthcare Corporation is providing uninsured patients with free medication under an assistance programme.

Chief executive Esther Muna said that through the Merck Patient Assistance Programme uninsured patients can receive free medicines including insulin and those for chemotherapy.

She said now they have an out-patient pharmacy they can provide access to the programme.

The Marianas Variety reports the medication is donated by philanthropists or the manufacturers themselves.

Palau - interpol

Palau has been accepted as a member of INTERPOL, the International Police Cooperation.

Minister Gustav Aitaro represented Palau in Vienna where it was announced.

He said the nation is looking forward to this new chapter, which will aid ongoing efforts to combat international crime, strengthen borders, and foster international cooperation.

He said having access to INTERPOL's systems and data enables Palau to share and access crucial information, a capability that has been growing over the years.