23 Feb 2024

Pacific news in brief for February 23

2:32 pm on 23 February 2024
Voters queue at a polling station in Buka during Bougainville's independence referendum, November 2018.

Voters queue at a polling station in Buka during Bougainville's independence referendum, November 2018. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Bougainville - referendum

The Papua New Guinea government has been asked to confirm when it will table the results of the Bougainville independence referendum in Parliament.

Over 97 percent of Bougainvilleans voted in favour of independence from PNG in the 2019 referendum, but the result has to be ratified by the national Parliament for it to come into effect.

The Post-Courier newspaper reported North Bougainville MP, Francesca Semoso, asking the government on Tuesday if this process was going to take place this year.

Bougainville Affairs minister Manasseh Makiba said it cannot go ahead until the government and the administration in the autonomous region agree on its parameters.

This includes whether an absolute or simple majority should be the threshold for a ratification vote; how many sessions of parliament should be allocated to the process; and whether the vote should be carried out via secret ballot.

Makiba said nothing will be tabled until consensus is reached.

Niue - health

A labor mobility scheme is being developed to address Niue's labour shortage in the health sector.

Labour mobility specialists from the Australian National University were in Niue last week, to consult with government stakeholders and kick off the pilot program.

Five nurses specializing in aged care will be brought into the country in May for a pilot period of up to six months.

This pilot program will influence the design of a long-term plan to address labour needs in other sectors.

Samoa - student

A student at Samoa's Wesley College has died after slipping and falling in the school hall.

The college principal did not wish to comment, but students told the Samoa Observer she slipped and hit her head.

She was rushed to the hospital but the doctor pronounced her dead.

The newspaper reports the police are investigating as the doctor signed the death certificate without informing the police, which is normal practice in these cases.

It's understood Wesley College, owned by the Methodist Church, presented a traditional apology to the student's family.

Samoa - resources

A family who tried to give blood for a sick relative at Samoa's national hospital were turned away because there were no blood bags.

The issue has raised concerns around the availability of critical resources for life-saving procedures.

The Director General of Health, Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma, said the shortage of blood bags was due to delays in supply of various items essential for laboratory operations.

Tonga - suspended

Tonga Member of Parliament Piveni Piukala has been suspended from the House for seven days.

The decision was handed down by the Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua, when the Legislative Assembly met in Nuku'alofa on Tuesday.

Lord Fakafanua told the House Mr Piukala, the Peoples' Representative for Tongatapu 7, used disrespectful language in the House while addressing Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni.

Piukala can return to the House on February 28th.

Fiji - drug

The case of two suspects charged in relation to the seizure of more than 12 kilograms of cocaine has been transferred to the Lautoka High Court.

As the Fiji Times reports, they were charged with two counts of unlawful possession of illicit drugs and one count of attempted unlawful exportation of illicit drugs.

The duo have been remanded and are next due in court on 4 March.

Guam - upgrade

The US Environmental Protection Agency has announced nearly US$43 million to upgrade water infrastructure for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

The US is injecting more than $22m to Guam and another $20m for the CNMI.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said the funding will be used to upgrade drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure for both US territories.

This is part of President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which sees over US$50 billion put towards upgrading America's water infrastructure.

Nearly half of the money will be available as grants, or principal forgiveness loans, to help Guam and CNMI communities most in need of water infrastructure investment.

Guam - proposal

A Guam senator has proposed a bill which would use leftover money to fund a proposed task force against drug-related crimes.

The bill would complement a previous proposal for the creation of the Multi-Agency Unified Law Enforcement Group Task Force.

The Pacific Island Times reports the bill seeks to appropriate US$11.3 million - the amount of excess revenue listed in a January report - for the Guam Police Department.

Recent statistics from the Chief Medical Examiner show there were 37 deaths last year due to methamphetamine overdose.

Cook Islands - candidate

Development economist Vaine Wichman has been chosen as the Cook Islands Party candidate for the Penrhyn by-election to be held next month.

The by-election was triggered after former member of parliament and deputy prime minister Robert Tapaitau was removed from parliament following a conviction in January.

Wichman is president of the Cook Islands National Council of Women and the director of Cook Islands Building Supplies Ltd.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs