27 Feb 2024

Pacific news in brief for February 27

11:40 am on 27 February 2024
Mission Aviation fellowship aircraft at a rural airstrip, Papua New Guinea.

Mission Aviation fellowship aircraft at a rural airstrip, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Mission Aviation Fellowship

Papua New Guinea - healthcare

News outlet Loop PNG is reporting women and their babies in remote areas of Papua New Guinea are dying due to a lack of basic health care.

Mission Aviation Fellowship and remote health workers in Fiyak village in West Sepik say the number of women and newborn babies dying during childbirth is high and they hope to change that.

One mother has recounted her terrifying experience of travelling by canoe for three days just so she could deliver her baby in a health centre.

She said the ordeal was frightening, but less scary than delivering her baby at home with no help.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports for every 1000 births in Papua New Guinea, nine mothers and 24 newborn babies die.

PNG has the highest rate of maternal and newborn mortality in the Western Pacific region.

Papua New Guinea/Australia - kidnappped

An Australian helicopter pilot and two crew members who were kidnapped in Papua New Guinea on Sunday have been released unharmed.

The Post-Courier newspaper reports the two local subcontractors were with the pilot of the Hevilift helicopter at a remote site in Tari, near Mt Sisa, when they were taken captive.

Commissioner of Police David Manning said in a statement on Monday night their release came after the rapid deployment of security forces who were authorised to use lethal force.

Manning said the abductors, who had been demanding a ransom, are being tracked so they can face justice.

In February last year, at Mt Bosavi in the neighbouring Hela province, four researchers including a New Zealander were rescued by security forces after being held hostage for five days.

Samoa - blacklist

Samoa is still on the European Union's anti-money laundering blacklist following a review.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer last November, Samoa International Finance Authority chief executive Tuifa'asisina Sieni Tualega-Voorwinden expressed confidence that Samoa would be removed from the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes after the February review.

The revised list released last week has shown otherwise.

Samoa is listed as one of the 12 countries that do not cooperate with the EU or have not fully met their commitments.

It's been on the list for seven years now.

Solomon Islands

High school students in the Solomon Islands marched through Honiara last week to raise awareness of the country's upcoming general election.

The "Joint Elections 2024 Electoral Walk" was organised by the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, encouraging Solomon Islanders to vote.

Electoral Commission chair Taeasi Sanga told participants that stakeholders, including the police and foreign election observers, would ensure elections would be carried out fairly.

Thirteen political parties are set to participate in the upcoming Solomon Islands general election on 17 April.

The legal voting age in Solomon Islands is 18.

Marshall Islands - flooding

Taiwan Ambassador Steve Hsia has donated $40,000 to the Marshall Islands for aid to Arno and Ailinglaplap atolls.

The atolls were hit by strong waves last month.

The Marshall Islands Journal reported Hsia said the contribution is to be divided equally between the two atolls to provide emergency humanitarian assistance.

Hsia said their assistance may not be enough to cover all reconstruction efforts, but they hope it helps bring back the smiles for affected families on the two atolls.

The Marshall Islands entered the king tide season in January, resulting in significant infrastructure damage and homes being impacted by large waves.

Farmland, roads, and airport runways also experienced seawater inundation.

Cook Islands - fights

A Cook Islands Justice of the Peace says public fighting is on the rise.

During a sentencing of three men involved in a brawl, JP John Whitta said that those who choose to fight in a public place are selfish.

JP Whitta told the men any mass fight not only poses a risk of injury for themselves, but for those around them.

He said instances of public fighting are increasing in the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands News reported that fight occurred less than three months after a brawl at Rehab Rarotonga landed two nightclub employees in hospital with stab wounds.

Vanuatu - bill

Vanuatu MPs have approved a bill to fast-track the decision-making process to support people better through natural disasters.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the amendment was introduced by Minister of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Ralph Regenvanu.

It enables timely decision-making and delivery of relief supplies to disaster victims during a state of emergency.

It means the National Disaster Committee would have a strict timeframe of 12 hours from the end of a meeting to submit its recommendations to the minister responsible, during a state of emergency.

Tonga - by-election

A by-election will be held in Tonga next month for the Vava'u 14 People's Representative seat.

Matangi Tonga Online reported four candidates will contest the March 28 by-election.

The names of the candidates released by the Tonga Electoral Commission are: Viliami Tinitali Piukala of Pangaimotu; Sione Fataua Halatanu of Hunga; Mo'ale 'Otunuku of Longomapu; and Matini Fatanitavake Ma'afu 'o Veikune Tu'itonga Veikune of Longomapu.

The seat was vacated by Dr Saia Ma'u Piukala, the former Minister of Health, who resigned on January 26, to take up a new role as the World Health Organisation Regional Director for Western Pacific.

New Zealand/Samoa - tribute

Samoa's Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) has paid tribute to Green Party MP Fa'anana Efeso Collins.

Former Prime Minister and current Opposition Leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said Fa'anana Efeso's death is a blow to the political landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand, and equally so to the people of Samoa, the land of his ancestors.

Tuilaepa said he had been watching a young Fa'anana Efeso as he strode into New Zealand politics, even when he started getting involved with student politics in Auckland.

"We were all expecting big things from him especially as he worked closely with the less fortunate in South Auckland and the Pacific Islands."

Tuilaepa offered his condolences to Fa'anana Efeso's wife and children.

Fiji/Australia - aircraft

An Australian Airforce C-27 aircraft has arrived in Fiji to assist the country in its air security operations.

The light airlift and cargo aircraft will be used for delivering cargo and evacuations.

At a welcome ceremony in Nausori Airport, Fiji Defence Minister, Pio Tikoduadua said the aircraft enhances Fiji's air capabilities.

"We are reminded of the growing threats of extreme weather and floods, and the worrying trends in elicit narcotics," he said.

"We must work together if we are to tackle the challenges facing our nations. Australia deployment of a royal C-27 aircraft behind me provides a critical building block to tackle these threats."

It will be stationed in Fiji for two weeks and serves as part of the Vuvale Partnership - a bilateral security agreement.

Maui - air

The Department of Health has deemed the air quality in Lahaina, Maui, safe in its first round of testing.

Hawaii News Now reported the health department released results last week for samples taken between January 13th and 24th - around five months on from the deadly wildfires.

Four monitoring stations tested for asbestos and other metals, including arsenic.

The Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency have installed 51 real-time air monitors in Lahaina and Olowalu.

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