1 Mar 2024

Pacific news in brief for March 1

10:10 pm on 1 March 2024
2024 Joint Election Walk awareness program 23 February 2024.

2024 Joint Election Walk awareness program 23 February 2024. Photo: Solomon Islands Electoral Commission

Solomon Islands - politics

Solomon Islands caretaker prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has taken a shot at his political rivals on the campaign trail.

The Democratic and Democratic Alliance parties plan to scrap policies made by the caretaker government.

The parties which formed a pre-election coalition want to reverse a recent pay rise for MP's and give public servants a 15 percent boost.

At a campaign rally in the Western Province, Manasseh Sogavare rubbished the promises calling them unrealistic.

He said the country is still recovering from the 2021 riots which left a hole in government revenue of just over US$38 million (SBD$318 million).

The joint national and provincial elections have been set down for April 17.

Samoa - dengue

Samoa's Ministry of Health has warned of possible dengue fever outbreaks following heavy rain in the past months.

The Samoa Observer reported Director-General of Health Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma said Samoa has surpassed a crucial threshold, prompting the Ministry of Health to launch an awareness campaign.

He did not explain what the threshold was.

The last dengue outbreak in Samoa was in 2017 - 2018, with almost 3,000 cases and five deaths.

Symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea, and rash.

Meanwhile, the Tuvalu Department of Health has launched a typhoid vaccination campaign with the help of Australia and UNICEF.

Marshall Islands - nuclear

The Marshall Islands wants a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons amended before it's ratified.

President Hilda Heine told Kyodo News that if certain provisions in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are not changed they cannot move forward.

President Heine said the existing language of the treaty states that nuclear-affected countries are responsible for victim assistance and environmental remediation - in other words, the Marshall Islands needs to clean up the 'mess' and harm the US caused.

March 1 marks the 70th anniversary of the most powerful US nuclear bomb test in the Marshall Islands at Bikini Atoll.

It exposed islanders and 23 crew members on a Japanese tuna fishing boat to radioactive fallout.

Hilda Heine said the harm caused by 67 US nuclear tests, conducted from 1946 to 1958, are still being felt.

Pacific - ChatGPT

The University of the South Pacific is creating a policy to deal with ChatGPT.

Emalus campus director, Ruben Bakeo Markward, said the policy will come into effect by the end of this year.

Markward said this policy will provide clear directives on how ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence or AI technologies can be leveraged.

He said the university actively supports the integration of advanced technologies, but its application must be approached responsibly and ethically.

Markward said the work that is not wholly the product of a student's own effort, including any content generated or modified by AI technologies, without proper citation, constitutes a breach of academic integrity standards.

The Vanuatu Daily Post spoke to several USP students who have been utilising the AI tool in question.

One said it's a useful resource when you hit a roadblock, but it shouldn't be a substitute for genuine effort.

Hawaii - marine reserve

The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued draft designation documents proposing a national marine sanctuary for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Papahānaumokuākea is part of Hawaii, about halfway to Midway Island.

The president of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Joel Johnson, said "Papahānaumokuākea is a crown jewel of our ocean recognized by UNESCO for its cultural and natural wonders".

He said it is uniquely meaningful and sacred in native Hawaiian culture, and is also very biologically diverse.

But Johnson said its ecosystem and biodiversity are under threat from marine debris and a changing climate, and for that reason deserves the utmost protection from the law.

"National marine sanctuaries are our best tool to highly protect places such as Papahānaumokuākea."

Sanctuary status would offers a durable layer of protection that goes beyond that of national monuments, thanks to the comprehensive sanctuary designation and inclusive management of native Hawaiians.

Johnson said under this status, Papahānaumokuākea would remain a place that inspires the world and remain a lasting source of solutions against climate change and biodiversity loss.

"We fully support the designation of Papahānaumokuākea as a national marine sanctuary to safeguard its wonders for the people and wildlife who depend on it, and we thank NOAA and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries for committing to its protection."