21 Mar 2024

Pacific news in brief for March 21

3:34 pm on 21 March 2024
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Photo: AFP

Samoa - guns

An opposition MP in Samoa's parliament has raised questions around gun laws needing to be updated.

There was a drive-by shooting in Samoa at the weekend, which led to the hospitalisation of a 21-year-old man after sustaining gunshot wounds.

As the Samoa Observer reported, the Arms Ordinance Act, enacted during the New Zealand administration in 1960, is still used today.

There was debate in the House on Tuesday on what has been called an "outdated law", with the opposition's Leaana Ronnie Posini saying there has been an increase in gun related incidents.

A Police Ministry spokesperson said there are issues in the licensing system, weaknesses in controlling firearms and inconsistencies in the armoury register.

Leaana urged the government to repeal the Arms Ordinance Act before tragedy strikes.

Parliament has been adjourned until May.

Papua New Guinea - sentencing

Police prosecutors at the District Court level have been tasked with implementing a rule which means anyone convicted of a crime needs to go to their home provinces to serve their sentences.

The Post-Courier reports this is under the 'Restriction of Movement' provision in the District Court Act.

Police spokesperson Hodges Ette said for example, if an immigrant from Tari is arrested and charged in Port Moresby at the District Court, that person will be sent back to Tari to serve their sentence, after which they will not be allowed to return to Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea - dismissed

A senior National Court judge in Papua New Guinea has dismissed an expatriate prisoner's request to have his sentence suspended due to poor health.

A submission has been made by a 52-year-old Italian drug trafficker, whose lawyer initially asked that his client who has cancer be given mercy of the court and have part or the whole of his sentence suspended.

He has been admitted to the Paradise Private hospital but continuously brings to court complaints that he is not being treated well.

Judge Panuel Mogish said the court wants to maintain a standard for both non-citizens and citizens of Papua New Guinea.

Fiji - chemsex

Health officials in Fiji are worried about the spread of HIV during chemsex sessions.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinic spokesperson Dr Dashika Balak said chemsex is when drug users pop pills, share needles and engage in group sex was a "crisis".

She said a rise in new HIV infections has been linked to chemsex so officials are working on strategies to address the problem.

Balak said health teams have already been working hard to address a new wave of HIV cases and now chemsex has added an extra layer of concern.

Health Minister Dr Atonio Lalabalavu told Parliament last week HIV numbers jumped from 245 in 2022 to 415 last year.

Vanuatu - boat

China has donated six boats to Vanuatu in an aid package worth VT239 million (almost US$2m).

The Vanuatu Daily Post is reporting Prime Minister Charlot Salwai received the funds to help the country which is recovering from tropical cyclones Judy, Kevin, and Lola.

The funds are to go towards managing natural disasters, and implementing the National Sustainable Development Plan.

The Prime Minister's Public Relations Officer, Hilaire Bule, said the Chinese Government was the first to offer assistance to the Vanuatu Government following the Development Partners meeting held at Ramada Resort last week.

Northern Marianas - shortfall

The Commonwealth Medicaid Agency incurred a US$30 million shortfall in the 2023 financial year after going beyond its $65m allotment.

This was due to an increase in enrollees.

Delegate Gregorio Sablan had asked US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to help pay the nearly $9m the local Medicaid office owes to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation.

Sablan said if Medicaid does not address the shortfall it will gravely threaten access to healthcare services for all patients in the Northern Marianas.

Northern Marianas - revenue

Revenue for the Northern Marianas is set to be lower for the 2024 financial year, due to declines in imports of general commodities and high tax-value items such as cigarettes and alcohol.

Finance secretary Tracy Norita said although an uptick in tourism arrivals from flights and cruise ships has contributed to the increase in Hotel Occupancy tax revenues, it has not been sufficient to offset declines in other revenue categories.

The finance department said it will continue to track revenue collections to determine to what extent the current budget will need to be adjusted.