29 Apr 2024

Pacific news in brief for April 29

2:06 pm on 29 April 2024
Vanuatu's 13th Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau

Vanuatu's 13th Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau Photo: VBTC

Vanuatu - referendum

The leader of the opposition in Vanuatu has asked the Prime Minister to defer the country's first-ever referendum until next year.

The referendum aims to overcome the nation's persistent political instability.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported opposition leader, Ishmael Kalsakau, said rural communities, which are still confused about the proposed amendments, might be poorly represented if the referendum goes ahead as planned.

In response, a Government spokesperson said the referendum cannot be postponed because the process is already underway.

Tuvalu - capsized

A boat has capsized off Tuvalu while carrying childhood vaccines and health workers.

Reuters reports a Unicef worker saying the incident underscored the challenges of healthcare in remote Pacific Islands, as they battle extreme weather caused by climate change.

UNICEF's Pacific health specialist Dr Frances Katonivualiku the health workers were rescued by islanders who took them to shore on the southern island, before they returned to the capital Funafuti.

She says they don't have many health workers, so those same people will need to recuperate and go out again.

Dr Katonivualiku, who is visiting Tuvalu from Fiji for the immunisation programme, says extreme heat also made it difficult for mothers to bring babies to receive vaccinations during the day, so they had switched to evening clinics.

UNICEF had supplied fridges to ensure vaccines are stored at the correct temperature.

Tonga - houses

An additional 17 new houses and a town hall are under construction for the 'Atata Si'i community in Tonga.

The 22 homes initially built in 2023 were not enough for all the families relocated from the island of 'Atata after the 2022 tsunami.

Ministry of Infrastructure chief executive Lopeti Heimuli told Matangi Tonga "there are quite a few" construction companies working on the project.

One of the building companies told the newspaper their goal is to finish the construction of the homes by June.

A new town hall for the village is also under construction.

The community is currently using tents for Sunday church services.

Fiji - chiefs

Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs review team says there's growing dissatisfaction with the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB), which was originally set up to help Fijian landowners.

The Fiji Times said many landowners feel the board is "out of touch" and disconnected from many landowning units.

The review said they received submissions that the board needed to be more transparent.

It said there were calls for more innovative and flexible arrangements that would allow landowners to manage and control the leasing or usage of their own lands, independent of the iTaukei Land Trust Board.

The TLTB said they are still focused on assisting landowners in maximizing returns from their land.

FBC News said interim chief executive, Solomoni Nata, has confirmed they are working with the mandate approved by the Great Council of Chiefs.

He said a team is continuing consultation with landowners and they have visited 40 out of the 77 districts in Fiji.

The board has established a Wealth Fund and other initiatives to assist landowners in developing their land and in income-generating activities.

Bougainville - innovation

An innovation hub just established in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville will aim to make financing easier for prospective business operators.

The United Nations Development Programme and Japan have launched the hub.

The UNDP's Resident Representative, Nicholas Booth, said sustaining the hard-won peace in Bougainville is not possible without the economic empowerment of its citizens.

He said the hub will include the involvement of the UN's Capital Development Fund.

"That's the entity in the UN system that really specialises in providing access to finance," Booth said.

"It's got special rules and regulations that the rest of us don't have. It's an expert at providing access to micro-finance.

"One of the big problems across PNG, and Bougainville as well, is that the cost of capital is extraordinarily high."

Hawai'i - award

Former Hawai'i governor George Ariyoshi has been honoured in a ceremony at the East-West Center, where he was awarded the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders' Loulou Award.

It was given for his significant contributions to regional relations across the Pacific region.

The Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders is a regional forum of heads of government from 20 nations, states, and territories across the Pacific.

Ariyoshi helped found this body more than 40 years ago, along with the late Fijian statesman Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Ratu has been the only other recipient of the award to date, when he received it posthumously in 2022.

The Hawaiian word 'loulou' can refer to the act of linking or 'hooking' together.

Guam - McDegree

Three McDonalds employees from Guam have graduated from 'Hamburger University' with a 'McDegree' in 'Hamburgerology'.

The three said their studies in Chicago were inspiring and influencing.

Founded in 1961, Hamburger University is known for its courses to develop essential skills in the fast-food industry.

The Pacific Daily News reported the graduates saying the training has nurtured their leadership skills and has helped them see beyond the McDonalds '"arch" and build "golden" relationships.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs