22 May 2024

Pacific news in brief for May 22

3:50 pm on 22 May 2024
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Photo: RNZ Pacific / Mark Rabago

Northern Mariana Islands - drug

Customs authorities in the Northern Marianas have seized 1.3 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, hidden in instant tea and milk packaging and men's multivitamins.

The Marianas Variety reported the drugs were discovered during a routine cargo inspection.

Customs Director Jose Mafnas said they suspect the packages came from a known Asian drug syndicate in California.

He said the interception may not have a significant impact on the syndicate's operation as it is relatively cheap to produce and distribute in the United States.

Mafnas said half a kilogram of methemphatimine is worth US$800, and so syndicates adopt a shotgun approach to distribution because "whatever slips through, makes money".

He said the packages they intercepted had an estimated street value of US$300,000 in the Marianas.

Papua New Guinea - sea level

The Governor of Mandang has raised concerns over the rising sea level.

It follows a section of main road being washed away early last week.

The Madang-Highway is used by thousands of people.

The National reported Ramsey Pariwa saying a stone wall is needed, but funding issues have stalled construction.

Vanuatu - plastic

The Vanuatu government says banned single-use plastics are still being sold, used and distributed in the country.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the government wants to remind business houses and the public the ban is still in effect.

It applies to single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, single-use disposable plastic cutlery, and polystyrene takeaway boxes, among other items.

Failure to comply with the banning instructions will be dealt with by relevant Government authorities.

Fiji - Starlink

Starlink has officially launched in Fiji after being issued a license in November last year.

Company owner and tech billionaire Elon Musk shared the news on X, saying it was 99th market Starlink is now active in.

The company promises to deliver high-speed internet to the remotest regions by using thousands of satellites orbiting close to the planet.

Fiji's telecommunications authority chairperson David Eyre said there has been a lot of interest in the service.

"Starlink has finally notified the telecoms authority of Fiji that their services are online as of [Monday], so we were quite happy to have them on board as a service provider in the Fiji telecoms landscape."

Eyre said other Pacific nations already had Starlink operating before Fiji.

"We're all keen to see how this will impact the services on the ground, and more importantly the communities that will get connectivity where it does not necessarily exist at the moment."

Pacific - biodiversity

The Global Biodiversity Framework Fund has approved more than US$70 million for projects in 21 countries, including Fiji, Nauru, Palau, Samoa and Tonga.

The fund was launched last August during the Global Environment Facility Assembly in Canada, to support the Biodiversity Plan.

The projects will advance many of the Biodiversity Plan targets, and have high outcome targets for enhancing biodiversity, including support to more than 8 million hectares of terrestrial and marine protected areas.

Fiji - judiciary

More Fijian nationals have been recruited to the country's judiciary to outnumber expatriate judges.

Fiji's coalition government embarked on a plan to localise all judicial roles in Fiji courts since coming to power in December 2022.

Justice minister Siromi Turaga told Parliament on Tuesday, out of the 59 judicial officers, 50 of them are now local Fijians.

Under the previous government, there were 27 local and 28 expatriate judges.

The Fijian government said the change has reduced travel costs by a third.

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