18 Aug 2022

Pacific news in brief for August 17

8:10 am on 18 August 2022

Crew escapes burning ship; dissolution of parliament still possible in Vanuatu; and Fiji MP charged with corruption

Cargo vessel catches fire in Vanuatu

Crew on board a ship in Vanuatu had a dramatic escape as the vessel erupted into flames off South West Bay on the island of Malekula.

LC Western Star 1

Photo: Supplied

The landing craft vessel, LC Western Star 1, had been transporting fuel from the capital Port Villa.

A spokesperson for the ship's company, Silent World Shipping and Logistics, told RNZ Pacific that no casualties have been reported and the eight crew members operating the vessel are safe.

The cause of the fire is so far unknown.

Dissolution of parliament still possible in Vanuatu

The chief executive of the office of the president of Vanuatu says no decision has yet been made on whether or not to dissolve parliament amid the ongoing political instability.

RNZ Pacific has previously reported that Prime Minister Bob Loughman's request to president Nikenike Vurobaravu for a dissolution of parliament had been declined.

However, Loughman on Wednesday told RNZ Pacific he was not aware of any such decision.

State House chief executive Sam Kaipam has since confirmed that the president has not yet responded to the prime minister's request but he is monitoring the political situation closely.

This means a dissolution of parliament is still on the cards ahead of Friday's no confidence vote.

The opposition leader Ralph Regenvanu has appealed to the president not to entertain the prime minister's request and to allow the democratic process to play out.

Fiji opposition MP charged with corruption

Fiji Member of Parliament Peceli Vosanibola has been charged with corruption in the Suva High Court.

Vosanibola is accused of making false allowance claims that resulted in him obtaining just over $FJD9000 between August 2019 and March 2020.

He has been an opposition MP in parliament since 2018.

The charges against Vosanibola come a day after the imprisonment of former Member of Parliament, Tui Namosa.

A trial date for Vosanibola has been set for October.

New Caledonia hit by stormy weather

New Caledonia is experiencing heavy rain with stormy weather.

Orange vigilance, the second highest alert, is in place for the east coast, the rest of the territory is under yellow.

Roads and bus lines have been cut off in the south due to flooding with 275 mm of rain recorded in some parts.

Meteo-France forecaster Christine Esposito told La Premiere the rain will ease on Thursday morning.

FSM to elect vice president

The Federated States of Micronesia's Congress is expected to meet to elect a new vice-president in the coming weeks following the death of Yosiwo George on Saturday.

Mr George, 81, tested positive for coronavirus on July 24 and spent time in and out of Pohnpei state hospital since.

According to a government spokesperson, George, who had prior health issues, was Covid-19 negative at the time of his death.