Pacific news in brief for April 3

Papua New Guinea – aid

International aid has started to arrive in flood and quake hit East Sepik in Papua New Guinea.

The Post-Courier reports relief assistance from Australia arrived on Saturday.

The supplies included 250 household kits.

Provincial governor Allan Bird said they will be delivered to the most affected communities this week along with one-hundred disaster assistance kits put together by his provincial administration.

Last week, Bird confirmed three people had died as a result of the 6.9 magnitude quake which destroyed one-thousand homes.

Two others were killed in a landslide caused by heavy rainfall.

The PNG national government has injected over US$52 million (K200 million) into provincial infrastructure and emergency repairs following the double disasters.

Fiji – kava

Fijian kava producers are facing competition from the US where the market for the beverage is growing rapidly.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has told growers they need to lift their game.

Rabuka told The Fiji Times “the days of market protection are over”.

His comments follow news that a commercial kava plantation has been established in Florida.

California-based kava bar owner Tyler Thomas told RNZ Pacific the kava market in the US is growing rapidly with over 10 million kava drinkers there.

Thomas said he imports more than 8000 tonnes of kava from Vanuatu and Fiji, but complained supply was being affected by cyclones.

Fijian kava exporter Praveen Narayan said he is not intimidated by the competition, but said climate change has become a challenge with crop damage due to flooding becoming an almost annual event.

Vanuatu – kava

The Vanuatu government has its sights on developing a regional kava strategy in light of the US swooping in on production of a plant native to the Pacific Islands.

Agriculture Minister Timothy Tumukon told the Vanuatu Daily Post the government’s immediate priority is the strategy and addressing the kava marketing globally.

Tumukon said ‘Cava’ with a ‘C’ has already been trademarked by Cava Holding Company, another issue he said will be addressed in due course.

Cook Islands – UN

Cook Island opposition leader does not believe the country should be prioritising becoming a member of the United Nations (UN).

The government has already applied for International Monetary Fund membership, considered a first step in the process.

Democratic Party and opposition leader Tina Browne said there are more important issues the government should be putting its energy into.

UN membership would separate Cook Islands from Aotearoa New Zealand.

New Zealand/Pacific – cuts

New Zealand’s largest trade union says the loss of 40 percent of New Zealand’s Ministry for Pacific Peoples will hit Pasifika communities hard.

Public Service Association said the Ministry is proposing to shed 63 of 156 positions.

National secretary Duane Leo said the cuts will have far-reaching consequences for the health and wellbeing of Pasifika families in Aotearoa and across the Pacific.

Papua New Guinea – visit

The Pope’s visit to Papua New Guinea has been deferred to September.

The Post-Courier reports Cardinal Sir John Ribat, Archbishop of Port Moresby said the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, was supposed to be at the end of August but it has been moved to 6 September.

Prime Minister James Marape has extended an invitation to Pacific Islands leaders to attend the three day visit and meet Pope Francis.

While specific details of the visit have not yet been disclosed, it is expected to be a historic event that will leave a lasting impact on PNG and the Pacific Island countries.

The formal invitation, once sent, will provide further clarity on the details and schedule of the visit.

Guam – missile

A security and geopolitics analyst says the US military’s newest long range hypersonic missile system could soon be deployed to Guam.

Ankit Panda told Pacific Daily News, the US Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon – called Dark Eagle – could be deployed to Guam as early as this summer.

A hypersonic weapon is capable of traveling between five and 25 times the speed of sound or about 1 to 5 miles per second.

A report issued by the Congressional Budget Office last year suggested the missile could potentially reach Taiwan, parts of mainland China, and the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, if deployed to Guam.

Guam – prison

A proposed bill to increase prison time for meth dealers and sex offenders convicted has garnered mixed reactions during a public hearing at the Guam Congress.

Senater Chris Barnett’s Bill has proposed a ten-year increase for raping or molesting a child under 12 from a 15-year sentence to 25 years to life.

Barnett told local media recidivism among child sex predators is high and locking them up longer is what’s best.

This year alone 21 people have come forward for rape crisis services, 17 of which were under the age of 18, and seven were younger than 12.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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