Pacific news in brief for June 6

Guam – security

A Pacific security group has raised concerns over a decade-long proposal to test missile defences at Guam.

The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) gave the people of Guam 30 days to submit their feedback on plans.

The missile defense flight tests or target tracking exercises would be conducted from Andersen Air Force Base, or at sea from a US Navy ship in the western Pacific Ocean, twice a year over a decade.

Pacific Center Island Security chair Robert Underwood accused the MDA of caring more about war-fighting than housing insecurity for the people who live there.

He said more missiles will not protect Guam from other missiles.

The MDA has been approached for comment.

Vanuatu – crime

A senior border control officer in Vanuatu has been jailed for obtaining money by deception.

The court heard that between 17 January 2017 and 31 December 2021, Esrome Loughmani obtained money from 55 Chinese nationals, through two other people, to facilitate the processing of resident visa applications.

Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Abraham Saksak, said the officer’s actions were deliberate with some degree of planning.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported obtaining money by deception carries a maximum penalty of 12 years’ imprisonment.

Northern Marianas – casino

A controversial Saipan casino wants its suspended casino licence reinstated, before it pays off a portion of the US$62 million it owes in casino licence fees.

On top of that, the owner Imperial Pacific, owes US$14.5m in outstanding fees to the Commonwealth Casino Commission.

This comes after Imperial Pacific was allowed an interim withdrawal of US$400,000 from a $7m loan it had recently secured.

The $400,000 would go toward restructuring, with half to be paid to the CNMI Department of Public Lands for its lease of the land on which the resort and casino is built.

With the issue of cash flow clearing up following the $7m loan from Hong Kong, Imperial Pacific director Howyo Chi now wants to negotiate the reinstatement of the casino licence.

Chi said restructuring would be difficult without a licence attached to bring in investors.

Solomon Islands/Australia – visit

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, travelled to Honiara, to meet with Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele about national unity and transformation.

Minister Wong congratulated the prime minister on his appointment and listened to the new government’s priorities.

They discussed how Australia can help Solomon Islands meet its economic, social and security objectives more quickly.

“Solomon Islands is an important partner for Australia,” Wong said.

“Our two countries are close neighbours with interconnected futures.”

Fiji – apology

Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has apologised to the public for how pay rises for parliamentarians, the Speaker and President have been handled.

The Fiji Times reported Sitiveni Rabuka saying the coalition government “fell short” in handling the determination of Parliamentary Emoluments on 24 May.

He assured the nation they will work together to address the concerns raised by the people, but also confirmed there is no way to reverse the decision.

He said the finance minister has to find the money to accommodate the pay increases.

SIDS – visas

A proposal for visa-free travel among the 39 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) has been announced.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne announced the plan following the fourth international conference on SIDS, the Vanuatu Daily Post reported.

He said the conference will not be one that results in merely producing a document to be shelved afterward.

SIDS are a group of small island nations in the Pacific, Caribbean, Africa and Indian Ocean with similar sustainable development challenges.

New Zealand/Tonga – health

Tongans in Auckland have rallied in an effort to find solutions to the increasing struggles experienced by Māngalo, or dementia, patients in the community.

Kaniva Tonga reported there are an estimated 500 people in the New Zealand Pacific community including Tongans who have a Māngalo diagnosis.

In a four-hour workshop in Ōtāhuhu, calls were made for the Tongan language to be compulsory when providing advice and educating people about the disease, starting from homes.

They also addressed the need for a separate government funded service to specifically address Māngalo for the Tongan community.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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