Pacific news in brief for March 18

Papua New Guinea – fighting

A tribesman in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands says fighting has finally “calmed down” out of fear of defence personnel.

The warring tribal groups in Papua New Guinea’s Wapenamanda district in Enga Province agreed to a “three-month unconditional ceasefire” last week.

This follows a massacre which has been labelled the worst in recent history, with more than 70 people including children dead.

The tribesman told RNZ Pacific days before the reconciliation meeting mercenaries were collecting bullets for the next round of retaliation fights.

He said people are afraid to fight for now.

Papua New Guinea – dead

Twenty-three people are dead including a pregnant woman and seven children, following flash flooding and landslides in Papua New Guinea.

The National newspaper reported widespread damage in Chimbu Province after nearly a week of heavy rain.

The severe weather has caused widespread destruction in the central highlands, affecting up to 50,000.

A businessman told The National that in north Chimbu, there are huge slips, which have destroyed several villages and wiped out a bridge.

One family died when their home was swept away in a landslide.

Several communities have been left to pick up the pieces on their own, because slips are hampering relief efforts.

The local MP said teams are working around the clock to clear debris.

Vanuatu – schemes

There are calls in Vanuatu for the government to review the country’s overseas seasonal worker programs with New Zealand and Australia.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported representatives from the agriculture sector and Vanuatu’s Chamber of Commerce, appealing to the government to prevent a decline in the local workforce.

Representatives raised their concerns at the National Economic and Investment Forum last week, attended by Government officials.

Vanuatu’s Agriculture Ministry director-general Timothy Tumukon acknowledged the concerns and said that Vanuatu struggles to compete with the wage standards set by New Zealand and Australia.

Cook Islands – by-election

Independent candidate Sarakura Tapaitau has won the Penrhyn by-election held last week.

Tapaitau is the wife of former deputy prime minister and Penrhyn member of parliament Robert Tapaitau who was stood down following a conviction.

Tapaitau was three votes ahead of Cook Islands Party candidate Vaine Wichman who received 34 votes.

The Cook Islands Party-led coalition government holds 14 seats in the 24 member Parliament – three of which are independent seats.

Cook Islands – flights

Jetstar is adding a fourth weekly flight between Sydney and Rarotonga starting in April.

The airline’s executive manager customer Jenn Armor told Cook Islands News the extra weekly service will add 20,000 seats annually to the trip.

The airline resumed flights from Sydney to Rarotonga in March after a one-month scheduled pause during a period of lower travel demand.

Cook Islands Tourism chief executive Karla Eggelton told the newspaper the flight will help address the reduced capacity of flights coming out of New Zealand.

Papua New Guinea – nuclear

Papua New Guinea has become the 178th state to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The official ratification was marked on March 13th with a Treaty ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The Treaty has 187 states as signatories and 178 ratifying states, but to enter into force, the Treaty must be ratified by all 44 states listed in its Annex 2, for which nine ratifications are still required.

PNG is already a state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty of Rarotonga.

Samoa – CHOGM

Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa says the unveiling of the logo for this year’s 27th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is an important step in promoting the event.

The logo is shaped like a flower with a Samoan design, typically seen on lavalava kilts.

Fiamē said at an unveiling ceremony that her Government was working with the commonwealth secretariat to ensure a successful event.

“An event brand is usually the first thing that people will see and remember. I believe the CHOGM 2024 logo denotes the values and principles of Samoa, the Blue Pacific and the Commonwealth, and I look forward to seeing how we can use this in our work going forward.”

Apia will host the four day event between the 21-25 October.

Pacific/NZ – agreement

The University of the South Pacific and the New Zealand government have signed an to strengthen teaching capacity in inclusive education in the region.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia said the partnership is a game changer for the five countries involved in the programme: Fiji, Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands and Vanuatu.

It comes as the regional university’s are planning to move ahead with strike action over salary adjustments.

Northern Marianas – contempt

The CNMI House of Representatives has found former finance secretary David Atalig and three others in contempt for failing to answer questions on a grant program.

The panel has been investigating the controversial BOOST grant program.

Atalig, as well as three people in charge of marketing the US$17 million program, invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in responding to most of the panel members’ questions.

The House is expected to forward Atalig and company’s certified statements during the hearing to Attorney-General Edward Manibusan, so they could be prosecuted in the Superior Court.

House members contend the BOOST program awards were handed out to many of the previous administration’s cronies.

Northern Marianas – primary

Incumbent US President Joe Biden topped the Northern Mariana Islands’ Democratic Party’s first ever presidential primary after received 93 of 99 votes.

Voters across Rota, Tinian, and Saipan participated in the primary, held from March 5th -12th.

The 2024 Democratic National Convention will take place in Chicago in August, to nominate the Democratic Party’s candidates for president and vice president of the US.

The Northern Mariana Islands Democratic Party will have 11 delegates at the convention: five automatic delegates composed of party leaders and elected officials, and six delegates who were elected in the primary.

Members of the Northern Marianas’ delegation will also serve on standing committees at the Convention.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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