Pacific news in brief for March 22

Samoa – dengue

Samoa’s Ministry of Health says there has been an increase of dengue fever, particularly in February and the beginning of March.

Dengue fever is caused by a viral infection that spreads from mosquitoes to humans, with symptoms including fever, severe headache and vomiting.

The ministry said the majority of the cases are patients presenting to the TTM hospital in Moto’otua.

It says its National Disease Surveillance team continues to monitor the situation.

Samoa – immigration

Immigration officials are meeting in Samoa this week, under the umbrella of the Pacific Immigration Development Community.

Immigration agencies from across the region are sharing challenges around the theme, “strengthening information sharing to manage irregular migration and secure borders”.

Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministry CEO, Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo said there are challenges in intelligence networking – but the opportunity to share and discuss can lead to better coordination and a safe Blue Continent.

Kiribati – marina

The South Korean government will be funding the construction of a new marina in Kiribati.

Radio Kiribati reports this will be worth more than US$500.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development said the new wharf will be built off the Ananau Causeway in Bonriki opposite the ministry’s Eco-Farm.

The marina will be beneficial to fishermen, tourists and the public as it can be used as shelter launching pads for boats and a fish market.

Vanuatu – instability

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister says the main reason for political instability is too many political parties and politicians always switching sides.

Charlot Salwai told local media, should the government fail to uphold stability, they must consider legislating to regulate political movements.

His comments come ahead of a referendum that aims to overcome the country’s persistent political instability.

It has been set down for 29 May.

Papua New Guinea – crime

In Papua New Guinea, police prosecutors at the District Court level have been tasked with implementing a rule which means anyone convicted of a crime needs to go to their home provinces to serve their sentences.

This is under the ‘Restriction of Movement’ provision in the District Court Act.

Police spokesperson Hodges Ette said if an immigrant from Tari is arrested and charged in Port Moresby of robbery at the District Court, that person will be sent back to Tari to serve their sentence, after which they will not be allowed to return to Port Moresby.

Cook Islands

Cook Islands doctors will soon undergo training on how to prescribe medical marijuana.

Medicinal cannabis can now be imported into the Cook Islands after the Narcotics and Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill 2023 was passed on 14 December last year.

The bill allows cannabis to be imported provided it is being prescribed by an overseas medical practitioner.

Cannabis committee chair Tingika Elikana hopes the training for doctors will happen in less than six months.

Cook Islands – ban

A Fizzy drink ban in most Cook Islands primary schools has come into force this week (thu local time).

Most of the schools on Rarotonga, in Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Ma’uke and Mitiaro have signed an agreement with Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health following poor oral health results in children.

On top of that, a recent study has found Cook Islands has the highest recorded childhood obesity rate in the world.

Over 30 percent of children have obesity there.

Secretary of Health Bob Williams said the main causes are sugary drinks and processed or unhealthy food.

Palau – wage

Palau’s national congress is considering two proposals to raise the minimum wage.

The debate centres on balancing the needs of a recovering private sector facing inflation, with the rising cost of living for workers.

The Island Times reports the revised House bill proposes a first increase of 75 cents, to $4.25 an hour on October 1st, and going up to $5 an hour on 1 October 2025.

It also proposes annual increases of 50 cents until it reaches $6 an hour in 2027.

The other proposal is from Palau president Surangel Whipps Jr, whose plan caps the minimum wage at $5 per hour.

The House bill applies only to Palauan citizens, while President Whipps’ proposal extends to all workers.

Northern Marianas

Hong Kong Airlines is resuming its direct flight service to Saipan starting 28 April.

Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Christopher Concepcion told the Marianas Variety tickets can be reserved through designated travel agents.

The Hong Kong Airlines inaugural flight to Saipan was in 2016.

This time the airline will operate twice weekly between Hong Kong and Saipan in an Airbus A330 aircraft.

Fiji – bid

Fiji’s coalition government has agreed to support a Fiji National Rugby League bid to secure a license to enter teams in Australia’s NRL.

A government statement released this week confirms the decision.

Cabinet approved the Fijian Minister for Youth and Sports, Jese Saukuru, sending an official endorsement of the bid to the Australian Rugby League Commission.

It also approved including a 200 percent tax rebate for companies who wish to financially back the bid, in the Government’s 2024 – 2025 Budget process.

Pacific – visit

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, will embark on official visits to Samoa and Tonga next week.

Baroness Scotland arrives in Samoa on Monday where she is expected to meet with Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa to discuss preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Samoa will be the first Pacific Island nation to host the event, scheduled to kickoff in October.

Patricia Scotland will visit Tonga on 30 March.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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