THIS WEEK IN OCEANIA Nov 5 2009
TONGA — RUSTBUCKET ENQUIRY. MV Princess Ashika was a disaster waiting to happen, rotten with rust, with deck vents blocked so water couldn't run off. She sank at midnight on August 5 with loss of 72 souls. Now a Royal Commission of Inquiry is revealing the full extent of her condition at the first public hearing.
Tonga's transportation minister, Paul Karalus, resigned six days after the tragedy, and the Tongan Women's National Congress is calling for prime minister Fred Sevele to be sacked. However the same body is doubting the findings of the inquiry will ever be implemented, and AAP reports president Mele ' Amanaki saying what happens with them is usually up to the king.
'While I have confidence in the commissioners I unfortunately have little faith the results will ultiimately be made public or acted on' she said
Tongan government marine engineer Mosese Faka has produced 37 photographs revealing massive holes and heavily corroded sides, some newly painted.
Among witnesses at the inquiry were representatives from the owner, Shipping Corporation of Polynesia. The Japan-built craft had been owned and operated out of Fiji by Australian company Patterson Brothers Shipping Company. Ironically she was purchased by Shipping Corporation of Polynesia at the behest of the Tongan government to replace interisland ferry MV Olovaha because of its poor condition. The full report is expected to be published in April 2010.
SAMOA — POISONED WATERS. UNICEF reports that it is supplying water by tanker to almost 3 000 people displaced by the tsunami a month ago and living in temporary accommodation inland. But many people are sick after immersion in polluted high pressure sea water, according to Michael Field in the Wellington Dominion Post. 'Tsunami lung' is the result of dangerous levels of 'superbugs' — multi-resistant organisms — which require aggressive treatment with antibiotics which Samoa cannot afford. Children are especially vulnerable, he said quoting Dr Teuila Percival who worked with the New Zealand emergency team, and while they might be able to grow new lung tissue, the condition would stay with adults for the rest of their lives.
NEW ZEALAND — EATING ROVER. The claim that the ecological footprint of the average size dog is larger than that of a gas-gobbling Hummer SUV has attracted interest up and down the North American Pacific Rim media and elsewhere. In 'Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living' Wellington-based authors Robert and Brenda Vale argue that resources required to feed a dog give it twice the eco-footprint of a Toyota Land Cruiser. The Wellington Domininion Post published comparisons including the fact that German Shepherd dogs take up a 1.1ha eco-equivalent compared to .41ha for a large SUV; cats at 0.15ha are only just easier on the planet than a Volkswagen Golf; two hamsters equate to a plasma TV and one goldfish equates to two cellphones.
Dailies in Seattle and Colombia ran the story as did CBS News, FOXNews, New York Times, Times Online and various bloggers, including Clark Williams-Derry of Sightline Daily from the northwest who thinks that New Zealand is in Australia. Reactions to the stories varied from rabid — Eat the authors! to helpful references to Korean dog-based dishes.
COOK ISLANDS — PATERNALISM IS BACK. The spectre of recolonisation surfaced in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, protectorates of New Zealand, resulting from the suggestion by NZ government National party MP John Hayes who chairs the influential foreign affairs select committee that they should be administered as local government organisations.
'John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully need to rein John Hayes in and make clear to Prime Minister Hon Jim Marurai of the Cook Islands, Premier Toke Tufukia Talagi of Niue, and Ulu Alaki Faipule Foua Toloa, that Hayes is not talking on behalf of the National-led Government, said Labour's Pacific Island Affairs shadow spokesperson Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.
'John Hayes’ attempt to compare costs between his Wairarapa electorate and the challenges faced by small communities in the Pacific is unrealistic and misleading.
'Such a simplistic approach is astonishing coming from a man who has served as a senior diplomat in the Pacific. Mr Hayes, who has served as New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea should have a better understanding of the challenges facing these remote islands.
“It is not in New Zealand’s interests to insult the people and the Governments of Niue, the Cooks and Tokelau. His remarks on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report could have done New Zealand considerable diplomatic harm' she said.
FIJI — BUTTON IT UP IN SUVA. Outspokenness has claimed another victim in Fiji. An Australian National University academic, Professor Brij Lal, who was born in Fiji, was banged up soon after talking for ABC Radio about the flurry of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. He gave other media interviews before his arrest, reports Auckland University of Technology's Pacific Media Watch.
The expulsions were triggered by an incident in which a Fiji High Court judge was not immediately granted a visa on medical grounds to take her baby son to New Zealand for medical treatment. Entry to New Zealand and Australia for its government officials is withheld as a sanction against the Bainimarama military regime.
New Zealand's acting Head of Mission in Fiji Todd Cleaver and Australian High Commissioner James Batley were told to go within hours: both countries reacted by declaring the Fijian represenatives in their countries personae non gratae.
TAHITI — DO NOT COLLECT 200 POUNDS!. The French Senate may have condemned 78-year old Gaston Flosse to gaol by lifting his parliamentary immunity as a senator. Tahitipresse reports that he could now be imprisoned as a result of his indictment in a case of embezzlement and corruption during his last presidency of French Polynesia.
HAWAII — TANGATA WHENUA UPSET. The state of Hawai'i has breached its fiduciary obligation to 2 700 native Hawaiians by not placing them on land they were entitled to between 1959 and 1988, reports the Honolulu Advertiser this week. Monetary damages will be determined by the circuit judge who made the ruling but the state is expected to appeal. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is the state body responsible. Judge Eden Hifo said there was clear and convincing evidence that breaches by the state were a substantial factor or legal cause of eligible native Hawaiians not being placed on the land.