Bougainville landowners call on Momis for protection from ‘offensive’ draft law

Australian mining entrepreneur accused of being “disrespectful” over a demand for wholesale and draconian changes to the mining law. Image: PNG Attitude/PC

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Landowners throughout Bougainville were today calling on President John Momis for protection from a “callous opportunist.”

The landowners said that the customary laws of Bougainville and the basic human rights of landowners cannot be ignored.

A secret presentation, by an Australian, Jeff McGlinn, which was marked “strictly confidential, not for distribution” has just become public.

It evidences the unconscionable demand to strip landowners of all their rights under the Bougainville Mining Act.

McGlinn’s demand for these wholesale and draconian changes, is so that he can secure a complete monopoly over all large scale mines on Bougainville, including Panguna, without following the due processes of law, including the mandated Free Prior and Informed Consent of Landowners.

Panguna landowner Philip Miriori, chair of the Osikaiyang Landowners Association, said: “The McGlinn draft Bills, which would strip landowners of all their rights, were actually drafted by McGlinn’s lawyers. It is completely unacceptable.

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“We cannot allow foreigners to draft our laws, tearing up our entire Bougainville Mining Act, and all its safeguards, just so that he and his small group of insiders, including ex PNG Defence personnel can profit personally from our lands and our struggle.”

Lawrence Daveona said: “The landowners of Bougainville call on President Momis to protect them, by immediately withdrawing these deeply offensive McGlinn drafted Bills.

Bougainville conflict
“There has been no prior opportunity for consultation. Anyone who has bothered to even read a little of the history of Bougainville, would understand that the Bougainville conflict was a plea for better mining practices and the recognition of the rights of customary landowners.”

Miriori said it would be difficult to think of something more deeply disrespectful and insensitive to landowners and the community generally than the demands of McGlinn.

“This comes at the very time the community is focused on continuing to build peace and reconciliation in the lead up to the referendum on independence.

“Unreasonable, unconscionable and unconstitutional. If passed they will be challenged and Panguna is delayed indefinitely. Nobody wins – in fact we all lose.

“The general feeling about the amendment, from the 500 people who attended, was that no one agreed with it and those present were asking the ABG members to do away with the amendment immediately.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Hard-hitting documentary explores Tongan ‘deportee dumping’ lives

In Gangsters in Paradise – Deportees of Tonga, Vice embeds with four Tongan nationals who have been sent back to where they were born after serving prison time in New Zealand and the United States. Video: Vice Zealandia

By Philip Cass

“It’s like crabs being stuck in a bucket scratching each other to get out.”

“It’s like rubbish dumping.”

Those are two views about the crisis facing Tonga as countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand deport criminals to the kingdom.

The first comes from a deportee who talks about how it feels being sent back to struggle for a living in a country with which he and other former prisoners are often barely familiar.

The other is from Tonga’s former Commissioner of Prisons, who wants Western countries to take more responsibility for the people they deport and stop treating Tonga – along with Samoa and Fiji – as dumping grounds for people they regard as “rubbish”.

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READ MORE: Responses to Gangsters in Paradise

They are, he reminds us, human beings.

The two views come from a hard-hitting documentary, Gangsters in Paradise – The Deportees of Tonga. A regular contributor to Kaniva Tonga news, photographer Todd Henry, acted as associate producer for the Vice Zealandia documentary.

Talia’uli Prescott … permanently banned from NZ – “I loved being a bad guy, but now I want to be a good guy,” Image: Vice/Kaniva News

Statistics show that the United States deported 700 criminals to Tonga between 1992 and January 2016, an average of 29 criminals a year. However, police figures show that up to 40 percent of the criminals deported to Tonga have come from New Zealand.

Most of the deportees are men between 25-35 years and have usually done time for assault, robbery, burglary, theft and drug offences.

20 years absences
Most have lived outside Tonga for 20 years.

Last year former Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said about 400 Tongans had been deported from the US, Australia and New Zealand since 2012.

More than half had partners or children living overseas.

Gangsters in Paradise is not comfortable viewing. It begins with an interview with a deportee who admits to having been jailed when he was barely out of childhood for shooting another boy four times in the stomach.

Violence played a big part in his upbringing, as it did in the lives of other deportees. For others, migration and re-migration provided a disturbed and unstable childhood.

Talia’uli Prescott talks about joining the King Cobras in New Zealand. They were aiga he tells the camera, explaining that it is a Samoan word for family.

“When you don’t have a family, they give you one,” he explains.

Permanently banned
He is permanently banned from New Zealand.

“That’s the only world I know,” he says.

“It’s very sad.”

By good fortune he has a job at Queen Salote wharf and says that he doesn’t want his legacy to be as somebody who was deported to Tonga.

“I loved being a bad guy, but now I want to be a good guy,” he says.

Other deportees have had a harder time fitting in.

As American deportee Sione Ngaue says: “We’re judged before they even get to know us. We have a red ‘X’ against us.”

Family land
Some deportees, like Ngaue, have staked a claim to family land. He works 6 hectares after a dispute with his uncles.

While some of the interviewees regard their time in prison as a chance to rethink their lives and gain a different perspective, others have brought nothing but trouble to Tonga.

Tonga is in the midst of a methamphetamine crisis and some deportees have gone back into the drugs trade.

One scene in the film shows a dealer preparing methamphetamine for sale, boasting that he can make TP$5000 (NZ$3200) from his Sunday night trading.

And sympathetic as he might be to their plight, Prisons Commissioner Sione Falemanu says deportees have brought more crime to the kingdom and sparked a wave of robberies.

With the Tongan diaspora spread between Sydney and Salt Lake City, this issue is clearly not going to go away. After a public screening of the documentary in Auckland last week, members of the audience who spoke during a talanoa, were sympathetic, but others warned that the deporting countries would also have to take note of what was happening.

“In all honesty, this is an ongoing issue, and believe it or not, it won’t be resolved in the near future. We’re going to have a lot of deportees. And to be honest, we need to start removing the [negative] perception around deportees,” one audience member said.

However, another warned: “If New Zealand does not actually pay attention to what we are seeing, it’s going to backfire on New Zealand. We’re already seeing it.”

Dr Philip Cass is an editorial adviser for Kaniva Tonga.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jubilee Australia accuses Bougainville over ‘reckless land grab’ law changes

Panguna mine in operation … back in its heyday around 1971. Image: Robert Owen Winkler/Wikimedia Commons/PNG Mine Watch

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The Autonomous Bougainville Government, led by president Dr John Momis, has been accused by a research and advocacy group of allowing a “reckless land grab” with its planned mining law changes.

The proposed amendments to the 2015 Bougainville Mining Act, along with accompanying legislation, will give the ABG the power to hand over mining leases to all parts of the island not under existing leases to Bougainville Advanced Mining, a new entity created for this purpose.

The ABG would have 60 percent ownership of Bougainville Advanced Mining, while 40 percent would be owned by a foreign partner.

READ MORE: Bougainville’s mining deal meets widespread opposition

Statements made President Momis last week suggested that Caballus mining, a Perth-based company headed by Jeff McGlinn, would be the foreign partner involved, said Jubilee Australia.

“These are radical changes and appear to be nothing more than a reckless land grab,” Jubilee Australia’s executive director Dr Luke Fletcher said in a statement.

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“First, this would hand over control of the majority of the island to the President and his foreign partner, Mr McGlinn.

“Second, the president would have the power to unilaterally distribute leases without any consultation or permission from landowners.

‘Cut out of process’
“As a result, landowners will be cut out of the process. These amendments undermine the principal of free, prior and informed consent,” said Dr Fletcher.

“Doing so is both anathema to Melanesian culture and vitally important in the Bougainville context.

“It is not clear to us that this legislation is even constitutional,” said Dr Fletcher.

“It is a startling and dangerous move. Given the disastrous history of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, which has caused irreparable environmental damage to the Jaba river and was the major cause of the Pacific region’s worst ever civil war, forcing through such enormous changes with very little consultation is a reckless and desperate ploy.”

President Momis told Radio New Zealand the move was justified to enable the Bougainville independence referendum taking place.

“The people of Bougainville are determined to have the referendum and they must find the money to fund the referendum,” the President reportedly.

“One way of doing it would be if we started our own company and generated the revenue to enable us to conduct the referendum. We cannot sit on our hands.

Dubious over plans
However, Dr Flectcher said: “As our recent study of the question demonstrates, we are highly dubious that mines like Panguna could ever raise enough revenue to satisfy both foreign investors and the people of Bougainville,’ said Dr Fletcher.

“It is certainly impossible that the mine will raise any revenue before the independence vote.

“It will take years for the building/repair of infrastructure, the completion of environmental studies and other importance processes that need to take place before the mine can generate revenue.”

The Panguna mine was one of the world’s biggest copper-gold mines until a 10-year civil war forced its closure in 1989.

The war cost up to 20,000 lives and displaced 10,000 people. The Panguna mine was a leading cause of the war and communities have not been offered redress for the damage.

Since 2009, there has been a push to re-open the mine, with proponents claiming that Bougainville needs the mine to be economically independent.

President Momis has been at the forefront of this fight, under the auspices of former operator Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), claiming that it would be the best and quickest option to generate revenue.

In December 2017, however, the president announced a moratorium of mining at Panguna and revoked BCL’s mining licence, after a meeting of landowner meetings voted against such an extension.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Miriori fires broadside at ‘rogue’ Bougainville mining rights bid

Destruction in the Arawa Hospital during the 1980s Bougainville civil war, sparked by a mining and environment dispute. Image: PNG Mine Watch

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A highly controversial proposal by an unknown and newly registered company, Caballus Mining, is attempting to grab a monopoly over all large scale mines in Bougainville, reports PNG Mine Watch.

It is alleged that the Caballus plan is to override the fundamental principle of the Bougainville Mining Act – Customary Landowner ownership of the minerals in Bougainville and confer ownership on a McGlinn entity, Bougainville Advance Mining (BAM).

“Are Caballus the next rogue that is trying to take advantage of us, the customary owners and steal our minerals?” asked Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

READ MORE: Bougainville mining plan faces outrage

Miriori claimed Caballus had no relevant mine development experience.

“Caballus has no assets, and yet is demanding a monopoly on all major large scale mining projects in Bougainville.

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“They are demanding an initial 40 percent interest, which will increase further over time, without any upfront cash and only a shallow promise of future money if he is granted those rights first.”

Miriori said that when Caballus was presented to representatives of SMLOLA earlier last year, they were officially rejected in writing.

Clear position
“This is where it gets confusing as despite that clear position from the owners of the minerals at Panguna, Caballus is now demanding that the most fundamental principle of the Bougainville Mining Act (BMA) – customary ownership will now be stripped from the BMA.”

SMLOLA special adviser Lawrence Daveona said that by avoiding all the protection afforded to them under the BMA, which is fundamental to the Peace Agreement and the Bougainville constitution – “in fact the very grant of autonomy”, they would be stripped of their rights.

“The central tenant of our Peace Agreement is good governance.

“We will fight this to the end and hope our ABG will step in first and protect all customary owners in Bougainville.”

Miriori said it appeared some people were trying to take advantage of a severe funding crisis which their government faced in the lead up to the referendum on Bougainville this year. They were promising money but only if they were first given the keys to every large scale mine in Bougainville with zero up-front investment – “unbelievable”.

“Whoever puts up the money will ultimately control BAM, and all of Bougainville’s mines.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vanuatu’s ‘shared vision 2013’ tourism shakeup – pipe dream or survival plan

By Dan McGarry

The government of Vanuatu has convened three major tourism and travel stakeholders this week to announce a major shakeup in the sector.

Dubbed Shared Vision 2030, the plan commits Air Vanuatu, the Vanuatu Tourism Office, and Airports Vanuatu Ltd to an ambitious expansion strategy.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported yesterday that Air Vanuatu intends to build an actual international fleet of up to eight jet aircraft. Airports Vanuatu Ltd has almost completed the essential Bauerfield runway upgrade. It is also lining up support for an ambitious new facility plan that can accommodate and service Air Vanuatu’s fleet.

READ MORE: Vanuatu and New Caledonia hold historic talks on tourism

For its part, the Tourism Office is being asked to transform itself into a more dynamic organisation, in touch with modern travellers and modern tech.

The government is being asked to stump up no less than VT500 million (NZ$6.6 million) in new money every year for the next five years to back this play.

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The plan unveiled on Monday raises countless questions.

Where will Air Vanuatu find the pilots? How will it finance the planes? A new Airbus A320 lists for US$101 million, and a Boeing 737-800 costs about a million dollars more.

Leasing isn’t cheap
Leasing even one isn’t cheap. How will Air Vanuatu afford 6 of them?

A new terminal isn’t just a building. It’s the air traffic control centre, hangars, fuel depot, service bays, fire-fighting and emergency response facilities, food preparation, administration… the list is long and exacting.

All things considered, a price tag of more than  VT10 billion (NZ$130 million) won’t be hard to reach.

The argument in support of the plan is simple. We can either grow now, or run the risk of our economy withering away.

Vanuatu’s economy suffered badly in 2018. Few businesses thrived, and many struggled. VAT revenues are one of the most reliable measures of overall commercial activity. They don’t look good.

Although monthly revenues have surged a few times over the same period in 2017, 2018 revenues overall were only about 10.2 percent higher than last year.

That’s a problem, because revenues should have risen at least 15 percent overall, given the 20 percent rise in the tax rate (2.5 is 20 percent of 12.5, so the rate rise is 2.5 percent, but revenues should increase by 20 percent). The trendline is pointing downward, when it should be sharply upward.

Tourism slump
Much of the commercial slowdown comes from slumping tourism revenues among traditional players. Larger resorts and hotels are struggling, to put it politely. The lucky ones are seeing 50 percent occupancy rates. The unlucky ones are far worse off.

Reduced tourism activity has effects throughout the economy, dragging industry, services and agriculture down with it.

Tourism officials are quick to crow about ‘record’ air arrival numbers. The numbers are real, but they hide a number of problems. First, these numbers have only just managed to rebound from 2014 levels, before the twin catastrophes of cyclone Pam and the Bauerfield runway debacle decimated air arrival numbers.

Second, everyone’s strategic plan expected continuous growth through that period. But we’re barely ahead of where we were in 2014. That puts us almost five years behind schedule.

Lastly, travellers are planning differently. They’re not following the beaten path as much. The advent of social media changed the way people decide where to go, how they book their reservations, and what they do when they’re away.

Referrals matter more than ever. More people ask for input about possible destinations on social media than ever before, and a large number of people decide where to go based on what they hear.

AirBnB is affecting traditional booking patterns enough to make it hurt, especially for larger resorts. Unless arrival numbers rise significantly, it will be impossible to convince new investors to come, and some existing investors could well begin planning an exit.

No middle ground
The plan’s proponents argue that Vanuatu can either rise in popularity, or expect to be ignored by the next generation of travellers.

And based on which path we choose our economy will either grow, or shrink. There’s no middle ground, they say.

But we have to walk before we run. Tourism and travel industry experts tell the Daily Post that the first priority is getting maximum value from existing markets. Expect to see service to Melbourne announced soon, and increased flights to all existing destinations.

One insider told the Daily Post that there is a shortage of aircraft worldwide. Forbes reports that in the USA, for example, “More than three-quarters of the fleet for sale is more than a decade old, [with a] decreasing quantity and quality of less-than-decade-old aircraft.”

Vanuatu will have to acquire ‘new iron’ for its own routes, rather than trying to seduce outside airlines to come here.

One major challenge that has yet to be addressed is the 140 new pilots who will be needed to fly the fleet.

The greatest shortage in the aviation industry right now is pilots. This means more competitive salaries and better working conditions will be needed to convince commercial plots to come, and our own pilots to stay.

Air Vanuatu is holding a press conference today to discuss these and other issues. The Daily Post will be following the story as it develops.

Dan McGarry is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post group.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Tonga’s communications blackout ‘a problem out of their control’

Internet shock … Tonga Communications Corporation. Image: Kalino Lātū/Kaniva News

By Philip Cass and Kalino Latu

Tonga’s abrupt communications blackout may last up to two weeks before the fibre optic submarine cable restores the internet and mobile connection with the world.

Tonga Cable Director Paula Piveni Piukala told Kaniva News repairs could be done in two weeks – but another manager hinted that it may take longer.

As Kaniva News reported earlier, the kingdom’s only internet and mobile phone providers, Digicel and Tonga Communications Corporation, were cut off about 8.30pm on Sunday in an “out of their control” situation.

Tonga currently had no other internet or mobile phone cable connection to the outside world.

It has been confirmed that the undersea cable has been cut.

Tonga Cable has a marine maintenance contract with TE Subcom.

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The cable ship Reliance is docked in Apia and can reach Tonga in two or three days.

Tonga Cable CEO Edwin Liava’a said restoration could be completed within one or two weeks.

Worst case
At worst, it could take two to three weeks.

Meanwhile, Tonga Cable was using the local Internet Service Provider (ISP) Easynet via Kacific Satellite.

“Kacific’s satellite service ensures that essential services can be maintained as we work to resolve the issue,” Piukala said.

Liava’a previously said people experiencing slow connections should understand this was a matter for TCC or Digicel.

He said Tonga Cable Ltd functioned only as a wholesaler of capacity.

Authorities said the outage was ongoing and no time frame was available for restoration of Tonga Cable’s service.

The president of Tonga Chamber of Commerce Paul Chapman said on Facebook: “Tonga Cable was working hard to rectify the issues, out of their control, with the cable.”

He said Tonga Communication Corporation teams had been working with their providers to increase capacity and working with their satellite provider and TCL and EziNet.

He said TCL and TCC were trying to connect domestic fibre and increase satellite brand width as an option.

“End of the day, all teams working on a solution, for a problem that was out of their control, but hope to have something in place.

“Meanwhile we still have internet at sites for #PTH #DatelineTransam via #EziNet (Tonga’s Satellite connection via Kacific)” he said.

Zdnet said the subsea cable providing Tonga with broadband, the Tonga Cable, has been out since 20:30 local time on Sunday night, with the nation relying on satellite internet instead.

“Provided by Kacific, the nation’s digital connection to the outside world is now a Ku-band satellite accessed through local ISP Ezinet.”

Kalino Latu is editor of Kaniva News and Philip Cass is an editorial adviser. Kaniva News is shared with Asia Pacific Report by arrangement.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG’s post-APEC technology dream leaves rural sector far behind

By Pauline Mago-King

It has only been two weeks since the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, yet much has transpired – to the dismay of host country Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea’s trajectory to this monumental event has been one involving great strides from the moment it secured the bid to host APEC in 2013.

In preparation for the summit, the PNG government stretched its expenditure to clean up the nation’s capital of Port Moresby – a move to improve international perceptions that will eventually translate into investment opportunities.

READ MORE: PNG – like no summit on earth

One can see this “clean-up” in Port Moresby via newly sealed roads, the 145 million kina (NZ$62 million) upgrade of Jackson’s International Airport, and the extravagant APEC Haus and Convention Centre.

Not to mention the controversial boulevard consisting of a six-lane road, outside the National Parliament.

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Prior to the 21 member states’ two-day meeting, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill described the event as one that would place PNG on the world map by boosting tourism and lucrative resource project agreements.

These advantages could lead to more employment, especially in an economy where only 15 percent of the population are employed in the formal sector.

Additionally, there is an opportunity to tackle skills shortages within PNG.

Yet for all the economic advantages that await PNG, a myriad of issues continue to beset the country and this has been magnified through APEC.

Questionable governance
The cost of rehabilitating PNG’s waning image has ultimately placed the people’s needs on the backburner, even after Australia’s donation of $100 million and China giving $35 million.

Currently, polio has re-emerged with three new cases having been reported just last week, now bringing the total to 25 and one death so far.

Apart from polio, tuberculosis continues to be a formidable challenge for PNG’s health system.

This is the bitter reality for most Papua New Guineans who lack access to basic health services.

While Port Moresby has new roads, much of the rural areas in PNG remain disconnected with services nowhere to be found.

Granted, if there are aid posts and clinics, it is likely that medicine is unavailable, as exemplified by prominent journalist Scott Waide.

Media freedom barriers
Apart from exacerbating health issues, PNG’s media freedom faces barriers which have been amplified throughout the APEC summit coverage.

Case in point: PNG journalists were not allowed to cover Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dinner with colleagues from eight Pacific nations.

The suspension-turned-reinstatement of Scott Waide amid his airing of a report on the government’s spending, particularly about the controversial 40 Maseratis.

His reinstatement, however, is a compelling testament to many Papua New Guineans’ frustration with the state of governance, particularly at the grassroots level.

A Maserati luxury sedan as portrayed in the controversial news item shown in EMTV. Image: EMTV screenshot

While Port Moresby came to a standstill for the 2018 APEC Summit, villages throughout PNG were occupied with their own routines.

Life is not as simple as it used to be and this rings true for villages like Efogi.

Nestled on the slopes of the Owen Stanley Ranges, Efogi receives trekking tourists embarking on the Kokoda Trail.

In all its years of participating in the “Kokoda experience”, Efogi seems untouched from the hustle and bustle in Port Moresby.

Rural realities
Papua New Guinean writer Rashmii Bell, who also has a background in psychology and criminology, recently trekked along the Kokoda where she was able to observe the state of development in rural areas such as Efogi.

“What’s being developed in Moresby is not translating to the rural population – there is a huge difference. We want to wait and see what happens after [APEC], but we have valid reason to pre-empt based on the development that has happened in the past 18 months where Moresby has transformed whereas the rest of PNG has not.”

Although acting as a campsite for trekkers, Efogi had no access to electricity despite being home to the main airstrip for the Kokoda Track.

The only semblance of electricity is a newly donated generator that is rarely used due to the difficulty in purchasing and transporting fuel.

Aside from that, the health centre still relies on the donation of medical supplies.

With the summit’s closure, Rashmii’s interaction with communities like Efogi point out the problematic nature of the PNG government’s sound bites on a stronger economy.

This is where little attention has concentrated on empowering the majority of Papua New Guineans in informal sectors like trek tourism.

The Kokoda Track … trekking tourism is a neglected sector with villagers supporting the industry living an exploited existence. Image: kokodatrack.net

‘Trekking carriers’
For example, most men from villages like Efogi and others along the trail turn to “trekking carriers” as a form of employment but are often exploited in terms of their safety and wellbeing.

“Your life is in your carrier’s hand – that is how the tourism operation is running at the moment. Because we are putting that pressure on the carriers, you can see by their demeanour that they are very stoic.

“For them, it is a huge ask to be putting your life in someone’s hands. And as much as they say ‘that is our job’, at the end of the day we want to have a tourism industry where we are promoting ethical tourism,” said Rashmii.

As for women, they are excluded from gaining the financial rewards that this informal economy has to offer, which reiterates the resounding gender inequity in communities around PNG.

While PNG’s participation in APEC hopes to garner “digital breakthroughs”, it is debatable as to how rural communities can be included when technological infrastructure is absent, literacy is low and policies that protect and empower the people are void.

For communities like Efogi, life remains the same without any inkling of “APEC”.

APEC reservations
Although the carriers who trekked with Rashmii did not utter one word on APEC, the same cannot be said for those in Port Moresby.

When the 21 APEC member countries completed their intergovernmental talks, people like Cathy Smith felt anxious about what would transpire.

She described the lead up to the event as one of confusion.

The 28-year-old said she could not see any positive changes taking place anytime soon.

Life is already hard as it is, even with her cleaning job of five years where she earns only K3.50 (NZ$1.50) an hour – a rate that barely supports a normal standard of living in PNG.

“For my community, we will just listen and follow what they say… I’m seeing all the changes in the city but my own village has no services.”

Although the opportunities for development remain to be seen, Papua New Guineans like Cathy will go through the usual struggle to make a living in an economy that is already waning.

High living conditions, health budget cuts and the re-emergence of diseases such as polio and leprosy are just some of the many challenges being faced.

Hopefully, the PNG government will tackle these and other prevalent issues, particularly with the aim of development for its people.

Perhaps a good reference point to take from the APEC summit is human resource development, as stated by Rashmii Bell.

“For development to take place, you need that interaction. My understanding is that APEC is technology-driven and I did not even have reception along the Kokoda trail until we climbed up to the highest point… Technology will hopefully improve the economy but only for those who have access to it.”

Pauline Mago-King is a masters student based at Auckland University of Technology and is researching gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. She compiled this report for the Pacific Media Centre.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pioneering NZ Pacific research initiative to make ‘reset’ change

Keynote speakers Associate Professor Kabini Sanga from Victoria University and Dr Alisi Holani (right), deputy CEO of the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour (MCCTIL) in Tonga. They spoke about a “rich gap” and other issues affecting Pacific media reportage. Image: Tom Blessen/PMC

By Sri Krishnamurthi

The NZ Institute for Pacific Research will cease to exist in its current form, Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford said in a bombshell announcement to the Oceans and Islands conference today.

Rumours of NZIPR’s demise were doing the rounds after a review of the organisation earlier this year by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

“I do want to finish with expressing the gratitude that the institute has for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the investment they have put in to the establishment of a NZ Institute for Pacific Research,” said the acting director in his conference closing address.

READ MORE: NZ think-tank launched to advance Pacific research

“We are in a rather ambiguous situation at the moment and quite a lot of speakers were informed of this in advance. I wrote to alert them to the fact we were in yet another ‘Pacific reset’ around the institute.

“Pacific reset are the words that the ministry has used for the rethinking of aspects of our policy in the Pacific,” said Professor Bedford.

He admitted that he had yet to see the review report which is said to be confidential to the institute’s board. They knew the recommendations that the decision to cease the current arrangement was based on.

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“Just for those of you who might be bewildered by this, it’s not about getting rid of the NZ Institute of Pacific Research,” he said.

Review of investment
“Basically, what the ministry has done is have a review of what its investment has achieved.
“I think they’ve been impressed with a number of things that have happened. They have been impressed with some of the research that has been done,” he said.

“But the model and the way it’s worked has not given them the return on investment with regard to research that informs policy.

“I can sympathise a little bit with MFAT here because academic research doesn’t always and should never always fit perfectly some policy objective or goal,” he said in attempting to cushion the blow.

“The drivers of academic research are different from policy orientated research,” he said highlighting the difference in what the ministry had expected from NZIPR.

“This applied especially to discovery-led research, and a great deal of research we’ve heard about in this conference is discovery-led research.

“It’s about understanding and learning ways of doing things, testing models, testing ideas. It’s not about necessarily just producing something to enable a solution. The research may contribute to a solution long-term but that isn’t what drives it initially.”

MFAT-owned brand
He made it clear that the brand name was owned by MFAT and not the three universities (Auckland, Otago and Auckland University of Technology) that have been involved in the initial conglomerate that formed the NZIPR.

It was envisioned initially that long-term the NZIPR would become something like Australia’s think tank Lowy Institute.

When NZIPR was formed, MFAT invested $5 million for a set number of years, but the arrangement was that the NZIPR would look to possible external sources of funding to top up MFAT’s investment but that never eventuated.

“The label NZ Institute for Pacific Research belongs to MFAT, it’s not a label that belongs to the consortium of universities that has worked with MFAT to deliver on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that led to the formation of the current NZ Institute for Pacific Research,” he clarified.

“The NZ Institute for Pacific will continue to exist, operating under a different but as yet unspecified model.

“Whatever actually happens, in my view they’d be mad if they got rid of the opportunity that we’ve had to have this kind of conference,” he said voicing his opinion.

He said the support from MFAT needed to be acknowledged and he aimed to work with the ministry constructively to try and ensure that all the many good things that have emanated from their investment continue in whatever form they chose to implement the institute in the future.

Transition period
“That’s just to clarify that it won’t be the same next year, the current arrangement finishes on March 14,” Professor Bedford said.

“Between now and March 14 Evelyn [Dr Evelyn Marsters – research programme manager] and I, along with others in the University of Auckland, AUT and the University of Otago which are partners in the consortium, will work with MFAT to ensure that the transition from the first generation, the Fresh Off the Boat version of NZIPR moves along to the next generation version under MFAT control.”

Day two of the conference, apart from this sensational announcement, featured keynote speakers Associate Professor Kabini Sanga from Victoria University (Wellington), who spoke about “Pacific research frontiering” and Dr Alisi Holani, Deputy CEO of the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour (MCCTIL) in Tonga, who spoke about “Bridging the policy-research gap in the Pacific – Insights from labour mobility negotiations in PACER Plus”.

The third keynote speaker, Dr Tapugao Falefou Permanent Secretary Government of Tuvalu, could not attend the conference due to not having his visa processed in time, something which was lamented by Professor Bedford.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific’s brightest minds gather for Oceans and Islands research summit

By Blessen Tom

In a bold and innovative move for researchers, the two-day inaugural Oceans and Islands conference today brought together the brightest minds of the Pacific to demonstrate what they do.

Oceans and Islands – a showcase for the region hosted by the NZ Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) – was opened by the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Carmel Sepuloni, this morning.

“I really do have the privilege of being able to witness the great contribution that Pacific leaders, academics and communities make to Aotearoa and globally,” the minister said.

READ MORE: Pacific aid mapping tool aimed at improving transparency in region

Pacific Peoples Minister Carmel Sepuloni … “critical that Pacific people are meaningfully included in thought leadership and decision making”. Images: Blessen Tom/PMC

She acknowledged the excellence of Pacific research in New Zealand and welcomed the establishment of research agencies such as Moana Research and commended the leadership of Dr Teuila Percival, Jcinta Fa’alili-Fidow and Dudley Gentles.

The minister also shared some of the research initiatives that she is directly involved with such as the extended funding to the growing up in New Zealand study and Treasury’s Pasifika Economic Report.

-Partners-

“It is critical that Pacific people are meaningfully included in thought leadership and decision making. We must be the authors of our own solutions, and conferences like this support us towards that end,” she added.

Toeolesulusulu Associate Professor Damon Salesa … struggles faced by Pacific researchers. Image: David Robie/PMC

Many struggles
Toeolesulusulu Associate Professor Damon Salesa, who was recently appointed pro vice-chancellor (Pacific) of the University of Auckland, said: “Pacific research and Pacific knowledge matters.”

“It’s not simply research about the Pacific, by the Pacific that makes it Pacific research. It’s much more than that…and it has faced many struggles,” he added.

He talked about the struggles that researchers faced, such as not being properly resourced, the lack of opportunities to succeed, and the lack of proper recognition.

“These are the struggles NZIPR embarked on,” he said in a tribute to the institute that he was the founding director of. The achievements of NZIPR were:

• Creating a formal research programme – “five research programmes will be signed off completed or published by the end of this year.”

• Disseminating research through both online and offline platforms, and establishing a research repository to make visible the different kinds of knowledge.

• Building research capability and the research recognition of a diverse range of researchers that includes 12 scholarships and sponsorship for individual researchers and research projects.

He also remarked that NZIPR had “achieved so much so quickly”.

Indigenous principles
Dr David Welchman Gegeo led the third keynote session when he gave full recognition to indigenous ethical principles that guide the social construction of knowledge in Pacific island communities.

“Why do we keep doing research on Pacific communities?” and “Are we alone?” asked David Gegeo.

“Pacific Island’s epistemic communities are not alone in the quest for the indigenisation or oceanisation of research and knowledge construction in the Pacific,” he said.

“I think we have a better chance of answering some of our lingering questions in research when we work together as this team.”

He advocated the working together of university epistemic community, metro-centrist epistemic community and Pacific village epistemic community for research and construction of pacific knowledge.

Dr Gegeo holds a research position in the Office of Research and Postgraduate Studies at the Solomon Islands National University.

Professor Kapua’ala Sproat … proactive indigenous responses to “pernicious impacts of global warming”. Image: Blessen Tom/PMC

Dr Kapua’ala Sproat is a professor of law at the University of Hawai’i’s Richardson School of Law and the director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawai’ian Law.

Her keynote explored indigenous people’s proactive responses to the pernicious impacts of global warming.

‘Sense of culture’
“I’m incredibly grateful that I grew up with a strong sense of self and culture because I think that really has rooted both myself and but also my work,” she said.

Professor Sprout examined Native Hawai’ians’ potential deployment of local laws that embody restorative justice principles to fashion meaningful remedies for the environmental and cultural damage as a result of the global climate crisis.

“Our identity as indigenous people is inextricably tied to these islands and our natural and cultural resources” said Professor Sprout and “Global Warming threatens our island home and our identity as a people”.

The final keynote session of the day was addressed by Leina Tucker-Masters, Eliza Puna and by Dr Jamaima Tiataia- Seath.

Their presentation canvassed the journeys of three Pacific women researchers throughout their academic careers.

“Engaging in research as an undergraduate student helped me connect with my Pacific culture while at university,” said Leina Tucker-Masters, a medical student at the University of Auckland.

Research methodologies
Tucker-Masters talked about her experience with Pacific research methodologies and how they influenced literature.

“I learned about Pacific health initiatives that use Pacific ways of thinking to heal Pacific people”.

“Postgraduate research gives you an opportunity to carry out very ethnic specific research and it allows for in depth engagement and helps to bridge academia and our communities,” said Eliza Puna, a doctoral candidate in Pacific Studies at Auckland University.

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath is currently co-head of school and head of Pacific studies, Te Wananga o Waipapa, School of Māori and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland.

She talked about her experience as one of six panelists on the government’s Mental Health and Addiction Enquiry.

The Oceans and Islands conference will conclude tomorrow evening.

Sri Krishnamurthi and Blessen Tom of the Pacific Media Centre are working as part of a PMC partnership with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research.

NZIPR research manager Dr Evelyn Marsters and one of the keynote speakers, Professor David Gegeo of the Solomon Islands, at the Oceans and Islands conference in Auckland today. Image: David Robie/PMC

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media