Bad weather forces Fiji to close 23 polling venues, 7852 voters affected

Fiji voters turning up in the rain to cast their votes at Nabitu District School in Tailevu on Viti Levu today. Image: Mereoni Mili/Wansolwara

By Wansolwara staff

A total of 7852 voters at more than 20 polling stations will cast their votes at a later date after the Electoral Commission – in consultation with the Fijian Elections Office – today closed 23 polling venues effective immediately as a result of bad weather.

In a statement, Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem said the FEO received information from presiding officers hat there were some polling stations and venues no longer accessible for voters.

“The FEO tried to wait it out a little to see if the rain would stop and waters would recede but it appears that the waters are rising as I speak, and it has therefore become necessary for me as the Supervisor of Elections to consider adjourning polling at these locations,” he said.

He said the decision was made in accordance with Section 47(2) and consultation with the Electoral Commission under Section 47(3).

Saneem said polling at those locations would commence at a later date, which was feasible for polling.

This would be announced by the Electoral Commission in consultation with the FEO.

Earlier report – voting suspended in 20 Fiji polling venues. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi FB/PMC

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The affected areas include Delakado FEO Shed, Natadradave FEO shed, Nasinu community hall, Turagabeci Primary School, Lodoni Primary School, Naivicula District School, Korotale Mandir hall, Raiwasa community hall, Namuaniwaqa Primary School, Mataso Primary School, Rewasasa community hall, Nausori Technical School, Visama Sanatan Dharam Primary School, Naqeledamu Village School, Nukutocia Village shed, Naisoqo Settlement FEO ground shed, Shantikettan Primary School, Naviniivisau community hall, Krishna Janaradhan School, Logani community hall, Matacaucau community hall, Nausori community hall and Gram Sangathan School.

“Any vote cast at the polling station will be cancelled and polling at the affected polling station will take place on the soonest feasible date to be determined and approved by the Electoral Commission,” Saneem said.

“From now until the close of polling, we may have a few more polling stations that will require adjournment because the accessibility levels are reducing and we will be convening media conferences to announce this.”

This article is republished under the content sharing arrangement between the Wansolwara student journalism newspaper of the University of the South Pacific and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Fisherman kept in ‘abject’ conditions at sea repatriated from Fiji, says lawyer

NZ lawyer Karen Harding … social media video plea to captain of Taiwanese fishing boat helped “free” Indonesian fisherman in Fiji. Image: Karen Harding’s FB page

By Rahul Bhattarai

An allegedly “enslaved” Indonesian fisherman on board Yu Shun 88, a Taiwanese flagged tuna longliner, has now been repatriated from Fiji to his homeland, says an Auckland lawyer.

Barrister and solicitor Karen Harding alleged in a social media video message addressed to the skipper that the fishing boat was holding her client against his will in “abject” working conditions.

But with the help of an Indonesian government representative and a charity group known as Pacific Dialogue, the fisherman was repatriated to Indonesia last weekend.

READ MORE: From traffic law to human rights – how an Auckland woman is fighting for justice for 30 fishermen

Harding, a lawyer with a high profile in acting on drink and driving cases who has branched into human rights lawsuits, said the unnamed fisherman’s bed was infested with fleas, food was spoiled, and there was no fresh soap or water for showers.

The fishermen on the boat, which carries up to 17 people, were also forced to work for 18-20 hours a day, she claimed.

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Harding said the captain had taken the passport, the seaman’s book and withheld pay as a security bond.

The fisherman wanted to go home due to “horrible working conditions” and many injuries.

A “flea-infested bed” on board the Yu Shun 88. Image: Lawyers

Wages withheld
One fisherman was so injured, he was “not even able to hold a chop stick,” Harding said.

“You are holding him against his will and your company is not paying him his wages and holding the wages back as security,” she alleged in the video message.

Her client got a job to work on a Taiwanese fishing vessel in Suva and “was promised, he was going to get US$450 (NZ$672) in wages and commission of US$400 (NZ$589) per month per docking,” Harding said.

Not paying them and holding wages as security was “creating forced labour”, Harding said.

“I liaised with the Indonesian government on Sunday … and liaised with the charity group known as Pacific Dialogue,” and the latter reported the matter to the embassy, Harding said.

The Indonesian government had been helpful in a timely dealing with this matter.

The Indonesian government had arranged for the representative of the Indonesian government to go to the agent’s office on the Suva wharf,” Harding said.

Seeking wages
Now that the fisherman was home, the problem was getting his wages for the time he had worked on the ship.

Out of NZ$1261 allegedly owed to him, he had only received $141 for four months of work. His contract had said that “if he didn’t complete the contract they weren’t going to pay his wages,” said Harding.

There are other fishermen on board the same ship, but because Harding was only dealing with one fisherman, the status of the others is unknown.

The same fisherman had also allegedly been subject to similar harsh conditions in New Zealand waters on board a Korean vessel.

The fisherman still had not been paid by the Oyang 77, for the period of 2009 January 22 to 2010 December 6.

“He effectively only got paid only one hour a day at the NZ minimum pay rate,” Harding said.

“And he worked 18 hours a day on average.”

No comment was available from the company’s involved.

The Yu Shun 88 is now headed towards Solomon Islands and is expected to spend another 12 months at sea with other fishermen on board.

The infected hand of one of the fishermen on board Yu Shun 88. Image: Lawyers

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Cheated’ PNG landowners threaten to close five fish processing plants

Lae landowners have given the papua New Guinean government seven days to review existing agreements or they will close the disputed tuna fish canneries. Video: EMTV News

By Scott Waide in Lae

Landowning clans in the Papua New Guinean city of Lae are threatening to close down five fish processing plants if the government does not review the existing agreements that govern them.

The clans, which include the Ahi and the Busulum, say they have been cheated of development benefits.

Since the agreements were signed four years ago, they have received K5000 a year for the five portions of land they own.

The threat comes after three years of complicated wrangling with the government and the companies over landowner benefits.

If the landowners have it their way, Majestic Seafoods, Frabelle and three other fish processing factories will be forced to shut down next Tuesday.

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Landowner company BUP Development is calling on the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to review the existing agreements so that they receive more in terms of landowner benefits.

Bad deal
After four years, it has now become clear, landowners got a bad deal.

The landowners are paid a total of K5000 (NZ$2225) annually for the five land portions they leased to the companies. The deal was negotiated by the provincial administration at the start of the projects.

Apart from a K2 million (NZ$890,000) premium payment made several years ago, the landowners receive little else.

They are also not party to agreements between the state and the fish processing companies.

They also do not know what the terms of the state agreement are.

The landowner company since issued a 7-day notice to the government to come to Lae for negotiations.

They are demanding K20 million in compensation as well as a review of the memorandum of agreement they signed with the companies.

Scott Waide is EMTV’s Lae bureau chief and began his career with the television station in 1997 as a news and sports reporter and anchor. He has won several awards for his journalism. This article is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Rainbow Warrior takes on fresh eco mission to Papua, Indonesia

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Rainbow Warrior takes on fresh eco mission to Papua, Indonesia

By Astari Pinasthika Sarosa in Jakarta

The Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior is sailing throughout Indonesia – including West Papua – as a vehicle for environmental campaigns.

Rainbow Warrior has often sailed to remote areas to directly see the environmental issues in the region and immediately act against its destruction.

Recently in the Philippines, this is the first visit to Indonesia since 2013. The Rainbow Warrior will be sailing in the archipelago from this week until next month.

The visit themed Jelajah Harmoni Nusantara will be the longest tour of the Rainbow Warrior.

Its first destination is Papua to witness the natural beauty of Papuan rainforest. The ship’s crew will also see the underwater life of Raja Ampat.

After leaving Papua, the Rainbow Warrior will head to Bali, sampling a rich culture which holds local wisdom, and its beliefs that the best source of energy comes from nature.

The last destination is Jakarta. As the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta has many issues including pollution and waste.

‘Eco-friendly’ city goal
The Rainbow Warrior aims to help Jakarta to be a more comfortable and eco-friendly city.

“The main point of this tour is to create harmony in protecting the Indonesian environment,” Greenpeace said in a press release.

The name Rainbow Warrior was based on the prophecy of a native American tribe Cree in saying, “When the earth becomes sick and dying, there will come a day when people from all over the world will rise up as the Rainbow Warrior.”

The Rainbow Warrior is the third-generation version of the campaign ship.

The first generation vessel was destroyed by limpet mines. On 10 July 1985, French secret agents planted two bombs and sank the Rainbow Warrior, killing photojournalist Fernando Pereira.

After the bombing, the original Rainbow Warrior ship was towed to Matauri Bay, in New Zealand’s Cavalli Islands, and was submerged as an “alive reef” attracted marine life and recreational divers.

The second Rainbow Warrior sailed for 22 years until 2011 when she was replaced with the third generation Rainbow Warrior.

Like its predecessor, this ship carries out green and peaceful campaigns for the future of the planet.

NZ Foreign Minister questions China’s influence in the Pacific

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: NZ Foreign Minister questions China’s influence in the Pacific

Foreign Minister Winston Peters flags a stronger NZ Pacific aid policy and prime ministers Jacinda Ardern and Malcolm Turnbull discuss New Zealand and Australia friendship and differences in policies. Video: Qldaah/ABC

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters has again hinted the Ardern government may exit China’s One Belt One Road initiative as Wellington “resets” its strategic focus to the Pacific.

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern beginning her first trip across the region today, Peters told Television New Zealand’s Q & A show the Pacific was where New Zealand mattered and could do most.

But, alluding to China’s influence, he said a number of countries had been intervening in the Pacific in ways that were “not helpful”.

“Our job is to ensure that the engagement of other countries in the Pacific is for the interests of the Pacific and the security and prosperity of the neighbourhood,” he said.

Peters said the previous government had been too hasty to sign up to China’s One Belt One Road initiative, with the implications for New Zealand unclear.

His coalition government would instead move slower in relation to the deal.

‘Shifting the dial’
“It’s a case of shifting the dial, it’s a case of having our eyes wide open, it’s a Pacific reset in circumstances where we must do far better,” he said.

“Our aid, for example, is on the decline, to go down to 0.21 (per cent of gross domestic product) from 0.30 (per cent) just eight years ago.”

He said low aid levels from New Zealand would not “stack up against countries with a big cheque book”, who were not always acting in the Pacific’s interest.

Fresh from a diplomatic trip across the Tasman, Ardern departs for Samoa today on the first leg of her first annual Pacific Mission.

She and a team of politicians, representatives from charities and Pasifika community leaders will then travel to Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands during the week, engaging in diplomacy and taking in the local hospitality.

Ardern on Friday said there was a range of issues facing the Pacific, including climate change, resource use and globalisation.

New Zealand and Australia’s role was to “amplify the voice of our Pacific neighbours and do so in partnership with them”, she said.

This year’s Pacific Mission will also take particular note of the recovery of Tonga and Samoa after Cyclone Gita in February.

PMC to put spotlight on Asia-Pacific ‘journalism under duress’

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PMC to put spotlight on Asia-Pacific ‘journalism under duress’

The Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology is highlighting the threats to media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region in an event next week marking its 10th anniversary.

The Philippines is the country with the largest single massacre of journalists – 32 on the island of Mindanao in 2009, where a three-month urban siege against jihadists in Marawi City has recently ended with a toll on many newsrooms.

The deadly crackdown on drugs reportedly eased up last month when President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police to leave action to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), saying the shift was to target “big fish”.

Human rights advocates had accused Duterte of waging a “war on the poor”, but Mangahas argues that there has been no real change in strategy.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week in Manila the deaths “require investigation”.

Victor Mambor with Johnny BladesTabloid Jubi editor Victor Mambor with Johnny Blades. Image: RNZ Pacific

Tabloid Jubi editor Victor Mambor (at wheel) with Johnny Blades in West Papua. Image: RNZ Pacific

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Johnny Blades, a senior journalist of RNZ International, will also speak about his challenging experiences in West Papua, especially during an “official” visit to the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian provinces in 2015.

Media freedom
The panel will be chaired by founding PMC director Professor David Robie, who has campaigned for many years on media freedom issues and was in Jakarta for the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference in May.

A former Pacific Affairs Minister, Laumanuvao Winnie Laban, who launched the PMC a decade ago this year, will also be attending.

Professor Berrin Yanıkkaya, head of the School of Communication Studies at AUT, will launch a graphic new media book, Conflict, Custom & Conscience: Photojournalism and the Pacific Media Centre 2007-2017, edited by Jim Marbrook, Del Abcede, Natalie Robertson and David Robie.

The new Pacific Media Centre photojournalism book.

She will also launch the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review research journal.

A special video by Sasya Wreksono highlighting the PMC’s achievements over 10 years will be screened along with a photographic exhibition of the research centre’s evolution.

Seminar: “Journalism under duress in Asia-Pacific”
Thursday, November 30, 2017 5.30pm-8pm
WG126, School of Communication Studies, AUT
55 Wellesley St, Auckland
Refreshments will be provided
Admission free
RSVP by November 24 to:
communicate@aut.ac.nz

More information and invitation

The event on Facebook

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Indonesia cracks down on brutal conditions on foreign ‘slavery’ fishing boats

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Indonesia cracks down on brutal conditions on foreign ‘slavery’ fishing boats

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Former slaves head for home: Thousands of fishermen rescued from brutal conditions on foreign fishing boats make the journey back home, many after years at sea. As reported by Associated Press in September 2015. Video: AP on YouTube

By Jewel Topsfield of The Sydney Morning Herald in Jakarta

It’s hard to comprehend it happened in this century: human slaves trapped on fishing boats being whipped with poisonous stingray tails, having ice blocks thrown at them and being shot.

“If Americans and Europeans are eating this fish, they should remember us,” says Hlaing Min, 30, a runaway slave from Benjina, a remote fisheries weight station in eastern Indonesia’s Aru Islands.

“There must be a mountain of bones under the sea…. The bones of the people could be an island, it’s that many.”

In 2015 more than 1300 foreign fisherman from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos were rescued from Benjina and Ambon, after an Associated Press investigation revealed the brutal conditions aboard many foreign vessels reflagged to operate in Indonesian waters.

Extraordinary images of men being kept in a cage exposed the chilling reality of 21st century slavery.

“They were trafficked from their home country, mostly by means of deception, forced to work over 20 hours per day on a boat in the middle of the sea, with little to no chance of escape,” says a report on human trafficking in the Indonesian fishing industry released this week.

Some were kept at sea for years at a time.

After the rescue, the International Organisation for Migration interviewed the fishers.

Victims of human trafficking in the fishing industry pictured waiting for their back pay in Ambon, Indonesia. Photo: International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

They were told of excessive work hours — 78 percent of 285 victims interviewed in depth claimed they worked between 16 and 24 hours a day, cramped conditions, meals of watery fish gruel, physical and psychological abuse and even murder.

‘Several crews died’
“While on board, I often heard the news from the boat radio that several boat crews had died, either falling to the ocean, fighting or killed by the other crews,” a Cambodian fisher says in the report.

“While I was working on the boat, I saw with my own eyes more than seven dead bodies floating in the sea.”

A victim of human trafficking from Myanmar who was rescued from a fishing boat pictured in Ambon in Indonesia. Image: IOM

Witnesses testified that requesting to leave the boat could be a death sentence for some victims. Those who did might find themselves chained on the deck in the middle of the day or locked in the freezer.

“The heartrending stories of these fishers could not be left untold,” says IOM Indonesia’s chief of mission Mark Getchell.

The report says the Benjina and Ambon cases highlight the lack of adequate policing of the fishing industry and a lack of scrutiny of working conditions on ships and in fish processing plants.

Seafood caught by modern day slaves entered the global supply chain, with legitimate suppliers of fish “unaware of its provenance and the human toll behind the catch.”

“The situation in Benjina and Ambon is symptomatic of a much broader and insidious trade in people, not only in the Indonesian and Thai fishing industries, but indeed globally,” the report says.

Repatriation of enslaved fisherfmen
In 2015 the Australian government provided $2.17 million to IOM to support the daily care, repatriation and reintegration of formerly trafficked and enslaved fishermen from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, who had been stranded on islands in Indonesia’s Maluku province.

“This funding support has since been extended to enable IOM to provide assistance to foreign fishermen stranded in any area of Indonesia,” an Immigration Department spokesman said.

“This assistance plays a crucial role to support and protect victims of trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry by reuniting victims with their families and providing them with limited financial assistance which can help them establish an alternative livelihood.”

IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said Australia provided the lion share of the funding for its emergency response to the human trafficking crisis, which included returning more than 1000 victims to their home countries.

“This would not have been possible without the Australian government,” he said.

At the launch of the report in Jakarta this week, Indonesian Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti unveiled a new government decree requiring all fisheries companies to submit a detailed human rights audit.

This was one of the report’s key recommendations to protect fishermen and port workers from abuse.

“That being said, Indonesia still has homework towards the approximately 250,000 Indonesian crews on foreign vessels operating across continents that remain unprotected,” Pudjiastuti says in a foreword to the report.

The report also called for greater diligence in recording the movement of vessels in Indonesian waters, more training on human trafficking, independent inspections of ports and vessels at sea and centres in ports where fishers could seek protection.

Jewel Topsfield is the Jakarta-based Indonesia correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald.This article was first published by the SMH and has been republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.