Fijian students design superheroes to challenge ‘Silence’ in comic contest

Students at Holy Trinity Primary School in Suva, Fiji, presented their superheroes designed during a workshop held on Monday. Image: UNICEF

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Advocacy groups have called on children and young people to defeat the “ultimate supervillain” – silence – to help end violence in and around schools.

The Holy Trinity Primary School students’ superheroes will be entered in this global competition organised by UNICEF and Comics Uniting Nations.

During the workshop at Holy Trinity Primary School, UNICEF Pacific ambassador Pita Taufatofua said: “Every child in Fiji, in the Pacific islands and throughout the world, has the right to go to school and feel safe.

“Superhero” Love Walker. Image: UNICEF

“Let’s talk about the kind of superpowers that your superhero might have that will help every child feel safe in school.”

The students also had the chance to work with Tui Ledua, from Kanalevu Animation and Illustration.

“How will we create a superhero to prevent bullying?” Ledua told the students.

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He responded to the students’ ideas on the characteristics his superhero should have and brought this character to life right in front of their eyes, a superhero complete with a sasa broom to be used as a magic wand to create a peaceful world.

Silencing children
Silence is a supernatural character that uses its powers to stop children from speaking up and taking action against violence in and around schools.

Children and young people aged 25 years and under have been invited to design their own comic superhero that will defeat Silence and help keep children safe in school.

UNICEF Pacific representative Sheldon Yett said: “From fighting and bullying to sexual harassment and corporal punishment, violence in and around schools can have devastating, long-term consequences for children.”

The Silence superhero comic contest will encourage children and young people in
Fiji and around the world to be part of UNICEF’s global campaign to shed light on and spark action to #ENDviolence in schools through the creative medium of comic design.

The top submissions in the contest will be chosen after the closing date on October 25 by a special panel of judges, including comic artist Gabriel Picolo and last year’s comic contest winner Sathviga “Sona” Sridhar.

The public will then have the opportunity to vote online for their favourite comic hero between November 16 and 25.

The winner will be announced in December and will work with a professional team to turn their winning idea into a full-length comic book. Their comic will be presented to World Leaders at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in July 2019, as well as distributed to schools and children worldwide.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Former BRA and BLF fighters break arrows to heal Bougainville wounds

Breaking bows and arrows … the people of Haku show their commitment to the future of Bougainville. Image: Radio New Dawn FM News

By Aloysius Laukai in Buka

The people of Haku have demonstrated their commitment to the Bougainville peace process by reconciling former fighters from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Buka Liberation Front ahead of their mass reconciliation next week.

The ex-fighters and commanders broke bows and arrows in a traditional ceremony marking reconciliation before next year’s referendum on independence.

At the height of the Bougainville conflict, the people of Haku formed the Buka Liberation Front (BLF), which later changed into the Bougainville Resistance Forces after many atrocities were being committed to the ordinary citizens of Bougainville.

They then went to Nissan island to get support from the PNG Defence Force soldiers who were stationed there.

The reconciliation at Luli village was attended by both the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and BLF commanders and their soldiers.

They broke bows and arrows in front of their chiefs to show their commitment to peace and unity for Bougainville leading up to the referendum on independence next June.

-Partners-

BLF commander Donald Hamao said that the people of Haku were committed to the future of Bougainville and wanted to end yesterday what they had started 28 years earlier when they had formed the resistance force in 1990.

No time for war
Mathew Gales, commander of the BRA, also said there was no time for war on Bougainville. He called on the people of Haku and Bougainville to look at the “big picture ahead” and create peace in their communities.

The reconciliation included flag raising ceremony speeches and activities.

Haku will do a big reconciliation ceremony next Thursday at Eltupan village, the place were fierce fighting between the two factions took place at the height of the Bougainville conflict.

The ceremony was co-sponsored by the chairman of the Bougainville Import Export Group which operates SOLMAL in Buka town, Jason Fong.

Other sponsors included the ex-combatants member for North Bougainville, Ben Malatan,  and the national member for North Bougainville, William Nakin.

Aloysius Laukai is editor of New Dawn FM News community radio.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste finally has a government. But what happens now?

By Guteriano Neves in Dili

After nearly a year of political deadlock resulting from a minority government, and a divisive political campaign, Timor-Leste is set to have a stable government after an early election, held last Saturday.

The forthcoming government will face an uneasy task in delivering on the promises made during the campaign.

The result of the election brought four parties to be represented in the Parliament. The Aliança de Mudança para o Progresso (AMP), led by resistance leader Xanana Gusmão, won an absolute majority in the latest polls, securing 34 seats out of 65 seats in the Parliament.

This will be sufficient to pass the programme and budget in the Parliament, both of which the previous minority government failed to do. Frente Revolucionáriu de Timor-Leste Independente (Fretilin) came in second, maintaining its 23 seats despite a significant increase in the number of votes.

The Democratic Party and Frenti Dezenvolvimentu Demokrátiku (FDD) – a new political force – secured five and three seats, respectively.

The result sets Timor-Leste up to end nearly a year of political impasse resulting from the previous minority government. The country can now expect have a stable government for five years to come.

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Having a stable government is one thing, but delivering on political promises is another. The latter is not easy, given the context in Timor-Leste.

Strong opposition
At the macro political level, the government is expected to face strong opposition from the opposition bench in the National Parliament.

Outside of parliament, the government will face enormous pressure from the public to deliver the promises made during the campaign. This includes delivering good quality infrastructure, high quality public services — mainly education and health — and building an economy that can employ a significant number of the young population.

The last point is critical for Timor-Leste’s long-term peace and stability.

The biggest task is economic: striking a balance between current domestic consumption and long-term investment, in a context where the current government reserve is depleting.

In general, public and private consumption in Timor-Leste have been growing during the last 10 years, becoming the engine for non-oil economic growth. One could view the growing domestic consumption level as an increase in purchasing power and wellbeing.

However, this growth is primarily fueled by public spending, using petroleum revenue.

Increased consumption also incentivises the emergence of small private sector activities, primarily the wholesale and retailer industry in Dili. This sector provides a large proportion of jobs in the private sector, particularly in Dili, according to the Business Activities Survey.

Poverty line
Growing domestic consumption has also contributed to the reduction of the poverty level. Nonetheless, 41 percent of Timorese still live below the national poverty line, and many households still depend on the government’s cash transfer programmes.

Therefore, maintaining the current consumption level is important for short-term growth and maintaining the well-being of individual households.

Meanwhile, the public sector is the biggest contributor of investment in Timor-Leste.

Currently private sector investment is still less than 10 percent of the total non-oil GDP. Therefore, the government’s investment has been critical for economic growth during the last 10 years, and job creation in the construction sector.

In the last decade, the government focused its attention on physical infrastructure, primarily electricity and roads. There are political as well as economic reasons for this.

The public demand for infrastructure resonates throughout the country, and the existing infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly due to poor maintenance. The economic rationale is that public investment in infrastructure is necessary to enable an environment for the private sector to grow.

But Timor-Leste needs to give more attention to long-term investment in its people. Education and health services, particularly, serve this purpose.

Health, education challenges
In the last decade, as the government prioritised physical infrastructure, public investment in health and education has been relatively low by regional standards.

While there have been significant improvements in many indicators, the issues of malnutrition and education quality are still big challenges.

In education in particular, there is an immediate need to improve the basic supporting infrastructure. Teacher training is widely regarded as a critical issue, but it requires long-term approach.

The country will pay a high economic and social cost in the future if there is no significant improvement in these sectors.

Finally, the country also needs to work on its institutional framework to support long-term development. Various organisations, laws and regulations, and policy frameworks, both formally and informally guide the way actors behave by creating economic incentives.

The roles of different institutions are critical, including the parliament, judiciary, ombudsman office, and anti-corruption commission. The government also needs to strengthen internal control mechanisms to strengthen accountability and efficient use of existing resources.

Extra-parliamentary oversight mechanisms, such as investigative journalism, critical voices from NGOs and academics, and space for public participation, will contribute here.

Striking a balance
In order to strike this balance between short-term and long-term goals, the government needs to be realistic, pragmatic, and strategic in choosing instruments and setting targets. A significant proportion of domestic consumption is public consumption.

The government’s intervention could focus on unnecessary public consumption, where spending cuts can be made in order to improve efficiency in public spending.

As for physical infrastructure, it is necessary for the government to focus much of its attention on basic infrastructure, such as roads, water and sanitation, and the infrastructure to support public service delivery.

There is a need to revisit all investment projects, particularly big projects that do not have clear investment returns, which could become “white elephant” projects for the country in the future if the economy does not have sufficient capacity to operate and to maintain such assets in the long run.

In the last 10 years, thanks to petroleum revenues, the government was able to adopt a “frontloading fiscal policy” to boost domestic consumption and finance largescale public investment. Nonetheless, having disproportionate public spending creates loopholes for misappropriation of public resources, particularly when coupled with less efficient public administration.

Consequently, certain groups of people profit disproportionately from the contracts. Unnecessary spending discourages productive activities and inflates the prices of goods and services, thus affecting resource distribution within the economy. This adversely impacts the government’s intention to develop Timor-Leste’s non-oil economy.

Since petroleum revenues have declined steeply, there is a need to impose certain fiscal disciplinary measures to constrain the temptation posed by available cash in the Petroleum Fund.

Not appropriate
Budget cuts do not sound appropriate in a context where poverty is still significantly high, and public spending is the engine to keep the economy moving.

But without fiscal discipline, Timor-Leste would be more likely to repeat the same policy that has been ineffective in responding to the country’s needs.

The new government needs to be more pragmatic and realistic in deciding how much to spend, setting the sectoral priorities, and acknowledging the tradeoffs involved.

These tasks are not easy, but they are not impossible. It requires decision makers to be realistic in spending and setting targets, strategic in choosing their policy instruments, and courageous enough to bear the tradeoffs resulted from policy options.

Guteriano Neves is a Dili-based policy analyst. This article was first published by The Diplomat and is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Murray Horton: Independent foreign policy? Fine words, but not reality

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Murray Horton: Independent foreign policy? Fine words, but not reality

OPINION: By Murray Horton

The Aotearoa Independence Movement (AIM) congratulates Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for explicitly defying President Trump’s bullying in relation to New Zealand’s United Nations vote against the US declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. She went on to say that “New Zealand has, and always has had, an independent foreign policy“.

Fine words. If only they bore some semblance of reality. The fact is that New Zealand is the most loyal, albeit junior, satellite of the US Empire.

AIM assumes that Jacinda is referring to things like the nuclear free policy. Yes, that is commendable – but never let it be forgotten that if the 1980s’ Labour government that implemented it had had its way, NZ would have been both nuclear free and still in the ANZUS military alliance with the US.

New Zealand did not leave ANZUS, it was kicked out by the US.

New Zealand’s most important contribution to the US Empire is as a decades-long member of the Five Eyes spy alliance and hosting the Waihopai spy base, which is operated by the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on behalf of the the US National Security Agency (NSA)

Within the past few weeks Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the GCSB, has stated in writing that this government has no intention of closing Waihopai.

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AIM is happy to give the Prime Minister some suggestions that would make her statement actually be true.

What would a non-aligned foreign policy look like?

It’s time for this country to pull the plug, to finish the business started in the 1980s which saw NZ both nuclear free and out of ANZUS; and to break the chains – military, intelligence, economic and cultural – that continue to bind us to the American Empire.

The Americans are very proud of having won their independence from the British Empire; it’s time for us to do the same from the American Empire. Let’s deal with the world on our terms, not on those dictated from whichever empire we happen to be a junior member of at the time.

AIM thinks that gaining true independence from the American Empire, and becoming non-aligned, is an idea whose time has well and truly come. It is not “anti-American” (or “racist” or “xenophobic”, for that matter). We stand with the American people who are fighting back in their millions against the daily outrages being perpetrated by Trump and his reactionary billionaire cronies.

We stand with them as we have stood with them in common causes ranging from the war in Vietnam to the invasion of Iraq and the campaign to impose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on our peoples.

It doesn’t mean isolationism. It would mean that New Zealand would pick our allies and, if necessary, our wars, on a case by case basis, decided first and foremost by what is in the interests of the New Zealand people, not the interests of foreign governments and/or corporations.

It would involve cutting the strings that continue to bind us to the American Empire. Specifically:

  • get out of the Five Eyes spy alliance (with the US, UK, Canada and Australia), and pull the plug on the ANZUS-in-all-but-name military and intelligence alliance with Trump’s increasingly dangerous and unhinged US. Renounce the recent Wellington and Washington Declarations with the US. Get out of the American wars that we are already in, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan and definitely stay out of any new wars that Trump may try to drag us into, such as in Korea.
  • the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) spy bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana (which are US National Security Agency bases in all but name) must be closed;
  • the GCSB, which is simply a junior subcontractor for the NSA, must be abolished. Cyber-security (the excuse offered for its existence) can be provided by a dedicated non-spy Government agency.
  • the US military transport base at Christchurch Airport, which has been there for more than 60 years, must be demilitarised, to end it providing cover for US military and intelligence activities that have nothing to do with providing logistic support for peaceful scientific research in Antarctica.

Cutting the Empire ties
AIM believes that not only should the national dialogue be about cutting the ties with the American Empire but also about cutting all vestigial ties with our original Empire, namely dear old Mother England.

Get shot of Mother England and Uncle Sam. It’s called leaving home and living your own life and it’s what all of us do in the much vaunted “real world” that we keep getting told about. It’s called being independent.

But we do not advocate NZ transferring its allegiance to become a loyal servant of the arising Chinese Empire. Why jump from the frying pan into the fire? Let’s stay independent of anyone’s empire.

Neutrality should be on the agenda of that dialogue. Armed neutrality is a well-established practice globally. Does anybody think counties like Switzerland, Sweden or Austria are disadvantaged, poor, or isolated as a result of their long entrenched national policy of armed neutrality?

The NZ peace movement put in a lot of work promoting positive neutrality in the 1980s as part of the successful campaign that made NZ nuclear free and out of ANZUS.

A non-aligned Aotearoa would be the opposite of “isolationist”. It would pursue an activist foreign policy. There is plenty of unfinished business.

Spreading the Kiwi disease
Let’s spread “the Kiwi disease” and actively work for a nuclear free world, one country or region at a time, if necessary.

Let’s demand that all the nuclear powers, overt or covert, disarm and dismantle their weapons of mass terror and genocide. Let’s speak truth to power and tell countries such as Australia and the US what we find abhorrent in areas such as their human rights and race relations practices. Because that’s what’s friends do.

There have been some encouraging signs of this with the Ardern government politely offering to help Australia solve its self-imposed mess vis a vis the refugees cruelly imprisoned and then abandoned on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. But the Aussies said “mind your own business, little brother”.

New Zealand’s response should be: “This is our own business. Human rights abuses are everyone’s business”.

Regionally, Aotearoa needs to be much more activist.

Take in more refugees
As a First World capitalist economy we are part of the climate change problem that threatens the whole world and nowhere more imminently than our tiny Pacific neighbours. There is clamour for NZ to take in more refugees and AIM fully supports that – the inhabitants of these doomed atolls need to be at the top of the list. All of them, if necessary – we’re only talking thousands of people.

This is not a solution to the problem of climate change (that’s a whole other, but vitally related, issue, one which Trump is actively making worse) – it is merely a reaction to the problem, a recognition that we have a responsibility to help our neighbours whom we have harmed.

There are other regional issues that Aotearoa should be addressing. Decolonisation of France’s Pacific empire is an obvious one. Support the benighted people of West Papua to gain their freedom from Indonesia, in the same way we (very belatedly) supported the East Timorese people.

Confront the government of the Philippines over its shocking human rights record (President Duterte makes Trump look like a sensitive new age guy). Offer the peace-making skills that we demonstrated so successfully in Bougainville to help the Philippines to find an end to the wars that have wracked it for more than half a century.

These are some regional examples of where Aotearoa could offer to “lend a hand” (to quote Jacinda Ardern on the Manus Island refugees).

This material is an extract from a longer AIM generic flyer, which can be read online here.

AIM will be officially launched in Blenheim, as part of the Waihopai spy base protest activities, on Saturday, January 27. Details online at AIM Launch Event page updated.

Murray Horton
Spokesperson
Aotearoa Independence Movement

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Canada blacklists tag Philippines with third highest number of ‘terrorists’

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Canada blacklists tag Philippines with third highest number of ‘terrorists’

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Wanted terrorists … This undated poster released jointly by the Philippine military and the US Embassy in Manila shows terrorist leaders wanted by authorities for alleged murders, extortion and kidnappings with corresponding rewards for their capture. Image: Inquirer News

By Roy Abrhamn Narra and Carlo Casingcasing in Manila

Blacklists developed by the Canadian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) have tagged the Philippines as having the third highest number of individual terrorists behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The DFAIT list of more than 1800 identified individual terrorists, and a separate list for groups, was released by Canada’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions last week and posted under the office’s anti-terrorism financing page.

About 68 Filipinos were identified on that February 2017 DFAIT list, with the Philippine total behind the 113 of Saudi Arabia and the 88 of Iraq.

The listed Filipinos are affiliated with local rebel groups like the National Democratic Front (NDF) and Abu Sayyaf, which were identified by the Philippine government as terrorist organisations.

On the list is Jose Maria Sison of the National Democratic Front (NDF). The NDF group was negotiating a peace deal with the Philippine government until President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government negotiators on February 4 to pull out of the talks.

Another person on the list is Mukhlis Saifulla, one of the suspects in the bombing of the Light Railway Transit couches on 30 December 2000.

Also on the list is Julkipli Salim Salamuddin, an Abu Sayyaf member arrested in 2003 for a bombing incident in Zamboanga City that killed three, including an American green beret (special force) officer.

Some Filipinos detained
Some of those Filipinos identified in the list have been detained, like five of them who are members of the Rajah Solaiman Movement

The DFAIT also has a separate list of terrorist groups. Those from the Philippines made part of the list include the Aub Sayyaf group, the New People’s Army/Communist Part of the Philippines, the Southeast Asian group Jema’ah Islamiyah that has operations in the Philippines, and the Rajah Solaiman Movement.

The lists’ release comes at a time Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had called for the end of peace negotiations between the government and the NDF, as well as his orders to pummel the Abu Sayyaf group.

In the list of individuals, Yemen was ranked fourth with 43 terrorists. Syria (36) and Russia (33) were fifth and sixth.

Other countries included in the DFAIT terror list (individuals) is the United Kingdom (26), France (23), Turkey (10), and even the United States (seven).

US President Donald Trump earlier banned the entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the US as part of his administration’s anti-terror campaign.

But among the groups listed, three Filipino groups who were earlier identified to be linked with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) were not in the DFAIT list: the Ansarul Khilafa Philippines, the Maute group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Maute group tagged
Duterte tagged the Maute group, allegedly led by Abdullah Maute, as behind the September 2, 2016, bombing of a night market in Davao City (President Duuterte’s hometown) that killed 14 and injured 70 people.

The Canadian terrorism database has included notorious terrorists like Ibrahim al-Asiri, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasir al Whuayshi, as well as Hasan Izz-al-Din and Abdul Rahman Yasin (both tagged by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation as among the most wanted terrorists). Among the groups included in the list were ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram.

The lists were posted on the anti-terrorism financing page of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Last year, though not related to terrorist financing, the Philippines was on the receiving end of the world’s largest online bank hacking incident that saw the Bangladesh central bank lose US$81 million to casino operators based in Manila.

Some money had been recovered and returned to the Bangladeshi government, while a Filipino-run remittance company and a commercial bank are being investigated.

Roy Abrhamn Narra and Carlo Casingcasing are graduate journalism students of the University of Santo Tomas. This story was reported as part of the course “Global Journalism Practice and Studies” at UST.