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

Mata’afa Keni Lesa: Samoan politics and criminal libel – stay tuned

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi … “a rare glimpse into his fears”. Image: Samoan government

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer

It’s all happening in Samoa today.

For such a small country, there really is no dull moment.

With the latest political maneuvering within the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), and the developments in the halls of law and justice during the past couple of days, things are certainly heating up.

READ MORE: Samoan police charge anti-government blogger

The worry is that there is no “atomic bomb” nearby – otherwise all these controversial developments could collectively trigger and cause something – we might regret later on. There is certainly a feeling of uneasiness in the air; that cannot be denied.

We say this because if as Christians we claim that there are no accidents in life, then we must pause and do some soul searching, to discover the true meaning to all these developments. What are they trying to tell us? What are the lessons we can take from it? And why are they happening?

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There must be a method to thy madness. Folks, these things don’t just happen out of nowhere. There have been events building up to what we are seeing today, so that we get the feeling something has got to give, somewhere. And it’s not a question of whether it will happen; it’s rather of question of when and how it’s going to unfold.

As powerful as people say he is, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has given a rare glimpse into his fears this week, perhaps explaining a lot of the things he’s been doing and saying lately.

What fear?
What is that fear? Well he’s afraid of the possibility that the political machine called the H.R.P.P. could fall apart.

How do we know? Well he said it himself.

In justifying the party’s decision to forcefully remove long serving member, La’auilalemalietoa Leuatea Polata’iva, Prime Minister Tuilaepa indicated he wants to use the decision against La’auli as a warning to other potential rebellion party members.

“If we don’t do this now, this will be the beginning of the destruction of this party because others will say; well nothing has been done to him so I can try too,” Tuilaepa admitted this week.

The reality is that it’s hard to imagine such a well-oiled machine like the HRPP destructing. It’s even harder to see that happening with a lone member expressing different views, like La’auli has done.

But they say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. La’auli might be alone for now, but who is to say that this is not the beginning of the end?

Which is perhaps why Prime Minister Tuilaepa is hell bent on ensuring party members get the message that no one should dare test his authority. He has thrown everything including the book to make his case here.

Written agreement
“We have an agreement, a written agreement,” he said. “Before you become a member, we have an agreement where you pledge your allegiance to the party. That agreement is your commitment that you will not do anything to harm the party. So once you do something to harm the party, you have made a decision on yourself.”

He continued: “When matters pertaining to the Constitution are raised where amendments are needed, no one is allowed to [vote against the party’s position]. This is where this agreement comes into play.”

“This (HRPP) law applies to when the Constitution is the subject of discussions and amendments. It is why if you decide to vote against, that is you officially informing the party you want to leave and you don’t want to be involved anymore. Which is exactly what was done.”

Interesting, very interesting indeed. Where this episode will head to next we can only wait and see.

The trouble for the government – and Prime Minister Tuilaepa – is that it’s not just being attacked from within, there is a growing number of people – especially Samoans residing overseas – who have become so bold they are starting to stand up and speak their minds.

One of them went the extra mile and threw a pig’s head and dog food at the Prime Minister when he was speaking during a Samoa Airways launch in Brisbane recently. In Samoa this week, Talalelei Pauga was offered an opportunity to explain his actions and what he said was quite telling.

“My approach was on the political level and the reason why I used the pig’s head was because he called the people of my country stinking pigs,” he said. “He also called our people dogs and all that. If you don’t have respect for my people why should I have respect for him?”

‘No fear’
Pauga went on to say that he has “no fear, and I will die for my people.” Well that’s a bit extreme, isn’t it? But it perhaps shows the depth of feeling that exists when it comes to some of the latest political developments in Samoa today.

Speaking of extremes, another one unfolded on Friday when the police charged the man known as “King Faipopo” for allegedly making defamatory statements online against Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

Malele Paulo (his real name) had come to Samoa for his mother’s funeral when he was picked up by the police and charged on Friday night. He spent the night in police custody before he was finally let go yesterday, after surrendering his passport.

Paulo becomes the first person to be charged under the Criminal Libel Act, re-introduced by Prime Minister Tuilaepa himself, last year. This is going to be very, very, very interesting.

So stay tuned.

This editorial was published in the Sunday Samoan, the weekend edition of Samoa’s only daily newspaper, Samoa Observer. It is republished with permission.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Samoan police arrest anti-government blogger ‘King Faipopo’

“King Faipopo”, as he appeared in a video sent to the Samoa Observer last year. Image: Samoa Observer

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Samoan anti-government blogger Malele Paulo has been arrested, reports RNZ Pacific.

Malele, who uses the pseudonym “King Faipopo”, is being held in police custody.

RNZ reported Malele had been charged with making threatening social media statements towards the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, under a new criminal libel law.

Malele, who is based in Australia, was arrested in Apia after he returned to Samoa for his mother’s funeral.

In August, Tuilaepa said he was filing a lawsuit against Malele over accusations he had posted on his blog.

At the time, Malele as “King Faipopo” had challenged the prime minister to “come and get me”, according to the Samoa Observer.

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Responding to a statement issued then by the Office of the Prime Minister for the authorities to begin the process to bring him back to Samoa, Malele said he was not afraid of the actions taken by the prime minister.

‘I ain’t scared’
“I ain’t scared of anyone on this earth, Tuilaepa Sailele. Don’t try and scare me because I am not afraid of you and I have said it so many times. I am only scared of God.

“I have apologised to the country but you did not reply to my apology. I apologise to the country, not you, and you did not respond.

“You said the police will come and arrest King Faipopo. So come and get me I am waiting,” he said in the video sent to the Samoa Observer.

Malele said he at the time he was also ready to face the prime minister in court.

In December 2017, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa criticised the country’s Parliament for unanimously enacting the new criminal libel law after it had been repealed four years earlier, according to RNZ Pacific.

Mata’afa said the law threatened media freedom in Samoa. While it would be ineffective against “faceless” bloggers it would “cripple” the maintream media, he said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Low-cost solar batteries key to cheap electricity for Polynesian countries

A report on innovative solar energy technology for the Pacific. Video: NZIPR

By Sri Krishnamurthi with Peter Wilson in Auckland

Solar-powered batteries are the key to a future without electricity grids for Polynesian countries in the Pacific (Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga), a study has found.

The study is funded by the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) to assess the feasibility of a low-cost, energy future – titled “Polynesian pathways to a future without electricity grids”.

The first phase of the research, conducted by Peter Wilson (principal economist and head of Auckland business for the NZ Institute of Economic Research) and his team of Professor Basil Sharp (Auckland University professor and chair in energy economics) and Gareth William (head of Solar City Energy Services), queries whether distributed solar electricity is a practical alternative to grid-based electricity.

“The project is investigating the impact of new technologies on electricity sectors in the Pacific, we are looking at whether solar panels and batteries could augment or eventually replace electricity grids and large diesel generators,” says principal investigator Wilson.

“First phase is showing that the costs of both solar panels and batteries is diminishing very quickly and it won’t be very long before they will be economic in the Pacific and so that you have the potential to start radically changing how energy is delivered to Pacific nations.”

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While he believes it is technologically feasible now, the prohibitive cost of the batteries at the moment – the leading provider of solar batteries being Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall – is something that has economically got to arrive yet, but the trend is towards costs being reduced significantly.

He says that within 10 years batteries and solar panels together could have a large impact on existing electricity sectors in the islands, and he sees that as a positive development because it will make it easier to extend electricity to people who don not currently have it at a cheap cost.

Decisions needed
However, he says, it does mean that the island governments must consider what they do with their existing generators and existing distribution assets if they are found to be non-competitive against the new technology.

“While it is not economically feasible yet, the trends are there and so it’s something that the Pacific governments should start thinking about,” says Wilson.

“At the moment they’re focusing very much on using solar panels to replace their electricity generation, they’re just connecting to their existing electricity grids and existing technologies.

“We think the batteries are going to change the equation and that is something that should be looked at, and the point is that this is not just something for the Pacific Islands, it’s happening around the world and a lot of countries and a lot of companies are trying to work out what to do, but they don’t really have a solution.”

He is expecting exciting new technological developments in batteries as a means of storing electricity into the future.

“The basic technology is not changing. What is changing is the cost of the batteries and their efficiency, how much power they can hold,” says Wilson.

“We’ve all seen how cell phones have become smaller and smaller over the few last years, and a large amount of that is because the batteries getting smaller and better, electric vehicles are doing the same thing. It is the same technology just using it for a different purpose.”

Hawai’ian benchmark
Hawai’i is an example they studied because it is like the South Pacific countries.

“Hawai’i which has a similar geography to the South Pacific, it’s North Pacific and tropical country with small islands and they too have moved to replace the diesel-fired generators with solar panels,” says Wilson.

“That’s a good benchmark to look at on the technological side but the economics are slightly different because it’s bigger Island, but what we particularly looked is that is an example of what could happen.”

The next phase is due to begin as soon as the NZIPR give it the greenlight.

Peter Wilson explains the way forward. “Hopefully it starts sometime this year and that involves going out to the islands and doing on-the-spot investigations, talking to people, at the moment phase one was desk research based in New Zealand.”

“So far the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been very supportive of the project They’ve been funding quite large numbers of solar panels into the Pacific and they are quite keen to look at this next development which is adding batteries to that investment.”

He says the electricity generation industries are facing a major change in the evolution of the technology with what they do in their business.

‘Technological revolution’
“These industries are facing a technological revolution. They have choices, how do they respond? do they try to get ahead the curve, do they bury head in sand, do they try and make it someone else’s problem.

“We are seeing around the world this issue is being addressed, in some countries, some companies are very supportive and wanting to get to get on the bandwagon.”

Ultimately the goal is renewable energy to expand access to affordable, reliable and clean energy in the Pacific. Renewable energy targets feature prominently in all their Nationally Determined Contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Already a change is underway in Australia and New Zealand with a slow but sure transformation to renewable energy.

“It’s starting to change now. You are seeing in Auckland the lines company Vector is starting to invest in large batteries (Tesla Powerwall batteries) rather than just look at extensions to the grid.

This is a project that can change the economies of scale of Pacific countries and Peter Wilson is banking on it to transform lives in Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga.

The Pacific Media Centre shares content with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research as part of a collaboration agreement. The video was edited by Blessen Tom as part of the partnership.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific Island leaders tightening the screws on press freedom, dissent

ANALYSIS: The three-hour “detention” of television New Zealand Pacific affairs reporter Barbara Dreaver for “breaking protocols” over interviewing refugees on Nauru. But Josef Benedict reports this is just part of the dismal media freedom scene in the Pacific.

At this week’s gathering of key Pacific Island leaders on the Micronesian island of Nauru, conspicuously missing were journalists from Australia’s public broadcaster.

This was because the South Pacific’s smallest nation has refused visas to journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to enable them to attend and cover the four-day Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit.

And one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists, Television New Zealand’s Barbara Dreaver was detained for more than three hours yesterday after interviewing refugees from the notorious Australian-established detention centres on the island. The Nauru government claims she was not “detained”, merely “questioned’.

READ MORE: Self-immolation, hunger strikes and suicide: Children on Nauru want to die

The Nauru government’s ban on the ABC, it says, is in retaliation for the news organisation’s “blatant interference in Nauru’s domestic politics prior to the 2016 elections, harassment of and lack of respect towards our President and… continued biased and false reporting about our country.”

But some say ABC’s criticism of Nauru’s policies on notorious Australian-run refugee detention centre on the island – plagued by widespread reports of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, with at least five suicide deaths to date – may have more to do with it.

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Those controversial camps are not on the agenda and not likely to be a subject of much discussion within the forum which ended today.

And neither is the issue of free speech and media freedom, since efforts to repress critical reporting has become increasingly common among Pacific governments.

Climate change
It is not only climate change and rising sea levels that threaten the lives and wellbeing of Pacific Islanders. Rising levels of official intolerance of dissent and free speech across the region pose a threat to the wellbeing of their democracies.

Indeed, CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, has found that these violations of freedom of expression appear to be systemic in the region.

In Fiji, attempts by the government to intimidate and silence free speech is creating a chilling effect ahead of upcoming national elections and before the date has even been set.

In February, Island Business magazine’s editor and two of its journalists were questioned under the Public Order Act over articles on the firing of a magistrate who had presided over a union dispute.

The 2016 sedition charges against The Fiji Times – widely regarded as the country’s last independent news outlet – saw its publisher, editor-in-chief and two others hauled through the courts over a reader’s letter to the editor that allegedly contained controversial views about Muslims.

Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. The state has filed an appeal against their acquittal.

Journalists in Papua New Guinea often work in fear and many believe media freedom has been eroded. In February this year, PNG Post Courier reporter, Franky Kapin, was attacked and assaulted by staff from the Morobe Province Governor’s office for alleged biased reporting.

Journalists threatened
Journalists continue to be threatened and barred from covering the ongoing crisis at the Australian refugee detention center on Manus Island (after its closure) in the country’s north.

Senior Papua New Guinean journalist Titi Gabi says that increasing outside interference of the editorial process and the bribing and threatening of journalists has led to media freedom no longer being enjoyed in the country.

After a passenger ferry sank in Kiribati in February, leaving 93 people dead, authorities barred foreign journalists from entering the country to report on the disaster.

Meanwhile, the government of Samoa was criticised by a media freedom lobby group earlier this year for seeking to repress freedom of expression by reintroducing legislation on criminal libel without proper public consultation

Civil society groups in the regional power of Australia are extremely concerned about the impact that changes to security laws will have on fundamental freedoms. The National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 were met with a storm of protest from media outlets and civil society organisations.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has criticised the legislation, warning that the measures will have a “severely chilling effect upon academic research, free speech, and particularly constitutionally-protected free political speech”.

According to Amnesty International Australia, the draconian laws will make it a crime for charities to expose human rights violations, and to communicate with the United Nations about those violations.

Stifled free speech
So, why are governments in the region working to increasingly stifle free speech?

For one, they are coming under growing public scrutiny, led by journalists and civil society using social media, for abuse of power, lack of transparency and corruption at various government levels.

News stories exposing official human rights violations have received global attention, thanks to the efforts of international media and non-governmental organisations. Averse to the negative publicity, Pacific governments have responded with repressive action.

Also, civil society groups in the Pacific are increasingly raising not just national concerns but sensitive regional ones as well, such as rights abuses in West Papua, a region in Indonesia where there is an active pro-independence movement, and in refugee detention centres in Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island.

Asylum seekers stand behind a fence in Oscar compound at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea. This has now been closed but problems remain for the asylum seekers, “stranded’ against their will within the Manus community. Image: Eoin Blackwell/AFP/Asian Correspodent

Seeking to appease regional powerhouses Indonesia and Australia as they appeal for economic investment, governments of small island states have no qualms trying to silence those speaking out on these issues at home.

In turn, the “growing influence of China” has also been cited as a justification for Australia’s new security policies. But many believe another objective is to keep government dealings from the public.

This regional trend flies in the face of Pacific countries’ clear commitments to respect and protect freedom of expression.

Good governance
In 2000, governments signed the Biketawa Declaration committing themselves to democracy, good governance, protection of human rights and maintenance of the rule of law. At the meeting in Nauru, leaders are expected to sign a Biketawa Plus Declaration, building on the original document.

In recent years, island nations have also made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels contained in Goal 16. Ensuring fundamental freedoms is pivotal to meeting this goal, as well as the other 16 SDGs.

Leaders at the gathering needed to reiterate their nations’ commitment to fundamental freedoms in its communique and demonstrate it – to create an enabling environment for both the media and civil society to work without fear of criminalisation, harassment and reprisals.

Failing to do so – and the detention of Barbara Dreaver yesterday – are clear signs that the forum is willing to undermine its international obligations and its commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer with global civil society alliance Civicus and a contributor to Asian Correspondent. This article is republished from Asian Correspondent with the permission of the author.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vanuatu seeks Forum support for West Papua, but kept off outcomes list

PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato at yesterday’s Forum Foreign Ministers conference … Pacific still divided over West Papua issue. Image: Samoa Observer/Misiona Simo

By Alexander Rheeney in Apia

Vanuatu has asked Pacific Islands Forum member states to support its resolution to the United Nations General Assembly next year to grant West Papuans self-determination.

The plight of the indigenous population in Indonesia’s two restive provinces – Papua and West Papua – continues to be highlighted on the international stage by the Vanuatu government, despite the Melanesian Spearhead Group secretariat Director-General Amena Yauvoli declaring recently that the issue could not be raised at the Port Vila-based subregional grouping.

The issue of West Papua was put forward by Vanuatu as part of its agenda, which went before the Forum Officials Committee in its Pre-Forum Session in Apia, Samoa, this week.

According to the committee, Vanuatu had asked for the support of member states for the resolution to the UN General Assembly in 2019.

Listed under “other matters” of agenda 9(b), the committee stated that it: “Considered Vanuatu’s request for support from Members on a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly (‘Realisation of the right of the Papuan peoples self-determination in the former colony of the Netherlands New Guinea (West New Guinea)’).

“Recalling the Leaders’ current position regarding Papua (West Papua), the Committee noted Vanuatu’s intention to take the resolution forward at the UNGA in 2019.”

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The outcomes from the two-day forum officials conference were put to the Forum Foreign Ministers conference in Apia yesterday, which then used it to determine the agenda for next month’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Nauru.

No reference to West Papua
There was no reference to West Papua in the outcomes document that was distributed to the media, following a press conference that was convened after the conference.

However, the joint statement released by the Forum Foreign Ministers conference late yesterday does make reference to the Biketawa Plus Declaration, wherein the foreign ministers meeting in Apia agreed to a draft recommendation to address “emerging security issues” which will be put to leaders in Nauru.

The region continues to be divided on the West Papua issue, with the Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, last month reportedly assuring the Indonesian government in a meeting in Jakarta that PNG supports Indonesian control of West Papua.

Alexander Rheeney is co-editor of the Samoa Observer and was formerly editor-in-chief of the PNG Post-Courier.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t play with fire’ warning in Samoa’s social media threat

Many Samoans are angry over a threat by the prime minister earlier this year to ban the social media platform Facebook amid growing pressure by politicians and officials across the Pacific against “fundamental freedoms”. Mike Mohr reports for Asia Pacific Journalism in the second of a two-part series on online media.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Maleilegaoi has warned  that the social media site Facebook may be banned, and has told users “not to play with fire”.

But the threat earlier this year has drawn mounting criticism from Samoans online.

Public opinion online is suggesting that the Samoan government is threatening people’s right to freedom of expression and their right to free speech.

The Samoa Alliance of Media Practitioner for Development (SAMPOD) opposes any possible ban.

“The right to free expression is fundamental to a democracy like Samoa,” says SAMPOD.

SAMPOD and others who are opposed to the possible ban have cited the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the right of the people of Samoa to express their opinions without fear of repercussion from the government.

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The Facebook threat – first made in March – is in retaliation to online criticism and scrutiny of the Samoan PM and cabinet ministers by members of the public.

Discontent with officials
Facebook and other social media platforms are being used by members of the public to voice their opinions and discontent with Samoan government officials.

“So, I advise them not to play with fire. I want them to know that no matter where you hide, you will be caught,” he told the Samoa Observer in an interview attacking “faceless writers” on blogs.

The Prime Minister has rejected the opinions and views of online commentators. He has added that these individuals are offending government leaders with their accusations.

“Because it’s all based on lies, those affected are government leaders” he told the Observer.

Although the issue about the threatened ban has been quiet in past weeks, after a recent visit to London for a Commonwealth cybersecurity conference, he renewed his attack on anonymous bloggers.

However, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa asked in an editorial why was Tuilaepa so worried and why was he making himself “look like the biggest bully” on a crusade.

The editor said Tuilaepa was “thrilled to finally have learnt that it’s not just Samoa struggling with the issue of faceless writers”.

The prime minister had found that all 53 countries of the Commonwealth had been affected by social media problems ranging from “character assassinations” to many unfounded allegations.

Family insults
The threatened ban on Facebook would be not only for criticism for political decisions, but also for comments regarding family, allegations of corruption and personal insults that are aimed at cabinet members.

“The government will do what it takes to settle this matter once and for all, even if it means banning Facebook,” he told the Observer.

Tuilaepa’s concern is with online social media sites that provide a platform for personal attacks and accusations that he believes are unfounded, misleading and untrue.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa has insisted that these posts and comments had absolutely no truth in them.

Accusation of corruption and unethical relationships are the main reasons for Tuilaepa’s belief that eventually Facebook, and other social media platforms, will be banned.

Government officials are not the only targets of online posts but also their family members.

Alleged sexual relationships between family members is one of the accusation that has provoked feelings of anger by those who are accused of such acts.

He continued by adding that if any of the accusations aimed at government officials were true, they would have been published in the Observer.

The threatened ban would include blogs and other popular social sites and apps.

The Facebook ban is being delayed, according to the Samoa Observer, but it is just a matter of time before Facebook and other online social media sites would be banned.

Blogger identities
The identities of some of the anonymous bloggers are known to the Prime Minister and police investigators, according to an article by Samoa Observer.

O Le Palemia is an anonymous blogger that has been singled out for inflammatory accusations levelled against Prime Minister Tuilaepa and other government officials.

The identity of the O Le Palemia has not yet been uncovered, or has not yet been released publicly.

Tuilaepa has warned that if its behaviour continued, he would be forced to release the names of those that he believes are responsible.

O Le Palemia last month published an attack on some Samoan media, accusing them of publishing “government propaganda”.  The blog named Newsline Samoa, Talamua Media and Samoa Planet.

Website Samoa Planet, founded by Lani Wendt Young and Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff, closed down last month.

There was hesitation in revealing the identities of the online bloggers because of fears of physical attacks by those who the accusations and comments are aimed at or by relatives and supporters.

Tuilaepa is sure that once the identities are revealed the bloggers lives would be in danger because of the severity of the online posts that had provoked anger in government officials.

The Prime Minister is adamant that when information about the identities of the anonymous bloggers is released to the public, violence would ensue in the form of reprisal attacks.

O Le Palemia was shut down in February for breaching Facebook’s community standards, reported RNZ Pacific, but apparently resumed publication.

Police investigation
Tuilaepa said in June police had filed charges against the people suspected of being behind the O Le Palemia blog but he did not name them.

In its statement against the threatened ban, SAMPOD said: “We urge the government to use existing mechanisms to address issues arising from the misuse of Facebook, but humbly caution against the banning of this essential medium of information for the people of Samoa.”

Online comments by fellow Samoans refer to government leaders as “Snowflakes” – a slang term referring to individuals that are “hypersensitive to criticism”, according Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster online.

Mike Maatulimanu Mohr is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PMC Seminar series: Folk wisdom: Superstition and ‘old wives’ tales’ across the Pacific

Event date and time: 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 – 16:30 18:00

PACIFIC MEDIA CENTRE SEMINAR: Why is folk wisdom important?  In this presentation, Jourdene Aguon will explore and discuss the intersection between Pacific island communities (Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Guam and the Marianas) and their oral traditions, focusing on folk wisdom and its two variants: superstition and “old wives’ tales”. Interpreting a collection of historic and modern reports of these islands’ folk wisdom, we determine the commonality among them: what was important to these colonised places and what it means to have certain folk wisdom survive today.

Who: Jourdene Rosella Cruz Aguon 

When: Friday, August 29, 2018, 4.30pm-6pm

Where: Sir Paul Reeves Building,
Auckland University of Technology,
City Campus 
Room, WG903A

Contact: Dr Sylvia Frain

Report by Pacific Media Centre

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Former PCF media intern welcomes Pacific newbies on NZ exchange

Adi Anaesini Civavonovono of Fiji (left) and Elizabeth Osifelo of the Solomon Islands (both of the University of the South Pacific) against the green screen in the television studios during their visit to Auckland University of Technology this week. Behind them are the Pacific Cooperation Foundation’s Suzanne Suisuiki (partially hidden) along with AUT students Leilani Sitagata and Pauline Mago-King. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

By Rahul Bhattarai

It was a case of Pacific meets Pacific in AUT’s School of Communication Studies this week as one of the inaugural winners of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation internships welcomed this year’s new batch of four student journalists from Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

Pauline Mago-King of Papua New Guinea was a final year communication studies student in Madang when the internships began and she visited New Zealand in 2015 thanks to PCF.

Now she is a master’s degree student at Auckland University of Technology doing research into domestic violence and non-government organisation responses in her home country.

She says she knew the flexibility of the AUT programme was just right for her – “especially when you come from a country where there aren’t enough opportunities for a student to gain experience.”

AUT’s Pacific Media Centre hosted the PCF internship students and director Professor David Robie welcomed them, saying “we‘re just a small programme but with quite a reach, we have an audience of up to 20,000 on our Asia Pacific Report website”.

The PMC, with a small part-time team, covers the region with independent news as well as conducting out a discrete media research programme.

-Partners-

Three of the students on the two-week internship in New Zealand come from the University of the South Pacific and the student newspaper Wansolwara – Elizabeth Osifelo (Solomon Islands), Salote Qalubau and Adi Anaesini Civavonovono (both from Fiji). The fourth, Yumi Talaave, is from the National University of Samoa.

The interns toured AUT’s communications facilities, including the state-of-the-art television studies and control room.

Pacific Media Centre student journalist Rahul Bhattarai and University of Samoa’s meet King Kong on the AUT television studio green screen. Image: David Robie/PMC

They then visited AUT’s journalism newsroom and media centre.

The students also watched the final editing stages of a short current affairs documentary by two AUT students involved in the PMC’s Bearing Witness climate change project.

Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom travelled to Rabi Island in the north of Fiji in April and filmed the documentary Banabans of Rabi: A Story of Survival in the hope of spreading awareness about the impact of climate change in the Pacific.

Their lecturers, Jim Marbrook and David Robie, hope to enter the documentary into film festivals and an earlier video by the students as part of the project gives a glimpse of life on the island.

Suzanne Suisuiki, communications manager of PCF, says these kinds of internships provide the opportunity for Pacific students to gain wider exposure and better understanding of media.

“We wanted interns who had a sense of appreciation of the media industry,” she said.

She plans to next year expand to the wider Pacific region, including Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

Two students were also selected from New Zealand to go to Fiji and Samoa.

The Pacific Cooperation Foundation internship students with Pacific Media Centre students and staff at AUT this week. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Reviving the ‘lost skills’ of traditional waka Pacific voyaging

Waka (or va’a) voyager and environmental advocate Schannel van Dijken talks about the Pacific and Samoan ocean sailing traditions and the challenges of climate change. Video: Pacific Media Centre

By Hele Ikimotu

The president of the Samoa Voyaging Society (SVS), Schannel van Dijken, says humans cannot thrive without looking after our landscapes and seascapes.

As part of his work with the SVS, van Dijken and his team of volunteers sail across the Pacific on their waka, the Gaualofa – promoting the old tradition of navigating.

“Our mission is to revive the lost art of traditional navigation and voyaging but also to take this knowledge and stewardship responsibilities that we used to have – take these to the communities,” he says.

He also speaks of the challenges around climate change and the need to raise awareness about the issue.

This 4 minute video was made by Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom as part of the Pacific Media Centre’s Bearing Witness climate assignment under the postgraduate International Journalism Project at Auckland University of Technology.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media