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

Janet Tupou: Speaking life into your goals and seeing dreams come true

Dr Janet Tupou … injecting diversity into university communications space. Image: AUT Pacific

By Dr Janet Tupou

Hand over heart, speaking life into your goals and dreams can see them come true.

After sitting in my first ever lecture at university, I knew that I wanted to be the one on the other side of the lectern. Week after week for three years in my undergraduate studies, I failed to see any Māori or Pasifika educators on the stage.

It was during those years that I set out the goal to be a university lecturer to inject some diversity into that space. Six years on, you can find me in front of the lecture stage and classroom, doing just that.

After completing a Bachelor of Communications Studies and honours degree, I began studying a Masters focusing on emotional labour. In other words, I call it ‘mastering the art of wearing different masks.’

As I was studying, I began teaching on undergraduate papers, the very same ones I had taken a few years back. It was such a surreal moment, to be lecturing alongside the same educators that once taught me. And it still is.

I then began studying a PhD called (De)constructing Tongan Creativity: A talanoa about walking in two worlds, which was recently awarded. The topic came to me after noticing a lack of scholarship around creativity in Tongan culture while I was teaching.

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I wanted to show all sides of the story, particularly from a Tongan perspective. I therefore wanted to explore what creativity meant for Tongan people, specifically Tongan youth in New Zealand, and that’s exactly what I did.

Identity crisis
Creativity is seen as a concept that can be seen as a threat to the Tongan culture. For example, for Tongans who are born in New Zealand, there can be an identity crisis in how to express one’s Tonganness in a Western world.

I found there is a lack of awareness of how much creativity and studying creative subjects at a higher level can better Tongan people.

My passion of exploring the notion of creativity at a deeper level is also put into practice in my teaching approaches, by way of allowing students to share their creative outlooks, voices and perspectives on any given topic that is discussed in a safe space. At the same time, to back up my talk, I walked the walk by studying my Graduate Diploma in Tertiary Teaching.

As well as lecturing full time, I am also a part time real estate salesperson. I use my skills to help educate and shed light on the complicated terminology and processes in this industry that often exploits people. How did I get to where I am today?

As a Christian, my faith has helped me power through achieving goals. Supportive family and friends, commitment and taking up incredible opportunities at institutions such as AUT has also played a huge part in my journey.

My ultimate goal as a teacher is to nurture belief in students to dream big and to achieve big. The classroom is my space to encourage students to be the best versions of themselves, because “Hand over heart, speaking life into your goals and dreams can see them come true.”

Dr Janet Tupou is a lecturer in Communication Studies and chair of the AUT School of Communication Studies diversity committee. This article was first published by Spasifik magazine and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

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

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

By Philip Cass and Kalino Latu

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

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

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

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

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

Tonga Cable has a marine maintenance contract with TE Subcom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

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

Tongasat’s appeal aimed at hindering suing former PMs, says Pōhiva

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva … plan to lodge additional legal action to force pay back of the Tomgasat money. Image: Kalino Lātū/Kaniva News

By Kalino Lātū, editor of Kaniva News  

Tonga’s Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva says he believes an appeal by Tongasat against a Supreme Court ruling over the illegal payment of millions of dollars is an attempt to hinder attempts to sue those involved and to force Princess Pilolevu to pay back the money.

Parliament tabled a submission by the government early this month to sue ex Prime Ministers Lord Sevele and Lord Tu’ivakanō for their involvement in the illegal payment of TP$90 million (NZ$60 million).

Pōhiva has revealed there was also a plan to lodge additional legal action to force Princess Pilolevu and Tongasat to pay back the money.

READ MORE: Petition to sue ex-PMs over US$50m Tongasat payment

However, he said he had discussed this with his counsel, Dr Rodney Harrison, and there was concern that the money could not be recovered and it would be very hard to investigate it.

Pōhiva told Kaniva News in an exclusive interview this week in Auckland that Tongasat’s appeal would not change Lord Chief Justice Paulsen’s decision.

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“They are free to appeal and that was part of the judicial process, but I don’t think it would affect the Supreme Court’s decision,” the Prime Minister said.

Pohiva said he had read the decision repeatedly and marvelled at how Judge Paulsen looked at all evidence and arguments before he declared that the payments of the money made by the government of Tonga to Tongasat was unlawful within the meaning of the Public Finance Management Act.

Appeal filed
Tongasat, which is also known as The Friendly Islands Satellite Communications Ltd. (Tongasat), filed a notice of appeal against the Supreme Court decision in August.

Its counsel, W.C. Edwards, then filed the appeal in the Court of Appeal of Tonga on October 16.

The appellants said they had fresh evidence from witnesses, including former Ministers of Finance Lord Matoto, Dr ‘Aisake Eke, Sunia Fili and former Chief Secretary to Cabinet ‘Aholotu Palu.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen issued a declaration on the legal status of the main points of the claims made in the court case in September.

He said the first tranche payment of US$24.45 million in aid grant funds received by the kingdom from the People’s Republic of China on September 4, 2008, was a grant and therefore public money within the meaning of the Public Finance Management Act.

“Following its receipt by the Kingdom, US$20,985,667 of the first payment was paid to or for the benefit of Tongasat pursuant to a purported agreement between the then Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele and Tongasat,” the judge said.

“The payment of US$20,985,667 of the first payment to or for the benefit of Tongasat was expended in breach of section 9 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

Finance act breach
“To the extent that the first payment was expended to satisfy pre-existing liabilities of Tongasat that expenditure was in breach of section 30 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“The purported agreement between the then Prime Minister and Tongasat was in breach of the PFMA and in excess of Dr Sevele’s lawful powers and authority as Prime Minister and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“Tongasat was not entitled to payment of the first payment or any part thereof under either the Agency Agreement or the Agency Termination Agreement.

“The second payment of US$25.450 million in aid grant funds received by the kingdom from the People’s Republic of China on June 9, 2011 was a ‘grant’ and accordingly public money within the meaning of the PFMA.

“Following its receipt by the Kingdom, the second payment was paid in its entirety to or for the benefit of Tongasat pursuant to a purported agreement between the then Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele and Tongasat.

“The payment of the second payment in its entirety to or for the benefit of Tongasat was expended in breach of section 9 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“To the extent that the first payment was expended to satisfy pre-existing liabilities of Tongasat that expenditure was in breach of section 30 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“The purported agreement between the then Prime Minister and Tongasat was both in breach of the PFMA and in excess of Dr Sevele’ s lawful powers and authority as Prime Minister and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“Tongasat was not entitled to payment of the second tranche payment or any part thereof under either the Agency Agreement or the Agency Termination Agreement.”

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with Kaniva News.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Banabans of Rabi short climate change documentary chosen for Nuku’alofa

The trailer for Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom’s short Bearing Witness documentary. Video: Banabans of Rabi

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

A short documentary, Banabans of Rabi – A Story of Survival, by Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom of Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre, has been selected for the 2018 Nuku’alofa Film Festival in Tonga next month.

This is a film produced out of the three-year-old Bearing Witness climate change project, a research and publication collaboration between the PMC and its documentary partner Te Ara Motuhenga, and the Pacific Centre for Environment-Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) and the Regional Journalism Programme at the University of the South Pacific.

Banabans of Rabi: A story of Survival.

According to the filmmakers: “During the Second World War, the inhabitants of the island of Banaba were forcibly displaced to Rabi Island in Fiji due to phosphate mining by the British Phosphate Commission.

“The island of Banaba was decimated and the Banabans had to start afresh in Rabi. The documentary follows the people in Rabi and sheds light into the problems that they face now, especially with climate change.”

Film maker Blessen Tom said on the documentary’s Facebook page: “It’s an amazing news for all of us. The festival will be the first time the full documentary is screened in public.

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“Super excited for the Pacific screening. If you’re in Tonga on November 22-23, be sure to visit us.”

Documentary maker and senior lecturer Jim Marbrook said: “This is great and it’s a very cool first step,” adding that plans should be made for other film festival entries.

Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie said: “This is a tremendous achievement for starters and a reward for the really hard work that Blessen and Hele have put into making this quality and inspirational doco.”

The 2018 Nuku’alofa Film Festival.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Tongan scholars lodge protests over broadcaster’s Pacific ‘leeches’ jibe

Broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan … controversial attack on the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders. Image: Screenshot of Newstalk ZB

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

Tongan community leaders and top scholars in New Zealand will complain to the Human Rights Commission against broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan’s outspoken comments against Pacific people.

The complaint will also be lodged with the Broadcasting Standards Authority of New Zealand and contact will be made with the Forum Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum as well as the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The action has been initiated by the executive director of Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand, Sione Tu’itahi, and came after Du Plessis-Allan commented after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s statement she would visit Nauru during the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting earlier this month.

READ MORE: Pushback against du Plessis-Allan’s Pacific ‘leeches’ comments encouraging

Du Plessis-Allan told her Newstalk ZB listeners: “The Pacific Islands don’t matter. They are nothing but leeches on us.”

She also referred to Nauru as a “hell hole”, and said it was not worth attending the Forum anyway because the Pacific Islands “don’t matter”.

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Tu’itahi said it was unfortunate that some people did not use their roles in news media wisely and instead used them to thrash the weak and those who were voiceless.

He said they must do something to stop this kind of attitude.

If not, people like Du Plessis-Allan would think they were right and would continue to do it.

Dr Malakai Koloamatangi (from left), Dr Sūnia Foliaki, Sione Tu’itahi … critical of broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan’s “degrading” comments. Image: Kaniva News

‘Outrageous comments’
Tu’itahi was responding after Dr Malakai Koloamatangi of Massey University asked people to share a link to an opinion piece by Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban on Radio New Zealand.

Luamanuvao said: “When I first heard Heather du Plessis-Allan’s comments, I was reminded of Paul Holmes’ “cheeky darkie” rant about Kofi Annan and Robert Muldoon’s labelling Pacific Islanders as “overstayers”.

“Outrageous comments are the stock and trade of some broadcasters and politicians. So, it is good to hear that some New Zealanders know and understand Pacific history, value New Zealand’s relationship with the Pacific and Pacific peoples’ contribution to New Zealand, and are prepared to speak out when ill-informed comments are aired feeding bigotry and casual racism.”

Dr Koloamatangi has described du Plessi-Allan’s comments as discriminatory, degrading, disdainful and racist (fa’ahinga lau ngali filifilimānako, tukuhifo, siolalo mo laulanu).

Dr Sūnia Foliaki, also of Massey University, said: “Nauru a ‘Hell Hole’? Yeah, it’s  a hell hole after NZ farmers benefited from the phosphate dug up to leave those holes in Nauru.”

“A march to Newstalk ZB to ask du Plessis to give us a lecture on brain holes or other holes seeing we should ALL refer to her now as the Holes Expert?”

The Tongan petition is being supported by many Tongan academics, including Professor ‘Ōkusitino Māhina, Dr Viliami Puloka, Dr Paula Onoafe Lātū and others.

Broadcaster defiant
Despite nationwide outrage and calls for Du Plessis-Allan to make an apology or resign, she has remained defiant and stood by her comments, according to Radio New Zealand.

Du Plessis-Allan’s comments were posted on social media, prompting lots of angry reactions and some abusive and offensive putdowns of the broadcaster herself.

Du Plessis-Allan invited Privacy Commissioner John Edwards to appear on her show to debate the issue last Tuesday.

He declined and she hit out: “Go back to university and do some more training. You are not good enough.”

She said Edwards’ reaction was symptomatic of “intolerance on the political left”.

“They are like all deep-thinking and progressive but the moment someone says something that they don’t want to see the nuance in, they just take the broad brushstrokes of something.”

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with Kaniva News.

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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

Tongan PM seeks royal audience after lawyer’s constitutional advice on law

Tonga’s King Tupou VI and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva … vetoed laws issue. Image: Kaniva News

By Kalino Latu, editor of Kaniva News

The government of Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva has planned an audience with the King of Tonga after a New Zealand legal expert advised that the king had no right to judge the merits of legislation passed by Parliament.

A government spokesperson said the plan was made after cabinet accepted the New Zealand lawyer Dr Rodney Harrison’s recommendations.

Pōhiva told Kaniva News in a recent interview that six Amendment Bills were submitted by the Tu’ivakanō government in 2014 and were passed by Parliament.

However, when submitted to King Tupou VI in Privy Council for his approval and signature he rejected the new laws.

These amendments included Acts of Constitution of Tonga (Amendment Bill) 2014, Judicial and Legal Service Commission 2014, Tonga Police (Amendement Bill) 2014, National Spatial Planning and Management (Amendment Bill) 2014, Magistrate Court Amendment Bill 2014 and Public Service Amendement Bill 2014.

Pōhiva said the Amendment Bills 2014 were submitted by the Tu’ivakanō government after the constitution was reviewed by a Commonwealth constitutional law expert, Peter Pursglove.

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As Kaniva News reported, Pursglove said that Tonga’s 2010 constitution did not uphold democracy, the Privy Council lacked any democratic composition or accountability and the judiciary lacked accountability and transparency.

Amendment bills left
Pōhiva said when his government came to power in November 2014, the Tu’ivakanō government had left these amendement bills for them to complete working on them.

He said they pursued some of these bills, including some that concerned the assignment of the Attorney-General to the Privy Council, which Pursgrlove said was unconstitutional.

In a response to a request by the Prime Minister’s office for an opinion on the legality of the Royal Assent Order 2011, Dr Harrison said it appeared there was a misconception that the king had the “power to grant or refuse the Royal Assent conferred by Clause 56 of the Constitution”.

Dr Harrison recommended that the government try to get the king to alter his views on his powers by “reasoned persuasion”. Seeking a judicial ruling is also an option.

The government spokesperon said the Prime Minister wanted to talk to the king first as he wanted to make sure the constitution was correctly interpreted and followed through.

He said the Prime Minister believed the king would consider Dr Harrison’s advice favourably.

Vetoed by king
Minister of Justice Vuna Fa’otusia said many of the amendments to laws and the constitution passed by Parliament were vetoed by the king because of the Judicial Committee.

The Judicial Committee was comprised of some law lords and was chaired by Lord Dalgety of Scotland. The minister said if the committee did not agree with laws and amendments to the constitutions which were already passed by the Parliament the king would reject those laws.

Dr Harrison said the Law Lords played no specific constitutional role and they did not have any constitutional function or role as scrutineers of legislation or the legislative process.

Royal Assent 2011:
56 Power of Legislative Assembly

The King and the Legislative Assembly shall have power to enact laws, and the
representatives of the nobles and the representatives of the people shall sit as one
House. When the Legislative Assembly shall have agreed upon any Bill which has
been read and voted for by a majority three times it shall be presented to the King
for his sanction and after receiving his sanction and signature it shall become law
upon publication. Votes shall be given by raising the hand or by standing up in
division or by saying “Aye” or “No”

This article is republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Tuilaepa accuses Pohiva of being ‘jello’ over Samoan press freedom

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva … something “odd” with the world press freedom rankings. Image: Samoa Observer

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielelgaoi has accused his Tongan counterpart ‘Akilisi Pohiva of being “jello” – jealous – of Samoa’s media freedom ranking.

Tuilaepa made the comment in response to Pohiva questioning Samoa’s ranking on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

Samoa is ranked 22nd while Tonga is ranked 51st.

READ MORE: Fifth Pacific Media Summit

Speaking at the opening of the 5th Pacific Media Summit being held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, Pohiva suggested that something was “odd” with the rankings.

“You have all heard by now how that Tonga dropped two places from 49 to 51 on the 2018 World Press Freedom index,” he said.

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“You have also learned that the reason for the drop is because of my government’s unfair treatment of senior journalists in the Tonga Broadcasting Commission.

“I have no problems with that but let me assure you all that it is a work in progress.

‘Continuing to talk’
“We are continuing to talk with the management and staff members of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission about improving our relationship, and of course our position in the 2019 Press Freedom Index.”

This is when he turned his attention to Samoa.

“I must say that I am surprised by Samoa’s position on the Press Freedom Index where Samoa is 22nd,” he said.

“Oh congratulations! However, what I went on about is the ongoing battle between my Samoan counterpart and the Samoa Observer. I can’t believe that Samoa is 22nd and Tonga is 51st. This is unbelievable.”

Asked for a comment, Prime Minister Tuilaepa laughed.

“Our ranking is far superior than the United States of America, which is ranked 45th and this is good news for the media and everyone who is here in my office,” Tuilaepa said.

Freedom of journalists
“I am thankful that the government puts up with you people,” he said, laughing.

“I am talking about freedom of journalists in our country and that is why the Tongan Prime Minister is somewhat “jello” (jealous) given that their ranking is very low, yet Samoa’s ranking is quite significant.”

According to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, there is a difference in the governance of Samoa and Tonga, but he did not elaborate on this.

Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu is a journalist working with the Samoa Observer.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media