Solomon Islands: RAMSI ends today

PM challenges people to take the country forward

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stated on Thursday
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stated on Thursday

RAMSI officially leaves the country today.

And the onus to lead this nation is now in our hands of the citizens of this country, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stated on Thursday.

“We must stand united for the course of the justice and peace and we need to work together even more than ever in order for us to build peace, guarantee security, and foster sustainable economic development,” Mr Sogavare said in a powerful speech delivered last night at the RAMSI’s farewell ceremony at Lawson Tama.

“The moment we talked so much about and wish has now come!

“This is the moment when we must say goodbye to our friends and begin the moment of truth for SI.

“A moment when we must begin the arduous journey of nation building on our own, but yes on a firm footing established for us by the success story of RAMSI.”

Mr Sogavare said the mission is a success story that took 14 expensive and eventful years to write.

“A story that cost tax payers of Australia and New Zealand a total of SBD $17billion to write; a story that is literally written in blood, sweat and tears of men and women of the 15 member states of Pacific Islands Forum.

“A story that is sealed by the supreme sacrifice made by six brave sons of the Pacific who lost their lives in the making of this story.

“The journey in the writing of this story was not all smooth and there were differing views on the materials to be used to develop and script of the story.

“We now have a country that is safer to live in and where business and commerce can once again thrive to support the functioning of the government system.

“We now have a police force that gained the full confidence of the people of this country, having gone through comprehensive disciplinary process and can now stand tall as one of the best police force in the region.

“We now have a country where children can go to school without having to be concerned about their safety.

“We now have a country where our people can go about their daily works of life without having to be concerned about being subjected to extortion and deprivation.

“We now have a country where we can hold free elections to decide on the composition of a government.

“We now have a country that we can once again invite foreign investments to develop our areas of strength.

“We now have a country that can now meaningfully engage with our development partners, in other words we can fully function as a sovereign country.”

Mr Sogavare stated RAMSI’s legacy is a platform where we build our strength and forge a common future together.

“We have done it before and we shall do it again.

“Solomon Islands are our land and our country-so let us stand united from shore to shore to say thank you RAMSI and we bid you farewell.”

By TEDDY KAFO, Solomon Star News

Papua New Guinea election descends into chaos amid violence and claims of bribery

The Guardian – Voting was suspended in the capital after three election officials werefound to be carrying over US$50,000 in cash, suspicious documents and ballot papers

A car is decorated with voting posters at an election rally in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby.
A car is decorated with voting posters at an election rally in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby. Photograph: Eric Tlozek/AP

Papua New Guinea’s general election has descended into chaos after voting was suspended in the capital amid accusations of bribery and faked ballot papers and the campaign in other parts of the country became violent.

Voting opened for a two week period on 24 June, but was suspended in the capital Port Moresby this week after three election officials – including the election manager for Port Moresby – were arrested by police after found to be carrying over US$50,000 in cash, suspicious documents and ballot papers already filled in.

In the highlands ballot boxes had been stolen and destroyed, people were casting their votes without privacy in plain sight of officials and other voters, and fighting had broken out between rival clan groups and also between voters and police.

There were also reports from around the country that thousands of names have been left off the electoral role, particularly in regions who strongly oppose the government. Claims also surfaced that “ghost” names had been added to the electoral roll and votes cast.

At the University of Lae on Thursday Radio NZ reported 1500 ballot papers were burnt by students angry at election officials, and police fired on the crowd in an attempt to manage the situation which was quickly spiralling out of control.

Prior to the election the United Nations Development Programme has been involved in training and coordinating 880 election observers, of which 720 are PNG citizens.

In a statement UNDP said it would not be directly involved in observing the election or make any comment on the process.

A group gathers at an election rally in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby.
A group gathers at an election rally in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby. Photograph: Eric Tlozek/AP

Sir Francis Billy Hilly, former prime minister of the Solomon Islands, said the vastness of the PNG highland area and security issues posed serious challenges for the election observers sent from his country.

On his Facebook page Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neillappealed for calm across the country and said the election would go ahead and any issues were only “administrative”, and not indicative of vote tampering or corruption.

“Papua New Guinea is a great nation, a nation that is changing and evolving, and where our democracy is one of the most stable in the world.” he said.

There have been widespread calls from opposition politicians and the public for the electoral commissioner Patalias Gamato to resign, as he had lost control of the country’s election.

Former PNG prime minister Mekere Morauta told Radio New Zealand that this election was the most chaotic he had witnessed and said it was an organised attempt by the ruling political party, the People’s National Congress (PNC) to hold on to power.

“Unfortunately, this chaos is an organised one,” he said.

“It’s organised by PNC. Because PNC is likely to be wiped out in a very clean election.”

O’Neill called Morauta’s comments slanderous and untrue.

“If this was not election time these opposition members would find themselves in court facing civil lawsuit, and they may well face legal action after the election when we have time to look back.”

Voting will continue in PNG for another week.

Last year Transparency International ranked PNG as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, putting it at 136th among 176.

The tumultuous nation which shares a border with Indonesia has seven million people and 850 different language groups, and has been marred by decades of tribal conflict and instability, and endemic corruption among politicians and officials.

KAVA Potent roots
Kava Roots, Lolovoli, Republic of Vanuatu
Kava Roots, Lolovoli, Republic of Vanuatu

A farmer from Lolovoli on South Ambae impressed both kava drinkers and dealers with his trunk of melomelo 15 years old.

The kava arrived at Saratamata for display during the Yam Festival last week.

Asked how many shells of “fresh harvests” he was going to make out of the trunk, he said over 100 shells.

Asked how potent it would be, he said it would depend on the person who “mixed” it with water.

The farmer said he has more trunks of melomelo on his farm but that “they are less than 15 years old”.

PNG Natoinal Election: You Will Vote

POLLING in the National Capital District will go ahead tomorrow after the sidelining of two election officials implicated in election-related fraud.

Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato said yesterday he has appointed new officers to take charge of polling for the remainder of the National Election.

The highly publicised one-day polling in Port Moresby’s three open and the regional seats was postponed on Tuesday to tomorrow after a strike by polling staff for non-payment of allowances, coupled with the discovery of suspect documents and large sums of money on the NCD election manager and assistant election manager.

Mr Gamato said the changes were made in response to a petition he had received from NCD candidates.

He has appointed veteran officer Alwin Jimmy as NCD election manager and Bale Kavanamur as assistant election manager, replacing Terence Hetinu and Roslyn Tabogani respectively as well as a presiding officer who had money and ballot papers in their possession.

Mr Gamato said it was now a police matter and for the law to decide their fate.

“Because I want to restore confidence and trust so when you appoint new people with integrity and experience, I think they can manage this election together with other returning officers, assistant returning officers and polling officers’ work towards counting,” he said yesterday.

Police also said yesterday they are keen to interview a candidate who they believed may help in their investigations.

In another twist of events, police say that another candidate they want to interview on possible misuse of public funds had not made himself available for questioning since Tuesday.

Police had been investigating the candidate, who is contesting an Open seat in NCD, before the issue of writs following a
formal complaint.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki, who returned from the Highlands region last night, confirmed he has a report on these two candidates and has asked both to turn up at his office this morning for questioning.

In the absence of assurance of return to normalcy from irate candidates, uncertainty remains within the community though whether the election in NCD will proceed tomorrow.

Yam festival to celebrate varieties, not size: Director

Director of Agriculture, Antoine Ravo, says it is a wrong mentality to imagine that a yam festival is about planting the longest or biggest yam.

Snake Yam, Ambae, Republic of Vanuatru
Snake Yam, Ambae, Republic of Vanuatru

Instead he says it is an event to celebrate the abundance of different varieties of yams to contribute towards food security.

As the Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah points out that there are eight species of yam in the country and over 300 varieties; soft yams and hard yams and they all contribute to food security.

Ambae Bilingual School received the first prize for planting the heaviest wovile of almost 10 kilo on the scale.

A farmer from West Ambae received first prize for the longest yam and the list goes on about the winners of round yam including some which you have never heard their names before.

Perhaps one of the most difficult yams to dig is the “snake yam” which literally looks snake-ish.

A farmer from North East Ambae who did not take part in the Penama Yam Festival was reported to have successfully planted a yam called “tumasi” and could not carry the whole yam home due to its weight so he had to sever only what which his family could prepare for one meal.

Many farmers regretted not taking part in the largest yam festival in the country and they are encouraged to plan ahead to plant their crops for the possibility of taking part in the next yam festival on another island in another province.

PM hails success of RAMSI

PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare says the significant achievements made by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands reflect the importance of Pacific diplomacy, solidarity and cooperation.

The Prime Minister made the remarks when the motion for Parliament to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider a joint report by the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI on the 14-year intervention.”

“RAMSI was the first mission under the Biketawa Declaration that tested the cooperative arrangements of the region,” Mr Sogavare said.

“RAMSI has achieved significant results for Solomon Islands and the (Pacific) region. It is in this context that the RAMSI intervention reflects the importance of Pacific diplomacy, solidarity and cooperation.”

Mr Sogavare said these achievements are worthy of the commendation and gratitude of Solomon Islands Parliament because they set the fundamentals of a society on the path to peace and happy co-existence- the very values that were sorely tested during the ethnic crisis.

He said the existence and evolution of RAMSI was based on the spectrum of stabilisation to capacity-building and thereafter withdrawal.

“You will note from the report that RAMSI begun with intervention and stabilisation of law and order from 2003-2004, institutional strengthening from 2004-2005, capacity development from 2006-2008, transition from 2009-2013 and police development and drawdown strategy from 2013-2017.

“These phases provided the impetus for RAMSI to assess its engagement with Solomon Islands and move on with achieving our mutual aims and objectives.”

Mr Sogavare said the outcomes of the reviews carried out during RAMSI’s existence in Solomon Islands were consistent and provided more strength to the partnership between the Solomon Islands Government and the other 15 member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum.

He said these reviews, which include the 2004 Bipartisan Solomon Islands Intervention Taskforce, the 2005 Pacific Islands Forum Eminent Persons Group, the 2007 Pacific Islands Forum Review, the 2009 Foreign Relations Committee Report and the 2014 Independent Report Commissioned by the Solomon Islands Government, provided more strength to the partnership.

The prime minister said there were times that this partnership was tested, but these tests positively shaped this relationship. “We became stronger and more understanding of each other.”

As the RAMSI Operation ‘HelpimFren’ concludes this week, Mr Sogavare said Solomon Islands stands at the crossroads of taking full responsibility for its affairs.

He said the journey ahead will be challenging and requires the solemn responsibility and commitment of every Solomon Islands leader and individual to work together and stand in unison for the good of present and future generations.

Prime Minister Sogavare said the legacy of RAMSI is a testimony of shared goals to ensure Solomon Islands is a safe and secure nation

“The legacy of RAMSI is a testimony to all Solomon Islanders that conflict has no place in our beautiful society.

“The legacy of RAMSI is an affirmation of the importance of providing leadership for the benefit of our future.”

Mr Sogavare also took the opportunity to acknowledge the support rendered by all Solomon Islanders to the work of RAMSI.

He said the success of RAMSI is a result of support by all levels of leadership in the country and every Solomon Islander.

“Your support and partnership is what makes the work of RAMSI successful.

“Our prayers have been answered and God has given us the gift of peace. Let us build on it and sustain it for our future generations.”

The Prime Minister thanked the Governments and people of Australia and New Zealand for the significant financial support they rendered towards the work of RAMSI.

He also thanked all RAMSI participating countries for the men and women they sent to Solomon Islands to serve the common good of the country.

“The men and women you sent under RAMSI have done well and I must say, they have been great ambassadors of peace as you bestowed life to this nation.”

The Prime Minister paid tribute to the six men and women who died while serving under RAMSI .

“I would like to salute and offer my respect to the six fallen RAMSI officers. May the God Almighty continue to comfort their families.”

All other Parliamentarians who spoke on the motion also acknowledged the achievements of RAMSI and thanked all the 15 Pacific Islands Forum member countries for their contributions to the work of the mission.

The motion received the overwhelming support of Parliament and the Speaker,AjilonNasiu adjourned the deliberation on the report on RAMSI at the Committee of the Whole House stage for 24 July 2017.

This is to allow Members of Parliament to participate in the RAMSI farewell celebrations this week.

PM: RAMSI seen as divine intervention
 Christians in the country see the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) as a divine intervention to the country’s call for help.

Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare highlighted this his speech at the ecumenical service hosted by the Solomon Islands Government at the Maranatha Hall yesterday.

The event was to kick off the weeklong RAMSI Farewell celebrations.

“To all Christians in Solomon Islands, RAMSI is a divine intervention. Yes the divine intervention to our call for help is RAMSI,” Prime Minister Sogavare said.

He said God answers prayers and delivers those who call on him in times of trouble and God was the unseen adviser in all the decisions that culminated in the various strategies to restore peace in the country.

He said everybody would agree with him that RAMSI became a household name and the symbol of hope, peace and order for Solomon Islanders.

He said the RAMSI farewell celebrations marked the beginning of a new era for Solomon Islands and as such, it is only fitting that the country begins its celebrations by acknowledging God who is behind the  efforts to restore peace.

Prime Minister said all would agree with him that RAMSI became a household name amongst Solomon Islanders for its accomplishments over almost 14 years of operation in the country.

“We are gathered here today (yesterday) to give thanks in particular for the many achievements that RAMSI has brought to Solomon Islands.

“We give thanks because our children can play freely. We give thanks because we are able to function again as a sovereign country. We give thanks because we can continue to stand together as one people and nation.

“We give thanks because the divisions that created animosity have withered. We give thanks because we are proud to be Solomon Islanders.

“We give thanks because the silent prayers of our people have been answered. We give thanks because we are able to walk together again and show the world that we have overcome our struggles.

“Most of all, we give thanks for RAMSI and acknowledge it as a workable platform and a rebuilt Solomon Islands is testament to that achievement.”

The Prime Minister said RAMSI will remain forever in the history of peace-building as a modal for intervention, adding it is his hope that lessons learned from RAMSI will be used to restore peace to those who need it.

He said because of the success of RAMSI, Solomon Islands is united and ready to stand on its own again, adding that by the grace of God, the country will be able to conquer the challenges ahead and prevail as a nation.

– PM Press Secretariat

Update: 2:02PM STUDENTS have been reminded to respect their parents.

At Saint Mary’s Anglican Primary School in Labasa, students performed drama and dances to end the week-long campaign against drugs.

The students performed a drama that depicted a teenager’s rebellious life as a result of drug abuse.

School teacher Lolo Wise told the students to respect their parents as the Word of God commanded.

She also called on parents to support their children and work with them in achieving a successful future.

 

SERAFINA SILAITOGA, Fiji Times, Thursday, June 29, 2017

Repeka Nasiko, Thursday, June 29, 2017, Fiji Times Online

PRIME Minister and iTaukei Affairs Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has hit out against former and current politicians who politicised native land ownership.

While speaking to landowners in Sigatoka and Lautoka yesterday, he said landowners had not been able to fully utilise their potential because of politics.

“Of course in the midst of such protection and achievements, we’ve seen time and again the usual suspects and the Opposition go through the same tired charade of spreading fear and spinning lies all in the attempt to deceive the iTaukei people to further their own political and personal ambitions,” he claimed.

Mr Bainimarama claimed iTaukei rights had never been strongly protected by any other administration.

“My Government assists all iTaukei people equally.

“We don’t make the distinction between chief and commoner. All iTaukei people are entitled to the rights my Government has always fought to uphold for all Fijians.

“We didn’t only want to protect the ownership of iTaukei land and the rights of the iTaukei, we wanted to do one better by providing a solid foundation for growth that would empower iTaukei people and that is what this project is all about.

“iTaukei people in Fiji have long faced the issue of being asset rich, but cash poor of course one of the reasons was because of the politicians of the past and some even today politicise land ownership rather than assisting iTaukei people to benefit economically and financially from the landownership, they simply did nothing about it.

“Rather than tell landowners that if they develop the land themselves and they will not only become cash rich, but also create more wealth for the country, they sought to look after themselves.”

Mr Bainimarama claimed the politicisation of native land had contributed to the iTaukei not being able to develop and gain financially from their land which the Government had been driven to change.

Mr Bainimarama said with the upcoming election many politicians would be speaking about native land and he urged the landowners not to be easily swayed.

Applicants For President’s Post Include Women

Vanuatu Daily Post – By Godwin Ligo

At 3.45pm yesterday when the Daily Post called at the Electoral Office, male applicants, including two females, were queuing up filling their applications for the position of the new President for the Republic of Vanuatu, just 1 hour 15 minutes before closing time.

The staff assisting the applicants looked at the clock on the wall and remarked: ”We have one hour 15 minutes more to go, at closing time,” as five to seven more candidates push for time to get their applications before 5pm.

While the staff of the Electoral Office, were busy handling application documents, the Daily Post could not get any response of the actual figure of applicants or names at that point of time, in the afternoon.

According to a table of names that appeared to be that of the candidates that were posted on social media with the heading “Presidential Candidates for Screening List 2017”, it listed 37 names.

Whether or not this included the last minute applications yesterday afternoon, the Daily Post could not ascertain this, however, it was further confirmed to the Daily Post by the Electoral Office staff that the Electoral College will meet on Monday next week, July 3rd, 2017 to elect the new President for the Republic of Vanuatu.

The Daily Post understands that in accordance with the relevant laws governing the election of a President for the Republic of Vanuatu, names of all candidates must first be screened and endorsed by the Electoral Commission, then submitted to the Speaker of Parliament for the Electoral College, to meet and elect a new President for the Republic of Vanuatu.

In the meantime, candidates are already in the political corridors lobbying political parties, Members of Parliament (MPs) and Electoral College to support their candidatures.

It remains to be seen on Monday as to which candidate will emerge out of so many others to become the next President of the Republic of Vanuatu, after the position was left vacant by the late President Baldwin Lonsdale, who died while in office.

Meanwhile, a member of the Electoral College, Ralph Regenvanu, has written to the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and the Principal Electoral Officer for the provision of background information on all the candidates for the position of President to the members of the Electoral College by Friday (June 30), to give them sufficient time to consider the merits of the different applicants before they vote on Monday.

Regenvanu says in the last vote for the President in 2014, one of the factors that contributed to the Electoral College taking so long to elect a candidate was that there was no information on the candidates provided to Electoral College members.

He said without such background information, there is little chance of members of the Electoral College making an informed decision about which candidates to vote for.