Dec 09, 2019 Last Updated 12:37 AM, Dec 9, 2019

Bougainville votes

Do you agree for Bougainville to have: A)Greater autonomy? B)Independence? This is the question Bougainvilleans are answering this month in a long-awaited referendum, 20 years after peace was brokered. The referendum is the third prong of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement. The other pillars – creation of the Bougainville Autonomous Government (which happened in 2005) and a weapons disposal program—have been successfully managed, and the current poll is expected to return a clear majority vote for independence. In the preparation for polling, bows and arrows have been broken, betelnut chewed, testimonies and stories shared, shell money exchanged, and hands shaken in reconciliation ceremonies across Bougainville

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Keeping our seafarers safe

  • Dec 09, 2019
  • Published in July

In what has been called a ‘landmark decision’, Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member states are to include crew employment conditions in minimum requirements for fishing licenses. For many years there has been concern about workers’ conditions on foreign longline fishing vessels plying our region’s waters.

The FFA says these vessels and the fishing companies that own them, “often require crew to stay at sea for up to a year with poor pay and conditions and harsh penalties for dissent.”

The decision to address these concerns also comes on the heels of a Business and Human Rights Resource Centre report that alleges canned tuna brands are “failing to tackle modern slavery in their Pacific supply chains.” That report alleges that “severe human rights abuse is endemic, including forced labour, slavery, human trafficking and child labour, and reports of migrant workers bought and sold as slaves and tossed overboard if they complain or get injured.”

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WITH the leak of a damaging internal report about the University of the South Pacific, which details allegations of widespread abuse and questionable appointments—including speedy promotions and the unilateral renewal of certain staff contracts—does the future of the regional institution hang in the balance?

It’s an emphatic yes if you ask Winston Thompson, retired Fijian diplomat and current Pro Chancellor of the USP. He believes that in Professor Pal Ahluwalia, USP’s new Vice Chancellor and President, the USP is not in safe hands.

“Do you want to sack him,” Islands Business asked Ambassador Thompson in a recent interview.

“Yes I want to,” he replied.

“Do you have the powers to sack him,” IB asked.

“No I don’t,” was the response.

“But didn’t you head the committee that selected Professor Ahluwalia in the first place,” we asked.

“Yes, that’s the unfortunate thing,” answered Thompson, before adding: “But this was before this other trait of him was noticed.”

Professor Ahluwalia is the author of the report that makes a....

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Not for sale

FIJI’S iconic flower, the Tagimoucia, is not for sale. Fijian authorities have made this statement to Islands Business magazine following reports that a world-leading botanical garden is looking at taking the Tagimoucia flower to Asia and adding it to the collection at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.

The Tagimoucia has deep cultural and historical significance in Fiji. Sacred to the people of Fiji’s northern provinces of Bua and Cakaudrove, especially to the people of Taveuni, it is an endemic flowering vine that grows only on the highlands of Taveuni, particularly on the sloping forests that lead up to Lake Tagimoucia and the upper slopes of Mount Seatura, in Bua, Vanua Levu.

For these communities, the Tagimoucia symbolises beauty and uniqueness, and is the subject of songs and legends and a great deal of pride. The flower formed the bouquet presented to England’s Queen Elizabeth the three times she has toured Fiji, and its likeness was included in the embroidery on the Dutchess of Sussex’s wedding veil when she married Prince Harry last year.

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A murky mix of vested interests

  • Dec 09, 2019
  • Published in March

AN oil spill in Rennell, Solomon Islands is turning into a disaster of catastrophic proportions, threatening the world’s biggest raised coral atoll and prompting caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou to call for a review of environmental and mining laws on the eve of the national elections.

The spill began when the ship, the MV Solomon Trader ran aground a reef whilst loading mined bauxite in the area on February 5. The vessel, which was carrying nearly 11,000 tonnes of bauxite at the time, is owned by Hong Kong company King Trader and was chartered by Indonesian-based Bintan Mining to ship bauxite from its mining operations to China. Bintan, which is mining under contract from Asia Pacific Investment Development (APID) the mining lease holder, has already distanced itself from any liability for the spill, and allegedly continued to load bauxite even as the oil spread.

In mid-March authorities were reporting 70 tonnes of oil had been spilt. Approximately 600 tonnes of oil remained inside the ship, although it is now being transferred to safe tanks on a tank barge which had been sent from Vanuatu. Now the ship’s insurer, Korea Protection and Indemnity Club, says the spilled load may be greater than original estimated.

The MV Solomon Trader spill is on the doorstep of the Rennell Islands UNESCO World Heritage site, a 37,000-ha land and marine area extending three nautical miles to sea. UNESCO calls the site a true natural laboratory for scientific study, but says it is vulnerable to threats including mining and logging. “The ability of the traditional owners to adequately protect and manage the natural values and resources of the property is limited by a lack of funding, capacity and resources,” UNESCO says.

The spill has not only affected the livelihood of more than 300 people living in communities and villages in the area  who cannot eat seafood, their main source of protein-but it has also threatened to destroy one of the country’s most important natural habitats.

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