Feb 20, 2018 Last Updated 5:27 AM, Feb 19, 2018

We say

It is hard to believe that in a region surrounded by sea, legislation has not been created, or enforced if they exist to ensure greater protection for those who travel between the islands.

THE sinking of the Kiribati inter-island carrier, Buti Raoi, will go down in history as one of the Pacific’s greatest disasters at sea. Because it will take time to determine how many people were aboard the wooden catamaran, it is possible that as many as 90 people perished when the tiny craft sank between Nonouti and Betio.

The most tragic aspect of this event is – that like many disasters before – this tragedy could have been avoided. In ports around the Pacific vessels of all shapes and sizes put to sea for treacherous journeys without the slightest regard for passenger safety. Many of these craft are dangerously overloaded with freight and crew, carry no two-way radio, flares, medical kits or emergency supplies of life jackets.

Yet they travel hundreds of miles, sometimes far from the sight of any who might afford help in the event of an emergency. Maritime authorities and police in most island countries lack the resources to effectively enforce the rules – where they exist – to ensure compliance with safety measures.

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“Instead of a spirit of revenge there will be forgiveness, in place of hatred there will be love, compassion over vindictiveness, honesty over corruption, humility over tyranny, faith over cynicism, geniality over bitterness”

Conceding that it is utopian to wish for Pacific leaders to recommit themselves to making the adjective meaning of the noun Pacific a reality this year, we have to wonder nevertheless whether is it really too much to ask that leaders strive for something much more simpler and quite basic. That for 2018, they will strive to become better in what they do.

That they will listen more, understand better and work smarter. That in place of plotting day and night to see to the fall of their political foes, they will conspire instead to improve the lot of their citizens, especially of the many who are far less fortunate than them.

That school-leavers will be offered real and serious opportunities to find decent work, be it in offices, factories, farms or sports grounds, and that our senior citizens get to spend most of their time enjoying their twilight years....

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Suburban risk

Time to pay for vital services

THE fire which destroyed a significant part of Hanuabada Village in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, is a stark reminder to the region of the need for functioning, well-equipped emergency services. Villagers were left with little more than the clothes on their backs after the blaze ripped through 15 homes in the densely populates area.

With homes built of highly combustible wood, thatch and cardboard and fanned by a strong easterly breeze, the intense fire spread quickly. There was little chance for residents or the PNG Fire Service to save homes or property. Instead firefighters took the sensible, practical stance of ensuring that the blaze was contained and that damage was minimised. Two days after the initial fire, three more houses were razed and residents formed a bucket brigade to control the situation and prevent more homes from being burned.

The customary landowners living in Hanuabada Village come from the Motu and Koitabu tribal groups. They live in cramped and squalid conditions in the village as their traditional lands in Port Moresby have been used to develop the capital. Around many of the Pacific’s major towns and cities, communities like Hanuabada have developed to provide housing for displaced landowning communities or as homes for sometimes itinerant workers.

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Keep Pacific nuclear-free

LAST month, the heads of the Pacific’s largest churches met in Auckland, New Zealand, and voiced concern over continued nuclear activities in the region. They also raised the fact that despite the continued cries of the victims of nuclear testing in the Pacific, larger nations have done nothing to act justly.

The Pacific leaders who gathered in Auckland were from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kanaky (New Caledonia) Kiribati, Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. They represented several denominations but raised a united voice for the people of the region despite ideological, dogmatic and cultural differences. One leader went as far as to proclaim that the Pacific could not be free until all its people were liberated from the present threat and past injustices linked to nuclear testing.

This is their statement which we endorse: Having met in Auckland, New Zealand, in August 2017, the leaders of Pacific Churches reflect with sorrow on the French government’s nuclear testing on Mururoa and Fangataufa in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) from 1966 to 1966 causing irreparable damage to the fenua (land, sea and the people). And we note there has been, as yet, no just reparation or compensation for the loss of land, life and for the severe illnesses and deformities caused by these tests.

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AUGUST 5, 1948 - JUNE 17, 2017

VANUATU has long produced some of the Pacific’s pillars of integrity, freedom and democracy. But because of the humility that comes naturally to many ni-Vanuatu and the fact that it is such a small country, little is known about many of these men and women outside their nation.

President Baldwin Jacobson Lonsdale was one such person and will go down in history as a leader who saved his country from the hands of corrupt politicians. Without fear he stood against tremendous political pressure to ensure that the rule of law was upheld at a crucial time. In October 2015, while Lonsdale was abroad, Speaker of Parliament Marcellino Pipite who was Acting President used his position to pardon to himself and 13 Members of Parliament who had been convicted of bribery and were awaiting sentence.

Hours after returning to Vanuatu, Lonsdale expressed sorrow at what had happened and gave a widely welcomed speech declaring that nobody was above the law. Lonsdale was visibly emotional as he delivered the speech in which he uttered words which will live on in Vanuatu’s history: “I will clean the dirt from my backyard”. After consultation with legal experts and his peers, Lonsdale revoked the pardon, citing the articles in the Vanuatu Constitution which obliged leaders to avoid conflicts of interest and avoid bringing their integrity into question.

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