Apr 21, 2018 Last Updated 5:28 AM, Apr 19, 2018

Kiribati under the spotlight after ferry disaster

ATOLL nation of Kiribati in the northern Pacific was consumed with grief in January when 80 people including children died presumably drowned in a ferry incident.

Grief turned to anger later when it was learnt that authorities did not initiate a search for the passengers and crew of the MV Butiraoi until one week after it sunk.

Former President of Kiribati Anote Tong has been among those who have been vocal about the government’s handling of the sea tragedy, believed to be the country’s worst to date.

In a visit to Fiji last month, President Tong spoke to Indepth about the tragedy.

IB: Given the Kiribati Government’s handling of the tragedy, do you believe things could have been handled better?

Former President Tong: It would be pretentious on my part to pretend that I know the whole story but I think what has happened is that there has been very strong public reaction to what I call the very long silence. That’s really what the public was so upset about. There was nothing coming from anybody especially government until a week later, a week after the boat has been lost. They are asking, why did that happen? How come something like a boat could be lost for a week and it was not reported?

IB: In your experience, does Kiribati has adequate laws which if enforced could avoid this type of sea disasters?

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Destined for servitude

At the helm of Solomon Islands politics, Rick Houenipwela became the country’s 17th PrimeMinister.He came into power after his predecessorManasseh Sogavarewas voted out. This change in leadership came barely a year to go before the country’s next election scheduled for 2019. He spoke to Mereseini Marau-Totoka about his new appointment.

IB: How are you settling in as Prime Minister of Solomon Islands?

PM Houenipwela: Very well. I am supported by a solid collation of four political parties with my own party of eleven members.

IB: Were you expecting this Mr Prime Minister, that one day you will become the leader of Solomon Islands?

PM Houenipwela: Yes indeed - when I was elected into Parliament I look forward to the opportunity to serve my country in that capacity one day, although I did not think it would (happen) in my second term.

IB: You made a name for yourself as a bold and shrewd manager of public finances during your term as Governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands. Should we expect a similar kind of legacy during your term as PM?

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Ambassador Peter Thomson created history when he was elected President of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, a one-year term that begun on September 2016 to August 2017. He was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations based in New York. Ambassador Thomson was instrumental in the birth of SDG 14- Life Below Water, a stand alone goal on oceans to be among the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDG).
He spoke to Mereserini Marau-Totoka
IB: You are now working for the UN after years of representing Fiji. What does your new appointment mean?
THOMSON: As the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for the ocean, I am charged with fortifying the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, the ocean goal. My appointment signifies the UN’s determination to tackle the ocean’s mounting problems. From a Fijian perspective, this continues our tradition of providing international leadership on ocean issues, as Fiji was the first country to sign the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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