Aug 17, 2018 Last Updated 11:38 PM, Aug 13, 2018

AS the sun sets over Tuvalu, children shriek in the lagoon of the main atoll - Funafuti.

This is the way life has been in the Pacific for as long as people can remember.

But sea levels in the lagoon are rising and the waves have started to gnaw away at the coast – slowly, surely – in an inevitable march which may see the world’s and fourth smallest nation sink and disappear.

A modern-day Atlantis under siege from coastal erosion and salt water intrusion.

What happens if Tuvalu’s nine atolls descend into the blue Pacific, swamped by rising waves or washed away by deadly storms? Once uninhabitable or invisible, who will own the 900,000 square kilometres of ocean between Hawaii and Australia?

The United Nations estimates Tuvalu’s tuna to be worth an annual USD41million – that’s about 36,000 tonnes of Skipjack, Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna.

Tuvalu operates a single vessel in conjunction with a South Korean company with most of the stocks being harvested by international fishing vessels.

Current laws governing the Exclusive Economic Zone and the borders of maritime nations refer to specific physical reference points from which to determine the area of sovereignty.

Those physical points are generally islands or atolls which can sustain life.

Sustainability of life on remote islets and atolls is becoming increasingly difficult on Tuvalu, Kiribati and other Pacific countries.

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The Big Threat

Organised crime creeps into the region

A NEW crime wave looms over the region – this time on the back of motorbikes. As Australia and New Zealand crack down on the illicit trading activities of Outlawed Motorcycle Gangs, these criminal groups have sought new targets and found them in the world’s soft underbelly.

With porous maritime borders which stretch for miles and few assets to patrol the sea, the Pacific is wide open for illegal business. Law enforcement agencies have battle for years will illegal transnational activities at sea, says Oceania Customs Organisation Chief Executive Officer, Seve Paeniu.

“We have maritime issues not only with illegal fishing but transfer on the high sea (of fuel and other supplies), all those illicit activities through the waters (open seas),” Paeniu said. In the early 1990s police uncovered the transfer of contraband cigarettes to Chinese fishing ships on the high seas for transportation to Fiji for sale.

Unable to hit the offending vessels at sea, police used tax evasion laws to crackdown on shops and market stalls selling the cigarettes. With its porous borders, need for foreign investment and weak law enforcement agencies, the Pacific fits the profile for transnational criminals dealing with drugs, arms smuggling, human trafficking and money laundering.

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Fiji unions triumph

Court favours airport workers’ plight

A bitter row between the management of Fiji’s Air Terminal Services (ATS) and its employees who were locked out of work for 35 days including Christmas and New Year ended last month with the court’s sympathy towards the workers. The Employment Relations Tribunal presided by Australian Andrew See ordered ATS management to allow the workers back to work and to pay them for the days they were locked out.

About 70 staff on shift on Saturday, 16 December left their stations to attend a three-hour shareholders meeting. When they returned to work, the gate was locked and the security had instructions from management not to let anyone back in.

ATS board chair Riyaz Khaiyum and CEO Hare Mani claimed the workers went on strike and instructed HR manager Richard Donaldson to issue suspension letters to over 300 workers, including those not at work that day and those on leave. If they wanted their jobs back, they were told to sign a letter admitting their action was illegal and they could be further reprimanded.

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My frame of reference for RAMSI always goes back to June 2003 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, Australia when I listened carefully to Minister Lawrey Chan described how bad things had become in Solomon Islands and especially how difficult it had been for government to rule because militants and criminals had basically taken over the treasury and compromised its ability to enforce the rule of law.  At that time, I was International Legal Adviser to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and we were involved with the organisation of that meeting which was convened under the auspices of the Biketawa Declaration. It was the first time that a regional intervention under the Biketawa Declaration was invoked. It is indeed ironic when one comes to think about it now that Forum Leaders would name their framework for dealing with conflicts in the Pacific Islands region after one of the most peaceful places on earth!

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RAMSI is our choice

“MY brother wanted to escape down to the river but they chased him down and got him. They partly cut his head and dragged him back to where he was. They took him close to where we were and they cut another part of his head. I could tell the person who did it; he was a boy… My brother cried and called for mum.

He recognised our mum and called her but we could not do anything. We were advised not to cry for them. If we did they would kill us.” This was a story of a young woman from Marasa Village on Guadalcanal before the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and can be found on page 136 of its final February 2012 report. It captures in one succinct paragraph the terror and tragedy that consumed this Pacific island nation nearly 20 years ago.

That such terrifying accounts of neighbour killing neighbour, wantok shooting wantok, coastal villages destroyed from constant bombardment by armed patrol boats, entire villages razed to the ground by marauding militants are no longer heard or occurring in Solomon Islands testify to the success and achievements of RAMSI....

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