Jan 21, 2018 Last Updated 10:47 PM, Jan 14, 2018

Expect a new speaker for Tuvalu’s parliament if government has its way in the coming byelection. Tuvalu goes to the poll on January 14 to fill the Namuga seat left vacant by the sick former education, youth and sport minister Dr Falesa Pitoi. Dr Pitoi was away in Cuba on official duties as then Minister for Education in December 2012, when he was taken ill and flown to various locations for medical treatment. He has not returned to Tuvalu since then. Governor-General Sir Italeli Iakoba had to use his powers again to call for a by-election for the island of Nanumaga.

This after he consulted a team of medical officials to look into the year-long absence of Dr Pitoi. Secretary to Government Panapasi Nelesone told Islands Business that preparations have begun for the by-election after the decision was handed down by the Governor-General. He said the date for the polls would be January 14. “On the 28th of December the final list of candidates will be compiled and objections will be received and assessed by the returning officer,” he said. “Barring any obstacles, we should be heading for a January 14 polling date.” Motion Enele Sopoaga’s government is hoping to win the by-election, so that it can have the two-thirds majority required under its constitution to move a motion to remove Speaker Sir Kamuta Latasi.

Government has been unhappy with the Speaker particularly his handling of parliamentary business. Latasi had refused to entertain a vote of no confidence against then Prime Minister Willie Telavi last year after then Opposition Leader Sopoaga gained a majority in parliament.

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Amid a backdrop of high healthcare costs, eroding coastlines, skyrocketing air transportation costs and what the United States considers either a target destination for or source of human trafficking, nine Micronesian presidents and governors gathered on Saipan from December 4 to 6 for a regional summit that tackled issues of common concerns and options to address them.

In the end, they vowed to continue working together, underscoring this year’s summit theme, “With the sea, we are one.” “Hopefully, the industrialised nations would help soon and help fund the islands’ adaptation to climate change before we all sink to the bottom of the ocean,” Yap Governor Sebastian L. Anefal said on the first day of the 19th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit (MCES) in the capital island of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Anefal, the longest serving member of MCES, said Yap has started seeing coastal erosion, disappearing atolls, seepage of saltwater into taro patches and coral bleaching. For the past 10 years or so, people have started relocating to the main island because of rising sea level, the Yap governor said.

The lack of resources continues to hamper islands’ ability to deal with climate change. “If it takes money to correct some of the problems so be it, but they (developed countries) provide the funding. Now, there are all kinds of funding they talk about, but it’s very hard to access such funding,” Anefal added. The Micronesian leaders’ summit brought together the presidents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands, along with the governors/official representatives of Guam, the CNMI, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap and Kosrae.

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I n a blatant disregard for a call by the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting this year to lift efforts and funds for climate change, the new Abbott government in Australia ruled out any new commitment at a global symposium on climate change last month. It was a further blow to the region by its largest player when Australia did not send a senior ministerial delegation to the UN-sponsored meeting in Warsaw last month.

Neither foreign minister Julie Bishop, environment minister Greg Hunt nor a parliamentary secretary was sent to the Warsaw talks, aimed at seeking ways to reducing greenhouse emissions on a global scale. Australia declared that while it will remain “a good international citizen” and will be “committed to achieving the five percent reduction” by 2020 of the 2000 levels of emissions, it has nothing further to offer.

The new government failed to commit any extra funds to climate change despite a request by the September 7 regional Forum meeting this year for additional support and commitment to the lowlying atoll nations in the Pacific region, like Niue, Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. The decision toughens Abbott stance on the United Nations’ negotiations amidst a revitalised push from under-developed countries like those from the region for a $100 billion a year in finance to deal with climate change.

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Four years have already gone by since the Nov. 28, 2009 start of a five-year transition period for the implementation of United States immigration law in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). But indications are rife that neither the U.S. nor the CNMI is ready to end the transition period by Dec. 31, 2014. Signed in May 2008, U.S. Public Law 110-229 or the Consolidated Natural Resources Act extends most provisions of federal immigration law to the CNMI for the first time in the islands’ over 30-year political relationship with the United States. The transition period didn’t begin until Nov. 28, 2009.

With the federal takeover, CNMI officially became subject to the same immigration laws as all U.S. states and territories—except for American Samoa, the last U.S. territory to still control its own borders. This means, among other things, U.S. visas are now required of foreigners entering CNMI, just like Guam, Hawaii, and the rest of the United States, except for those from countries included in visa waiver programs or exempted through a parole program. And federalization didn’t happen overnight; it took decades of political wrangling between Washington, D.C. and the CNMI.

The CNMI, a string of 14 islands between the Philippines and Hawaii, is still far from being prepared to replace with a still limited U.S. worker pool some 12,000 skilled and professional foreign workers mostly from Asia. They are the nurses, teachers, accountants, auditors, engineers, architects, journalists, auto mechanics, hotel staff, farmers and house workers, among others, who have been relied upon for years and decades to help grow the CNMI economy.

Governor Eloy S. Inos and the CNMI’s nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), along with the CNMI Legislature and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, have asked the U.S. Department of Labor to extend the transitional foreign worker program called the CW program by five years or up to 2019.

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While they are keenly awaiting the decision on their membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), West Papua activists are travelling the Pacific lobbying countries to support their bid. One such activist is exiled investigative journalist Octovanius Mote, who has just returned to his adopted home in Washington D.C in the United States last month, after island hopping the Melanesian states. He is an activist and lobbyist in the world’s greatest democracy. However, like the torrid history of his country under Indonesia and the failures they have suffered at the hands of the United States, United Nations and their closest neighbours Papua New Guinea in securing autonomy, Mote is taking one stride at a time.

Mote said after 40 years of Indonesian rule, joining a group like MSG would enhance their endeavours for independence. In 1961, he said 1025 of his kinsmen were selected by the Indonesians when the United Nations gave West Papuans a chance to determine its own destiny in what is known as the ‘Act of Free Choice’. However, Mote said their leaders were shown footage of how they (Indonesia) tortured the people.

“The obvious result of that was they voted for Indonesian rule and we became a province of Indonesia,” he told Islands Business. “Under these circumstances, we inherited this government and these issues are well documented and not made up. Since then, he and freedom members of the Free Papua Movement have been calling on the international community to give them recognition. Mote is also recognised for his part in trying to address self-determination. As a former bureau chief of Kompas newspaper in West Papua, he served as a rapporteur for a national dialogue on the issue in 1999 between then Indonesian President Habibie, who had claimed the reformists tag, and West Papuan community leaders.

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