Sep 21, 2019 Last Updated 3:13 AM, Sep 21, 2019
Samantha Magick

Samantha Magick

(Pacnews) The Solomon Islands Government last night cut off the nation’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

This came after Cabinet endorsed a Caucus resolution to sever the 36-year-old relationship.

The decision came just hours after Taiwan’s deputy Foreign Affairs minister Dr Sze-chien Hsu landed in Honiara in a last-ditch effort to save the ties.

Hsu was greeted at the Honiara International Airport by women’s groups, a church group, and parents of students currently studying in Taiwan.

He also announced during a press conference new funding package for Solomon Islands.

But the Sogavare Government has already made up its mind.

After Caucus voted in the resolution to switch ties in the afternoon, cabinet wasted no time to endorse it.

Government insiders said Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who leaves for the United Nations General Assembly in New York this weekend, will announce the decision when he addresses the UN.

No statement was issued on the decision last night.

Taiwan reacted to the decision by condemning it, adding “it’s extremely regrettable”.

At the same time, Taipei declared the termination of its diplomatic relations with Solomon Islands with immediate effect, the end of all bilateral cooperative projects, as well as the recall of the staff of its Embassy, technical mission, and medical mission stationed in Solomon Islands. 

“The Taiwan government also demands that Solomon Islands immediately recall its government personnel from Taiwan,” a statement Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs ministry issued, said.

It’s also expected that 125 Solomon Islanders currently studying in Taiwan under fully funded Taiwanese scholarships will be sent back home, according to Taiwanese officials.

Some have just left last month.

“Taiwan believes that the majority of the Solomon Islanders will find the decision unacceptable since it completely lacks credibility.”

Taipei also hits out at Beijing.

“The government of China has once again resorted to dollar diplomacy and false promises of large amounts of foreign assistance to buy off a small number of politicians, so as to ensure that the government of Solomon Islands adopted a resolution to terminate relations with Taiwan before China’s National Day on 01 October. 

“Beijing’s purpose is to diminish Taiwan’s international presence, hurt the Taiwanese people, and gradually suppress and eliminate Taiwan’s sovereignty. 

“It is absolutely evident that China, through this case, deliberately seeks to influence Taiwan’s upcoming presidential and legislative elections. 

“The government strongly condemns China’s attempts to suppress Taiwan, and calls on the people of Taiwan to continue to uphold our national sovereignty, champion the principles of freedom and democracy, reach out to the international community, and serve as a force for good in the world.

“Taiwan has never capitulated under any setback in the international arena. 

“Nor has it ever been defeated by any attempt at suppression. 

“The more challenges Taiwan has faced, the more determined it has become. 

“Taiwan has shown the international community that, faced with the expansionism of authoritarian regimes, will stand firm on the frontlines of democracy and remain staunchly committed to serving as an example to the world.

“The government of Taiwan solemnly urges the international community to recognise China’s continued efforts to expand its authoritarianism, set debt traps for other countries, and fulfil its strategic goals and gain influence in the Indo-Pacific region through a wide array of aggressive actions. 

“Free and democratic countries have no alternative but to unite together to maintain a free, open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and jointly defend the shared values of democracy and human rights.”....PACNEWS

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Tonga's PM dies in Auckland

By Samantha Magick

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has passed away in Auckland.

Pohiva was flown to Auckland from Nuku’alofa late yesterday, after spending two weeks in hospital in Tonga with pneumonia but died this morning.

The 78-year old has been very ill for the past year and had been receiving treatment for liver disease.

Pohiva is a former history teacher who led Tonga’s pro-democracy movement. Though the efforts of Pohiva and other democracy campaigners, Tonga became a constitutional monarchy. He was first elected to parliament in 1987 and in 2014 became Prime Minister, the first commoner to be elected to the position. His decades in politics were tumultuous; he was imprisoned for contempt of parliament,  twice charged with sedition and in 2017, he and his entire cabinet was dismissed by King Tupou VI, only to be re-elected.

Just last month Prime Minister Pohiva attended what was to be his last Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu.

Tongan parliament has been indefinitely suspended reports Matangi Tonga.

Condolences from regional leaders have begun to pour in:

Vanuatu foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu: “My condolences for a good friend and principled leader. RIP Tongan PM 'Akilisi Pohiva dies, aged 78.”

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama: I mourn the passing of Tongan PM ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, who inspired the world with raw emotion at last month's Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu (which, despite his health, he attended in recognition of the urgency of climate action). We must honour his legacy by continuing this fight.

Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne: “Saddened to hear of the passing of Prime Minister of Tonga Akilisi Pohiva. He was a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia. My deepest condolences to his family and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga.”

New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa: RIP & my sincerest condolences to Rt Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s family as well as to the Kingdom of Tonga. Such a tremendous loss for all of us Tongans. ‘Ofa moe lotu mei Uelingatoni, Falealea ‘o Nu’usila.

By Samantha Magick

The Auckland-based accounting firm tasked with investigating allegations of mismanagement at the University of the South Pacific appears to have vindicated the University’s new Vice Chancellor, who first raised concerns about hiring, human resources and remuneration practices.

BDO has also stated that “further investigation is required” into the allegations and has made a significant number of recommendations relating to processes and policies at USP.

BDO was asked to conduct the investigation following allegations made by the recently appointed Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia about decisions made by his predecessor and other senior USP staff over a ten year period.

It says “oversight, governance and control of remuneration  is a key weakness across the university” and that four remuneration  mechanisms—inducement allowances, responsibility and acting allowances, bonuses and consultancy arrangements—“have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across USP over a number of years.”

In a summary of its report released this morning, BDO says while the majority of decisions investigated were made within the powers of the (former) Vice Chancellor, “the rationale for many of the decisions taken is unclear.”

The summary does not state what decisions may have fallen outside this “majority of decisions.”

BDO says it’s clear that the USP’s human resources function has been “without consistent leadership for many years” and concludes “this lack of leadership has contributed to the weaknesses” across HR.

BDO says it was not able to trace all the allegations through documents because of the “level and/or quality of the documentation retained by USP…As a result BDO was not able to substantiate a number of the allegations.”

The summary does not state for which allegations the documentation held by USP was either inadequate or unavailable.

BDO also states that similar concerns had been identified by the USP’s internal audit service provider over the past few years, but it appears “the recommendations [made by the auditors] had been only partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.”

BDO recommends:

  • A full review of the USP’s approach to inducement allowances
  • Development of a single, comprehensive policy for staff setting out its approach to responsibility and acting allowances
  • A full review of bonus calculations and payments
  • A forensic review of consultancy agreements that are currently active, or have been recently completed
  • A comprehensive structural review of the USP’s human resources function
  • A full review and amendment of the USP’s approach to the employment of people who have reached retirement age
  • Expansion of the role of the Remuneration Committee to include succession planning for all key senior roles across the USP.

BDO says with the airing of the allegations, USP has the “opportunity to reflect and take corrective action that will ultimately improve the culture and quality of education and research at USP.”

The Council of the University of the South Pacific has appointed a committee to implement the recommendations of BDO Auckland.

The Council of the University of the South Pacific has appointed a committee to implement the recommendations of BDO Auckland, which had been brought in to investigate allegations of mismanagement and abuse of office at the regional university.

In a statement released tonight, the Council says the BDO report  resulted in a "range of findings and recommendations that will need to be addressed to ensure the sound operation of the University."

BDO Auckland was engaged to  investigate the allegations raised in a paper by the Vice-Chancellor & President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia titled “Issues, Concerns and Breaches of Past Management and Financial Decisions.”

The statement tonight does not specify what BDO's recommendations are, but says the Commission's work will relate to:

  • Remuneration policies and control
  • Inducement Allowances
  • Responsibility and Acting allowances
  • Bonuses
  • Consultancy Arrangements
  • Succession Planning
  • Human Resources
  • Transition Arrangements
  • Governance and Oversight
  • Operation of Senior Management Team
  • Interface between Governance and Management
  • Committee Structure and Responsibility

The Council  has promised transparency, saying it will develop an action plan that will be made publicly available, and that a summary of the BDO Auckland report will also be made public "in due course."

The Commission will report to three members of the USP Council; Committee Chairman Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa  Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Cook Islands Prime Minister  Henry Puna and Fiji's Attorney General  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

 

Nauru's President out

Preliminary results are in for Nauru’s elections, and it appears President Baron Waqa has lost his seat.

Nauruans went to the polls today and preliminary results are in for all but one electorate.

Also to miss out are sitting MP Riddel Akua, former President Ludwig Scotty and former Foreign Minister Dr Kieren Keke.

Opposition member Matthew Batsiua, who was also a former foreign and health minister before  becoming embroiled in a battle with Waqa’s government over his exupulsion from parliament, ran a close fourth in the Boe constituency, behind Waqa.

Yaren consistuency will be represented by the only two women elected so far, Charmaine Scotty and Isabella Dageago.

The new President will be decided amongst the successful candidates.
Results from the final Ubenide constituency are believed to be imminent. Justice Minister David Adeang is amongst the 12 candidates contesting there.

Elected to parliament so far are:

Aiwo Constitutency

  • Rennier Gadabu
  • Milton Dube (returning)

Anetan Constituency

  • Timothy Ika
  • Marcus Stephen

Anabar Constituency

  • Maverick Eoe
  • Pyon Deiye

Boe

  • Martin Hunt
  • Asterio Appi (returning)

Buada Constituency

  • Shadlog Bernike (returning)
  • Bingham Agir (returning)

Meneng constituency

  • Lionel Aingimea (returning)
  • Kyde Menke
  • Tawaki Kam (returning)

Yaren constitency

  • Charmaine Scotty (returning)
  • Isabella Dageago

 

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