Mar 22, 2018 Last Updated 3:53 AM, Mar 16, 2018

AFTER 16 months in office, Marshall Islands President Hilda C. Heine has a busy schedule. On the international stage, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has been active in global negotiations on climate change and nuclear weapons. But with key funding ending in 2023 under the current Compact of Free Association with the United States, the RMI government faces difficult financial decisions to maintain health, education and welfare programs.

As the first woman elected as leader of an independent Pacific island nation, Heine has a full agenda. Early in her career, she worked as Secretary of Education and has a lifelong involvement in education policy. The first Marshallese woman to gain a Ph.D., Heine also worked in Honolulu with Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), a non-profit organisation that works across Micronesia to promote “strong schools, healthy communities, and thriving cultures with Pacific hearts and global minds”.

In government, Heine sees education as a central focus for community improvement and government action. “Education is something that I do on a daily basis, improving the education of our people,” she told Islands Business. “We look at other small countries in the world that have been able to thrive because their people are educated and have the skills necessary to move their country forward. That’s what we hope to be able to do - to educate all our people and get them to the level that can sustain them.” read more buy your personal copy at

Survivor Tonga

Pohiva defeats Nobles’ motion

THREE years after winning an election, pro-democracy fighter Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva has fought off a second vote of no confidence to maintain his position as Tonga’s prime minister. Behind the unsuccessful motion of no confidence in Parliament is a group of nobles, forced to give up their control of the house in 2010 by command of the late King George Tupou V. Pohiva prevailed by 14 votes to 10 with the Cabinet giving him 12 votes and an additional two from Pro-Democracy Movement Members of Parliament.

The 10 votes against him were from seven Noble Representatives - Lord Tu’ilakepa who tabled the no confidence motion, Lord Tu’iha’angana, Lord Fusitu’a, Lord Tu’i’afitu, Lord Tu’iha’ateiho, Lord Nuku, Lord Vaea - and Samiu Vaipulu, Vili Hingano and Fe’ao Vakata who represent the people.

Survivor Tonga Pohiva defeats Nobles’ motion Vaipulu was Deputy Prime Minister in the last Tongan government to be controlled by the Nobles. Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, Pacific Director at Massey University in New Zealand, told ABC Radio that the motion was a waste of time because the proposers knew they did not have the numbers to topple the government. read more buy your personal copy at

Class wars

Rulers ostracise their own

EARLY this month 32 of Tonga’s nobles met with one item on their agenda – Noble Ma’afu. This one member of the ruling class refused to stand with them and their nine elected members in a 26-member parliament to remove a commoner prime minister.

As part of their agreement, the Nobles decided to ostracise Ma’afu, not speak to him and promised they would not give him a ministerial position if they won a vote of no confidence against Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.But Pohiva defeated the motion with Ma’afu – the Lands Minister – firmly by his side. As head of the Ha’a Havea Clan, this noble has 13 of the 33 Nobles in his family and is related to Pohiva’s father. Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, Pacific Director at Massey University in New Zealand, saw the no confidence motion as childish but understandable.

Prior to King George Tupou V’s constitutional change in 2010, the nobility controlled the legislature through its majority. But Tupou V allowed the nobles only nine seats and gave the commoners 17, a position for which Pohiva had campaigned for more than 30 years.

Until then, Tonga was a functioning constitutional monarchy with the king appointing the prime minister and cabinet. Parliament was a place where nobles and commoners could air their grievances and do little else. In 2014 Pohiva became prime minister after winning a place in parliament and then taking the votes of 15 of the elected MPs – including Ma’afu. read more buy your personal copy at


HAS the new US President played his “trump card” too early in his presidency? Only time will tell. In late January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which suspended all refugee admissions into the US for 120 days and barred entry to citizens of seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had in fact floated the idea of “a complete and total ban” on all Moslems entering the United States. Although his Executive Order didn’t go all the way to doing that, White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, gloated that the president had “hit the ground running, had a flurry of activity, to do exactly what he said he was going to do.” While the Trump administration has dismissed accusations of being antiMoslem, the fact remains that all seven countries are predominantly Islamic. Criticism has flowed across the Globe from several countries.

However, the backlash against Trump’s executive order has not been restricted to international condemnation. It has led to widespread protests within the United States where criticism has come from affected American citizens, state governors, judges and immigration and homeland security staff. The acting US Attorney General, Sally Yates was promptly “Trump-dumped” for defying the order – an indication of Donald Trump’s resolve to rule with an iron fist in true “The Apprentice” fashion. read more buy your personal copy at

Land sold for US$10 as retrospective law takes effect

OUR ‘Paradise Lost’ story last month about controversial land sale law changes was just hitting the streets in Fiji when news broke of the deportation of one of the law’s biggest opponent, Karen Seaton of Canada. Seaton is a member of the newly formed Fiji Land Owners Association, and she and association spokesperson Dave Rand contributed heavily to the story we published last month.

“They broke into the (hotel) room and at that point I made a formal request for an ambassador. It was denied. They forcibly twisted my arm to remove my phone from me and they forcibly took my purse from me to take my passports. At one point I asked why was I being deported and she said it’s from the highest authority in the nation,” Seaton explained in an email she was only able to send upon her arrival in Los Angeles on a Fiji Airways flight from Fiji. Although a Canadian and US passport holder, Seaton has been living in her home on Koro Island, about eight hours of sailing northeast from Suva, Fiji’s capital. read more buy your personal copy at


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