Aug 19, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

The great plastic threat

THE region faces an enormous threat from plastic bags and other synthetic material initially designed to make life easier. Every day, thousands of plastic bags are used in shops, supermarkets, department stores, restaurants and roadside market stalls.  

Thirty years ago, bread was wrapped in newspaper or newsprint, tied with string and carried under the arm from local shops to homes. The string was recycled – sometimes used to end up as part of a child’s homemade toy – and the paper was used to wrap rubbish, clean windows or light a fire.

Paper and string are bio-degradable and break down easily if they are buried or merely left at the mercy of the elements. Now, bread is pushed into plastic bags for that same journey home from stores around the Pacific. Indeed, every possible purchase from a shop is carried home in some form of plastic which will take hundreds of years to decompose.

Some households use plastic bags to hold rubbish which is removed by municipal councils.

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Protect the environment

PROTECTION of the environment must be foremost in our minds as we watch the gradual demise of smaller island states like Tuvalu and Kiribati. These Pacific island states have started to succumb to global warming and could disappear this century if sea levels creep slowly but surely higher each year.

In Papua New Guinea, sea water has started to seep through the ground on some of the lower, outlying islands, destroying forever areas of rich farm land and depriving islanders of food sources. Erosion of the shoreline is obvious on many of our islands.

The smaller the island, the more obvious are the ravages of the sea. On Vanuabalavu, villagers can show how the sea has crept closer to Saqani Settlement in the last 10 years. Coconut trees which once stood on dry land now have a home in the sea.

At Togoru, Navua, the McGoon family graves were part of the vast expanse of an estate which ranged over acres of grassland. But the sea has shown no respect for the dead, encroaching upon the estate until those who once rested in the cemetery must now lie in the waves. Scientists claim that the steady advance of the sea is due in no small part to melting ice in the polar regions. 

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Give us Media Freedom

JUST over eight years ago this month, as thousands of Christians marked the death of Jesus Christ, Fiji’s interim government crucified the 1997 Constitution. A day later censors were forcibly placed in newsrooms. Then, now the late, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo disregarded an earlier ruling by the Appeals Court which had declared (then) Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s appointment as prime minister illegal.

On Holy Thursday 2008 Bainimarama vowed on national television to abide by the declaration of the court and await the orders of the President. Most of Fiji awoke the following day to the promise of a new beginning and a return to democracy. But it was not to be.

On Good Friday Iloilo re-appointed Bainimarama and abrogated the supreme law by which Fiji had been governed for 12 years. Iloilo effectively killed the Constitution and ushered in an unprecedented six years of rule by decrees and promulgations.

One of those decrees – the Media Industry Development Decree – was born out of those early days of censorship in which journalists and the companies for which they worked were beaten into submission and gagged. 

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Time for the churches to speak

THE church continues to play an integral part in community life in the region more than 200 years after the arrival of the first missionaries. From Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east to Papua in the west, villagers continue to flock to church for week day and Sunday services and offer God the produce of their plantations and fishing grounds.

From Tonga in the south to Palau in the north God remains a central part of the lives of people in government, commerce and everyday life. Throughout the region the church continues to hold influence over village elders, government ministers, national sports representatives and children.

Since the advent of Christianity many of the Pacific’s diverse peoples have come to believe that their future success, failure, happiness and security are determined by how well they serve God today. Much comfort is gained in communities by inviting the local cleric to invoke God’s blessings upon communal or national projects. That is why it is so important for our church leaders to speak out on issues of importance.

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Prepare for the worst

IN October 1972, Hurricane Bebe ripped through Fiji leaving 13 people dead in her wake. This was – at the time – the greatest natural disaster to have been visited upon the country. Just two years after independence Bebe was the first hurricane to challenge the scant resources of a fledgling nation which could no longer rely upon the resources of the United Kingdom. It was a tremendous test on the people, the emergency services and the leadership of what was the Pacific’s newest democracy.

Fortunately, larger countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand rushed to Fiji’s aid providing emergency supplies, helicopters and trucks as part of the massive relief effort. Today Fiji continues to owe an immense debt of gratitude to her friends who answered the call at a particularly critical time in the history of Fiji.

For without the help afforded by these larger nations and many of our smaller neighbours, the path to recovery would have been much more difficult. After Bebe came larger hurricanes and cyclones such as Lottie, Meli, Eric, Nigel, Joni and Kina. And then last year there was Winston – Category Five, the strongest in history to hit Fiji.

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