Feb 26, 2017 Last Updated 12:56 AM, Feb 15, 2017

Strengthen the borders

IT has taken an Iranian asylum seeker to show just how porous the region’s international borders are. Loghman Sawari broke out of Papua New Guinea and into Fiji, crossing at least five border checks in the process. In PNG he would have had to get past an airline clerk, a security office, an Immigration official and a final pre-boarding check.

Once in Fiji Sawari would have been screened by Immigration and quarantine officials. At no stage in this short-lived bid to escape Manus did alarm bells start ringing nor did any one of those officials think that this person was a threat. It is safe to assume that controls at the border of two of the region’s largest and most advanced nations cannot prevent the flow of illegal migrants. Even when Fiji’s administration placed travel bans on individuals after the illegal overthrow of the country’s government in 2006, people were able to escape the clutches of the regime. Lieutenant-Colonel Roko Tevita Uluilakeba Mara has a high-profile post in Tonga, lifted to asylum courtesy of a Royal Tongan Navy patrol boat just off Fiji’s maritime border.

The one thing Fijian immigration officials do well is to round up people when the need arises. Their swift action saw Sawari ambushed on the Queen’s Highway as he travelled with his lawyer to meet Immigration Director, Major Nemani Vuniwaqa in Suva. Bundled kicking and screaming through Nadi International Airport, he witnessed first-hand the efficiency of deportation at the hands of Immigration officers supported by police.

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Juffa stands his ground

Vocal governor an example to all

THE Pacific need more legislators like Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro Province in Northern Papua New Guinea. He is a one-man army fighting to rid his country of the scourge of corruption which has deep roots and threatens to destroy the country from within. Juffa’s latest action has been to expose the construction of a provincial drug storage facility in his province at the cost of around $AUD217,000. This facility – basically a warehouse – has not been completed because the contractor was a local nurse with no knowledge of building or carpentry.

The situation has been compounded by the fact that the nurse was paid for five years while not doing any work for the Health Ministry. PNG’s central government paid upfront for the drug storage facility which is meant to house medicines and equipment for distribution to small, remote centres.

These centres are pivotal points for the health and wellbeing of a community which mainly lives in rural areas from which it is expensive to travel. A year after Juffa raised the matter with Health Minister Michael Malabag there has been no investigation into how the contract was awarded.

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Disciplined services must be held to account

THE appalling behaviour by members of Papua New Guinea’s security forces this month must be condemned by every member of the community. When soldiers and police officers run amok, indiscriminately firing weapons, how can members of the public feel safe? It is unacceptable in any democracy that members of the disciplined services should take matters – or indeed the law – into their own hands. Governments and the people rely on police officers and armed troops to ensure national safety and security. In this latest incident members of the security forces and their wives have been injured by the irresponsible actions of a few selfish individuals.

There is little wonder that the law and order sector in Papua New Guinea is so weak when troops can leave their barracks fully armed on a vengeful spree of an area populated by civilians. How were these men able to draw arms from what is presumably a secure military facility? Who gave permission for the arms to be taken out of the barracks and onto the street when there was no threat to the population? The incident at Boroko on January 1 points to glaring systemic weaknesses which exist in at least one Papua New Guinea Defence Force facility. 

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Defend the right to know

VANUATU has once-again showed the region and the world how progressive it is in encouraging human rights which are integral in the maintenance of democratic institutions. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has taken a bold step towards creating a democratic island state with the introduction of a Right To Information Bill.

This proposed legislation addresses a number of key aspects which are essential in any democracy: The public’s right to know, transparent and responsible governance and an informed society. Much of the corruption which exists in the Pacific today is due in some way to the restricted flow of information from those in authority to the people whom they purport to serve.

In Fiji there has been little or no information on how the millions of dollars of international assistance after Tropical Cyclone Winston has been distributed. Nor has information been forthcoming on ministerial salaries paid during the term of the interim government. These are the most simple of matters which every citizen deserves to know about. An open and transparent system of governance will ensure that citizens not only have the right to but are actually provided with details of state activities, expenditure and proposed legislation.

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Funeral Farce

Half-hearted attempt falls flat

 THERE was genuine surprise when the Fijian government declared it would hold a State Funeral for Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi – chief, statesman and judge. In December 2006 he was unceremoniously removed as Vice President by Commodore (now Rear-Admiral) Frank Bainimarama and given 24 hours to vacate his official residence.

As a proponent of democracy and justice, the rule of law and reconciliation through dialogue rather than by legislation, Ratu Joni was a constant thorn in the side of Fiji’s illegal regime. He was finally forced to make a living as head of the Solomon Islands’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission and later as Chief Justice of Nauru.

As lawyer and friend, Graham Everett Leung – himself a victim of the Bainimarama government – eulogised at Ratu Joni’s funeral, those who were behind the chief’s removal chose to lionize him upon his death. In a way this was to have been expected given Fiji’s propensity towards hypocrisy and farce. “It is paradoxical that a man born of the aristocracy and destined for greatness was in many respects given greater respect outside the country of his birth,” said at the Ratu Cakobau Church on Bau Island. “His messages of peace, reconciliation, tolerance and inclusiveness often fell on barren soil.

How prophetic are the scriptures that a prophet should be shunned in his own land.” “His advice was sought and welcomed in the neighbouring Solomon Islands, Nauru, Samoa and in Tonga, even as it was being denied and rejected on our shores.”

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