Jul 20, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Spotlight on Honiara

Region watches as assistance mission comes to an end

AT the end of June, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands will come to an end. What started off as a military operation to quell violence and return the country to democracy after the ethnic tensions of 2000 will be no more and normality will return. Or will it?

When politically-fuelled ethnic tensions were literally fanned into flame in 2000, the Happy Isles as the Solomons are commonly known eruoted into violence and bloodshed. The Chinese community – mostly traders – bore the brunt of ferocious attacks and were evacuated by chartered flights to safety after much of China Town was torched or looted by angry mobs. Troops from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga made up the core of the military stabilisation force which responded to the plea for help to calm tensions and bring about a return to democracy.

This was the second regional stabilisation mission since the South Pacific Peacekeeping Forces was deployed to Bougainville after a truce singned in 1997 ended the civil war on the island. Pacific nations also supported a New Zealand and Australian-led monitoring mission with military capabilities in East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1999-2000. The concept of regional assistance was relied upon when the Solomon Islands sough help.

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River poisoning alert

Heavy metals concerns in proposed Sigatoka River mine

MINING of the Sigatoka River on the southern coast of Fiji’s main island poses a real risk of severe marine life poisoning with flow-on effects on people who feed on such fish, mussels and crustaceans.

The warning is highlighted in a report by environmental consultants, Corerega Environment Consultancy, which was contracted by Fiji’s Department of Environment to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the proposed mining of the Sigatoka River by Australian company Dome.

The report warned that “contaminants” from mining could result in ‘severe poisoning.’ A copy obtained by this magazine said: “The dredged materials wash out having a lot of contaminants in them may go back into the river during heavy downpour and pollute the water and if taken up by living organisms in the river will make them severely poisonous.

“If such organisms are fish, crabs or “kai” (mussels) etc. people consuming them would become seriously ill. To ensure impact of sediment wash out are minimised, proper mitigation measures are to be put into place.”

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Rabuka ready for big race

Loyalty pledge by MPs

WITH around 12 months before the next election in Fiji, former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka has consolidated the support of the current parliamentarians of the main Social Democratic Liberal Party. Of the 15 sitting MPs, all but two – Opposition Leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, and suspended Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu – have applied to contest the polls under the SODELPA banner.

Ro Teimumu is being courted by Hope, a party formed by dissident members of the SODELPA working committee including activist Pita Waqavonovono, politician Mick Beddoes and former journalist Jese Sikivou.

In the 2014 election, Kepa polled the second highest number of votes with 49,485, second only to 2006 coup leader, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama on 202,459. She galvanised the mainly conservative, indigenous and far right support from those who opposed Bainimarama. Much of her support – however – came from Lau Province at the behest of her nephews and nieces once former civil servant, Anare Jale, was ruled out of the running by the Elections Office. Whether she will be able to maintain that support on her own in a new political entity is rather unlikely.

Kepa may retain voter support from the confederacy of Burebasaga, over which she is traditional leader. But her subjects including MPs from Kadavu, Nadroga and even the Tui Namosi, Ro Suliano Matanitobua, have already signed up with SODELPA. Twice in the past, commoner Rabuka has stood against the traditional chiefly establishment and won. 

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Lamb to the slaughter

FijI TV discards CEO

WHEN Fiji Television Limited CEO, Geoffrey Smith, finally steps down this month, he will put to rest one of the media industry’s worst-kept secrets. Appointed to replace Tevita Gonelevu in July 2015, Smith was ostensibly tasked to oversee the gutting of the company to a point where it would become no threat to the state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

The post of CEO of one of Fiji’s most promising companies was a poisoned chalice for Smith from the very beginning. Ever since the company refused to bend to the pressures of Fiji’s unelected interim administration under RearAdmiral Frank Bainimarama and later his Fiji First government, the knives have been out. First to go was investment specialist Mesake Nawari, recruited from Fijian Holdings Limited to understudy Canadian Ken Clark and eased out of the company by sustained political and military pressure.

Nawari drew the ire of the interim government when he continued to allow his news service to operate independently and openly challenge policies of Bainimara’s administration. That began on December 6 when the station did not produce its nightly news bulletin – the first time since its inception in 1991 – in protest against military censorship.

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Coach inspires the nation

WITH the world now his oyster, former Fijian sevens coach Ben Ryan has more opportunities than he can shake a stick at. Movie deals, speaking tours, a book and now the possibility of a Super Rugby franchise. Even the New York Knicks basketball team wanted Ryan after the Olympics Rugby Sevens victory – what better way to inspire a side than through the coach of a tiny nation which defied all odds to snatch gold at the biggest spectacle on Earth?

“The New York Knicks players knew about Fiji sevens, they’d watched it in the locker room and were amazed with the athleticism of our boys and the similarities of the offloading and passing in basketball,” Ryan told the South China Morning Post. While many coaches looked at the Olympics as an assignment, for Ryan it was a time to learn. “At the Olympics there’s coaches there that have huge experience at world level from different sports and I just wanted to gain as much information and suck them dry of their knowledge, and I’ve continued to do that,” he said.

“There’s things you take and you plagiarise. Whatever it is, there’s things basketball teams might do around their offence or defence or their yoga or meditation that the Knicks are doing.....

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