Dec 16, 2017 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Dec 12, 2017

A former deputy secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum is the only Pacific islander to be shortlisted for the top job at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Feleti Teo, who recently concluded a two-term stint as DSG at the Suva-based Forum Secretariat, is up against significant competition from four shortlisted candidates, all of whom have heavyweight fisheries experience on their resumes.

Teo is no stranger to the fisheries world, having headed the Forum Fisheries Agency for two terms. But his strength will be in his long-term experience at the head of regional agencies and being the lone Pacific island representative on the shortlist. The Tuna Commission executive director is a key post for island and distant water fishing nations alike. The Commission was established by a treaty that went into effect in 2004 with the mandate of regulating and monitoring fishing on the high seas in the central and western Pacific Ocean.

In the ensuing 10 years, bigeye tuna is now on the “overfished” list and yellowfin tuna is being fished at its upper limits of sustainability, while the number of vessels filling their holds with tuna and the sophistication of fishing technology continue increasing every year. Sustainability of bigeye and yellowfin stocks are looming as the major battleground for the WCPFC, which holds its annual meeting from 1-5 December in Apia, Samoa.

The WCPFC is under pressure at its December meeting in Samoa to agree to deep cuts in fishing effort for bigeye and yellowfin to bring catch volumes down to sustainable levels. But the WCPFC has danced around the issue for several years, approving measures that have fallen far short of what is needed to sustain Pacific tuna stocks. “If we want a train wreck instead of a sustainable fishery, we should keep going the way we are now,” Glenn Hurry, the recently departed WCPFC executive director, said in July.

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Maritime border dispute between Vanuatu and New Caledonia is not for the French Navy or its Armed Forces to sort out, says Brigadier General Luc de Revel (pictured). He is the senior commander of the French Armed Forces based in New Caledonia, which also looks after the French territory of Wallis and Futuna,east of New Caledonia, or northeast of Fiji. General de Revel told Islands Business the maritime dispute is beyond his mandate, something that needs to be sorted out at the political level. He was in Fiji in October to meet the country’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and his counterpart in the Fiji Military Forces, Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga.

Disaster management and air surveillance of Fiji’s 200 mile exclusive economic zone were in the agenda of his discussions with Fijian officials, said the visiting General. “Now that we’ve established Fiji’s views on resuming defence cooperation, on disaster management and maritime surveillance, we’re going to return to Noumea to formulate the possible way forward in continuing the good relationships between our two countries. “This visit was not to come and make any offers but just to hold discussions with my Fijian counterparts,” added General de Revel. He was accompanied in his Fiji tour by the French Embassy’s Noumea-based Defence Attache Commander Hubert Jannot and Dr Helene Goiran-Ponsard.

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I n yet another first in its history, the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is headed for three elections in a single month in November with a recordbreaking 18,000 registered voters. Election issues are centred on fixing the CNMI’s immigration, stabilising the utilities and hospital services, prolonging the retirement system’s lifespan, and fully reviving the tourism economy amid a US$3.14 billion exclusive Saipan casino to be built starting this year. The CNMI will hold its general elections on November 4, 2014 to elect the governor and lieutenant governor, a nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Congress, members of the CNMI House of Representatives and CNMI Senate, mayors for the three islands, municipal councils and for the first time, an attorney general.

There are 99 candidates for 44 positions. Governor Eloy S. Inos also declared a special election to coincide with the November 4 general elections, saving the government nearly $100,000 just by holding the two on the same day. That special election will fill a vacancy in the Senate, created by a constitutionallyrequired resignation of a senator representing Saipan after he was certified as a candidate for lieutenant governor. There are three candidates for this special election.

Besides declaring a special election, the governor also signed on the same day a bill that prohibits a person from running for more than one public office in a general, local or special election. “We find this bill to be an appropriate public policy and I therefore approve it into law,” the governor said before signing the measure. A third election, which is a gubernatorial runoff race, is also “highly likely” in midNovember when none of the four gubernatorial teams gets at least 50 percent plus one of the votes cast during the general elections, Commonwealth Election Commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero said. Governor Inos himself is seeking election in November under the Republican Party.

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Forum is work in progress

Melanesian leaders failed to attend the 2nd Pacific Islands Development Forum on the Fijian resort island of Denarau last month. Conspicuous in their absence were Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Solomon Islands and Vanuatu counterparts Gordon Darcy Lilo and Joe Natuman. In fact the only Melanesia leader present was the host, Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama. Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano was the only Polynesian leader at the PIDF while President Anote Tong of Kiribati and Nauru’s Baron Waqa represented Micronesia. In terms of scale, the event was truly regional with red carpet welcomes, gala dinners, military parades, police-escorted motorcades, accommodation at five star hotels and formal Fijian ceremonies of welcome. Fiji’s Information Ministry – which exercised complete control of the media during the threeday meeting offered no reason for the non-attendance of key Pacific delegates. Most of the focus was directed to the chief guest, outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the warm relations between his country and the host nation. Indeed, such was the intensity of local media coverage on SBY that civil society representatives at the talks claimed his presence overshadowed the importance of the meeting. “It did take (away) some of the focus,” Pacific Islands Association of NGOs Executive Director Emele Duituturaga said. Civil society groups at the PIDF wanted to address issues of self-determination and justice including self-determination for West Papua but did not get the opportunity to do so. “There was no opportunity to engage (with Yudhoyono). It was very high level security, it was a State visit and treated as such,” Ms Duituturaga said.

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The decision of Samoa’s Prime Minister to sign a letter in support of two convicted rapists has raised serious questions from the country’s Opposition Party Tautua Samoa. According to the Party, the Prime Minister should avoid giving away his signature in support of criminals. Fatu Seti of the Le Vasa Resort about 10 minutes west of the Faleolo International Airport was deported to New Zealand last year after a decade of hiding from New Zealand authorities over a rape charge.

He returned to Samoa where he was born and lived for most of his young life using a different identity working in the tourism industry in several jobs as an entertainer. Le Vasa Resort was where his fire knife dancing prowess attracted many tourists and locals alike. A likable character, Fatu was well known and when police finally arrested him, many were shocked to learn of his criminal past.

He had committed rape as a teenager living in New Zealand. Fatu’s mother then apparently approached the Prime Minister, also the Minister of Tourism for help to have her son returned to Samoa to serve his prison sentence. His mother asked Tuila’epa Lupesoliai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to put in a good word for her son to help him in court. The Prime Minister did and so did the Speaker of Parliament. But that endorsement backfired because instead of the original four years he was to have served for the crime, Fatu is now serving five and a half years in an Auckland prison.

It was reported that the sentence was extended because Samoan Government leaders were accused of trying to influence the courts in New Zealand, a judgement Prime Minister Tuila’epa felt was unfair. The Opposition’s Tautua Samoa however blames the Prime Minister for meddling in the court case, resulting in the extended prison sentence. In his letter, the PM asked the court to deport Seti back to Samoa where he could serve his prison sentence because it is where his family was.

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