Archive - April 1998

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PNG’S CIVIL WAR VIRTUALLY OVER

By Michael J. Field

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 29, 1998-Agence France-Presse)--- Four foreign ministers and dozens of diplomats will leave here before dawn Thursday aboard two military Hercules aircraft to seal a fragile peace on the war torn Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, scene of a nearly 10 year long civil war.

The will fly into the wrecked Aropa airport and travel on to the former capital of Awara where at least 20 speeches are to be given before a peace treaty is signed between the PNG Government and the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and its political wing, the Bougainville Interim Government.

Almost certain the be absent is the man who founded the rebel movement, Francis Ona, who is holding out against peace.

But highly place sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP) here that Ona was in talks Tuesday with four PNG Members of Parliament and has indicated that while he will not join the peace process, he will not...

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AIDS REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SUVA, Fiji (April 29, 1998 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---Planning for the expansion of information technology facilities and services at the multi-campus University of the South Pacific (USP) is essential "to help the region develop," says administrator Richard Mann.

The university, notes the USP Director of Planning and Development, has personnel and learning activities functioning in 12 different regional countries and territories, serving over 9,200 students.

Enrolments range from seven in Tokelau to 6,687 in Fiji.

Increasing the use of computers, e-mail, the Internet and other communications resources, he told regional informational technology experts meeting at the Forum Secretariat Wednesday, is a key university goal.

"It opens up fascinating learning opportunities for students," he added, and contributes effectively to Pacific Islands region development.

At the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus, a short distance from downtown Suva,...

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ASIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS THREATENS PACIFIC ISLANDS

CANBERRA, Australia (April 28, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Asia's financial crisis is looming as a new threat to the already fragile economies of the Pacific Islands states, according to The Australian newspaper.

It says Fiji's tourism industry has collapsed, Papua New Guinea is facing drastically reduced timber orders, while logging in the Solomon Islands has largely closed down since the Asian crisis began.

The newspaper says these latest developments will prove a severe challenge to a region already coping with longer-term problems.

It quotes the Manila-based Asian Development Bank's (ADB's) latest Asian Development Outlook, which predicts a possible currency crisis in the Solomons and worsening health in Kiribati. It also describes the economic outlook for the Federated States of Micronesia as "grim."

The bank is scathing about the quality of government in PNG, and says Fiji is carrying the burden of the National Bank of Fiji's failure and the lack of progress...

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FIJI WARNED ABOUT FURTHER LABOR ACTIONS

SUVA, Fiji (April 29, 1998 - Radio Australia)---The Reserve Bank of Fiji has warned that further labor unrest will have a damaging effect on the country’s economy.

While it is difficult to measure the full effect on the economy of last week’s nationwide strike --over government efforts to limit 1998 wage raises to three percent-- damage probably was minimal, bank officials say, because most essential services were not seriously affected.

However, another strike, they warn, could create a drop in production of goods and services, with a corresponding fall in revenue from commodities.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress already has threatened another strike for May 21.

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SAMOA RECORDS HIGHEST EXPORT EARNINGS IN 10 YEARS

APIA, Samoa (April 27, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Samoa has recorded its highest monthly export earnings in 10 years.

According to the latest figures of selected economic indicators released by the Central Bank, Samoa earned 5.3 million tala ($US 1.81 million) in February as a result of increased sales of copra and coconut oil.

However, the bank says imports also rose --by 7.9 million tala ($US 2.7 million) over January's figure-- resulting in a bigger merchandise trade deficit, totaling17.3 million tala ($US 5.9 million).

Compared to the same period last year, the deficit is 17 percent lower, the bank reports.

Tourism earnings fell 29 percent in February, compared to January, to 7 million tala ($US 2.4 million).

Total earnings for the first two months of this year, at 16.8 million tala ($US 5.7 million), are 13 percent higher than for the same period last year.

The Central Bank also noted that private remittances for February rose 48 percent, to 7....

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SOLOMON ISLANDS LEADER WANTS DEATH PENALTY APPROVED

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 28, 1998 - PACNEWS)---A political leader from Guadalcanal Province has called on the Alliance for Change government to establish the death penalty for murderers.

Provincial Assembly Member and Former Guadalcanal Premier Siriako Usa made the request in a letter to Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu following the brutal killing of a Guadalcanal woman in Honiara last week.

Usa says the government was not doing enough to protect innocent people from inhumane killers.

The government should address the problem, he said, by introducing the death penalty --either by hanging or the electric chair-- for people who are found guilty of first degree murder.

Usa encouraged Prime Minister Ulufa'alu to deal with the matter quickly, before it developed into a serious national issue.

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BOUGAINVILLE PEACE IS PEOPLE'S DECISION: SIR JOHN KAPUTIN

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 25, 1998 - The National/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The special state negotiator for Bougainville, Sir John Kaputin, told the United Nations Security Council that Papua New Guinea's decision to request UN support for the Bougainville peace process "was not made lightly," the National reports.

"Papua New Guineans are proud of our national sovereignty and independence. The decision was, therefore, made only after the most careful consideration of all relevant aspects of a complex situation," Sir John said in New York.

He said that that because PNG believed that the United Nations could make a positive contribution to peaceful resolution of one of the most serious issues that has ever confronted the nation, the State was making the request in consultation with the other parties to the Lincoln Agreement.

"As the Lincoln Agreement itself suggests, the parties recognise that the State alone, speaking through its legitimate...

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VANUATU DELAYS VAT IMPLEMENTATION TO AUGUST

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (April 28, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu's Minister of Finance, Sela Molisa, has announced a one month delay in implementing a Value Added Tax (VAT) and changes to business license fees.

Molisa ordered the change after consultation with the Council of Ministers.

He says VAT and the new fees now will be implemented August 1, not July 1, the previous target date, the Trading Post reports.

Planning for implementation of VAT by the government is well under way, he said, but noted that the deferral was necessary to give businesses more time to prepare for the changes.

Molisa said he is pleased with the way the business community is dealing with the VAT and licensing matters, which are designed to contribute constructively to solving the country’s ongoing economic difficulties.

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NEW BOOK ON TONGAN CULTURE

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (April 28, 1998 - PACNEWS/Tohi)---A new book about dance, music and Tongan cultural has gone on sale in Nuku’alofa bookstores.

Titled "Sounds of Change in Tonga," the book was compiled by a Dutch couple, Ad and Lucia Linkels, from the Mundo Ethnico Foundation in Holland, Radio Tonga reports.

The book examines the different types of music and dance in Tonga, both modern and traditional, and how they reflect outside influences.

The study also examines how changes in Tonga itself are influencing the country’s performing arts.

"Sounds of Change in Tonga" has been dedicated by the authors to the Tongan people, with the goals of increasing foreign understanding of Tonga, its people and particularly its culture, and increasing Tongans’ own appreciation of the beauty and importance of their cultural treasures.

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FRENCH POLYNESIA WELCOMES NEW CALEDONIA ACCORD

(PAPEETE, Tahiti (April 27, 1998 - Radio Australia)---French Polynesia’s pro-independence party has welcomed the signing of an agreement on the French territory of New Caledonia’s political future.

The Noumea Accord provides greater autonomy for New Caledonia and a vote on independence from France within 15 to 20 years.

A special congress of the pro-independence FLNKS coalition ratified the agreement last weekend in Noumea.

In Papeete, French Polynesia’s independence party spokesman Nelson Ortas said the agreement is a major step forward and would make a good model to be used in future discussions with France on independence for French Polynesia.

"We are very pleased and very proud," he said, adding that the formal Kanaki plan is one "that we could probably follow or use as guidance for further negotiations and future negotiations for the Tavini party."

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