Minpacalumni's Weblog

Weblog for former staff of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in New Zealand

Archive for November, 2010

Fiji Patrol boat kicks yachts off Minerva Reef?

Posted by Sai Lealea on November 27, 2010

A Fiji Blog, Fiji Today, has received an email from a yacht reporting being kicked off the remote Minerva Reef by Fiji navy patrol boats. The reef was in fact claimed and annexed by Tonga in 1972 and yachts reported they had permission from the Tongan authorities to anchor there.

An email from Peter Sidler of the vessel Green Coral was forwarded to Fiji Today with this report:

“During the morning of November 20, we and one other sailing yacht entered the North Minerva Reef and anchored there. Three other boats were already there. One left immediately after we anchored. One other boat left around noon. On leaving the Minerva Reef, that boat was hailed by a patrol boat and questions about ‘where from’ and ‘where to’ were asked.

“Around 1:00 p.m. the three remaining boats anchored in the Minerva Reef were hailed by the patrol boat. Each yacht was asked about its last port, next port and if they had permission to anchor in the Minerva Reef. All three yachts had Vava’u, Tonga, as their last port, and at least one yacht said they had written permission for a stopover in Minerva Reef on their clearance. By then we still believed that we were talking to a patrol boat from Tonga. To our surprise they told us that the permission from Vava’u was no good, that we had to get permission from Suva, Fiji, and that we had to leave the Minerva Reef immediately.

“We and the other boats argued that we believed Minerva Reef to be Tongan territory but the only response we got was: ‘No, you have to get permission from Suva.’ We were given 30 minutes to prepare for departure and leave. We left the Minerva Reef angry and frustrated and continued our journey towards Opua.”


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Commoner MPs’ views key to choosing new Tongan PM

Posted by Sai Lealea on November 27, 2010

King George Tupou V

by Audrey Young – NZ Herald – 27 November 2010

Democracy leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva,  left picture, will sit down with the handful of people’s representatives not aligned with the democracy movement in Tonga to talk about leadership of the new Government.

And Mr Pohiva indicated yesterday that the new Prime Minister might not necessarily be himself.

Asked by the Weekend Herald if he was ready to be Prime Minister, he said: “Whoever is selected to be Prime Minister, he is ready.”

Mr Pohiva’s deputy, Dr Sitiveni Halapua, pictured above right, is considered a possibility to become Tonga’s first democratically elected Prime Minister.

He has recently returned from a post at the East-West Centre in Hawaii and is an academic with a bent for conflict resolution.

He brokered the agreement that settled the 2005 public service strike which, according to website Matangi Tonga, included an agreement to look at political reforms.

Dr Halapua won the electorate of Tongatapu 3, where long-serving MP and former Police Minister Clive Edwards also stood, unsuccessfully. It is thought that Dr Halapua would be the preference of the nobles.

There are now 17 people’s representatives and nine nobles’ representatives and while party affiliations are not recognised in the system, Mr Pohiva believes his people have won 13 of the 17 people’s seats.

Yesterday, Mr Pohiva and close advisers met for several hours in his party’s downtown offices, planning an agenda for today’s meetings.

The prospect of being beaten by the nobles in a race to form the Government was halted by King George Tupou V, who is thought to have not only ordered his brother out of the nobles’ contest but also insisted the nobles allow a people’s representative to be the first Prime Minister elected by the Parliament.

Meanwhile, National MP John Hayes, leader of the New Zealand observer delegation, said there had been some talk of a parliament of national unity.

“We have a confrontational style of democracy. It doesn’t need to be confrontational everywhere,” said Mr Hayes, a former High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea.

It could involve a commoners’ Prime Minister and nobles’ deputy prime minister or whatever the new MPs decided.

“I think you’ve got to see the political leaders as chiefs who are going to elect a paramount chief in Tongan terms when Parliament resumes.”

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Tokelau Boys 61 Days Adrift

Posted by Sai Lealea on November 27, 2010

FIJI TIMES NEWS – Saturday, November 27, 2010

One of the three Tokelau teenagers rescued after drifting for 61 days, Etueti Nasau, 14, is escorted by Fiji Navy officers and military doctor at the Naval Base in Suva

AFTER 61 days of drifting at sea and numerous search and rescue missions, three Tokelau teens were finally rescued when a New Zealand fishing vessel spotted them early this week.

In a media briefing yesterday afternoon, Fiji’s navy commander Francis Kean said they successfully transferred Etueni Nasau, 14, Samu Pelesa and Filo Pelesa, both 15, from the San Nikunau, on to the naval vessel, Kula, at 4am yesterday in Fiji’s exclusive economic zone.

“The boys had left their homes in Atafu Village on September 24 in an aluminium boat to visit relatives at Nukunonu, a neighbouring island in Tokelau. Along the way they ran out of fuel and the boat started to drift,” he said.

Commander Kean said the boys had drifted over an extensive area.

“With the rainfall we have experienced, one can only imagine the state of the seas they endured during the journey. Even the commanding officer of the Kula is in awe of how they survived the 61-day ordeal,” said Mr Kean.

He said the teens lived on flying fish, a seagull and sea and rain water.

“A doctor who accompanied them to shore has been injecting fluids into their bodies to rehydrate them. The doctor has said it is still not the right time for them to eat solid foods so they will continue to take in fluids until their bodies are ready.

“I thank God for the second chance given to the three teenagers,” Commander Kean said.

He said the boys’ families had been informed and that immigration issues would need to be sorted between the New Zealand High Commission and the Immigration Department before they could return home to Tokelau.

Also present at the Stanley Brown naval base in Walu Bay yesterday to receive the boys were officials of the New Zealand High Commission, including Phillip Taula, the acting head of mission. The boys are undergoing medical treatment at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

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Kris Faafoi first New Zealand MP from Tokelau

Posted by Sai Lealea on November 21, 2010

Wellington (NZ Herald) – “Let’s party. We won.”

With those words Kris Faafoi launched himself into Parliament as the first New Zealand MP from Tokelau after winning the Mana by- election, beating National candidate Hekia Parata by 46.4 per cent of the counted vote to 41.6 per cent.

The result was a 14 per cent swing to the National candidate since the 2008 general election.

Mr Faafoi, accompanied by wife Gina Faafoi-Rogers and 23-month-old son George, took the stage to rapturous applause, flanked by Labour leader Phil Goff and former MP for Mana Winnie Laban.

An emotional Mr Faafoi thanked his supporters and paid special tribute to an uncle who was on his deathbed, but had told him he couldn’t wait to get better so he could start waving placards on the campaign trail.

Afterwards he said it had been a hard-fought victory, but he was elated and looking forward to getting stuck into his parliamentary work and being a “strong voice” for Mana.

“This puts you through the wringer, this process. You’re away from your family. If you’re the favourite, you get targeted … We stayed classy. We held our own and I’m happy with that.”

Less than 50 per cent of registered voters turned out to give Mr Faafoi a 1080 majority. There are 1353 special votes still to come, but it is extremely unlikely to change the result.
Mr Faafoi won 10,397 votes; Ms Parata won 9317 votes.

Green Party candidate Jan Logie won 1493 (6.6 per cent); independent candidate Matt McCarten, who many feared would split the left vote, won 816 votes. Act candidate Colin du Plessis won 132 votes; Julian Crawford, from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, won 107 votes; Sean Fitzpatrick, from the Libertarians, won 43 votes; and Kelly Buchanan, from the Alliance Party, won 37 votes. Both main parties claimed the result as a victory.

The majority was slashed to 6155, though there were 12,372 fewer voters. In 2008 labour’s Luamanuvao Winnie Laban won 53 per cent of the vote, compared with Ms Parata’s 35 per cent.

The total vote count was 22,387 out of 48,000 registered voters, which Labour said accounted for some of the result.

When asked about the swing, Mr Faafoi said: “We won tonight. Fullstop.”
Mr Goff said he wasn’t disappointed with the slim majority.

“It was a win. It was a very clear win. It’s not in doubt. There are no second prizes in politics.” Mr Faafoi said he was happy to be the first MP from Tokelau.

“It makes me very proud. My parents sacrificed a lot, came here with nothing and now their son is a member of parliament. This is a big way that I can repay the sacrifice that my parents made.” Prime Minister John Key said it was a great night for the National Party.

At the start of the campaign Mr Goff had said the byelection would be a referendum on the Government’s policies “and he was right.”

The result was bad news for Mr Goff’s leadership, Mr Key said.
“It is a victory,” Ms Parata said thanking her supporters.

“It has shown the people of Mana that there are other options.”
The Green Party’s Jan Logie caught 6.6 per cent of the vote, coming in third. Independent Matt McCarte
n, who many feared would split the left vote, won only 3.6 per cent.

The main contenders had been relentlessly pounding the streets over the past weeks. Mr Faafoi claims he has lost 10kg with the amount of doorknocking he has done. It has been a clean contest, though media have provided the candidates with plenty of opportunities to insult the other challengers.

One of the main focuses has been the lack of local candidates – only Green Party candidate Jan Logie and Act’s Colin du Plessis live locally.

The big three of Mr Faafoi, Ms Parata and Mr McCarten can’t even vote in the byelection because they don’t live there.

Mr Faafoi came under fire early on for implying in his brochure that he grew up in the electorate, when he in fact grew up in Christchurch.

“I had a great start because my family settled in Mana,” the brochure said.
Right-wing blogs also had fun at his expense after he claimed he remembered when the first McDonalds restaurant, which would have been when he was 1 year old.

He later said he had misspoke, but that didn’t stop bloggers posting digitally altered photos showing a smiling Kris Faafoi sitting among former Labour heavyweights David Lange and Mike Moore in the 1980s, or standing next to a young Elvis Presley and watching the King of Rock’n’Roll shake hands with then-US President Richard Nixon.

While Mr Faafoi was accused of being an outsider coasting to the candidacy courtesy of a shiny endorsement from his leader Phil Goff, Ms Parata found support in some unlikely places because of her presence in the electorate over the past three years.

Mr Faafoi mainly pushed the line that most people were struggling to make ends meet under National’s policies, while Ms Parata pushed the exact opposite view – that the Government’s policies were making life easier.

This may have given voters an easy choice – vote on how you think the Government has made an impact.

Mr Faafoi managed to sidestep a potential sore when one of his supporters called a fellow Pacific Islander a “dumb-ass coconut” for supporting National. Ms Parata, too, ran a strong campaign.

The main stumble she had was when she literally tripped over one morning, but none of the TV crews at the event managed to record it, saving her the indignity of it being replayed over and over.

She faced a group of protesters at the official launch of her campaign, a small group of locals who were against the expressway through the district from MacKays Crossing to the north of Otaki.

She also had to absorb a barrage of criticism because some public meetings about the expressway – where locals expected to be told which properties, if any, might be affected – were postponed until after the byelection.
Coincidence? asked Labour and the Greens.

But Ms Parata stayed afloat, and it must have been a relief for National supporters to see a good campaign after the train-wreck in Mt Albert last year, when Melissa Lee lost heavily to Labour’s David Shearer.

Independent MP Matt McCarten put some fire into the campaign, though many feared that the union leader would further split the left vote; no one on the right – with all due respect to Colin du Plessis – was really going to take a bite out of Ms Parata’s vote.

Mr McCarten pushed three policies, and tried to paint the others as void of their own ideas and just harmless extensions of their own parties.

He, too, had hurdles. In Porirua this week a Labour supporter heckled him relentlessly for gifting victory to Ms Parata because of the fractured left vote.

This may have pushed him to galvanise his own supporters to heckle Prime Minister John Key and Ms Parata the following day as they walked through a mall, an obvious publicity stunt that duly made all media reports that evening and the following morning.

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