Nov 23, 2017 Last Updated 9:11 AM, Nov 15, 2017

Suburban risk

Time to pay for vital services

THE fire which destroyed a significant part of Hanuabada Village in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, is a stark reminder to the region of the need for functioning, well-equipped emergency services. Villagers were left with little more than the clothes on their backs after the blaze ripped through 15 homes in the densely populates area.

With homes built of highly combustible wood, thatch and cardboard and fanned by a strong easterly breeze, the intense fire spread quickly. There was little chance for residents or the PNG Fire Service to save homes or property. Instead firefighters took the sensible, practical stance of ensuring that the blaze was contained and that damage was minimised. Two days after the initial fire, three more houses were razed and residents formed a bucket brigade to control the situation and prevent more homes from being burned.

The customary landowners living in Hanuabada Village come from the Motu and Koitabu tribal groups. They live in cramped and squalid conditions in the village as their traditional lands in Port Moresby have been used to develop the capital. Around many of the Pacific’s major towns and cities, communities like Hanuabada have developed to provide housing for displaced landowning communities or as homes for sometimes itinerant workers.

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Keep Pacific nuclear-free

LAST month, the heads of the Pacific’s largest churches met in Auckland, New Zealand, and voiced concern over continued nuclear activities in the region. They also raised the fact that despite the continued cries of the victims of nuclear testing in the Pacific, larger nations have done nothing to act justly.

The Pacific leaders who gathered in Auckland were from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kanaky (New Caledonia) Kiribati, Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. They represented several denominations but raised a united voice for the people of the region despite ideological, dogmatic and cultural differences. One leader went as far as to proclaim that the Pacific could not be free until all its people were liberated from the present threat and past injustices linked to nuclear testing.

This is their statement which we endorse: Having met in Auckland, New Zealand, in August 2017, the leaders of Pacific Churches reflect with sorrow on the French government’s nuclear testing on Mururoa and Fangataufa in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) from 1966 to 1966 causing irreparable damage to the fenua (land, sea and the people). And we note there has been, as yet, no just reparation or compensation for the loss of land, life and for the severe illnesses and deformities caused by these tests.

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AUGUST 5, 1948 - JUNE 17, 2017

VANUATU has long produced some of the Pacific’s pillars of integrity, freedom and democracy. But because of the humility that comes naturally to many ni-Vanuatu and the fact that it is such a small country, little is known about many of these men and women outside their nation.

President Baldwin Jacobson Lonsdale was one such person and will go down in history as a leader who saved his country from the hands of corrupt politicians. Without fear he stood against tremendous political pressure to ensure that the rule of law was upheld at a crucial time. In October 2015, while Lonsdale was abroad, Speaker of Parliament Marcellino Pipite who was Acting President used his position to pardon to himself and 13 Members of Parliament who had been convicted of bribery and were awaiting sentence.

Hours after returning to Vanuatu, Lonsdale expressed sorrow at what had happened and gave a widely welcomed speech declaring that nobody was above the law. Lonsdale was visibly emotional as he delivered the speech in which he uttered words which will live on in Vanuatu’s history: “I will clean the dirt from my backyard”. After consultation with legal experts and his peers, Lonsdale revoked the pardon, citing the articles in the Vanuatu Constitution which obliged leaders to avoid conflicts of interest and avoid bringing their integrity into question.

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The great plastic threat

THE region faces an enormous threat from plastic bags and other synthetic material initially designed to make life easier. Every day, thousands of plastic bags are used in shops, supermarkets, department stores, restaurants and roadside market stalls.  

Thirty years ago, bread was wrapped in newspaper or newsprint, tied with string and carried under the arm from local shops to homes. The string was recycled – sometimes used to end up as part of a child’s homemade toy – and the paper was used to wrap rubbish, clean windows or light a fire.

Paper and string are bio-degradable and break down easily if they are buried or merely left at the mercy of the elements. Now, bread is pushed into plastic bags for that same journey home from stores around the Pacific. Indeed, every possible purchase from a shop is carried home in some form of plastic which will take hundreds of years to decompose.

Some households use plastic bags to hold rubbish which is removed by municipal councils.

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Protect the environment

PROTECTION of the environment must be foremost in our minds as we watch the gradual demise of smaller island states like Tuvalu and Kiribati. These Pacific island states have started to succumb to global warming and could disappear this century if sea levels creep slowly but surely higher each year.

In Papua New Guinea, sea water has started to seep through the ground on some of the lower, outlying islands, destroying forever areas of rich farm land and depriving islanders of food sources. Erosion of the shoreline is obvious on many of our islands.

The smaller the island, the more obvious are the ravages of the sea. On Vanuabalavu, villagers can show how the sea has crept closer to Saqani Settlement in the last 10 years. Coconut trees which once stood on dry land now have a home in the sea.

At Togoru, Navua, the McGoon family graves were part of the vast expanse of an estate which ranged over acres of grassland. But the sea has shown no respect for the dead, encroaching upon the estate until those who once rested in the cemetery must now lie in the waves. Scientists claim that the steady advance of the sea is due in no small part to melting ice in the polar regions. 

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