Pacific news in brief for November 9

French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) and Overseas Minister Annick Girardin (right) meet with Kanak leaders at the customary senate in Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia.
Photo: Twitter / @EmmanuelMacron

Revelation of a fire suspect in New Caledonia; A Papuan girl was rushed to hospital after being shot; and American Samoa making major progress on covid

Suspect tells police he was ordered to burn down Kanak Senate

The man detained over the New Caledonia Customary Kanak Senate fire says his leader ordered him to burn down the traditional structure.

The prosecutor said the 35-year-old also told investigators he set the fire with a lighter after being angered by a threat of eviction from a nearby slum.

The prosecutor said the man will have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he can be held criminally responsible for his actions.

He says the individual has been hospitalized several times for substance abuse issues and has served time in prison for aggravated robbery and arson.

The traditional Kanak building had been rebuilt this year after an arsonist set it on fire two years ago.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the weekend fire was a serious attack on the Customary Senate, which is the guardian and defender of Kanak identity.

Papuan girl accidentally shot dead by security forces

A seven-year-old girl in West Papua was shot and injured during the arrest by security forces of suspected members of the West Papua National Liberation Army.

The incident happened at Intan Jaya Regency over the weekend.

The girl was reportedly injured in the waist and rushed to a hospital in Nabire.

The Indonesian army has confirmed that the girl was shot and injured by a bullet projectile ricocheting from members of the joint army and police forces.

The incident began when army and police chased and shot dead Luther Japugau, a suspected member of the Liberation Army who fled as he was about to be arrested.

Relief in American Samoa to zero new covid cases

For the first time since the outbreak of covid-19 in American Samoa in February, no new cases were announced during the last reporting period.

The report was presented to the Covid-19 task force last week and covers the period from October 24 to 30.

It also shows the continued decline in the number of people being tested for the virus, compared to the start of the outbreak.

The total cumulative number of Covid-19, since February 28, stands at 8,257 for two weeks.

Meanwhile, The Government of American Samoa’s secure online travel portal, Talofa Pass, will no longer be used to enter the territory from next week.

Starting November 15, the portal will no longer be used to register for pre-approved entry, but it will still be used for traveler health forms.

The vaccination requirement to enter American Samoa will also be removed.

In mid-August, the government of American Samoa sent hundreds of doses of PaxLovid to help the Marshall Islands deal with its outbreak.  Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Red Cross receive the donation.

In mid-August, the government of American Samoa sent hundreds of doses of PaxLovid to help the Marshall Islands deal with its outbreak. Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Red Cross receive the donation.
Photo: Marshall Islands Department of Health and Human Services

Investigation into a deadly fire in Tonga

A woman has died in a house fire in Tonga.

Vava’u police and firefighters responded to a reported house fire in Neiafu around 5 a.m. Tuesday local time.

The 46-year-old woman and her husband were tenants of the house and were both at home when the fire broke out.

The husband managed to get out.

The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed while police investigations continue.

Tonga Queen’s concern over cancer screening

Lack of diagnostic and screening services in Tonga lead to more cancer-related deaths as cancer is only discovered at an advanced stage, Queen Nanasipau’u said in a speech.

The King and Queen of Tonga attended an event marking a new partnership with the Arab Women’s Authority, which has supported many initiatives related to women’s health in the developing world.

The palace office said the queen spoke about women’s health needs and welcomed the support of the Arab Women’s Authority to help with diagnostic and screening services for Tongan women.

She said the lack of diagnostic and screening services is the main problem leading to death among cancer patients.

Samoa News editor dies

The publisher of American Samoa’s only newspaper, news from samoais dead.

In a notice published in the newspaper, the family announced that Vera Milovale Annesley died peacefully on November 5 at her home in Honolulu, after a brief battle due

to a stroke.

She became the paper’s publisher more than two decades ago after acquiring the paper from former owner Lewis Wolman.

Mass will be held in Honolulu and American Samoa on future dates.

Tourists spend more in Fiji

Preliminary results from Fiji’s international visitor survey show $402.5 million in tourism receipts from April to August.

This does not include the air component, such as flights.

The five months of results show visitors spent $135 per person per night, a 12% increase from the 2019 average of $121 per night in the same five months.

The Fijian government says the increase in daily spending can be attributed to the Australian and US markets spending more in 2022.

Regular visitors represent 52% of visitor arrivals, compared to 45% before the pandemic.

Booking patterns show that half of all visitors come with a package.

Vanuatu Tourism Board presents its post-covid program

The Vanuatu Tourism Board has outlined its priorities for the new government following the appointment of new Minister of Tourism, Matai Seremaiah.

The first is aviation connectivity and the second is increasing the quality of the workforce by reintegrating experienced workers.

And finally, the tourist board wants financial support from the government to support businesses after they have been affected by the Covid-19 border closures.

CEO Adela Issachar Aru said the new minister takes office at a crucial and pivotal time in the country’s Covid recovery phase.

She said that before Covid-19, tourism accounted for around 40% of GDP and work is being done to understand where that figure currently stands.

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