Fiji's military ruler for the past eight years appeared to be headed to a decisive victory on Thursday to become the South Pacific nation's elected leader.
With votes from three-fifths of polling stations counted, Voreqe Bainimarama's Fiji First party was winning 60 percent of the vote, while its closest rival, the Sodelpa party, was trailing with 27 percent. The margin will ensure Fiji First will be able to rule outright in the Parliament under the country's proportional system.
A day earlier, there was excitement among thousands of voters and relief from the international community as Fijians cast ballots in the landmark election they hope will end more than a quarter-century of political turmoil.
Bainimarama, who has ruled this sunny South Pacific nation since he seized control in a 2006 coup, is popular in Fiji thanks in part to his focus on social programs, increased infrastructure spending and careful cultivation of his image through media controls.
After casting his ballot, Bainimarama was asked whether he would accept the outcome if he lost.
"I'm not going to lose. I will win. You ask that question to the other party," he said. Then he added, "Of course we will accept the election results. That is what the democratic process is all about."
The 100 or so international election observers did not report any immediate problems by the time voting closed. They have scheduled a news briefing for later Thursday. A little more than half a million of the nation's 900,000 citizens registered to vote.
The international community is prepared to drop remaining sanctions once Fiji officially restores democracy, including returning it to full membership among the Commonwealth group of nations.
Moti Ram, 73, arrived at a Suva polling station Wednesday with his whole family. "We wanted our votes to count," he said.
Abele Tubaba, from the village of Koronatoga, said he hoped whoever wins will improve development in remote areas.
"We struggle to find markets for our root crops, grog and seafood," he said, referring to a potent traditional Fijian drink. "We hope the new government brings better things for us."
Supporters say Bainimarama's popularity reflects a job well done, while detractors say he's seeking to legitimize his treasonous power grab and years of human rights abuses.
Ro Teimumu Kepa, leader of Sodelpa, said after voting that she and her candidates have done the best job they could: "We leave it to the people to decide."
Bainimarama won favor with many Fijians by improving services. He's made education free and spent tens of millions of dollars improving the roads, albeit much of it with money borrowed from China. And the economy is showing signs of life, growing by 4.6 percent last year, according to government figures.
Some see his biggest achievement as reducing ethnic tensions, which have been a big factor in the four coups Fiji has endured since 1987.
An indigenous Fijian, Bainimarama is paradoxically most popular with the large minority whose ancestors come from India. That's because he's ended preferential indigenous representation in the Parliament and abolished the Great Council of Chiefs, a group of powerful indigenous Fijians who enjoyed a privileged status in island life.
Posted by Niugini Nius | | Posted in Business News
PNG Today / Post Courier
Posted by Niugini Nius | | Posted in Pacific
Votes from more than half the polling stations have been tallied and after 12 hours of counting FijiFirst has 60 percent of the vote.
Its nearest rival Sodelpa, which has its foundations in the party of the ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase is sitting on 26 percent.
Nearly 340,000 votes have been counted so far, more than half of those who registered to vote.
Frank Bainimarama is well in front individually, with nearly five times the votes of the Sodelpa leader and paramount chief Ro Teimumu Kepa.
Just over 40 percent of the votes in the more populated Central and Western divisions of the country have been counted.
But just one percent of votes from the remoter Eastern division have been tallied.
This area is seen by some as a stronghold of the Sodelpa party.
Fiji is voting for a new-look parliament of 50 MPs based on proportional representation.
After regular updates throughout the night, the elections authorities say the next results are not due out until later this afternoon.
Posted by Niugini Nius | | Posted in Pacific
The asbestos was discovered through the European Union's Pacific Hazardous Waste Management (PacWaste) project, which is being implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Given the serious ongoing human health risk and the need for immediate action, the EU, SPREP and the Fiji Ministry of Health have agreed to fast-track an asbestos cleanup under the PacWaste project to urgently address the situation through the targeted removal and disposal of the asbestos present at the hospital. This will later be followed up by a hospital-wide decontamination plan led by the Fiji Ministry of Health and assisted by the PacWaste project.
The PacWaste project has been conducting a field survey of asbestos in 13 Pacific island countries since May 2014. The data collected will be used to identify priority interventions to minimise human exposure to harmful asbestos fibres.
"Because the forms of asbestos found in the hospital easily become airborne, and therefore can be inhaled and cause lung diseases like cancer, it represents a grave health risk to the staff, patients and visitors to the hospital," said the SPREP Project Manager, Mr. Stewart Williams.
“The PacWaste project's identification of high risk sites, such as the Tamavua Twomey Hospital, highlights the value of first conducting country wide surveys before planning interventions, so that scarce resources can be prioritised and allocated to achieve the most positive effect."
“This intervention on asbestos is just one of the first steps that the PacWaste project will take to improve the management of hazardous waste across the Pacific, through targeting priority infrastructure works, training of waste-workers, improved waste management systems and waste recycling programmes, particularly in the areas of asbestos, healthcare waste and E-waste,” said Ms Ileana Miritescu, Programme Manager at the European Union Delegation.
“These will have a profound effect, improving hazardous waste management and the environment in the Pacific island communities.”
The next steps for the PacWaste asbestos programme will include finalising the detailed regional asbestos survey and thereafter plan the follow-up needed. This will include stabilisation/encapsulation of buildings containing asbestos that may remain in use, asbestos remediation works for high risk sites, equipment purchases, capacity building, training and public awareness raising.
Posted by Niugini Nius | | Posted in International News
Adam Wolfenden, a trade justice campaigner for the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), a Pacific based regional network that promotes economic self-determination and justice, said the focus was "the same wine in different bottles. "
"Aid-for-Trade, and its counterpart PACER-Plus, are really about ensuring that Pacific markets are open to Australian exports and securing Pacific engagement with the global economy on terms that disproportionately benefit the regions big brothers."
He said the Pacific had always traded and that would continue, but it must be in a way that supported their economic self-determination.
"Lining up the Australian aid program to complement the demands being made in a free trade agreement shows just whose interest this is all in." Mr Wolfenden said.
He argued that the policy argues that global trade was an engine for growth and development in the region. So using aid-for-trade to increase engagement with the global economy would see incomes rise and levels of poverty decline accordingly, he added.
Mr Wolfenden said however, according to Harvard University’s Dani Rodrik "essentially, there is no convincing evidence that trade liberalisation is predictably associated with subsequent economic growth" and that "the problem isn’t trade liberalisation per se, but the diversion of financial resources and political capital from more urgent and deserving developmental priorities".
The Aid-for-Trade policy is also being used as a bait for Pacific Island trade officials negotiating the regional trade agreement known as PACER-Plus.