To'abaita Authority for Research & Development (TARD)

[P.O Box 13, Honiara, Solomon Islands/ Email: Tel:+677 7424025]

Welcome to the TARD Homepage...{Sore lea tale oe uri fula lamu mai la biu ne'e TARD}...TARD is To'abaita's rural voice on the web

Monday, April 30, 2007

Solomon Islander awarded with USP Gold Medal in Geography to make it the second for Solomons in USP history

A Solomon Islander has been awarded with a University of the South Pacific (USP) gold medal for the best graduating student with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the university's graduation last Friday along with other high achievers who are mostly from Fiji.

He is Mr Dako Nating who hails from Isabel Province and is currently teaching at the USP Campus in Kiribati as an Assistant Lecturer.

Mr Dako Nating previously completed a Bachelor, Postgraduate Diploma in Marine Science and Master of Science in Marine Science in 2000, after which he went to work at the USP Campus in Kiribati. He completed his Masters thesis on "Mangrove meiofauna biodiversity of the southern & western coasts of Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands & Southwest Viti Levu, Fiji".

However, during his time in Kiribati Mr Nating enrolled in another Bachelor's degree majoring in Geography which he undertook through the USP distance learning mode. He completed the program late last year.

Despite not attending last Friday's ceremony, his name was still included under the list of gold medalist graduants being circulated in a booklet during the graduation ceremony. It is understood Mr Nating's fine achievement is the second to be awarded to any Solomon Islands student in the history of the University of the South Pacific. The first gold medal being attained by a Solomon Islander from USP was also received by another Isabel Academic and current USP Lecturer, Dr Culwick Togamana.

Over 1000 students graduated from various disciplines, in a ceremony full of pomp and colour on Friday last week. Gold medalists from the four Faculties – Arts and Law, Business and Economics, Islands and Oceans and Science and Technology were also acknowledged during the ceremony. This graduation was the first in 2007 for USP.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) is the premier provider of tertiary education in the Pacific region and an international centre of excellence for teaching, research and consulting on all aspects of Pacific life. USP comprises a vibrant and culturally diverse community of staff and students from its twelve member countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as many other countries worldwide.

Australian leading NGO donates medical supplies to North Malaita clinics in partnership with TARD

One of the leading non governmental organisations (NGO) in Australia, known as the Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific (AFAP), has generously donated a consignment of medical supplies to seven rural health centres in North Malaita in partnership with the To'abaita Authority for Research & Development (TARD) student volunteer group.

According to confirmation from Solomons AFAP Country Manager, Mr Luke Johnston, the container of medical supplies has been loaded on a ship that left Brisbane on Friday last week and is expected to arrive in Honiara on May 15 2007.

The seven health centres in North Malaita that will benefit from this assistance include Arao and Sulagwalu clinics in the Lau/Baelelea Constituency and Fo'ondo, Bita'ama, Gwaiau, Orukalia, and Malu'u clinics in the North Malaita Constituency.

This request was initiated by TARD earlier this year and channeled through the Solomons' AFAP office in Honiara which then forwarded the proposal to the AFAP Headquaters in Sydney. This assistance is made available under the Medical Supplies and Services program of AFAP.

Once the container is cleared through Customs in Honiara, supplies will be transported to North Malaita for distribution in mid June.

TARD is adament that this project will further enhance the service delivery at the beneficiary clinics as four of the clinics (Malu'u, Bita'ama, Fo'ondo & Gwaiau) have also benefited from a forty box of medical supplies donation from the Medical Aid Abroad New Zealand late last year under TARD.

TARD is therefore grateful to the AFAP, on behalf of the North Malaita people for this generous assistance as well as covering the shipping costs from Australia to Honiara and ensuring to meet the Customs clearance costs in Honiara.

Two TARD founding members graduate with degrees from USP last Friday beside other Solomon Islanders

Two TARD founding members, Mr Eddie Maefalu Konairamo (pictured left) and Ms Anne Kwaimani (pictured right below), were among several Solomon Islanders who attended the University of the South Pacific graduation ceremony in Suva last Friday.

Eddie Konairamo graduated with a Bachelor of Education majoring in Economics with a minor in Geography whilst Anne Kwaimani attained a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Management and Public Administration.

Mr Konairamo is currently the first form 6 tutor for Arnon Atomea High School in Malu'u (North Malaita) and Ms Kwaimani is working with the ANZ Bank in Honiara.

Eddie has already flown back to the Solomons over the weekend while Anne is spending a few days in Suva.

Other Solomon Islanders who have attended the graduation include John Misite'e (postgraduate diploma), Margaret Qoloni (postgraduate diploma), Tammy Tabe (Bachelor), Riley (Bachelor), Hudson Wakio (Bachelor), Stanley Wale (postgraduate diploma), Patterson Lusi (postgraduate diploma), Leonora Houma (postgraduate diploma) and few others.

Meanwhile it is understood that Stanley Wale, from Langa langa, is the first Solomon Islander to have a postgraduate diploma level in real estate in the whole country as of now.

West Makira Chief urges Solomons government to physically implement its much talked about bottom-up-approach in rural areas

A chief in West Makira John Harai wants the Solomon Islands national government to implement the Bottom Up Approach policy instead of just talking about it.

He says since the government came into power more than a year ago, this policy has been talked about by the government in all media outlets but no physical development is seen in the rural areas.

Mr Harai says people in rural areas have high hope in the government's Bottom Up Approach but the delay in implementing the policy physically is slowly eroding the people's patience.

He says funds through various ministries to assist in rural area-based projects have either been suspended or the bureaucratic process is beefed up making it hard for people in rural areas to access.

Mr Harai suggests that such funding should not be channeled through the provincial governments, because they've achieved less and funds are usually diverted to other administrative matters.

He says the government should be doing things in rural areas now because as of next year, it will be focusing its attention on how to win 2010 general election leaving little time for the implementation of the Bottom Up Approach policy.

Source: SIBC

Friday, April 27, 2007

Pacific civil society groups challenge EU over trade negotiations

The European Union (EU) has been challenged to either negotiate a trade deal in the Pacific that is to the benefit of the Pacific's people or to offer alternatives that are at least as good as the current trade regime.

The challenge was put to the EU this week at the Pacific Trade and Education Program by participants from Pacific civil society groups, in Apia, Samoa.

Chief executive officer of Samoa Umbrella for Non Governmental Organisations (SUNGO), Roina Vavatau, took a swipe at the EU, saying it has failed to live up to its rhetoric that the Economic Partnership Agreement should be an instrument for development.

"Despite repeated letters over the past nine months, the EU has still so far failed to respond constructively to the Pacifics proposals. It is ridiculous that they are still insisting on a deadline for conclusion of negotiations by the end of this year," Ms Vavatau said.

Participants agreed with the Mid-Term Review of the EPA negotiations commissioned by the Pacific Trade Ministers, using a highly respected European research institute, which concluded that the Pacific and EU were still far apart in negotiations and that the Pacific was not ready to conclude a deal by the end of the year.

The review laid much of the responsibility at the feet of the EU, criticising their insistence on an inflexible free trade agreement.

The WTO waiver granted to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement expires on 31st December 2007. This deadline only applies to trade in goods.

Negotiations on other aspects, in particular the complex issues of services, can be concluded when the Pacific region is ready, when adequate research, impact assessment and consultations are undertaken.

The chairperson of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), Fe'iloakitau Kaho Tevi said the EU is playing negotiating games and he finds these negotiating tactics unacceptable.

"It is unacceptable to risk peoples livelihoods, vital jobs for young people and the future sustainability of Pacific societies in the course of negotiating a trade agreement that is supposedly in the development interests of the Pacific Island countries." Mr Tevi said.

The meeting which concluded on Wednesday has reiterated the concerns expressed by over a hundred Pacific civil society groups over the likely social, cultural, gender, environmental and economic impacts of an EPA Agreement.

The participants have called for suspension of further negotiations between the Pacific and the EU until the results of the recently initiated social impact assessment are fully incorporated into negotiating positions.

Source: Fiji Times

Bougainville shipment of fruit and vegetables bound for Gizo rejected by Solomons Agriculture Ministry

The Solomon Islands Agriculture Ministry has rejected a shipment of fruit and vegetables from Bougainville, that had been sent to the tsunami devastated province of Gizo.

Solomon Islands officials had been concerned the shipment could include pests and diseases.

Bougainville's quarantine office says it does not have the equipment necessary to thoroughly check and spray the food.

Source: Radio Australia

RAMSI review now gets underway in Solomon Islands after slight delay

The review of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has begun in Honiara after being postponed from Tuesday this week due to cancellation of a flight for the two member Pacific Islands Forum team in Fiji as a result of bad weather.

As well as investigating ways of changing RAMSI, the review has been given the task of finding a way for it to be withdrawn.

The review will also look at separating assistance programs funded by AusAid and RAMSI, and the creation of governing body involving the Solomons' government to regulate RAMSI's operations.

Since taking power Solomons' Prime Minister Manessah Sogavare has made it clear he wants an end to Australia's domination of the mission, and eventually wants it out of his country.

The terms were agreed to at last year's Pacific Forum Leaders Meeting, where Mr Sogavare and Australian Prime Minister John Howard clashed over the mission's role.
The terms of the review appear to indicate Mr Sogavare has the support of other Pacific leaders for a change in RAMSI.

The two member team conducting the preliminary review began its investigation yesterday. The review will report to forum Foreign ministers, with Forum leaders to make a final decision in Tonga in October.

Source: Radio Australia

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Solomon Islanders spoke highly of Tony Scriver at Honiara memorial service today

About three hundred people today attended a memorial service in Honiara for Antonio (Tony) Scriva who died in a tragic accident last Sunday. Twenty six year old Tony Scriva was an RAMSI adviser with the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) and had worked in Solomon Islands for more than 18 months.

During the service at the Holy Cross Cathedral, staff of the OAG paid tribute to their friend and colleague presenting his wife, Anita Scriva, with a Solomon Islands flag signed by them.

Ian Zupiti Talasasa from the Office spoke of the sadness felt by colleagues who had been preparing for Tony Scriva’s farewell or “Go Finis” party which was to be held on Friday 27th April. Mr Talasasa said that Tony loved Solomon Islands.

“Tony left the comfort of his home and people to help us, Solomon Islanders, rebuild our country on the solid foundations of good governance and integrity.
He was a mentor, trainer and friend – well regarded by all of us.”

All speakers reflected on his love for Solomon Islands. Deputy Auditor General, Eric Muir, said that the young adviser epitomised what Auditor General Floyd Augustine Fatai calls ‘belongedness’.

“The word describes how some people become part of a new environment and just belong. He was patient and understanding. As a manager he was responsible for a raft of audits and coordinated the delivery of these whilst building capacity of the local team. His efforts in this area were exemplary.”

RAMSI Special Coordinator Tim George said Tony Scriva embodied the true ideal of the mission in the way he worked in partnership with Solomon Islanders.

“Tony made an enormous contribution – experienced yet youthful and vibrant – a terrific mix in an office that was gradually employing more young local recruits to build up a fearless audit function. It’s a tribute to his work and to his vibrant personality that so many people have come here today.”

Mr George thanked Solomon Islands Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare for offering condolences on behalf of the Government, and Finance Minister and Acting Foreign Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo for attending the service. The congregation included a wide cross section of Solomon Islanders and expatriates from all walks of life.

Yesterday, the Solomon Islands Auditor General arranged a ceremony for Anita Scriva to plant a tree in the High Court precinct where the car accident occurred as an enduring symbol of the positive impact of his time in Solomon Islands.

Source: RAMSI

Overseas friends team up to document "treks and adventures in Solomon Islands" through a new "Exploring Solomons" website

A former tax reform advisor to the Solomon Islands Department of Finance from 2005-2007, Mr Harry Greenwell has teamed up with another eight overseas friends to document their trekking experiences and adventures in various islands throughout the Solomons in a new wiki website known as "Exploring Solomons", which may assist greatly in promoting our country to overseas tourists.

According to information obtained by TARD from Mr Greenwell and the Exploring Solomons wiki website, original content on the site was compiled by nine friends who lived in Solomon Islands at different times between 2002 and 2007. They originally compiled their stories into a document called "Treks and Adventures in Solomon Islands", which was distributed in March 2007 (Click to download a pdf version here).

It is understood the original adventures and expriences shared range from Honiara walks, Savo and the Weathercoast village stays, and the Malaita trek. It also inlcude hikes and bike rides on Guadalcanal, climbing Kolombangara, kayaking through Marovo Lagoon, Simbo and Ranonnga, chilling out at Tetepare, and accommodation in Western Province prior to the tsunami.

In addition the adventures also covered riding in Rennell, climbing of Mount Popomanaseu, cycling from North Malaita to Auki, camping in Isabel, exploring the waterways in Choiseul, information on Makira, and surfing around the Solomons.

A wikispace is a simple webpage that groups, friends and families can edit together which means that anyone who wants to edit or add anything to the "Exploring Solomons" webpage can do so at the discretion of the website administrators.

Solomons tsunami-caused homeless get shelter box assistance from Australian charities

Australian rotary clubs are distributing emergency aid boxes that will help 2,000 people left homeless by this month's earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands.

Lasse Petersen from the charity group Shelter Box is in the worst hit region of Gizo. He says the devastation is overwhelming - with about 15,000 people left homeless in the area.

"We've got 200 shelter boxes that have been delivered up here, we've got a 100 here on site now," he said.

"We're distributing each of them, [they] will provide tent accommodation for 10 people - in total of 1,000 people we're providing support to. And there's another 100 boxes on their way up from Honiara."

Source: ABC News

Solomon Islands Police Force tests potential of officers to become future leaders of SIPF

The Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF) and Police Participating Force (PPF) advisors are running a number of assessments to select police officers to attend its Leadership Development Program (LDP).

Over 100 police officers from all parts of the Solomon Islands will undergo the assessments being held at the SIPF Academy in Honiara. Each officer is put through a demanding day of activities which test their potential to become a future leader of the SIPF.

The SIPF Acting Commissioner, Walter Kola, says the LDP is now into its second year with 75 officers completing the leadership and management training in 2006.

“Many of those LDP graduates are now playing important roles within the highest echelons of the SIPF Executive. The SIPF is working to provide better law enforcement for all Solomon Islanders – and the LDP is yet another important part of that process,” Acting Commissioner Kola said.

The 2007 program will train 62 officers from all levels of the SIPF in leadership to develop their management and supervisory skills. The Program has been jointly designed by the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) and the SIPF. The Participating Police Force (PPF) helps co-ordinate the LDP with the AIPM, by working alongside the SIPF at the Academy.

The LDP is designed to cater for the developmental needs of police officers at all levels, from the executive to the subordinate ranks.

In 2007 five SIPF executive members in partnership with five PPF executive members formed the panel to assess the SIPF candidates, ensuring a fair and equitable process for all.

The AIPM’s Nick Rowntree says the SIPF and PPF assessors have been impressed with the professionalism of the candidates attending the assessment centre.

“The SIPF is fortunate to have high calibre men and women seeking leadership and management training” Mr Rowntree said.

The assessment process will continue throughout this week and is expected to be completed this Friday, 27 April 2007.

Source: SIPF

A South Malaita child dies in fatal traffic accident on the Kukum Highway in Honiara

A six year old boy from Weio Village in South Malaita died in a traffic accident in Honiara on Tuesday afternoon.

The accident happened just after 1.30pm on the Kukum Highway opposite the Smart Kleen Laundry building.

The child was struck by a Toyota Corolla while he was running across the Highway’s eastbound lane. The child passed away at the scene of the accident.

Police have spoken to a number of witnesses including the child’s father and the driver of the Toyota.

Investigators from the Kukum Traffic Centre have determined that there will be no charges laid in relation to this matter.

Source: SIPF

PM's wife to accompany women delegation to the western Solomons to deliver disaster relief supplies

A delegation of women is to travel to the earthquake and tsunami hit areas of Solomon Islands to deliver disaster relief supplies targetted towards women and children.

The group, which includes the wife of the prime minister, Amy Sogavare, will leave Honiara this weekend with supplies for Choiseul and Western provinces.

They will take with them clothes, household goods and kitchen utensils.

The group, which also includes wives of cabinet ministers, and women in senior government posts and NGOs, will be flown to the provinces on board a Papua New Guinea defence force plane.

They will first visit Taro, Vosa and Sasamunga, the three worst hit places on Choiseul, before travelling to Gizo and its outlying villages, then on to Simbo and the Vella Lavella islands.

Source: RNZI

RAMSI coordinator appreciative of condolences from Solomon Islanders after death of personnel in Honiara accident

The Special Coordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, Tim George, has thanked Solomon Islanders for their support and condolences after the death of an Australian adviser last Sunday.

Mr George says colleagues and friends have been heartened at the level of support offered following the untimely death of 26-year old Antonio Scriva (pictured) in a car accident near the Solomon Islands High Court building in Honiara.

He says Mr Scriva was a very valued member of RAMSI's civilian program, who worked in the Office of the Auditor General as part of the partnership with the Solomon Islands government.

Mr Scriva was an audit adviser in the Office for more than 18 months.

In a letter to the Special Coordinator, Solomons prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare has conveyed the condolences of the government.

Source: Radio Australia

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

PM Sogavare admits that reconstruction after tsunami will be a daunting task

Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare says the country faces a daunting task rebuilding the infrastructure wrecked by the destructive April 2 earthquake and tsunami in Western and Choiseul provinces.

Mr Sogavare who toured the disaster zone last week says a key part of the reconstruction will be the resiting of Choiseul’s capital, Taro, and parts of Western Province’s main town, Gizo, and settling the displaced people in permanent housing.

The prime minister says his government is working closely with the Asian Development Bank which it has appointed to coordinate the donor support.

"We have had a favourable response from our main development partners, Taiwan and of course Australia are standing by to help us. As well I had personal telephone calls from both prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand with the assurance that they are willing to come forward in the reconstruction and rehabilitation stage, but we are taking the lead ourselves."

Source: RNZI

Solomons opposition leader says RAMSI review needs to be based on task achievement

The opposition leader in Solomons Islands , Fred Fono, wants the current review of the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), to be based on task achievement.

The Pacific Islands Forum will be sending two delegates to Honiara on Thursday for a review as requested by the Solomon’s Prime Minister at last year’s Forum summit in Fiji.

Fono says it is clearly the government’s policy to get an exit strategy established.

But, Mr Fono feels that a lot of work still needs to be done in capacity building, in the transfer of knowlege and training in areas such as the police.

“There needs to be good capacity training programmes to enable Solomon Island police to be trained and equipped before RAMSI could look at leaving them on their own.”

Source: RNZI

RAMSI review team delayed in Fiji after cancellation of their flight due to fog

The first of two scheduled reviews of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which was expected to begin yesterday has been delayed after the review team became stranded in Nadi, Fiji.

The preliminary review was to have begun yesterday (Tuesday April 24), but the two-member team, which includes former Fijian Foreign Affairs minister Kaliopate Tavola and former New Zealand diplomat Neil Walters, has been delayed in Fiji after their flight was cancelled due to fog.

They are now scheduled to arrive in Honiara on Thursday. Their six-day visit will investigate the reasons for RAMSI's intervention in 2003, as well as its mandate and progress made so far.

The review will also consider the impact of RAMSI's continued presence on Solomon Islands sovereignty.

The government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been sharply critical of RAMSI and has accused it of meddling in domestic politics. The Solomons government hopes the review will ultimately set a timetable for the removal of RAMSI.

The Solomons government first called for the review at last year's Pacific Island Forum leaders meeting in Fiji. The preliminary review's report will be presented to Forum Foreign Affairs Ministers before a more detailed review is carried out later this year.

Source: Radio Australia

Researcher to present draft of study into Solomons matrilineal society at USP Campus in Honiara today

A Solomon Islands researcher who is about to complete a research into matrilineal aspects of society on Guadalcanal, Isabel and Makira as part of an overall study being carried out in Micronesia and Vanuatu will be presenting a draft of the research at the USP Campus in Honiara this morning.

Mrs Ruth Maetala, a former General Secretary of the National Council of Women who is doing the research in Solomon Islands says the programme is a joint initiative by the Pacific Studies Department of the South Pacific and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mrs Maetala says the research into the matrilineal aspects of society in Pacific Island countries is being conducted in three island countries, particularly Micronesia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

Mrs Maetala says her research focuses on Guadalcanal, Isabel and Makira. She adds the Western and Central Provinces also practice a matrilineal system.

"The study focuses on women in respect to land, land management, access to land, and control of land. In addition, the study also looks at how women make decisions within existing structures, from traditional societies, compared to the present situations they have."

It is understood an open discussion will follow the presentation today.

Source: SIBC

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Energy officials from the Pacific discuss rising fuel costs and energy security challenges to the region in Cook Islands this week

More than fifty energy officials from around the Pacific will gather in the Cook Islands this week, to discuss the impact of rising fuel costs and other energy security challenges currently facing the region.

Hosted by the Cook Islands’ government, the two-day meeting will examine the effect of high oil prices on countries and detail national and regional energy sector activities, aimed at tackling fuel concerns.

The Director of the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), Cristelle Pratt, said although many countries in the Pacific have unique cultural, language and political structures, many share similar economic and resource challenges, including energy needs and restrictions.

She says working together and sharing information is absolutely critical for Pacific Island Countries, and this gathering of senior energy officials, will provide an opportunity to forge smart energy solutions for people in the Pacific.

Source: RNZI

Review of RAMSI gets underway in Honiara today by Pacific Islands Forum Taskforce

A two-member Pacific Islands Forum Taskforce will conduct a preliminary review of the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands (RAMSI) from 24-29 April.

The Taskforce comprises Mr Kaliopate Tavola, former Foreign Minister of Fiji and former New Zealand Diplomat, Mr Neil Walters. They will be accompanied by staff of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

“The review was a decision of the Forum Leaders at their summit in Nadi, Fiji, last October following a country paper by the Solomon Islands Government. This is the preliminary phase of a two-phased review to ensure the Terms of Reference for the Review is covered adequately,” Mr Peter Forau, Acting Forum Secretary General said.

“The Review will assess the performance of RAMSI since it was invited into Solomon Islands in 2003 and make recommendations on the way forward for the regional intervention,” Mr Forau said.

The Taskforce is scheduled to hold consultations with the Solomon Islands Government, RAMSI, provincial and community leaders, chiefs, church leaders, women and youth representatives, civil society organisations, trade unions, business organizations, development partners as well as other stakeholders during the preliminary review. Members of the public in Solomon Islands are being encouraged to make written submissions to the Taskforce while it is in Honiara from 24 – 29 April.

The first review of RAMSI was carried out in 2005 by a Forum Eminent Persons Group. All 16 member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum contribute to the Mission.

Source: PIFS

Solomon Islands marked national day of mourning yesterday with a commemoration service

A commemoration service in memory of at least 52 people who died in the April 2 earthquake and tsunami has been held in Solomon Islands yesterday.

Speaking at the service in Honiara, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the twin disaster was the worst incident in the country's history since World War II.

More than 6,000 people lost their homes in the Western and Choiseul provinces, and three weeks on, many villagers are still living in makeshift camps on higher ground, too frightened to return home.

Mr Sogavare, who has visited the affected areas, told mourners he had witnessed first-hand the destruction wrought by the earthquake and the tsunami that followed it.

"I was encouraged by the determination of the people to rebuild their lives," he said.

Mr Sogavare praised the relief effort and the work of people who have risked their lives to save others.

"At Titiania village a six-year-old lost his own life trying to save the life of his three-year-old sister. It was a willing act of sacrifice," he said.

A minute of silence was observed yesterday at 7.39am local time across the Solomons, marking the moment when the 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck three weeks ago.

It is also understodd that since yesterday was declared a national day of mourning, shops and businesses across the Solomons were closed.

Another memorial service was held on Gizo, the island worst affected in the disaster.

The National Disaster Management Office says the focus of the relief operation is now on long-term rehabilitation of affected areas. The government is planning to relocate low-lying communities to higher ground to keep them out of the path of any future tsunamis.

Source: Radio Australia

Monday, April 23, 2007

Solomons laments Tsiamalili’s death by saying that PNG and Bougainville had lost a true son

The Solomon Islands Government has conveyed its condolence and sympathy over the death of Bougainville chief administrator Peter Tsiamalili.

Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Bernard Bata’anisia said PNG and Bougainville had lost a true son, who had worked tirelessly in promoting peace and stability on Bougainville, as well as the development of PNG.

He said the contributions made by the late Mr Tsiamalili to the development of PNG and Bougainville, especially in the development and administration of the common border between PNG and Solomon Islands over the years had been greatly appreciated and valued by the Government and people of Solomon Islands.

Mr Bata’anisia said he was also fortunate and privileged to have met with Mr Tsiamalili last year in Buka during the celebrations marking the first anniversary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, where he was committed to working to further develop and promote the common border arrangements between PNG and Solomon Islands.

Source: PNG National

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Solomon students in Suva put-on gallant cultural entertainment to a packed audience during tsunami appeal fundraising

The Solomon Islands Student Association (SISA) at the University of the South Pacific's Laucala Campus, in collaboration with an adhoc tsunami appeal committee chaired by USP Lecturer Stanley Houma, have successfully hosted a dinner and cultural entertainment to a packed audience last night.

Despite a heavy downpour, the SISA tsunami appeal fundraising programme at the university's dining hall could not be hampered as guests and ticket holders braved the rain either in a private car or taxi to be present before the opening remarks were delivered by Solomons deputy prime minister, Toswel Kaua who is currently in Suva.
North Malaita 'mao' warriors in their costume for the cultural entertainment

The programme kicked off with a welcome note from Mr Stanley Houma (chairman of the SISA tsunami appeal fundraising committee), followed by remarks from Hon kaua, a word of prayer, and dinner and cultural entertainment. It was estimated that the total number of ticket holders who supported last night's fundraising program exceeded one hundred. Each adult ticket costs FJD$60 whilst FJD$20 was charged for children under 12 years.
North Malaita "mao" dancers rehearsing before their performance

Supporters and guests at last night's dinner and cultural entertainment included Solomon Islands families who are working in Suva, staff of the diplomatic corps in Fiji, staff of regional organisations in Suva, staff of the University of the South Pacific and Fiji School of Medicine, media representatives, certain individuals and business houses, and students.
North Malaita lady dancers gear up for the crowd favourite 'tageai' dance

However, the core and highlight of last night's event was the extravagant show of diverse cultures being showcased by different cultural groupings that affiliate under SISA. Cultural items and dances were performed by the Mauri students, Avaiki students, Makira/Ulawa students, Maasina panpipers, North Malaita mao and tageai groups, Western and Choiseul students, Central Malaita students, Isabel students and Temotu/Tikopia students.
North Malaita "tageai" dancers pose for a group photo after their performance

It is understood the USP fundraising committee is still finalising its financial records and other donations tonight before a final figure can be released. But reports from other Solomon students at the Pacific Thelogical College (PTC) in Suva reveals that a fundraising held at the PTC campus on Friday raised about FJD$15,000. Money raised by the students is expected to be forwarded to the National Disaster Committee in Honiara to support relief work in tsunami stricken areas in Western and Choiseul provinces.

Meanwhile, the SISA community in Suva have also convened a combine service this afternoon to remember the people who have lost their lives and properties in the April 2 earthquake and tsunami to fall in line with the national mourning day which is declared for tomorrow (Monday 23rd April).

In another unrelated news, the "Wantok Disaster Appeal" being initiated by Fiji acting Police Commissioner and former RAMSI staff in Honiara Romanu Tikotikoca, which was supposed to take place yesterday, has been deferred to another date. Commissioner Tikotikoca said they were looking at holding the appeal to coincide with the ‘Suva On Sale’ week.” The Police chief said he would call another meeting next week to confirm the date. Mr Tikotikoca said the appeal would be in the form of a concert and organizers expect a turn out of about 10,000 people. Chief guests of the day he sad would be the victorious national Digicel sevens team.

Solomon Islands to mourn 52 perished lives in deadly tsunami on public holiday tomorrow

Tomorrow Monday April 23rd is a special public holiday in Solomon Islands which allows people to mourn and remember the 52 people who lost their lives in the April 2nd earthquake and tsunami in Western and Choiseul provinces.

Announcing the national mourning day in a press conference last Friday, Solomons Finance Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo who was acting Prime Minister said government appreciates the fact that the whole country has provided support and comfort to those affected.

He said government was pleased to note the sincerity expressed by overseas friends in response to the disaster.

The people of Honiara are invited to attend a memorial service at the Wesley United Church, near the Honiara central Market starting at 6am.

Minister Lilo said all other provincial headquarters in the country are encouraged to hold similar services to remember citizens of the country who lost their lives in the unfortunate disaster.

Governor General Sir Nathaniel Waena and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare are expected to attend tomorrow's service.

Source: SIBC

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Solomon students in Suva gear up for tonight's tsunami appeal fundraising programme

Solomon Islands students at the University of the South Pacific in Suva are currently finalising rehearsals for the cultural show tonight in aid of the tsunami appeal fundrasing at the university's dining hall.

According the to program schedule, arrival of guests and ticket holders will begin from 6.30pm until 7.15pm when the Chairman of the adhoc tsunami appeal fundraising committee, Mr Stanley Houma would make the official welcome. This would be followed by a short remark by the Deputy Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Hon Toswel Kaua and a word of prayer from Rev John Vasuni.

The dinner and cultural entertainment from various student cultural groups is expected to kick off at 7.40pm after the "tsunami song" and continue until 11pm. The cultural performance will begin in the following order: Maasina panpipers, Western & Choiseul male dancers, Mauri female dancers, Avaiki, North Malaita mao dancers, Isabel female dancers, Makira male dancers, Central Malaita male dancers, North Malaita tage'ai group, Isabel male dancers, Temotu dancers, Mauri male dancers, and Western & Choiseul female performers.

Certain individuals and business houses that have contributed in one way or another to make the event possible include the USP management and support services, Coca Cola Amatil Ltd, Professional Printers Ltd, CK Patel & Co, Professor Vijay Naidu & other raffle prize donors, all ticket holders and supporters, all wantoks in Suva, and students.

Friday, April 20, 2007

United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team to Solomons tsunami leaves

Members of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), which came to help in the post earthquake and tsunami relief efforts left the country.

The UNDAC team was sent by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to help Solomon Islands in coordinating different activities following the earthquake and tsunami disasters in the Western and Choiseul provinces.

In a brief farewell for the team Wednesday afternoon at the National Disaster Management Office, NDMO Director Loti Yates said without the team's support the work of coordinating and collating information about relief supplies and logistics would not have been cohesive.

Yates said NDC appreciated so much their support and contributions and assured them the knowledge they imparted to the various local people who are still working now will go a long way into the future.

In response, team leader Joanne Laurens said her team had been very impressed with the way the operations had been well handled.

Source: SIBC

World Vision New Zealand to send child psycho specialist for counselling of tsunami survivors

A child protection specialist from New Zealand will arrive in Solomon Islands this weekend to help children cope with the aftermath of the tsunami.

World Vision New Zealand's Amalia Fawcett will provide psycho-social support to children and communities affected in Gizo, Simbo and Ranongga islands.

Ms Fawcett says that children are particularly vulnerable to fears of another tsunami or earthquake, and share in family stress, especially if they have lost their homes.

She says she will work with other relief organisations and Solomons Islands Government ministries to develop and implement a child protection program.

Ms Fawcett previously worked with children in Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake and in East Timor following unrest last year.

Source: Radio Australia

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pacific Islands Forum awards nine legal drafting scholarships for Pacific students at USP

The Pacific Islands Forum has awarded nine full scholarships for the Professional Diploma in Legislative Drafting at the University of the South Pacific (USP).

The joint initiative by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the USP School of Law was announced this week by Forum Secretary General, Greg Urwin, and Head of USP’s School of Law, Professor Brian Opeskin.

The USP Legislative Drafting course will take on 16 Pacific island lawyers in 2007.

Mr Urwin said the 30-week programme is aimed at building the capacity of legal infrastructure within the region.

“It is extremely important to foster proficient skills in the preparation, passage and maintenance of appropriate legislation and regulations,” said Mr Urwin.

“As we strive to achieve principles of good governance, as mandated in the Pacific Plan, we must pursue improved transparency, accountability, equity and efficiency in the management and use of resources in the Pacific.”

Mr Urwin said the course therefore seeks to contribute towards accurately reflecting good governance principles into laws and regulations of Pacific island countries.

“This is a critical investment into development of a sustainable governance infrastructure in the region,” he added.

In addition to the scholarships, the Forum Secretariat will provide support and mentoring through its Legal Drafting Unit for the nine sponsored students.

Professor Opeskin said the course is an important qualification in legislative drafting, and commends the Forum Secretariat for its support.

“The course will equip participants with practical skills for translating government policies into clear and effective laws, concluding with an intensive drafting workshop.”

Professor Opeskin noted the Forum Secretariat scholarships for 2007 have been instrumental in ensuring that a larger number of Pacific island lawyers are able to benefit from the course.

Source: PIFS

Chinese community in Honiara frustrated over delay in rebuilding Chinatown

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the riots which destroyed the Chinatown business district of Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.

The chinese community were the main targets of the April 18 2006 riots and became the victims of a power struggle between Guadalcanal and Malaita for control of the government.

Ninety percent of Chinatown was destroyed during looting and arson attacks leaving many homeless and ruined after their businesses were burnt to the ground.

Twelve months on and the Solomon Islands chinese community says it is frustrated by the slow progress in rebuilding the capital Honiara.

Matthew Quan from the Solomon Islands chinese association says the Honiara City Council is moving too slowly and questions how the chinese community is supposed to rebuild when basic amenities like drainage and telephone cables have not yet been put into place.

Source: Radio Australia

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Malaita Province first to host World Athletics Day sporting event outside of Honiara

Malaita Athletic is very peveledge to host the World Athletics Day event in their provincial capital Auki this year.

Malaita the home of the next Solomon games will again came alive as this program rocked the participants and the people of the provincial capital Auki.

This event was usually hosted all the time in Honiara, however, there is now a need to extend this further to the province as Malaita was preparing to host next years Solomon Games.

This Year's program is aiming at the whole province as most of the time they are not fully represented, and this year the welcome was extended to all the schools within the province to be part of this year's event.

Athletics Solomon sees this as a way forward in reaching the talented youths and also scouting out for more new talents to be groomed.

"Malaita athletics is very happy to host this year's event", said Malaita Athletic President Mr Reginald Hou.

Source: Athletic Solomons

Pacific leaders set standard for the Pacific maritime industry in Samoa conference

A series of regional maritime meetings, leading up to the first Regional Meeting of Ministers for Maritime Transport on Thursday is currently being hosted this week in Apia, Samoa.

The need for safer and better port facilities will be the focus of the ministerial meeting.

Urging Pacific Island countries to stay ahead of strict international standards in order to keep their ports open for trade and employment, Captain John Hogan, maritime programme coordinator for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) stressed on Monday that 'in some respects, the Pacific Islands are ahead of other regions in terms of compliance'.

Key recommendations from these meetings, and another involving the
Pacific Women in Maritime Association (PacWIMA), will go to the
ministers on Thursday for their consideration.

Source: SPC

Solomons Prime Minister invited for a chat with President George Bush in Wasington DC

By Elliot Dawea, National Express

A high level delegation from the Solomon Islands government will travel to Washington DC to meet with US President George Bush on 4th May 2007. The meeting came after an invitation was sent to leaders of 19 Pacific Island countries by the US President.

Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr. John Roughan said the cabinet has confirmed the trip and have identified the delegation to meet with the US President.

Dr. Roughan added that members of delegation will comprise of the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, his Secretary Dr. John Roughan, Deputy Prime Minister Toswel Kaua, Foreign Affairs Minister Patterson Oti and protocol officials from the Foreign Affairs Department. The delegation will be accompanied by well trained security personnel from the police.

Dr. Roughan said on Friday that the US President Mr. Bush is inviting Pacific island leaders to discuss issues such as US relation with the small states, the peace-corp program, and the US assistance to Pacific islands.

Mr. Bush said in the invitation letter that US relationship with the Pacific islands in past six years has been ineffective and so it’s his desire to meet with the leaders to address some of these issues, said Mr. Roughan.

The meeting which will be held over two days from 7th – 8th May will be chaired by the US President, George W. Bush and his secretary Mrs. Condoleezza Rice.

Source: PFNet

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Australian High Commission office in Honiara approves funding for North Malaita solar project under TARD

Two rural health centres in North Malaita will soon access solar-powered electricity after the Australian High Commission office in Honiara approves funding for a solar electrification project being coordinated by the To’abaita Authority for Research and Development (TARD) student volunteer group.

The beneficiary community health clinics include Bita’ama in the North Malaita Constituency and Sulagwalu in the Lau/Baelelea Constituency. Total cost of the solar electrification project for Bita’ama and Sulagwalu community clinics, which will be sponsored by the Australian High Commission is around SBD$25,965.

The need for solar electrification of the two beneficiary health centres was discovered during a recent visit by TARD members to rural communities in North Malaita late last year while implementing certain community projects.

This initiative is a classic example of the bottom-up approach as the rural communities were given the opportunity to identify their specific needs. The need for solar electrification at the Bita’ama and Sulagwalu clinics is a collective request from the clinic committees and staff, which was forwarded to be pursued by TARD with potential donors.

The proposal was drafted and submitted to the third Secretary of the Australian High Commission office in Honiara, Ms Gabrielle Stewart in February for consideration. As a result, the High Commission has agreed to sponsor the solar materials.

TARD is adamant that this solar electrification project will enable Sulagwalu and Bita’ama clinics to have electrical lighting, refrigeration of medicines, and if possible analysis of blood samples, which is very important in such a region where malaria is quite common.

Last year the Australian High Commission office has also supported TARD with a sponsorship of SBD$3,680 to successfully coordinate the first ever free North Malaita Christmas Games at Malu’u attracting a total of 59 soccer and 18 netball teams from both the To’abaita and Baelelea regions.

Therefore TARD is very thankful to the Australian High Commission office in Solomon Islands, on behalf of the North Malaita people, for the continuous support to youths especially towards a good cause which will benefit rural communities.

Solomons opposition wing questions government's approach to BUA policy

The Solomon Islands Parliamentary Opposition says it still questions the national government's approach to its policy of Bottom Up Approach (BUA) on development.

Caretaker leader and MP of East AreAre, Edward Huniehu says there is a difference of opinions between the Opposition and government over how implementation of the policy could succeed. He says the opposition still demands government for an explanation on specific strategies on how it will implement the bottom up approach development concept.

Mr Huniehu says the opposition also holds conflicting views to that of Government on issues like the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, RAMSI, Government interference to the Judiciary, rearmament and good governance.

But Mr Huniehu says while the opposition's position as a watchdog to government is provided for under the constitution, it does not mean it has to disagree with everything government does.

He says the Opposition is mindful that where there is justification for Government action it will give due support. He says one example is the support the Opposition anticipates in giving Government when it takes up to parliament a draft bill on Political Party integrity.

Mr Huniehu says the Opposition will support Government in the introduction of such Bill because it will stabilize political party system in Solomon Islands.

It is understood the proposed Bill will restrict MPs moving from one political party to another. Those who defy such rule could face disciplinary action which may result in disqualification as an MP.

Source: SIBC

RAMSI Special Coordinator travels with PM Sogavare to the West

The Special Coordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, Timothy George, is among those travelling with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's delegation to visit disaster stricken areas of Western and Choiseul provinces.

The delegation called at Irigila on Vella La Vella this morning and is expected to leave Vella La Vella at two o'clock this afternoon for Kariki in the Shortland Islands.

The Prime Minister's group will leave Kariki tonight for Choiseul Bay. The group is expected to visit Choiseul's provincial capital, Taro and Sasamunga tomorrow.

On Thursday Prime Minister Sogavare's delegation will visit Munda, Rendova Harbour, and Kukundu on Kolombangara Island. The group will return to Gizo on Friday.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo has defended the Prime Minister's visit to the tsunami affected areas of Western and Choiseul provinces following criticisms by the Parliamentary Opposition.

Mr Lilo who is acting Prime Minister says Manasseh Sogavare could not have gone earlier because he had to coordinate important Cabinet meetings. He says the timing is now right for the Prime Minister to go and see for himself the on-going relief efforts in both the Western and Choiseul provinces.

The acting Prime Minister says in the last two weeks, Opposition MPs of both provinces have been in close liaison with Cabinet, the National Disaster Council and the Office of the Prime Minister.

He says government had sent a delegation of senior officers to carry out assessments of the disaster area, on day one after the disaster.

Mr Lilo calls on the Opposition leader Fred Fono to refrain from making illogical statements.

In a statement yesterday Mr Fono said he was surprised the Prime Minister is making the trip two weeks after the disaster. He said the visit should include the government and Opposition group.

Source: SIBC

Monday, April 16, 2007

Solomons tsunami death toll reaches 52 confirmed cases in what could be the final figure

In what could be the final death toll, 52 people have lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Western and Choiseul provinces two weeks ago.

The latest figure has been revealed by the National Disaster Council management Office yesterday.

Program officer, Julian Maka'a says the latest figures have been sent in yesterday by an NDMO officer sent to both provinces to specifically confirm the number of deaths.

He says Gizo island alone accounts for 33 of the total deaths.Maka'a says the new numbers came mainly from Nusa Baruku on Gizo which recorded 10 deaths, seven of whom are children below the age of five years. He adds most of the deaths in the disaster were children.

Maka'a says up to now there is no longer any missing people. He says nine deaths were reported from Simbo, two for Rannoga, another two reported from Vella La Vella and six deaths from Choiseul.

Maka'a says according to reports that came in so far, people from the Shortland Islands have not reported any deaths.He says although earlier reports suggested that four people were missing on Mono, they were later found.

Source: SIBC

North Malaita students attend special seminar on "North Malaita disunity: probabilities, possibilities and challenges" by Dr Kabini Sanga

The North Malaita Cultural Student Association at the University of the South Pacific in Suva has successfully organised a special seminar on Saturday for its student members on the topic "North Malaita disunity: probabilities, possibilities and challenges" from one of Solomon Islands renowned academic, Dr Kabini Sanga.

L-R: Dr Kabini Sanga during the seminar; participants representing To'abaita linguistic grouping.

The one and half hour seminar was attended by more than thirty participants comprising USP and FSM students from Baegu, Lau, Baelelea, To'abaita and Fataleka who are members of the North Malaita student association.

Group discussions (L-R): participants representing Baelelea; representatives of Lau linguistic grouping.

During the seminar, participants were able to highlight the general attributes (both positive and negative) of various linguistic groupings in North Malaita and determine possible and actual factors that may infuriate disunity among North Malaita people. Participants also reflected on the challenges that may arise in any effort to instill unity in North Malaita. Finally, possible strategies to transform the mindset of illiterate rural people on issues that can fuel disintegration among districts, villages, clans and indivduals were also discussed. The seminar was successfully ended with a light refreshment.

Professor Kabini Sanga is currently the Director of the Institute of Education at USP. He joined USP this year on secondment from Victoria University of Wellington, where he is Associate Professor at He Parekereke, Institute for Research and Development in Maori and Pacific Education.

Professor Sanga is a renowned academic and educator in the Pacific with wide-ranging academic interests. These include indigenous research, educational policy-making, leadership in education and governance of higher education. He was also a long time educational leader in the Solomon Islands. He steadfastly and passionately continues in his catalytic work of developing Pacific Islander leadership capacity through various unique initiatives which resulted in the co-authoring and publication of "Apem Moa Solomon Islands Leadership" (lifting the standard of leadership in Solomon Islands) in 2005. He also carried out several leadership trainings to Solomon students at USP over the past two years.

Solomon Islands students in Suva prepare for tsunami appeal fundraising drive

The Solomon Islands Student Association (SISA) at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva, through an adhoc tsunami appeal fundraising committee, is gearing towards a major fundraising drive this Saturday, in an effort to contribute to the relief work in Western and Choiseul Provinces.

According to information being circulated to students, the fundraising committee will be hosting a dinner and cultural show from different island groups in Solomon Islands to ticket holders this coming Saturday at the USP Dining Hall. Each ticket costs FJD$60 inclusive of dinner and cultural entertainment. Tickets are currently being sold in various business houses and regional organisation offices in Suva.

In the meantime, different student cultural associations are practicing during this one week break at USP for the cultural fiesta on Saturday.

A SISA combine service is also arranged for Sunday afternoon to remember the destruction of lives and properties in Western and Choiseul Provinces.

Meanwhile another separate fundraising which was organised by the Fiji acting Police Commissioner, Romano Tikotikoca and other ex-serving officers in solomon Islands under RAMSI is also scheduled for Saturday during the day. The venue will be the Civic center at the Suva foreshore.

Commissioner Romano Tikotikoca has told Fiji Television that their fundraising drive is a nation-wide appeal and funds raised will be used to assist victims of the Solomons tsunami and clyclone Cliff in Vanua Levu, northern Fiji.

Tikotikoca adds that they are adament that generous business houses and individuals throughout Fiji would be able to lend a donation as such gesture will reflect the friendliness and kindness that Fijian people are renowned for internationally.

Australian High Commissioner to Solomons vows ongoing support to tsunami affected areas

The Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Peter Hooton says his country will continue to assist relief and recovery efforts in the Western Province as long as is needed.

Australia has given two million dollars to the aid effort, and committed the resources of the Regional Assistance Mission, RAMSI.

Medical and environmental health teams from the Australian Defence Force are working in the tsunami affected region, providing healthcare, and helping to prevent disease and virus outbreaks.

Peter Hooton says he has been keeping the Australian Government informed of the situation.

Meanwhile, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will today inspect damage in tsunami hit areas of Western and Choiseul provinces.

He'll also meet some of those affected by the disaster on the island of Gizo, and talk to many of the groups who have come to the region to assist.

More than 40 people died and thousands were made homeless when the earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the islands on April 2.

It is also understood an international aid team has traveled to the Shortland islands, near the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville. The team says that while the Shortlands has not reported any casualties from the tidal wave, many buildings were destroyed, including the main health clinic in the island group.

Source: Radio Australia

Friday, April 13, 2007

Red Cross scales down its emergency relief effort in Solomon Islands

The Solomons Red Cross is about to scale down its emergency relief effort over a week after the tsunami hit Solomon Islands.

Red Cross Secretary General in Solomon Islands, Charles Kelly, says so far they have spent three hundred thousand Solomon Island dollars on the relief effort.

Mr Kelly says they have worked with other agencies to ensure that food, shelter and tools are provided to communities hit by the disaster.

He says although many have returned to their coastal communities, there are still some who have remained in the hilltops because they are too frightened to leave.

He says while counselling is one approach, people are looking for answers to reassure them there will not be a second tsunami.

“They also need to have technical answers, like some of the islands the water is still down below, it doesn’t stay in the same levels, I think that is a technical answer that maybe geologists can give so people can know why the water didn’t return to the same level, because I think that is where the fear that is still amongst people that are distressed up in the hills.”

Charles Kelly says they will continue to provide relief supplies to affected people throughout next week with the help of two canoes, a car and a motor boat.

Source: RNZI

Australian judge told Auckland conference of Pacific states' denial over HIV

A prominent Australian judge has told a conference of Pacific politicians that difficult steps need to be taken to prevent the spread of HIV.

Justice Michael Kirby told the HIV focused conference in Auckland which begun on Wednesday that the Pacific region no longer had the luxury of "living in denial".

He urged Pacific leaders and policy makers to tackle the difficult and controversial issues.

Some strategies for combating HIV such as promotion and knowledge of condoms and decriminalisation of sex workers were controversial and therefore often given less priority, Justice Kirby said.

"A lot of painful and difficult steps need to be taken."

There was no cure on the horizon for HIV and the expanding cost of anti-retroviral drugs would put increasing pressure on the international community and national institutions.

More time and effort needed to be spent stopping people from getting infected, he said.

The three day conference, which aims to examine ways of ensuring the countries' laws adequately protect the rights of people living with HIV, concludes today.

The 15 Pacific countries involved are Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, Niue, Tokelau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu and Cook Islands.

UNAIDS in its 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic identified an estimated 78,000 people in the Pacific - including from Australia and New Zealand - were living with HIV in 2005, representing an increase of 12,000 from 2003.

Source: SMH

US Navy chopper rescues tsunami aid workers from striken fishing vessel off Solomons

A US Navy helicopter has airlifted people from a stricken Taiwanese fishing vessel that struck a reef while ferrying a medical team to assist tsunami victims in the Solomon Islands.

The chopper winched up Red Cross, other medical staff and two injured tsunami victims after the ship hit the reef on Thursday night off the island town of Gizo.

An injured crew member was airlifted to a regional hospital at Munda. The helicopter is from a US navy ship which is in Munda to assist the tsunami relief program.

Around 16 medical workers and the two elderly injured tsunami victims were landed at a playing field in Gizo where they were checked over by an Australian Army medical team, also in Gizo to assist tsunami victims.

Solomons police and Australian police serving with the Regional Assistance Mission in the country helped coordinate the rescue.

The ship's captain said he and his crew of around 12 would stay with the ship. The rescue was initiated because of fears the vessel would capsize, police said.

It was taking on water with waves crashing over the stern. One of the medical team winched off, New Zealand trauma therapy worker Allison Axford, said there were crunching noises on impact but the captain at first seemed to do nothing.

"I think he couldn't believe we were on the reef. Then there was a lot of yelling and screaming."

Axford said the crewman was injured after falling from a dinghy that capsized after it was sent from the ship to try to take a line to another vessel. The two men from the dingy were hauled back aboard after lines were thrown to them.

"It wasn't looking good. The boat capsized. We didn't know if they were trapped beneath it, Axford said.

The stricken vessel, which fished in the region's waters, had been diverted by its owners to deliver relief supplies to tsunami victims.

Source: SMH

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Solomon Islands young sailors battle it out with Fiji sailors in Savusavu annual Easter regatta

A team of seven young sailors from the Solomon Islands competed against Fiji junior sailors from Savusavu and Suva over the Easter weekend in the Savusavu Yacht Club annual Easter regatta.

A total of twenty three sailors competed in two divisions. Robert Hazelman of Savusavu was outstanding winning all five races in his division and finished first in Group A.

Second was Elenoa James also of Savusavu and Clyde of Solomon Islands was third. In Group B, Savusvau's Lewa Rauqueque was first followed by Suva's George Melgard and Lopate Laveti of Savusavu.

The top twelve sailors from both groups then sailed off in a final three races and
Lopate Laveti of Savusavu was first followed by Lewa Rauqueque (Savusavu), Micheal Chan (Savusavu), Clyde (Solomons), Elenoa Jones (Savusavu), Robert Hazelman (Savusavu), Robert, (Solomons) and Antonio Malyach (Suva). The races were sailed in light winds with beautiful sunny days.

Source: Fiji Times

Pacific ministers kick start three day meeting over HIV/Aids in Auckland

Pacific Island attorney generals and health ministers have begun a three day conference in Auckland yesterday to examine ways of ensuring their countries' laws adequately protect the rights of people living with HIV.

Prominent Australian judge Justice Michael Kirby opened the three-day conference yesterday. The organisers, the United Nations Development Programme's Pacific Centre, Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team and UNAIDS, will present human rights-based drafting instructions for legislative reform for ministers to look at.

Preliminary reviews of current legislation in 15 Pacific Island countries relevant to HIV issues will also be examined, particularly as they relate to discrimination, ethics, access to treatment and privacy/confidentiality issues.

The 15 Pacific countries involved are Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, Niue, Tokelau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu and Cook Islands.

HIV infections are growing in the Pacific region and HIV is increasingly becoming an important concern for governments. UNAIDS in its 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic identified an estimated 78,000 people in the Pacific - including from Australia and New Zealand - were living with HIV in 2005, representing an increase of 12,000 from 2003.

Source: SMH

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Solomon women's soccer team suffer thumping from New Zealand in Lae Qualifiers

The Solomon Islands senior soccer side have suffered another straight thrashing under the boots of New Zealand with a 8-0 scoreline today, after Monday's unimpressive 6-1 loss to hosts Papua New Guinea at the Oceania World Cup Qualifiers in Lae.

This second straight defeat in the four team tournament now implies that the Solomons ladies are at the bottom of the table after two games while New Zealand confirmed their place at the top of the table with maximum points after their opening two games. On Monday New Zealand thumped an aspirant Tonga side with a 6-1 margin.

The winner of the three game round-robin tournament will represent Oceania at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China from September 10-30. New Zealand take on the hosts Papua New Guinea on Friday in a game that could potentially decide the tournament whilst Solomon Islands will face Tonga to determine who will pull the tail.

Climate change paints a gloomy future for small Pacific Island countries

Pacific Islanders could be forced out of their homes if a United Nations report on climate change is anything to go by.

The author of the small islands section of the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Graham Sem warns of depleted fish stocks, massive storm surges and more intense weather patterns in the region. Some small atolls may also disappear as sea levels rise.

Mr Sem says more havoc is forecast for the Pacific than anywhere else, especially as key infrastructure is often located on the coastline.

"For some islands, they are able to move the infrastructure inland. For some the choices are very limited. In Tuvalu, on the island of Funafuti, which has about 5000 people, it's very hard to move inland because it's already very crowded. So, the long-term solution would be to migrate."

Mr Sem says the effects of global warming are already evident and the future looks gloomy for small Pacific Island countries.

Source: Fiji Times

Taiwan sends more relief supplies to tsunami victims in the West

The Embassy of the Republic of China(Taiwan)in Solomon Islands has mobilized a Taiwanese carrier boat Yuh Fa no. 201 to send relief supplies to Gizo for the Tsunami stricken people today.

Due to lack of transport for relief supplies which can not be loaded on domestic aircrafts, the Embassy of Republic of China(Taiwan) decided to send a carrier boat to carry supplies to Gizo besides sending a 3-person medical team from TaiwanIHA with medical kits on Sunday, 8 April.

The carrier boat managed by Manager Tristan Lin has been piloted by Captain Sung out of Honiara port at 2:30pm yesterday.

The boat got supplies onboard including 150 bags of rice and vegetables donated by the Taiwan Technical Mission(TTM) (handed over by Specialist Michael Hsu and Assistant Kent Hung)and 500 cartons of noodles and tuna cans raised by the Solomon Islands Chinese Association.

Yuh Fa no. 201 will be arriving at Gizo at 9:00 tomorrow morning. Mr. Norman Tsai, another Specialist from the TTM, will coordinate with Solomon Islands Red Cross Society in Gizo to distribute the relief goods.

Source: GCU

Solomon law students at Emalus Campus grab 2007 Graduate Assistant Scholarships from USP's Faculty of Arts and Law

Three Solomon Islands law students at the University of the South Pacific's Emalus Campus in Vanuatu have been offered all but three 2007 Graduate Assistant Scholarships with the School of Law under the university's Faculty of Arts and Law.

They are Humphrey Marau, Philip Kanairara and George Gray who will be doing postgraduate studies under the Graduate Assistant scholarship. It is understood Mr Kanairara and Marau have already begun their awards at Emalus Campus this semester while Mr Gray will commence in semester two.

According to a faculty staff, a total of 44 applications were received at the Faculty Office at the due date. From these applicants, the Schools had selected their successful applicants with a total of twenty partial and full scholarships. The School of Law only offered three Graduate Assistant scholarships which went to those three Solomon Islanders above.

"The Faculty recognizes the need to provide opportunities for well-qualified students to pursue postgraduate studies and to contribute to research that would benefit the Faculty, University and the region. As a way of furthering this goal, the Faculty had offered twenty Graduate Assistant Scholarships starting from semester 1, 2007. This is in line with both the Faculty Plan and University Plan to focus more on postgraduate studies during the new triennium. In line with its decision, the Faculty had set aside a budget of $196,000 for the Graduate Assistant scholarship. The funding would cater for both the partial and full scholarships offered by the Faculty."

"Three candidates were awarded GA Scholarships for the doctoral program, one for the Postgraduate Diploma program and the rest for the Masters program.

From the list of those accepted, Fiji dominated the award recipients whilst Solomon Islands only accounted for three awardees and one from Kiribati.

While pursuing their postgraduate studies, Graduate Assistant Scholarship holders are expected to provide teaching support each week to the respective division during the semester. The Faculty also plans to offer Graduate Assistant Scholarships in 2008.

Fiji Great Council of Chiefs meet to bless new Vice President choice

Fiji's President Ratu Josefa Iloilo will today announce to the Great Council of Chiefs whom he thinks should be his deputy.

The new Vice-President will replace Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi who resigned from the position after the December 5, 2006 military coup.

One of the frontrunners for the position is interim Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, a former army commander and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Three representatives each from the 14 Fijian provinces and Rotuma will be at the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) meeting at the Tradewinds Hotel today, just outside Suva, for the two-days meeting.

The President's nomination for the vice-presidency has to be supported by the GCC to be considered. It is normal practice for the GCC members to break up into the three traditional confederacies to discuss such nominations before reaching a consensus.

Source: Fijilive

Australian doctor posted at Gizo hospital criticises officials for overlooking victims needing urgent medical attention in Honiara

The only Australian doctor in Solomon Islands at the time of the recent tsunami has criticised the official emergency response to the crisis.

Doctor Penny Fletcher was posted at Gizo hospital and coordinated the medical response when the tsunami struck last Monday.

She says patients who needed to be flown out to Honiara for more serious medical attention were initally overlooked by officials.

She says, "The way I ended up getting a helicopter was to ask people who were strong to lift the patients up on their own beds, carry them down, put them on a marquee which was in front of the police station and allow everyone to see the horror of it."

Source: Radio Australia

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Solomon Islander commences six month attachment with Pacific Islands Forum WTO Delegation Office in Geneva

A recent development studies graduate from the University of the South Pacific and senior government official in the Solomon Islands Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr George Dan Hoa'au [pictured third from left], will commence a six month stint with the Pacific Islands Forum World Trade Organisation (WTO) Delegation Office in Geneva, Switzerland tomorrow.

Mr George Hoa'au who hails from South Malaita was the former Assistant Secretary of the Asia and Pacific Branch in the Solomons Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before his departure to Geneva. He is being replaced by Mr John Walton Wasi along with Desk Officer Fiona Indu.

Mr Hoa'au's six month attachment with the Pacific Islands Forum WTO Delegation Office in Geneva will begin from tomorrow (April 11) and end October 10 2007.

It is also understood that Mr Hoa'au was a participant in the 36th WTO Trade Policy Course which was conducted in Geneva from January 16th to April 7th last year as the only Solomon Islands government official. The overall objective of that three months course was to widen participants' understanding of trade policy matters, the multilateral trading system, international trade law and the functioning of the WTO.

12 year old boy survives being buried alive in a landslide for three hours after earthquake

A 12-year-old boy in the Solomon Islands survived being buried in a landslip on the island of Ranongga for three hours before being dug out by villagers.

Epakaera Neubery was playing football on a cliff above the shoreline at his village of Mundo when last Monday's 8.0 earthquake struck causing landslides all around the settlement of 600 people.

The landslide cut away the village green and took the boy tens of metres down to the beach where he was trapped with only his feet showing. His mother Lovelyn Nuebery and other villagers searched for three hours before he was found.

The boy today said he cried and thought he was going to die - he was unconscious when he was pulled out.

His mother said she thanked God when he was found alive. She said she thought he was buried and there was no hope.

"After this incident, I think to move the village is the best idea," she added.

An Australian Red Cross nurse today applied band aids to the boy's wounds but he was otherwise fine.

An 11-year-old boy and a 43-year-old woman buried in nearby landslides did not survive.

Source: SMH

Additional medical personnel to be sent to Solomon Islands’ Western Province

The Solomon Islands government is sending another medical team to the Western Province today to provide some relief for doctors and nurses who have been working long hours since the tsunami struck last week.

The government’s director of communications, Alfred Maesulia, says many medical staff were themselves affected by the disaster and lost their homes.

He also says many people remain in temporary relief camps in the hills above Gizo and on higher land in the outer islands because they’re worried about the possibility of another tsunami.

Health workers and NGOs are assisting with the digging of pit latrines to prevent an outbreak of disease while water purification tablets and water containers are now arriving at the camps.

Mr Maesulia says the medical team will leave Honiara today.

“We have doctors being sent out, deployed to the Western Province. And, there are also plans to send more medical personnel to the Western Province. I understand there is a team going out to Choiseul, not only doctors but we also have health workers to go and assist those people.”

Meanwhile, reports from Gizo revealed that medical teams in Gizo are fighting outbreaks of malaria and dysentery in the aftermath of the recent tsunami that hit the region.

Radio Australia stated that all those with major injuries have been treated and airlifted but there are at least one thousand people living in tents. Some in are in backyards in churches, but most are in camps.

Medical teams are now dealing with the symptoms of lots of people living in close confined quarters, diarrohea, malaria and sores and cuts that just won't heal. To make matters worse its been raining all day with little sign of letting up.

Source: RNZI

PNG hit Solomons for six in opener of OFC womens qualifier in Lae

Solomon Islands national womens soccer team could not hold up the mights of Papua New Guinea as they were rattled by a 6-1 loss in the second match of the OFC world cup qualifiers in Lae yesterday.

In what is stamped as a proof of the "under-dog" tag that Solomon Islands carry, chances of keeping the scoreline intact was further tarnished with an own goal by Audrey Galo and a missed penalty from skipper Diane Justus.

During the match Papua New Guinea bombarded the Solomons goalmouth with a series of telling crosses that left the overworked Solomon Islands defence struggling to cope.

For the Solomon Islands defender Brenda Masae turned in a combative performance alongside fellow stopper Audry Jack but the lack of a proper preparation programme told on the team as the game progressed. Prudence Fula scored for the Solomon Islands to give her team some hope to bring the scoreline to 2-1 in favour of PNG, but an own goal from Audry Galo within seconds of the restart deflated the Solomons. Solomon Islands afternoon of woe was compounded when skipper Diane Justus slammed a penalty wide late in the second half.

Meanwhile, Solomon Islands coach Noel Wagapu was philosophical in defeat by admiting that the tournament is a big learning curve for his team. He also added that the Solomons team has had to struggle against a range of obstacles - the conditions, inadequate preparation and the recent tsunami.

Today is a rest day and Solomons second game will be tomorrow against the fiery New Zealanders who have also hammared a 6-1 scoreline against a hapless Tonga side in yesterday's first match.

Tsunami victims complain of unfair distribution of relief supplies while GG calls for fair distribution to the most needy

There have been claims of unequal distribution of aid to victims of last Monday's disaster in various refugee camps in Gizo.

A radio reporter in Gizo, Leni Dalavera says there are claims that local Red Cross officers are giving priority service to relatives, and local Red Cross volunteers are people from one island.

Dalavera says the allegations came from disgruntled disaster victims in Malakerava one who say there were not given food supplies for two days from the disaster committee. He says others from Malakerava three say their food supplies have been scaled down.

Dalavera says people from other refugee camps in Gizo also made complaints.

But a member of the National Assessment team Jonathan Taisia says it is almost difficult to make every body happy in such times. Taisia says Red Cross accepts criticisms that were made by affected communities. He however calls for cooperation and honesty from victims in such difficult times.

Taisia says the Red Cross office in Gizo has encountered a lot of dishonest people who want to receive assistance more than others. He says Red Cross is facing problems with logistics in terms of food distribution from forward grounds in Gizo.

Meanwhile, Solomons Governor General Sir Nathaniel Waena has called on authorities distributing relief supplies to victims of last weeks earthquake and tsunami to fairly distribute aid.

Sir Nathaniel also urged people of the affected communities to cooperate and help each other.

It is understood during his weekend visit to affected villages of Leingana on Simbo, Sasamunga on Choiseul and Gizo, Sir Nathaniel's delegation received complaints of unequal distribution of relief supplies.

Sir Nathaniel has urged distributing authorities to discourage such unfair distribution practice and work towards helping those who are really in need.

Source: SIBC

Monday, April 09, 2007

Solomons Health Minister donates toward relief effort on behalf of his constituents

Solomon Islands Health Minister Clay Forau has donated SBD$10,000 towards the current relief effort in Western and Choiseul Provinces.

Mr Forau handed the money to Nation Disaster Management Office Director, Loti Yates, on behalf of NDC Chairman Fred Fakari’i.

The Health Minister told Mr Yates that his donation was on behalf of his constituents. Mr Forau says his people had received a lot of support from the peoples of Western and Choiseul Provinces after cyclone Zoe devastated their island on Boxing Day in 2002.

Mr Forau’s assistance is one among many overseas donors, private companies and individuals that has been and is still being received by the National Disaster Council.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) is beginning to identify medium to long term needs of areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

NDMO says these include establish program of assistance to reconstruct housing in destroyed villages and repairing the Gizo Town Hospital. It says the other priority areas are assisting communities to obtain materials for making fishing canoes and planning a transition from response to recovery activities.

The National Disaster Management Office also says capacity building for communities following this disaster is also identified as a medium to long term need.

Source: SIBC

Solomon Islands feels health impact of quake, tsunami

Australia's aid agency says outbreaks of gastro-intestinal diseases such as diarrhoea are a worry in parts of the Solomon Islands tsunami hit areas in Western and Choiseul provinces.

Stuart Schaefer, the acting head of AusAid in the capital, Honiara, says the lack of fresh water and sanitation is starting to hit parts of the earthquake and tsunami affected regions.

Mr Schaefer says AusAid's health assessment team has finished visiting most of the affected sites and is currently working within the Ministry of Health to finish its report.

"That report will look to prioritise medical responses both in terms of the most immediate responses, the medium term needs in terms of things like medical supplies and personnel, but also make some initial judgments about longer term needs," he said.

Source: ABC News

New Zealand Defence Minister flies into Honiara today to chat with NZDF personnel in Solomon Islands

Defence Minister Phil Goff will fly by Air Force C-130 Hercules to Honiara today with a team of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) cargo handling specialists deployed to assist the tsunami relief effort in the Solomon Islands. He will return to New Zealand on the aircraft tomorrow night.

"The flight is in response to a request from the Solomon Island's government for an air loading team (ALT) to provide assistance with managing and handling the large volume of relief supplies arriving at Honiara", said Mr Goff.

"The ALT will be a key asset to enable relief supplies to be quickly and efficiently distributed. Their work is likely to involve breaking down pallets of supplies from larger military and civil aircraft and repacking the material into smaller loads. These will then be reloaded onto smaller military/civilian aircraft and freighted to the airfields in the areas affected.

"The eight person team is made up of six Air Force air load specialists and two Army loadmasters. The team will take a forklift and freight pellets to Honiara to assist in their work and they will be based there for the duration of the deployment.

"While in Honiara, I will meet with NZDF personnel involved in the relief operations and also those territorial and regular force members of the New Zealand Army who were deployed to RAMSI last week", said Mr Goff.

Source: GCU

SPC to host first international symposium on breadfruit in Fiji next week

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will host a first ever International Symposium on Breadfruit Research and Development in Nadi, Fiji next week from April 16-19.

The Breadfruit Symposium will review progress in breadfruit research, analyze needs and priorities, develop strategies for the conservation of breadfruit genetic resources, prioritize needed work in breadfruit research and development, particularly post-harvest handling and food product development, and explore new ways to use genetic diversity and improve breadfruit production. It will also stimulate international collaboration, information exchange and networking.

The symposium aims to increase awareness of the importance of breadfruit in the food systems of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region and to open up opportunities for greater use of breadfruit diversity through sharing information and establishing research and development priorities.

The objectives are:
- To review the status of breadfruit research in the ACP region, and prioritize future research and development;

- To develop strategies for post-harvest handling and to enhance food product development, processing and marketing of breadfruit;

- To promote the sustainable conservation and use of breadfruit genetic resources; and

- To stimulate international collaboration, information exchange and networking on breadfruit research and development.

Simbo tsunami victims should be immediately relocated to avoid future volcano danger: Billy Hilly

Around 3,000 people from tsunami-hit Simbo Island in the Solomon Islands should be resettled to avoid the danger of an active volcano, says their MP and former prime minister Francis Billy Hilly.

Simbo was one of the worst-hit islands with whole villages wiped out and at least 11 people killed by the tsunami which followed an 8.1 magnitude earthquake last Monday.

The estimated death toll has now reached 39 and around 6,000 people are living in makeshift camps in the hills.

Billy Hilly said the people of Simbo were too scared to return to the shore and many now favoured resettlement elsewhere because of the island's active volcano. The resettlement idea has been around for 20 years but the islanders had always, until now, resisted it.

Billy Hilly said he would take the case to the central government which would have to come up with alternative land for them if the plan went ahead.

"They are still traumatised. I've been encouraging them to help themselves but I think they are now coping quite well," he said after visiting the islands.

"On Simbo they are worried about the volcano. After the tsunami the whole island smelled of sulphur. They want to be considered to be resettled. Now they want it, they are really scared."

He said Simbo and Ranongga, the other island in his electorate, now received relief supplies but at first aid distribution had been too slow.

The quake had lifted Ranongga, with a population of around 7,000, up by around three metres in some places with coral shelves now high and dry, Billy Hilly said. Landslides had buried a woman, destroyed many food gardens and there were concerns about diarrhoea with people living in camps without proper toilet facilities, he said.

Billy Hilly said that in the initial stages of the relief effort, there were too many assessments, report writing and meetings when relief supplies should have gone out with assessment teams.

Source: SMH

Oceania women's soccer World Cup qualifier kicks off in PNG today

The Oceania Women's World Cup soccer Qualifier will begin today in Lae, Papua New Guinea with participating teams inluding Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

Today's opening matches will see Tonga playing New Zealand while the Solomons take on the mights of PNG in the second match. An interval of 1 day will be used as a rest day through the duration of the tournament. The tournament will end on the 13th April. Team officials are expected to depart PNG from 13th-15th April.

OFC Officials have arrived in Lae on Friday last week and did the inspection of the preparation, particularly the Stadium Facilities and the playing pitch. The Tonga team has also arrived in PNG on Friday.

Solomon Islands and New Zealand were expected to arrive in Lae on Saturday. The PNG Football Association has arranged a chartered flight for all teams, match officials and media people from outside of Lae to travel in to Lae over the weekend.

The other OFC member associations in the Pacific will not take part in this women’s tournament due to unknown reasons.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Solomons 8.0 magnitude quake lifts Ranongga Island 3m out of sea

The seismic jolt that unleashed the deadly Solomons tsunami on Monday lifted an entire island metres out of the sea, destroying some of the world's most pristine coral reefs.

In an instant, the grinding of the Earth's tectonic plates in the 8.0 magnitude earthquake on Monday forced the island of Ranongga up three metres.

Submerged reefs that once attracted scuba divers from around the globe lie exposed and dying after the quake raised the mountainous landmass, which is 32 kilometres long and eight kilometres wide.

Corals that used to form an underwater wonderland of iridescent blues, greens and reds now bleach under the sun, transforming into a barren moonscape surrounding the island. The stench of rotting fish and other marine life stranded on the reefs when the seas receded is overwhelming and the once vibrant coral is dry and crunches underfoot.

Dazed villagers stand on the shoreline, still coming to terms with the cataclysmic shift that changed the geography of their island forever, pushing the shoreline out to sea by up to 70 metres.

At Pienuna, on Ranongga's east coast, locals said much of their harbour had disappeared, leaving only a narrow inlet lined by jagged exposed coral reefs either side.

Villager Harison Gago said there were huge earthquake fissures which had almost split the island in half, gesturing with his hands that some of the cracks were 50 centimetres wide.

Further north at Niu Barae, fisherman Hendrik Kegala who had explored the new underwater landscape of the island with a snorkel said a huge submerged chasm had opened up, running at least 500 metres parallel to the coast.

On the beach at Niu Barae, the earthquake has revealed a sunken vessel that locals believe is a Japanese patrol boat, a remnant of the fierce fighting between Allied forces and the Japanese in WWII.

Mr Kegala said that from the perspective of those on the island, the sea appeared to recede and villagers still feared it would come back again as a tsunami, making them reluctant to return from higher ground where they fled.

Dive sites dying

Danny Kennedy, a dive operator in the provincial capital Gizo, said the earthquake had damaged coral reefs throughout the Solomon Islands' western province.

He said dive sites once ranked among the best in the world were dying because the tremors had upset the fragile natural ecosystem.

"Some of the most beautiful corals are the most delicate and those are the ones that have been affected," he said.

"The more robust corals are still there but it's the ones that people want to photograph, the sea fans and the colourful corals, that are dying."

Mr Kennedy said the damage to the coral reefs could dry up the region's major source of overseas money.

Source: ABC News

Copyright©2006-2010 To'abaita Authority for Research and Development (TARD). All rights reserved