Pacific News Briefs

compiled by Samoa News staff

EVIDENCE DISAPPEARS IN POLICE OFFICER TRIAL

A gun being used as evidence in the trial of a police officer facing firearm charges in Samoa has disappeared from court.

The Observer says the deputy registrar of the court reported the gun missing to police on Monday.

The chief executive of the Ministry of Justice Papali'i John Papali'i said the police were notified after an internal investigation failed to find out how the gun disappeared.

Papali'i says in the meantime court exhibits have been locked away in a place with only one key that never leaves his sight.

The trial of the suspended police officer is due to resume on Friday for the court to render its decision.

The officer entered a not guilty plea to 10 criminal charges against him including the discharging of a firearm.

(Source: RNZI)

MARSHALLS WOMEN RECRUITED FOR ILLEGAL US ADOPTIONS

Officials are concerned about an increase in the number of Marshall Islands women illegally adopting out their babies to families in the United States.

Both the US and Marshallese government have been alerted to the rising number of pregnant women being recruited to travel to the US and give their babies away.

Our correspondent in the Marshall Islands Giff Johnson said that there could be over 120 of these adoptions happening ever year.

He said women were being recruited by either adoption agencies or attorneys who are based in the US.

They identify pregnant women who are willing to travel to the States and give up their babies for adoption, he said.

Once the Marshallese women have been found the women are given airline tickets and they could go to various states in the US including Hawai'i, Arkansas and Texas.

Mr Johnson said pregnant women stayed at apartments until they gave birth.

"There may be more than one. There may be quite a few who stay in an apartment or a series of apartments," he said.

"And when they give birth they give up their babies for illegal adoption."

According to the Compact of Free Association between the Marshall Islands and the United States, Marshall Islanders have visa-free travel to live and work and study, but such adoptions are forbidden.

But Mr Johnson said it was difficult for US immigration officers to identify women who were travelling for the purpose of adopting their babies out.

"Essentially young women are coached in what to say...when women are asked, why are they coming, whatever they are saying doesn't suggest that they are going there to adopt their baby."

He said it was also difficult to screen pregnant Marshallese women as many go to the US for better healthcare, especially during difficult pregnancies.

"The lawyers and the adoption agencies make money right on down the line. Couple it with the fact that you have a country that has very little in terms of an economy, very high unemployment, a lot of people are school drop outs, don't have very much opportunity and someone says "I'll give you a ticket to the US."

(Source: RNZI)

US MEMO RECOMMENDS CHANGES TO MARINE MONUMENTS

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending changes to 10 national monuments, including two in the Pacific.

The monuments are large marine sanctuaries created around US territories.

The Washington Post reports the secretary is recommending reductions or changes to the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments.

He also recommended management changes to deal with the concerns of local officials and industries, and proposes "traditional uses" including commercial fishing be allowed.

American Samoa Congresswoman, Aumua Amata Radewagen, had been pressing the US government to make the changes and end limitations on American Samoa's tuna industry.

Environmentalists said fishing within the monuments could harm the ecosystems and limit their ability to replenish tuna and other fish stocks.

The White House is reviewing the recommendations and it is not known when President Trump will make a decision.

SAMOA NATIONAL PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO FAMILY VIOLENCE BEGINS

There is renewed hope that Samoa's national public inquiry into domestic violence which has begun this week will help find solutions to the problem.

The commission of inquiry is made up of five members chaired by the ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma who are hearing testimonies from victims and survivors.

A mother who is a survivor of domestic violence told the inquiry about the suffering she'd gone through with a man who is the father of her child.

She told her story of violent abuse and while the police did not offer any help she hoped this inquiry would find a way to help end domestic violence.

In his opening remarks, the inquiry chair and ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma called for unity amongst the Alii and Faipule or village councils, as well as churches.

"The time has come for the Samoan community our community to face squarely the fact that the Samoan home is not the safe place it is supposed to be, by virtue of the cultural and christian values we claim to cherish," he said.

"We hope in this national conversation to gain some understanding of what it is that we have been doing or are doing that has landed us in the fix that we are in.

Maiava Iulai Toma said as an enlightened Christian society Samoa must endeavor to zero in on things with meaningful strategies to rid ourselves of them.

Inquiry members includes the former Minister of the Ministry of Women and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua who is the deputy chair, Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbrain Dunlop, Meleisea Leasiolagi a Professor and Director for the Center of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa, and Falenaoti Mulitalo Kolotita June Ailuai Oloialii who is a member of Samoa's Law and Justice sector.

(Source: RNZI)

SCHWALGER BACKS TAFUA TO SUCCEED WITH SAMOA

Former Manu Samoa rugby captain Mahonri Schwalger has urged people to get behind coach Dickie Tafua and support the team's bid to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

The veteran coach has been appointed to a second stint in charge, replacing Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, who resigned last month after the team suffered four straight defeats and missed automatic Rugby World Cup qualification.

Fuimaono's first tenure ended in controversy after Samoa failed to qualify for the knockout rounds of the 2011 World Cup.

His captain Mahonri Schwalger was never selected again after criticizing the Samoa Rugby Union and team management for their conduct during the tournament.

But the retired hooker, who founded and runs the Rugby Academy of Samoa, said it was time for Samoan rugby to come together in the interests of the team.

"I'm pretty surprised having Dickie Tafua there as the coach but I guess what the Rugby Union now and our people as well need to realize (is) we can't just sit around and criticize whoever's going to come in," he said.

"And I think the most important thing now is for our team to qualify for the World Cup".

"I think we need to get behind Dickie Tafua and this team and we're going to make sure they get the full support from our country and the Rugby Union as well, in order for us to qualify for the World Cup in 2019".

A veteran of 42 tests for Samoa and the Pacific Islanders, Schwalger said results had not been the best for the Manu over the past two years and Tafua needed to bring some unity back into the squad.

"Right now the majority of our team get picked from overseas and especially in Europe, so a lot of these guys have been under really professional environments and really really good coaches around the world," he said.

"I think Dickie's got a huge job trying to make sure that we get all the guys from all around the world buying into a system and making sure that these guys agree on the vision he wants to lay forward for the team.

"So Dickie's got the experience and he was obviously our coach for the 2011 (World Cup) and the assistant coaches we had it was a pretty good environment to be in and I believe as well Dickie can bring that back again for this campaign, end of year tour and hopefully we can qualify for 2019".

Samoa still has two chances to qualify for the World Cup, with the first of those a home and away playoff against a European qualifier in June.

Dickie Tafua's first task will be selecting a squad for Samoa's November tour, which features tests against Scotland, Romania and England.

(Source: RNZI)

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