Pacific News Briefs

compiled by Samoa News staff

H-2A & H-2B VISAS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR SAMOA CITIZENS 

CBS News confirms that people from Haiti, along with Belize and Samoa, will now no longer be able to apply for H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant status according to new guidance from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

In a press release on Thursday, DHS found that the nations are no longer designated as eligible countries because they are "not meeting the standards set out in the regulation."

According to DHS Spokesperson Katie Waldman, "The decision to remove Haiti, Belize and Samoa from the H-2A & H-2B lists was made as a result of interagency coordination between DHS and the Department of State."

Samoa was removed for not accepting back citizens who’d been ordered to leave the U.S., according to the filing. The announcement is scheduled to be published by the Federal Register on Thursday, Jan 18.

(Sources: CBS News and ABC Radio News)

ANOTHER PRISONER ESCAPES FROM SAMOA'S PRISON

Another prisoner has escaped from the Samoa's national prison facility at Tafa'igata.

38-year-old Lagalaga Misiluki reportedly walked out of prison just after midday yesterday. Police said they were assisting prison authorities in locating the prisoner.

They also warned that he is considered dangerous and should not be approached.

A prison source said Misiluki is a long-term inmate who has escaped a few times in the past, sometimes returning by himself in a state of intoxication.

He is serving time for breaking and entering as well as escaping from custody.

Meanwhile, Samoa authorities are still seeking another escaped prisoner — Uili Manuleleua — the last of the four prisoners who escaped Tafa'igata before Christmas.

(Source: RNZI)

PM SCOFFS AT CALL FOR CONSULTATION WITH MEDIA

There was “no need for consultations” with the media prior to the passage of the Criminal Libel Act. 

So says Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi when he was asked for a comment on why there was no consultation before the passage of the Act. 

Last week, the Pacific Freedom Forum (P.F.F.) criticized the government for reviving the Criminal Libel law without consulting the key stakeholders.

The Criminal Libel Act has been reintroduced as part of a government-led hunt for online bloggers using anonymous names such as “Ole Palemia” to attack senior government officials and members of the public. 

In a statement, veteran Samoan Journalist and P.F.F. Chair, Monica Miller, says there was a lack of consultation prior to the Bill being introduced in Parliament and passed as law.

“Lack of consultation before the Bill was pushed through Parliament is good reason to consult more widely now,” Miller is quoted as saying in a statement issued by P.F.F.

According to her, consultations should include a wide range of representatives from across society.

But Tuilaepa said there was no need. 

“What consultations? This is not a new law,” he responded. “We just re-introduced it back into law.”

Tuilaepa said the consultation period is over. He pointed to a number of consultations before the Media Council was established.

The Prime Minister then pointed out that so far, no one from the Media Council has come to see him about the Criminal Libel Act. 

(Source: Samoa Observer)

TONGA'S POHIVA SAID TO BE RECOVERING WELL

Family of the ailing Tongan prime minister Akilisi Pohiva says he is recovering well and there are reports he met with King Tupou VI this afternoon.

Mr. Pohiva was admitted into the local Intensive Care Unit over a week ago and missed the opening of parliament last Thursday.

Kaniva Tonga reports Pōhiva met with the King at 2 o'clock.

It reports a government spokesperson declined to give details of the meeting and the Prime Minister's health condition.

Photos posted on Pohiva's daughter's Facebook page this afternoon show Pohiva in formal attire.

'Ana Pōhiva Koli wrote her father is recovering well.

"He's forcing himself to stand, nope... no further explanation as we all have a father, that we love n adore beside his political career, that's another story," said the post.

The chair of Tonga's Media Council, Pesi Fonua, says there has been a vacuum of information surrounding government moves and the health of the prime minister.

(Source: RNZI)

SAMOA GOVT REJECTS NEPOTISM CLAIMS

The Samoa government has swiftly rejected claims of nepotism and favoritism with regards to the selection and awarding of government scholarships.

The Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Staff Training and Scholarship Committee (S.T.S.C.), Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, said the claims against himself, the Committee and the Secretary of the Scholarship Committee, Tagaloa Sharon Potoi, making rounds on blogs and social media, are unfounded.

He vehemently rejected them, even challenging the “faceless bloggers” to provide evidence.

“I present a challenge to the people who have accused the Secretary or anyone on the Committee,” he said. “I dare you publish any wrong doing by the Committee in the Samoa Observer, and pinpoint what year there was any wrongful action done during my tenure."

“If it was done 10 years ago, please be precise. Tell us if any of the students, if the student is a son or daughter of a Committee member, or a child of mine that has been sent to another country from this scholarship that did not meet the criteria.”

Tuilaepa issued the response during an interview with the Samoa Observer. He acknowledged that members of the public are talking about the allegations and that they only exist to tarnish the reputation of Committee members – including himself. 

 “I am the Chairman and others in the Committee include the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture and twelve other C.E.O’s,” Tuilaepa said. 

“So if there was any wrongdoing going on in the Scholarship Committee, one of the 15 would have said anything a long time ago.

 “If the allegations were accurate, they would’ve written to the newspaper and revealed their identity, but that hasn’t happened.”

Tuilaepa said they had 61 scholarships awardees for 2018. 

“We have 12 students heading to Australia, 26 heading to New Zealand and 23 scholars are bound for Fiji. 

“The requirements to be one of the awardees are quite competitive; you are required to have outstanding marks from term one to the end of the school year. 

“Also the scholarships are funded by New Zealand and Australia and they have respective representatives who are also part of the selection process. 

Tuilaepa added that the children of Committee members are eligible for the awards – providing that they meet the requirements. 

“Why would we place the future of our students in limbo because his or her parent sits on the Committee? 

(Source: Samoa Observer)

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