- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003


Islanders go to polls— sixth time in 8 months

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Kiribati, one of the world’s smallest and most scattered states, goes to the polls today for the sixth time in eight months to choose a president in a bitter election contested by feuding brothers.

For the Micronesian republic of 96,000 people living on small atolls over 3.5 million square miles of Pacific, it will be the latest in a series of elections dominated by personal and religious issues and the presence of a reputed Chinese spy base.

Competing for the attention of the 26,000 voters is Dr. Harry Tong and his younger brother, London School of Economics graduate Anote Tong. Dr. Tong’s campaign manager, Brian Orme, told Agence France-Presse that Anote Tong was making an issue of his elder brother’s private life that has included “several wives and quite a few children.”

A Chinese satellite base on the main atoll of South Tarawa is also subject to scrutiny. China says it is used in its space program, but there have been claims it is used to spy on an American missile-testing base at Kwajalein Atoll, 620 miles to the north.


Vietnamese boat peoplesent to Christmas Island

CANBERRA — An Australian warship began a 1,120-mile journey yesterday to carry 53 Vietnamese asylum seekers to detention on an Indian Ocean island, a move refugee advocates say may infringe on their rights.

The refugee boat came within 1.8 miles of Port Hedland in western Australia, the first to evade a naval blockade against boat people in 18 months, and may have entered the so-called “migration zone.”

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock added, however, that determining whether the asylum seekers had entered the harbor, and were thus entitled to apply for Australian asylum, could only be established by surveyors. The voyage to Christmas Island was expected to last two days and take the Vietnamese, who include eight children and a baby, almost halfway back to where their trip began.


Villagers fear useas human shields

HONIARA — Followers of a notorious Solomon Islands warlord tortured, then beheaded, at least three men and razed an entire village, said survivors who fear being used as human shields against an Australian-led intervention force.

With Australia planning to lead 2,000 police and troops to quell violence in the lawless and near-bankrupt South Pacific state, survivors this week told of an attack 12 days ago by warlord Harold Keke in his Weathercoast stronghold. Augustine Manakako, a former senior government official, said every house in Marasa, a village of about 500 people south of the capital, Honiara, was burned to the ground.

The 1,000-island Solomons Archipelago has slipped deeper into chaos since a 2000 coup. Armed gangs roam the streets of the capital. Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza’s Cabinet has to meet in hiding, and militants have used his residence for target practice.

Weekly notes

A top Japanese Cabinet member who is also in charge of gender-equality issues came under fire yesterday for reportedly saying that many women who are raped seem to be “asking for it.” Yasuo Fukuda, the top government spokesman, was quoted by a magazine as saying many women invite rape by dressing in a provocative manner, because men are “black panthers.” … The owner of a Korean fishing vessel accused of exporting protected sea cucumbers has transported 16 Indonesians home as part of a deal to win the release of her boat, the Palau government said yesterday. For Palau, a small island nation with limited funds, the unique court settlement was a way to repatriate three Indonesians who accidentally drifted across the sea and 13 Indonesian fishermen who had completed sentences after being arrested for unlawful entry.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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