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Pacific briefs, January 30

By Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver

Published: 9:55AM Wednesday January 30, 2013 Source: ONE News

Drug runner inquest

An inquest into the death of a Slovakian whose body was found on board a cocaine laden yacht will be held today in Tonga.

Milan Rindzak, 35, was found on board the JeReVe yacht that went aground on an uninhabited island near Vava'u in November with over 200kgs of cocaine on board.

Australian police had tracked the yacht from Ecuador with two men on board - but lost contact with it as it made its way through the Pacific towards its destination Australia.

A mystery surrounds why Rindzak died and where the second crew member is.

Matangi Tonga Online reports that the investigation will continue but for health reasons doctors at the local hospital want something done with the dead man's remains.

Rindzak's family has been contacted in Slovakia and once the inquest is finished he will be buried at a local cemetary.

The cocaine haul, one of the largest seized in the Pacific, was sent to Australia to be destroyed while the yacht remains wrecked on a reef at Luatafito Atoll.

Samoan prisoner charged

A prisoner has appeared in court charged with the murder of a mentally ill Auckland man found dead in a Samoan prison on Boxing Day.

Hans Dalton was found dead with his head in a bucket of water and police told One News at the time the death was a result of suicide.

However a 21 year old man, already serving a life sentence for murder, has appeared in the Samoan Supreme Court charged with Mr Dalton's murder. He did not enter a plea and will reappear in court next month.

Tiny electorate heads to polls

Two political parties in the Cook Islands are battling for 56 voters today as the tiny electorate of Tamarua holds a by-election.

Tamarua, on the island of Mangaia, heads to the polls following the death in October last year of sitting MP Pukeiti Pukeiti of the Cook Islands Party.

Two candidates are vying for the seat - Cook Islands Party's Tokorua Pareina and Democratic Party's Tetangi Matapo . Preliminary results are expected to be announced tonight.

Cyclone unlikely

Regional forecasters are predicting two new tropical depressions in the Pacific are unlikely to form into cyclones.

Cook Islands Meteorological Service director Arona Ngari told Cook Islands News that both depressions are west of Fiji and are unlikely to form into anything stronger as they are heading into an area where they should die out.

Tonga lights up

Tonga is testing three solar street lights to see whether it can reduce the cost of power.

The Kingdom has soaring electricity costs as it imports and burns half a million litres of diesel a year to keep its lights on.

According to Matangi Tonga Online, the street light project will test the financial viability of the solar panels as the solar unit can run in remote areas where mains electricity is not available. The project is funded by New Zealand's Transnet and ECOLight Ltd.

Tonga Power is aiming for a 50% reduction of fossil fuel over the next six years. Last year a new solar power facility, funded the New Zealand Government, started operation. It is expected to provide 40% of the main island Tongatapu's power reducing electricity bills by 4-6%.

Vodafone Warriors in Samoa

A number of Vodafone Warriors head to Samoa today for a community tour which will include training school students and visiting areas ravaged by Cyclone Evan.

Two current players captain Simon Mannering and Jerome Ropati are part of the group which also include league legends Ruben Wiki and Stacy Jones. The players will spend two days training in schools and Chairman Bill Wavish and CEO Wayn Scurrah will also visit some of the worst affected cyclone damaged areas. Other players will be heading to Tonga later in the week.

Contact our Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver at   with your news tips and feedback