Vanuatu daily news digest 23 November 2014

Our PM and the PNG PM are arriving round now at Bauerfield in the PNG PM’s plane … and see below about Kumul Highway …

There is not a lot of news, only quite a lot of comment concerning the lodging of the Opposition Motion-of-no-confidence for debate next Friday. Robert Bohn MP, in five paras of empty political rhetoric, urges Vanuatudaily to understand Carcasses using his own money for the loan scheme. I’m not going to. It sucks. Bohn wants me to keep his comments coming to this Vanuatudaily newsblog. That he and Carcasses can think a million vatu per MP will win the country stability for a 12-party coalition when they couldn’t even get it when in power for a year, well, sucks. And especially as the Prime Minister (he got in with 33 readily agreeing to his leadership) will have already had his motion voted (to have the allegedly 22 Opposition signing Carcasses’ motion suspended) three days before the Opposition motion. It may well be that Bohn’s huffing and puffing will barely have a listenership. It may be like Bohn’s case in the US Court of Appeal in 2008 in which his previous conviction on racketeering, mail fraud, money laundering and criminal forfeiture charges was affirmed. This was on June 6, 2008.

Anyway, YTS has a PITCO cheque to Moana enabling a million to go to each of MPs Vohor, Prasad, Iauko, Hosea Neveu, John Amos Vacher, Tony Wright, Samson Samsen, Pipite and Telukluk. YTS has the following MPs "suspended" which is not entirely clear: Tony Nari, Steven Kalsakau, Jonas James, Thomas Laken, Kalfau Moli and Jean-Yves Chabod (who isn’t even an MP in the understanding of this blog). Maybe they will now vote with the legitimate government.

Motions of greed may be on the way out. YTS also points out the new, intended Public Prosecutor being well versed in bribery matters. He observes, too, that the Reserve Bank has control over European Bank, which is a bank of the PITCO group of Bayer companies. Thomas Bayer was removed from the Reserve Bank Board under the present VP government after being appointed by the Carcasses Government. Bayer’s removal occurred because of his conflict-of-interest under the Reserve Bank Act. (And despite claims of the Bayer/Bohn/Carcasses non-indigenous axis that Bayer had made significant contributions to the VP.)

However, Daily Post quite straightforwardly points out where Greens’ conflict-of-interest funds have already gone wrong on Tanna (cash prizes ignored by one MP, a car for another, and a house for one more MP).

And Post lists the Natuman achievements for the people as well as MPs (to get funds for community needs). And the new central hospital wing and equipment, and the Lapetasi wharves represent huge personal achievements for Natuman from before his appointment. So let’s have a spell from Motions of greed and also those motions trying to re-establish democracy until Tuesday 4.30. And let Natuman get on with the job which 33 out of 52 Parliamentarians were unanimous in wanting him to do, just those few months ago.

There isn’t much else.

PM Natuman and Chinese President Xi have it seems just signed an 8 million vatu concessional loan in Fiji. Finance Minister Maki Simelum and Foreign Minister Sato Kilman were also present for the big meeting with the big man.

And our PM and the PNG PM are returning to Vanuatu from Fiji in the PNG PM’s plane round now (mid-Sunday morning) and making interesting decisions about resumption of the name Kumul Highway for the main street of Port Vila with the full agreement of DPM Ham Lini.

Deputy PM Ham Lini addressing the fourth meeting of the ICT Development Committee this week stressed the need for more improvements in ICT services, especially to education and health. Every department or ministry or agency should be developing an "ICT vision for the future," he said.

AVL still have three staff suspended on full pay.

Some well merited achievement news to end … Malapoa Dux and Leadership awards… The top boy and girl students from Malapoa this year are: Anthony Tarry and Rebecah Nguinamoli. And Max Morris wins the Leradership Award.

Good rest of the weekend.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 22 November 2014

The Independent today has Opposition Leader Carcasses offering the total of 30 million vatu in million-vatu loans from his private fortune as "transparent". Carcasses: "There is absolutely no bribery here at all and no money has been offered to government MPs." Well, none have signed for receiving it, only the members of some fourteen different parties which went to the polls and got elected. Many we’d never heard of before. And for all that, UMP only got 4, but still signed. Well, two of those MPs were Independent and presumably went back to their voters to tell them to join the Greens now. One in Daily Post’s list who wasn’t even elected got one of the loans (Jean-Yves Chabod). So it seems like the selling price for a seat in the Vanuatu Parliament is a million vatu – if it doesn’t get you locked up for bribery.

So if Carcasses’ motion (now lodged according to the Daily Post) succeeds we will have a coalition of (take a deep breath) Greens / UMP / LDP / Rerunification / Republican / Iauko Group / Natatok Indigenous / PPP / Vanuatu Progressive Development / VNP / Nagriamel and 2 Independents (possibly now Green).

Radio Vanuatu this morning reported First PA in the Prime Minister’s Office, George Iapson, saying political history will be made should the Government’s motion against the 16 Opposition MPs swearing support for Carcasses actually pass. It means the particular issue of bribery will have been dealt with, he says. "Such an action should have been undertaken in the past, but never was," said Iapson. "The government of today wants to stop this wrongful practice – bribery – for the stability of the country. Vanuatu has the legislation to deal with such action."

Radio Vanuatu News has the Lands Ministry arranging for the body of the late Chris Ioan, Director of Geology and Mines, to be brought back from Jamaica. Ioan went there in July, for the International Seabed Conference, fell ill, and was hospitalized in Kingston. He died there.

Only a quarter of the applications for scholarships next year can be accepted this time points out Minister Bob Loughman in VBTC News. He adds that francophones and anglophones will share equally for scholarships. The French and Australian governments are being asked to increase sponsorship for students going overseas.

There will most like be another bulletin this weekend.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 21 November 2014

On a day when there is particularly important news – the Government launching a motion against the Opposition – VBTC News fails to appear. As already reported this morning the strong Government side (and remember 33 supported Natuman bringing him into power) is seeking to have the craven MPs of the Opposition sidelined for at least until the first ordinary sitting of next year is over, because of their foolish acceptance of Moana’s (or whose?) money to return the naturalised PM to power. Go out and buy Daily Post if you haven’t already done so and read Thompson Marango’s story. Who knows what there will be on VBTC at noon as there was no-one to give us this important news of the Government motion at 6 this morning: no news bulletin, just the weather. Maybe it has something to do with the change of VBTC management – for what reason I know not. But as one journalist said to me this week, "I’m just looking for a way out as quickly as possible."

At last the Torres islands are to receive regular monthly shipping. The New Zealand Government has provided the huge amount of USD 12.6 million and the Vanuatu Government is also budgeting funds for an essential service which Northern Star (now on its way to being sunk), due to a bad prime ministerial acceptance ages ago, never looked like providing. LCM Shipping has the contract for a monthly service for passengers and freight.

Today on the Transparency page of Post, the North Ambrym Community is said to be searching for Holi Simon. This former Chairman of the Public Service Commission is alleged to have squandered the money of the HS Trading and Investment Group for which methods of trickery were said to be employed to obtain money. Transparency is also interested in the Alleged Opposition bribery, they say, and the fact that many government phone numbers have changed without proper advice – even the Police emergency line. This newsblog site recently received three pages of internal and external government numbers changed from a source. Whether it is the job of TVL or of OGCIO to make it known (there are over a hundred changes on the 3 pages) your writer has no idea. But I will endeavour to establish where I should ring and tell you next time.


Vanuatu daily news digest | Natuman Gov’t lodges motion

You must buy Daily Post today. The news sounds exactly like a return to the politics of the ‘Seventies which brought us our Independence. Strong Prime Minister Natuman and DPM Lini have lodged the motion alleging bribery against the weak Opposition Leader Carcasses who seems only able to bring the Opposition together by offering huge sums of money and the 15 Opposition MP who have cravenly accepted the VT 14.5 million paid into their accounts. Natuman and Lini want them all suspended from Parliament for a period until after the First Ordinary Session next year which will mean, Post calculates, 13,000 voters losing their representation for this time. I would have though it might mean many more, but so be it, that’s what comes of voting for those of no substance. The Leadership Code quite clearly states "A leader must not corruptly ask for or receive, agree to ask for or obtain, or offer any money, property or other benefit or advantage of any kind, for himself or herself or another person or body in exchange for his acts or omissions as a leader being influenced in any way, either directly or indirectly." This is bribery. Post points out what was paid into Carcasses’ ANZ account and cheques being drawn for one million vatu on it for MPs whose names are given. Carcasses on page 1 of this week’s Independent quite clearly indicates the money is to ensure support of his Greens. This is indeed bribery. The PM’s Office has issued complaints to the Police and these are being investigated. Criminal charges will be laid. The venality and stupidity of some of our democratically appointed persons is colossal in such a small country where we should all know our leaders.


Vanuatu daily news digest | A political memoir of the Condominium

A Political Memoir of the Condominium

Keith Woodward, who died last week in the United Kingdom, is the author of a just-published political memoir of great importance in the history of Vanuatu. As a departing administrative officer in 1978 he was required to lodge an account of his work in the dependent territory with a report to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Writers and historians in Port Vila, especially those who spanned the last decades of Condominium and the first of the Republic, used it as valuable source material and a factual first-hand reference point for years.

However, official reports at the end of a lifetime’s endeavours often lack the colour and anecdote that has been amassed as the chapters unfolded. Keith Woodward possessed an amazing memory. His proximity to much of the history of the end of the Condominium and his role in devising the electoral system which would bring about Independence, together with his familiarity with the national languages, brought him into contact with all players in the political thrusting that saw the birth of a Constitution and tiny nation. Thus it was that the journalists asked Keith to record the stories as well as the bare history in a re-write of the official report. Some 90 pages long, the resulting small book is a political memoir now available to all.

It is available in hard copy, but also on-line free of charge using this link:

http://press.anu.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ch013.pdf

The memoir begins with Keith Woodward’s 1953 arrival in Port Vila and is accompanied by photographs of the time. "There was no agitation for change," Keith Woodward asserts. Quite right: the copra price was high. But then came the land question and Keith seriously considering whether the Resident Commissioners’ Advisory Council ought really to have some electoral basis.

Howard Van Trease, History Research Fellow at USP, says "Keith Woodward has produced an inside account of the intricacies of official politics in the later stages of the history of the Condominium which will be essential reading for anyone interested in the colonial period of Vanuatu… He focuses on issues relating to the difficulties the British faced in convincing the French that the two powers should come to an agreement on decolonisation." Howard Van Trease assisted with having the book published by the Australian National University.

Gregory Rawlings, the anthropologist of the University of Otago, says the memoir "will dispel a number of assumptions about French intentions" in the Condominium and will be of great benefit to those interested in political change in the Pacific.

Brian Bresnihan, former district and administrative officer who assisted Keith in the preparation of the Memoir, sees the book as being "of enormous benefit to students interested in the intricacies of the New Hebrides Condominium and its demise."

There is a wistful ending to the memoir. Keith Woodward wonders whether the instability of governments since 1991 would have come about had a different electoral system, rather than the one he devised, been in place. Keith remarks, however, "there is a danger of former Condominium administrators like myself being patronising about Vanuatu politics today and so I shall indulge myself no further on this subject."

Vanuatu has lost a good friend in Keith Woodward as well as an important player in its history. He died last Thursday.

Readers will soon be advised where and how they can obtain printed copies of A Political Memoir of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides. You can already read it at the link given above.


Vanuatu daily news digest | Interview with PM Joe Natuman

Tess Newton Cain recently interviewed PM Joe Natuman, especially on Political Instability. It was particularly interesting, but not greatly used by the media. Vanuatudaily here brings the interview to our readers.

The item was first published on the Devpolicy blog (www.devpolicy.org)

Political instability, the MSG and regional politics – an interview with Prime Minister Joe Natuman of Vanuatu

By Joe Natuman and Tess Newton Cain on November 13, 2014

At the end of what had been a very busy week, Prime Minister Natuman took some time to sit down with Tess for Pacific Conversations.

I started by asking Prime Minister Natuman what his government hoped to achieve before the next general elections in 2016. He told me that a particular area of focus was addressing issues of political instability. As he pointed out, at Independence in 1980 there were only two political parties in Vanuatu but since then there has been a rise in the number of smaller political groupings. The prime minister is planning to take forward constitutional and legislative reform to address this issue:

… at the moment we are engaging with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and they have discussed this issue recently. When I was in New York with the UN General Assembly, I talked with the Secretary General. They visited us a couple of weeks ago. And I will be talking with the Speaker of Parliament, so that during this November session we will organise a forum whereby members of Parliament and other stakeholders will be consulted on the way forward in this political reform.

In the same vein, we discussed reforms in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, also aimed at reducing political instability and improving the integrity of political parties. The prime minister said that there was a need to look at what had happened in these neighbouring countries and establish what was the best course of action for Vanuatu in this regard. He advised that the registration of political parties, as very recently enacted in Solomon Islands, was something that was considered important:

… we’ll have to register political parties so that those political parties will be able to declare any gifts they receive during election so that things are transparent and accountable.

Looking a bit further afield to Papua New Guinea, the prime minister noted some concerns about the limitations that have been placed on the use of motions of no confidence:

I think it’s a question of balance. We should be able to remove any government that’s become unpopular. We should not entrench a government in office just because they want to be in office

We then moved on to discuss the importance of Vanuatu’s membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). As the prime minister reminded me, Vanuatu was a founding member of the sub-regional bloc and it is a grouping that is very important to the country. The prime minister reflected on the evolving nature of the MSG’s remit:

The MSG was established to drive the cause of the Kanak people of New Caledonia — to enlist New Caledonia on the C24 with the United Nations as a non-governing territory. And of course now it’s expanded to cover trade issues, climate change, a whole lot of things. So it’s an important sub-regional bloc. We see ourselves as sub-regional, contributing to regional arrangements, issues that have been raised by the Pacific Islands Forum

There continue to be issues to be addressed within the group, including the current negotiations in relation to trade arrangements (MSGTA 3).

The issue of self-determination for the Melanesian people of West Papua is one that is important for the MSG and a particular concern of the government of Vanuatu. The prime minister made reference to the Noumea summit of 2013, at which Vanuatu lobbied for the issue of West Papuan self-determination to be included in the MSG’s final communiqué:

For the first time MSG accepted the fact that West Papuan people have a right to self-determination and independence. And we will continue to do that. There is a pending case of the application of West Papua to MSG that is still under discussion. So hopefully next year we will discuss further on those issues.

We also discussed how Vanuatu was using its international position within the United Nations to highlight this issue:

So the Indonesians know our position. And I raised it during this year’s UNGA general debate. And we will continue to raise those issues. And what we want to do is to try to get a regional consensus, regional support in so far as MSG is concerned, so far as the Forum is concerned to gain support from there and then we can proceed further through the UN level.

Prime Minister Natuman stressed that his government was very concerned about abuses of human rights in West Papua and saw that a role for Vanuatu was to provide regional leadership in addressing this issue:

This is an issue which every country in the Pacific Forum, including Australia and New Zealand, should be voicing concern about the human rights abuses. I mean, I hear countries accusing other countries outside our region of human rights violation, but within our own region people are shutting their mouth. I don’t know why.

Finally, we addressed the question of Vanuatu’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China. The prime minister described this relationship in warm terms, reflecting on the contribution China is currently making to infrastructure developments in Vanuatu. He also made reference to the possibility of increased Chinese investment in the country:

China is an important player in the world today, in terms of economic development and I know in Australia a lot of the mining that’s going on is Chinese investment and Chinese money in Australia. And we have a lot of Australian tourists coming here because of the booming industry that is helped partly by Chinese money. So we should not be closing our mind. We would welcome Chinese investments here as well.

The Hon. Joe Natuman is the Prime Minister of Vanuatu. Tess Newton Cain (@CainTess) is a Research Associate at the Development Policy Centre.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 20 November 2014

The European Union will help fund three commodities which government has identified within the productive sector. The department is working to "launch" them next year said Radio Vanuatu News this morning: cattle, copra, fruit and vegetable production will be EU asisted. Firstly, beef (cattle) production will be lifted in six provinces which will receive a hundred cattle every three months. The Livestock Department has been in discussion with a commercial farmer to provide this stock and the project will be tested firstly with Paama this year. It is said this will be a trial for the European Development Fund project to start next year. Pasture improvement will also be involved to increase productivity. Erromango, Epi, Malekula and Santo are islands to benefit. Discussions have progressed with a landowner to provide over 4,000 hectres to develop a joint venture trial. In addition, the VNPF has agreed to ship 100 cattle to Tanna to meet supply, presently insufficient there, VBTC added.

Prime Minister Natuman revealed to Parliament on Monday, in his response to the Presidential address opening of the parliamentary sitting, that a consultant is working on a paper which will help promote political stability. Natuman said former prime ministers had undertaken a great deal of work on the topic. A meeting of Parliament will take place in December to further consult on issues of instability with the present MPs. This meeting could lead to constitutional amendments.

Justice Ministry Director General Mark Bebe has echoed complaints of the Judiciary concerning the inexperience of many of the staff in Public Prosecutions. Daily Post quotes him saying that "most of our lawyers [in Prosecutions] are inexperienced, freshly out of school and come directly to work here." They face lawyers who are much more experienced. But Bebe also says plans are in place to tackle the situation. Training in December will be assisted by the association of the Victorian Bar in Australia.

Daily Post also leads with the head of the Malvatumauri having to insist on the re-opening of Lajmoli Airport, North West Santo from where he comes, which strip has had flights to it suspended since 2007 following a plane crash. The people of the area keep the runway clean. The cost of getting even to Luganville for the people of the area is immensely expensive without planes.

PM Natuman met with French President Hollande on Monday at the South Pacific Commission in Noumea. Talks on Climate change in advance of the COP 21 in Paris is the main reason for the high level meeting with Pacific leaders. But also on the agenda were Matthew and Hunter and the French scientific marine research programme. Dailty Post gave the news of the meeting of our head of government with President Hollande but no further information has been revealed yet. Natumnan is also meeting the Chinese President this week and Foreign Minister Kilman is in meetings with Indian PM Narendra Modi in Fiji. India will give USD 75 million to strengthen Fiji’s small and medium sized industries Post tells us today.


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