Vanuatu daily news digest | 1 October 2014

Pacnews reports Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman focusing on the unique development challenges there are for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in addressing the United Nations General Assembly this week. "For some Pacific States, we are facing existential threats and we cannot address the issue of sustainable development alone, unless climate change challenges are addressed seriously by the international community," said Natuman. The international community needs to act now and fast" to ensure that "we steer clear of the dangerous path of the current carbon pollution trajectory," he added. Vanuatu is scheduled to graduate from Least Developed Country status in December 2017. Natuman said "We appreciate the UN’s focus on a smooth transition for graduating countries but we also urge the UN not to divert from the real question, the question of the way we will be treated as SIDS after graduation," he said. He added that future development must address ocean management, energy security and gender equity. And he also highlighted the UN’s responsibility to "bring to closure" its "unfinished business" – the de-colonisation of neighbouring New Caledonia.

The "unfinished business" of the would-be smelters on Cape de Queiros at Santo is taken up by Professor Sue Farran in the UK who writes that "one reason the company may be keen to relocate their smelting operation is the tightening up of environmental protection and more stringent national policy in New Caledonia. "Let’s hope," she says, "Vanuatu is not seen as a walkover option." Sadly it seems to be thought of exactly in that manner.

The following cartoon concerning the Big Bay smelter seems regionally much appreciated…

… and here is another cartoon issued when Trinidad was about to start smelting …

Daily Post starts the day today with former Police Commissioner Joshua Bong labeling the allegations against him as a joke and lie. He joins his erstwhile colleague Acting Commissioner Aru Maralau in discussing the Police mutiny issue. Maralau says all investigations relating to the alleged mutiny case of 2012 have been suspended. One wonders why, and also why "the mutiny case of 2012 is no longer of public interest." Suspended Commissioner Caulton does not rush to the press with his views in this matter, waiting for the judicial inquiry, and surely this is the time (and place) for all such questions to be resolved. Daily Post adds that the Acting Police Commissioner (Maralau) gave his comments after recent media reports that a foreign prosecutor had been brought in to prosecute the alleged mutiny case of former Commissioner Bong, at which Bong is said to have said he was "dismayed and disgusted to have read about the Public Prosecutor’s office bringing in a foreign prosecutor." This matter needs serious governmental attention quickly when so many viewpoints are being addressed by persons possibly implicated in the events of 2012.

A letter in Post from The Secretary General of the Citizenship Commission points out that Gilles Daniel had indeed acquired his Vanuatu citizenship by fraudulent means, but that revocation of it had not rendered him stateless: he still has his French citizenship.

Vanuatu daily news digest | cartoons

Cartoons which may not have reached you "in the clear" …

Vanuatu daily news digest | 30 September 2014

The MKM nickel company from New Caledonia and Jin-Pei, their Chinese partners, are being required to comply with all relevant environment laws and meet the requirements of the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA). A feasibility study will be needed and MKM will have to lodge an application through VIPA even though they have had some kind of agreement already from local authorities in Santo. A paper will also need to be prepared for the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister’s Press Secretary, Kiery Manassah advised the media late yesterday that all responsible authorities are being asked to ensure they are well versed with such projects and the associated risks in order for the government to make an informed decision.

Daily Post today draws attention to the damage nickel smelting would bring to the Santo environment, and reports unfavourable comment from Santo leaders and people who have lived in New Caledonia. Daily Post also brings Russian and Canadian examples of environmental waste as a result of nickel smelting.

Hints in Post yesterday of an impending motion of no confidence were denied by Opposition Whip Willie Jimmy in today’s paper.

And today Post says a foreign Public Prosecutor will be brought in to prosecute the former Police Commissioner Joshua Bong. "Sensitivity" in this case is said to be the reason for suspension of current Commissioner Caulton.

Velit Bay Plantation Resort has seen two expatriates involved in a severe dispute and possible criminal offences committed, and the police are investigating.

Vanuatu daily news digest | 29 September 2014

VBTC News keeps on touting the alleged excellence of the planned smelting operation at Big Bay Santo, even adding "further comment" after their bulletins. This newsblog predicts comment in opposition to Santo smelting is likely in the very near future, especially when the Environment Director is settled back into his job again. (It seems he has been away.) I will say no more here and now.

Daily Post speculates on the possibility of a motion against the present government of Joe Natuman. It says this comes about "because of his government being divided on the decision of selecting a President." However, the Opposition Leader Carcasses has performed a custom ceremony with Minister Kilman, the story tells us, for crossing the floor with eight MPs against the Kilman government in March 2013. The electorates are surely more concerned with matters such as planned pollution of Santo than what the presidential voting might have been and who crossed the floor in 2013.

The team of Australian pediatric surgeons has been performing life enhancing operations on many children at Vila and Santo hospitals, working closely with senior surgeon Dr Basil Leodoro. They conduct their treatments in harmony and training work for theatre nursing staff as they undertake the specialised operations. Parents have expressed their enormous gratitude.

The Acting Public Prosecutor tries to assure the general public that his office is conducting its duties properly and professionally despite judicial complaints. The report of his comment in Daily Post is not very convincing.

Daily Post also carries a review by BJ Skane of the 1980 pre-Independence history, To Kill A Bird With Two Stones, by Jeremy MacClancy, which people have thought to be out of print. Not so. It can be purchased at the Cultural Centre and Post Office.

And Post has a letter from Vincent Bulekone questioning the authority of the Citizenship Commission to remove the citizenship of Gilles Daniel.

And, what’s more, Fest Nap starts Wednesday!

Vanuatu daily news digest | 27 September 2014

While the people of Vanuatu are awaiting a decision from the Vanuatu Government concerning nickel smelting operations at Cape de Queiros on Santo, Radio Vanuatu reports Sanma Province considers it a good project. Secretary-General Sakaria Daniel spoke of the many job opportunities such a project would bring to the region. "School dropouts would be able to find career pathways," Daniel told the national broadcaster. "In Vanuatu we have no mining. We don’t know what it is. In my letter I said, as the executive officer of the province, I have no objection to the project. Once we have support of the national government we then don’t have any good reason to stop the proposal. It will help our revenue base." Acting PM Ham Lini met the manager of the project yesterday afternoon in Port Vila. The decision of the government will be announced in the coming week.

Daily Post also covers the nickel treatment plant and has the Mai Holding Company (MHC) PRO Taupua Christian saying cheap labour and low tax are not the main reasons for the smelting to be moved from New Caledonia to Cape de Queiros on Santo. Rather he draws attention to the strong Melanesian bond Santo has with New Caledonia and the sister city agreement between Luganville and the Mont Dore suburb of Nouméa from where the company is seeking to relocate its smelting operations.

Daily Post also draws attention to the first Deep Sea Minerals Policy conference to be held in Vanuatu. It will take place between 7 and 9 October at the Malvatumauri chiefs’ nakamal. Minister Regenvanu says "Our vision is for our stake-holders and citizens to have a high level of engagement in scrutinising the Deep Sea Minerals Policy draft before finalisation." Why was there no such initiative before government approval of nickel smelting near Port Olry?

The Independent this week headlines with the royal visit of Princess Anne, to take place October 24 – 29. The Deputy British High Commissioner from Honiara, Simon Gore, has been in Port Vila this week to discuss the visit and the Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue (EPLD) with which it is associated. The Princess has inherited the role of patron of the EPLD from her father, Prince Philip. Navigating Our Future Together is the theme of the conference which will have representatives from 23 Pacific countries. Older people in Vanuatu will recall the previous royal visit on the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1974 when the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne visited the Naggol on Pentecost on their way to Santo.

A meat and food safety workshop has been continuing over four months in the capital. The Agriculture Department is responsible, and 16 participated. The South Pacific Community assisted with funding.

Vanuatu Times carries news of the VBTC planning with Huawei Technologies of China towards digital TV that could be accessed around the islands with mobile telephony. The discussions between the major broadcaster in Vanuatu and the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker are said to be "a collaboration" by that newspaper.

The Reserve Bank has been advising that the Tuvatu money which has been illustrated in Daily Post and discussed on Buzz FM 96 is not recognised as legal tender. Only the vatu is legally permitted as the currency of Vanuatu. Trading in indigenous currencies is done against the risk of prosecution.

Vanuatu daily news digest | 26 September 2014

The government is ready to meet the manager and representatives of the MKM Company involved with nickel smelting in New Caledonia when they arrive in Port Vila later today. Lands Minister Regenvanu made it clear that the team was arriving at a time when a number of ministers are absent from the capital. The government will inform the group of the need for stringent precautions in bringing nickel into the country, the Radio Vanuatu report added. The NKM Company still insists is has the approval of government to open the project and says it has all the legal documents needed from when it came to Vanuatu last month and signed for the project with Acting PM Ham Lini at that time. The manager also says a successful meeting was held yesterday in Santo with the President of Sanma Province, land owners and chiefs, and he said they agree that the project should proceed. Ignoring the foregoing, there could not yet have been an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the area of great natural beauty where the smelting installation is intended to be located. Further, a Santo community leader has denied that there is the support for the project as implied in Radio Vanuatu News this morning. Whatever ministerial approvals are in hand, the EIA is the one which matters.

Radio Vanuatu also reported Vanuatu looking to enter the age of renewable energy rather than depending on fossil fuels. Minister of Energy James Bule says the government has taken all possible steps and should be starting with North Efate Geothermal and Maewo hydro-electricity.

All media today cover Onesua beating Malapoa in the schools debating competition organized by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP).

And Daily Post features a great cover photo of tourism industry personnel holding single-letter placards in front of the colourful new Handicraft Centre on the Wharf Road. Dressed in equally technicolour outfits, the 70-odd ni-Vanuatu tourism models spell out HAPPY WORLD TOURISM DAY 2014 FROM VANUATU’s ISLANDS. The world theme this year focuses on tourism’s ability to empower people and provide them with skills to achieve change in their local communities. So happy world tourism day everyone, tomorrow, Saturday 27 September.

Vanuatu daily news digest | 25 September 2014

Radio Vanuatu News today at mid-day has the manager of a Chinese / New Caledonian smelter stating that the company has government permission to start nickel smelting at Santo. The processing place is claimed to be not far from Port Olry on Cape Queiros. The Minister of Lands, however, has said that he is not aware of the project, nor has it been approved. Certainly there would need to be an Environment Impact Assessment for such an industry as the air, sea and land pollution could be colossal, as has already been established in and around the smelters in New Caledonia. It is surely for reasons of shipping the mined nickel off-shore from New Caledonia, and locating the pollution much further away, that the smelting industry is envisaged for Caledonian nickel at Santo. Nickel has never been mined here. One wonders which government agreed to this proposal. And another question is whether the EDC Capital’s "exclusive residential resort community’, only 25 km away at Turtle Bay, is aware of the pollution threat to their island paradise breezes. These raffle prize allotments (presumably lease only rather than land sale which does not exist here) were revealed last weekend in Daily Post. The pre-development land was valued at nine million US dollars in EDC Capital publicity. One wonders which government agreed to this use of real estate as lottery prizes.

The francophone community in Port Vila has been enthusiastic in setting up a means for having used batteries disposed of harmlessly and without contributing to harmless chemicals in the soil and surf. The Alliance Française and French Community ADFE is reported by Daily Post to be establishing "battery return" containers for old torchlight and radio batteries at leading shopping centres. They will be sent to Singapore for correct disposal.

In Daily Post today the CIIP writer, JT Earl, questions comments from the VFSC Commissioner George Andrews concerning the Vantu Bank as "the Vanuatu financial institution" responsible for receiving all the deposits from the CIIP programme which PM Natuman wants to review to ensure government receives maximum proceeds. These CIIP funds all go to the mysterious Vantu Bank. JT Earl questions the VFSC Commissioner as to when the government awarded the tender to VRS to market CIIP.

Radio Vanuatu News had Agriculture Minister Tosul seeking assistance from the German scientist who has previously studied the kavas of Vanuatu for this country. Agriculture wins the budget stakes for the national budget next year and Minister Tosul has field officers ready to ensure growers plant the right varieties for their island.

Prime Minister Natuman has taken a strong stand on protecting the young "on line" at the Capacity Building Workshop on Child On-line Protection at a Commonwealth meeting and workshop in the capital. A hundred participants have come for the conference from around the island countries, Daily Post revealed yesterday.

Dates for the West Papua forum of pro-Independence movements have been changed to November 30 to December 4. This is to allow more time for achievement of travel documentation.

In Daily Post today the Asian Development Bank is counseling reform of Vanuatu’s State-Owned Enterprises which have shown a serious decline in revenue production, becoming a significant drain on the economy. ADB is supporting reform of eight Commercial Government Business Enterprises which in the years 2008 – 2012 saw government equity fall by 96%.

Justice Harrop has expressed concern at the poor performance of Prosecutions personnel, whether from State or Public Prosecutions. A particular case of sexual intercourse without consent had to be dismissed twice because the State Prosecutor had failed to appear on the two occasions for which it was listed. Judge Harrop is drawing the attention of the ministries concerned to this failure of Prosecutions.


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