Vanuatu daily news digest | 20 September 2012

Map showing customary land area leased by Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau against the wishes of the people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu

Map showing customary land area leased by Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau against the wishes of the people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu

Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau has approved a lease over large area of the customary lands of Lelepa and Mangaliliu (Lelema) to a Mele man for 75 years, against the wishes of the customary land owners. Mangaliliu Chief Mormor said at the time of the creation of a customary lease application for their own lands,  back in May: “We want a custom land lease ourselves, over our land, to protect ourselves and our land”. The North Efate land owners now have to protect themselves from the Minister of Lands. Daily Post leads with this story today. It covers how the chiefs of North Efate wrote to the Minister requesting a halt to all further land dealings in their area after nearly two years of consultation and mapping and for six community leases to be issued so their lands could truly remain theirs in perpetuity.

Lelepa and Mangaliliu chiefs signing an agreement to protect their customary lands in May 2012

Lelepa and Mangaliliu chiefs signing an agreement to protect their customary lands in May 2012

The Land Reform Act [Cap 123] gives the Minister for Lands the power to approve leases on behalf of customary owners if the land is in dispute. However, the Lelema lands are not under dispute and are unalienated. Minister Kalsakau here is acting in breach of the Act and against the letter of the Constitution. There is speculation too that the Mele lessee is just a front man for powerful foreign business interests.

Daily Post today also covers the Minister of Lands’ sale of Café du Village for vt500,000 when worth at least vt100,000,000 and possibly as much as vt150,000,000. The existing lease on the property was declared “obsolete” and “unmanageable” and the Ministry of Lands took back the property for the State. As custodian of all State lands for the general public, Minister Kalsakau should, at the least, put the lease up for a competitive tender.

Expect more coverage of further abuses of Ministerial powers by this Minister in the coming days on this blog.

In his press conference with the media this week, Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot declared that he had never been responsible for illegal selling of Vanuatu passports. He was, however, ready to blame Serge Vohor and other previous Ministers for the sale of 400 passports (or 400 cartons of passports – this was not clear) for the same offence. He named Sato Kilman, Joe Natuman and Bakoa Kaltongga. He claims that if the Passports Act had come before the last Parliament, every former Foreign Affairs Minister would be going to prison over passport sales. VBTC and Daily Post both covered this story.

Foreign Minister Carlot also went to great length to defend the reputation of his childhood friend, Pascal Anh Quan Saken, admitting that Saken had lent him money. Everything to do with the Saken appointments as Vanuatu diplomat of one kind or another to Vietnam and Peru follows the Vienna accords, said Carlot. It just so happens that Vietnam has not yet accepted the appointment of Saken. This brings up the question of whether or not there were cartons of passports on board the Phocea — diplomatic or otherwise. The answer to this may emerge before the end of the day as further Phocea cases are before the court.

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One Comment on “Vanuatu daily news digest | 20 September 2012”

  1. Some historical background about the Land Reform Act: Resolution No. 9 of the 2006 National Land Summit proposed to remove the Minister of Lands’ powers over disputed land. The Council of Ministers rejected this proposal in April 2008.

    When he was a USP law student, Ralph Regenvanu wrote an excellent article for the Journal of South Pacific Law back in 2008 about the misuse of the Land Reform Act and other lands laws by Ministers. The link is http://www.paclii.org/journals/fJSPL/vol12no1/pdf/regenvanu.pdf.

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