Vanuatu daily news digest | 4 September 2013Posted: September 4, 2013
Vanuatu Trade Development’s Eric Ong told The Independent at the weekend he was amazed at the "negative response" of Opposition MPs to his Singapore company’s agreement with Vanuatu Prime Minister Carcasses to build an airport at an "unspecified location". Ong said that negotiations had taken place over 18 months with MPs who are, anyway, he said, mostly on the Opposition side of Parliament. He indicated that many of the Opposition MPs know the secret location of the airport. [This blog will continue to refer to it as the Rentabau Airport to distinguish it from the renovations still urgently needed to Bauerfield tarmac.] Sato Kilman when PM was also alleged to have gone to Singapore and learned of what the applicants to grow tobacco on Tanna would do with their new international airport plan for Rentabau. The Independent mentioned MP Ham Lini calling the deal a "scam" and Eric Ong reacting with a response indicating Vanuatu Trade Development Limited has, anyway, plans for the Solomons, East Timor and Tonga. Ong said that their company [Vanuatu Trade Development Limited, which this blog earlier today indicated from an ABC report has only one shareholder - Cheo Tiong Choon] was asked to repair Bauerfield tarmac, "and it all grew from there." [The company did promise a month ago to begin work on Bauerfield "within a week" but there's no sign of that yet, even with their agreement signed. Of course, they still need promissory notes.]
Daily Post today reports the Opposition’s airport contract court case, a judicial review requested by the Opposition and led by its Leader, Ham Lini, together with all Opposition MPs as further applicants. It has been listed for Friday this week. The first respondent is the Republic of Vanuatu, second PM Carcasses and third Vanuatu Trade Development Limited. Chief Justice Lunabek has set the time for 9.30 am.
In yesterday’s Post, Jonas Cullwick continues his coverage of the airport issue with a long interview with Benjamin Shing of the government airport task force saying that the Rentabau airport project was chosen because it will not cost the Government a single cent, effectively something for nothing as DPM Natapei stressed to the Presbyterian Assembly. He fails to mention the airport income which presently finances Airports Vanuatu Limited but which would go to Vanuatu Trade Development Limited along with numerous business opportunities ripe for corruption. And then, of course, there are the promissory notes.
Deputy Prime Minister Natapei reported to VBTC News that politics had interfered with the establishment of a North Ambrym airport. In 2008 the government had made a payment for land at Nebul where the Public Utilities Ministry had agreed the airfield should be located. Politics caused the New Zealand Government to pull out, he told VBTC News, and now there is no airport. The election of that year brought in a different coalition which, it seems, was then committed to another location. However, until today, there is no airport. And politicians continue to promise airports in a manner reminiscent of the era of cargo cults.
Saturday Post also has an interesting letter from Richard Kaltongga concerning the new airport concession and the difficulties it poses. The biggest problem, he decided, was the "what if?" question. Less than a hundred people are deciding the futures of 250,000 persons. As another person said to your editor yesterday "these few politicians are deciding right now whether my children or grand-children will have any land at all when the MPs and their advisers are dead. This is not what we fought Independence for." The Efatese have not yet been consulted as to whether or not they want a huge airport in the south of the island, nor has any EIA been undertaken. The ministers are the experts.
Here are a few other stories which should have been mentioned already from the weekend. And leading through to today …
The European Union (EU) Development and Cooperation Office in Brussels has confirmed to Daily Post (Saturday) that it awaits reports concerning four provincial energy projects’ advances worth VT 194 million. Should these reports not be forthcoming, the EU might need to be refunded. This is for projects signed from around the end of 2007. The first project was for Vanuatu Renewable Energy Power Assn (VANREPA) for wind turbines and a solar array for Futuna. Three provinces (Malampa, Penama and Torba provincial councils) also applied for funds to replicate an energy project successful at Port Olry and involving biofuel from copra oil. Changes in specifications and delays have beleaguered all projects. However, EU rules are such that adequate reporting is required. Whilst the EU is not aware of any misappropriation, never-the-less, the EU having maximised the opportunities for the communities concerned to have energy, the EU says it absolutely requires full reporting.
Daily Post on Saturday also reported farmers in the north being concerned about the lack of information concerning the Vanuatu Agriculture Chamber. This was set up to assist with farm produce marketing. It was planned by former Agriculture Minister Kalvau Moli. Daily Post established from Abel Tapisue of the Agriculture Ministry that work on the chamber is underway and will be completed by November.
Saturday Post also reported the launch of the New Zealand funded Vanuatu Tourism Ambssador Training Programme. Minister Toara Daniel and Miss Vanuatu Valerie Martinez unveiled the project at the Seafront last week. Yesterday’s paper gave more information, and said Adela Aru will coordinate the project.
VBTC News reports Forestry announcing a forests policy to assist in coping with climate change.It’s a ten year forestry policy starting this year. Sustainable forest management for small holder farmers and community-based forestry are important aspects of the policy. Adaptation to climate change is addressed. The next step is to work out how to implement the policy with stake holders.
Yesterday’s ‘shock, horror’ Post page one story concerned the suspension of three directors in the health services. They are Len Tarivonda (Public Health), Russel Tamata (Planning & Corporate Services) and Hensley Garae (Curative & Hospital Services). All have masters degrees in their fields. No reason was given for their suspension except they were told they are not qualified for the work they have been doing. Furthermore, police were sent to make sure the officers had properly left their work places.
This blog attempts to bring to your attention matters relating to the land and its owners, their environment, transparency in governance and matters of national importance. There has been a lot under those headings this week. We should have our 1,800th free vanuatudaily subscriber today. Comment, when good and useful, is picked up and used in the main postings of this blog rather than as conversation. If your daily e-mail drops out for any reason, click on the "see comments" field for the main screen and then enter your e-mail address in the small space for that purpose – no passwords necessary.
The storm is over for the Vanuatu Teachers Union (VTU), Daily Post tells us today. VTU seemed on the verge of losing its VT 100 million worth of property to lawyers fees. This followed legal action resulting from a vehicle accident of their secretary general. Secretary General Charles Calo is suspended following the work of the VTU Intolerance Crisis Taskforce.
Palekula land owners have thanked the government for stopping strata titles for subdivisions. It seems the Suri Tarusa family are confirmed as the owners of the land and they urge government to think again concerning Santo as the place for a new airport.
West Vanualava now has its own flag and this commemorates the tenth anniversary of the first West Vanualava Day. Two hundred people came from communities of the west of the island. The event attracted outsiders too.