The Vanuatu Cultural Council has decided to suspend three staff members of the national museum and terminate one, despite their case being lodged with the Vanuatu National Workers’ Union. The Chairman of the union, Ambong Thompson, told Radio Vanuatu News yesterday the decision was unfair. One staff member was terminated without disciplinary warning. Thompson said the Board of the Cultural Council failed to observe the proper requirements for a suspension. It was earlier observed by museum friends that the appointments to the new Board were improperly carried out.
A regional Climate Change adaptation and resilience support programme depending on information sharing and offered by an Australian university has had the support of ni-Vanuatu stake-holders. The Australian Government is financing the programme which is assisted by SPREP, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga which share their information on climate change as appropriate. The aim is to build a data base concerning climate change, Radio Vanuatu reported today.
Marokon Alilee, Director of Trade, pointed out at the opening of the Trade Fair this week that Vanuatu has people with considerable talent for production, but we produce less than other Pacific island countries. PM Kilman spoke of the need to ensure maintenance of projects undertaken and the high cost of this to budgets, VBTC reported. The Trade Fair has learned Maskelynes coconut oil and soap made from it have been helpful to children there in avoiding skin diseases.
Daily Post yesterday observed that the Government still recognises Remy Kunuan as the head of the Vanuatu Fishermen’s Association, despite news given by Post the day before.
Daily Post today begins with the launch of the Vanuatu Infrastructure Strategic Investment Plan. This includes the urban development in the two big towns and the East Coast road on Malekula.
Vanuatu Times’ present issue tells readers of the early death of the founder of the Vanuatu Green Confederation Party, Gilles Daniel, at the age of only 46.
Some of the things you missed whilst the Digest was away …
The Port Vila By-election will be held on October 15 at the usual 12 polling stations. This is the election to find a successor to the late Edward Nipake Natapei, MP.
The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, John Taleo, has participated in a meeting in the Dominican Republic to discuss the integrity of elections in various countries, including Pacific Island States. And Transparency Vanuatu’s (TIV’s) member Evelyne Toa has attended a UN Convention Against Corruption meeting in Tonga as President of the media association, MAV.
Radio Vanuatu News yesterday reported the decisions of Justice Sey in the Bribery Case. A fuller report is given in today’s Daily Post. The Supreme Court trial will proceed from 2 September. The Digest gave a summary of yesterday’s hearing yesterday.
Wednesday Daily Post reported the Fishermen’s Association electing a new president to replace Remy Kunuan. The new head of their organisation is James Terry, and he is assisted by Maurice Kelly. The former president was accused of lack of cooperation with the members.
The design of the billion vatu Malapoa College renewal project was completed a week ago after discussions in China between a Vanuatu ministerial delegation and the China Northeast Architectural Institute Co Ltd. The project embraces 24 classrooms and eight science laboratories. (Daily Post)
Daily Post on Tuesday also had the Prime Minister on his visit to India encouraging Indian businessmen to invest in Vanuatu. Interest by potential Indian investors was subsequently expressed in the fields of tourism, hospitality, agriculture, education and health.
The United Nations Development Programme is presently providing materials for 6 community centres in the Shepherds, Post reports. The work will be undertaken by local builders with support from PWD, says Post.
All media have drawn attention to the Vanuatu National Trade Fair taking place at the Seafront. As well as locally produced goods, local performers will demonstrate their talents.
The Agriculture Minister, Christopher Emilee, has promised a science laboratory building at the Vanuatu Agricultural College at Chapuis, Santo. The Training Centre’s building will be transformed for the purpose, Daily Post reports today.
The reason for the short absence of the Digest was an allegation from the Prime Minister’s Office that I had incorrectly reported. I have since apologized to Prime Minister Kilman as follows:
Dear Hon. Prime Minister,
I wish to sincerely apologise for failure to check the alleged facts to which the media statement issuing from your PRO yesterday clearly refers. My apology would simply add that the Vanuatu Daily News Digest is just a free of charge, online summary of the issues being reported in electronic, print and social media for the benefit of ni-Vanuatu overseas – students and RSE workers, along with former residents. And I always quote my sources so that readers of my newsblog can check for themselves if any item might matter particularly to them. I do not have the resources to be checking all news items, but long experience in and of Vanuatu journalism has generally reliably informed me when doubtful matters arise.
I sincerely apologise in seeming to be showing a particular political standpoint. However it cannot be denied that in most countries the Fourth Estate tends to prefer reporting what the Opposition has to say on the performance of any Government, more than what the Government is actually doing, which is generally just getting on with the business of running the country. I did not myself seek to demean you in the granting of the citizenship: I was simply reporting what the Opposition said. And as regards the alleged COM discussion of deportation of a judge, I knew, as did most of the population, that you were not here at the time. You were in India.
Hon. Prime Minister, herewith you have my apology, sincerely given,
The Vanuatu Daily News Digest has not been offered during the last few days. It is back.
The Bribery Case this morning … Justice Mary Sey remained as firm this morning as previously highlighted in the media. "Nobody is above the law," Justice Sey rightly observed in respect of one leader’s particular requests through his counsel. Justice Sey saw sufficient relevance of Sections 21 (acceptance of loans) and 23 (bribery) to trigger prosecution under the Leadership Code Act. She observed that punishment might involve a fine not exceeding five million vatu or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years. The judge also saw it as entirely appropriate for the Public Prosecutor handling the Preliminary Inquiry, John William Timakata, to handle the prosecution of the persons accused depite the defence attempting to have the recently appointed new Public Prosecutor process the case. The case proceeds in the Supreme Court on 2 September for pleas to be heard. The same bail conditions apply to the 16 MPs and Thomas Bayer.
It has been a weekend without any big news as such, but now we have Yumi Toktok Stret telling us …
… Last week Gov’t Cabinet (COM) discussed options to deport the judge in the Bribery Case, Justice Sey. "Cabinet was divided over the issue. The action was itself contempt of court. If it had been the case, YTS says, 18 MPs would have been arrested then. Now 3 MPs will be witness, many more attempting to switch sides. Looks like the end of the day one or two persons my end up in Jail or be deported." (YTS)
Thursday sees finalisation of most submissions. The YTS information sounds realistic and suggests more MPs and possibly ministers will turn to supporting evidence already to hand in the Preliminary Inquiry. Up to now we have had the names of Hosea Nevu and Kalvau Moli. Vila Times today now adds in the name of one more of Cabinet rank, First Deputy Speaker Samson Samsen. Vila Times says that when Nagriamel MP John Lum was given a ministerial post, he, Samsen, defected from the then Carcasses-led Opposition side of the House to the then Natuman-led Government side. All three MPs have signed the witness documentation which will assist their indemnity from prosecution. (Vila Times)
Vila Times also confirms the burning down of a restaurant at Lakatoro owned by Prime Minister Kilman’s wife as likely arson, a story covered by Daily Post at the weekend.
Otherwise, print and electronic media have given over a fair mount of space to the PM being in India along with all the Pacific Island leaders for the second summit of the Indian and island Pacific prime ministers. India is opening up visas for cooperation on climate changes issues, renewable energy, education and sustainable development.
And another matter which has had a good many column inches and hours of radio and TV time recently is the Godzilla El Nino we are to expect. The drier than usual time is bound to continue, and worse than usual: present observations confirm this.
NUP’s Edwin Aprimen was elected Luganville Mayor last week. Several women councillors boycotted the elections because they knew the electoral issue was decided by men already and without the women participating. Daily Post has the women saying the gender equality preached by male politicians in Vanuatu is "lip-service."
Prime Minister Kilman is attending the Second Forum for India – Pacific Islands Cooperation
This post appears on the Strategist today. It can be republished provided a link to the original is included (http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/indias-pacific-vision/)
Leaders and officials of 14 Pacific Island countries will convene in Jaipur today for the 2nd Forum for India–Pacific Islands Cooperation. The first was held last year in Fiji, in conjunction with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the G20 summit in Brisbane. Modi’s government sees increased engagement with the island countries of the Pacific as part of a wider agenda designed to enhance India’s global profile.
It’s too simplistic to depict this as simply an attempt to counter the influence of China in the region, although that’s almost certainly part of the reasoning behind it. In addition, it’s part of India’s ‘Look East’ policy and an aspect of India seeking to establish its global presence.
India has increased its presence in the region in recent times, and forums such as these indicate that we can expect that to continue. Unsurprisingly, India’s strongest bilateral relationship within the region is with Fiji but it’s reasonable to expect that this will provide a platform for increased engagement with other Pacific Island countries as well as regional organisations. The agenda for the Jaipur summit indicates that this engagement will be based around trade, development partnerships, people to people links and mutual support for issues of global diplomacy.
In 2012, trade between India and the Pacific islands region amounted to US$228 million and the Indian government is looking for further growth. It’s somewhat surprising that the Indian financial sector isn’t more active in Papua New Guinea, given the growing demand for credit there. Whilst in India, Pacific leaders will visit one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations, the Taj Mahal, and we would expect that increasing the number of Indian tourists visiting the Pacific Islands region will also be an issue for discussion.
India currently provides US$200,000 of development assistance to the each of the countries participating in the summit and is keen to promote the south–south nature of this engagement. New Delhi has experience of addressing key development challenges that affect the countries of the Pacific Island region that she can share, including combating gender-based violence, improving service delivery to rural and remote areas and disaster preparedness and recovery.
There are a number of significant diplomatic issues that will inform both formal and informal interactions at this summit. India is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council and appears to have secured 11 votes from among the Pacific Island countries. And the Indian government will no doubt be using this meeting to lobby for further support in this endeavour.
We can also expect the leaders of the Pacific Island region to use this opportunity to seek Indian support for their position in relation to climate change action ahead of the Paris talks later this year. Not only does India have a powerful voice in its own right, but the leaders of the Pacific should be exhorting it to exercise influence within the BRICS grouping. Related to this, but possibly more problematic from a diplomatic standpoint is the extent to which Kiribati President Anote Tong’s call for a moratorium on new coal mines can be meaningfully discussed with the Indian leadership, including their minister for coal.
Of no little significance is the influence that India, as the world’s largest democracy, can bring to bear in the realm of supporting Pacific Island countries in maintaining their commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law. There are numerous instances of governments in the region adopting positions and policies that have autocratic tendencies and there are particular concerns around the state of democracy and the rule of law in Nauru. Indian politics since 1947 have proved complex, messy and, in some instances, dangerous but overall a commitment to democratic governance has prevailed and this is an opportunity for the Delhi leadership to reinforce the importance of democracy for our region.
The Jaipur summit also provides Pacific leaders with an opportunity to discuss a number of issues among themselves, with a view to what they want to see as a result of next month’s Forum leaders’ meeting in Port Moresby.
Fiji’s prime minister may try to enlist support from other leaders for his suggestion that the membership of the Pacific Islands Forum be changed to exclude Australia and New Zealand, although this has failed to get much traction thus far. Similarly, leaders may use this opportunity to seek to persuade PM Bainimarama to cement his country’s post-election rehabilitation by joining them in PNG in September. They could also discuss the initiatives that they can expect to have put to them following the process envisaged by the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Of these, the one that is most politically and diplomatically sensitive is the issue of West Papua. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has already commenced lobbying for leaders to instigate a fact-finding mission to the Papuan provinces.
Meetings such as these provide important opportunities for Pacific leaders to further national and regional diplomatic initiatives and they need to be utilised strategically and effectively.
Daily Post’s lead story today has a government U-turn on the Bank of South Pacific’s (BSP’s) application to purchase and take over Westpac’s operations in Vanuatu. This comes about despite the Reserve Bank rejection of the application until as recently as last month. Is the government over-ruling the board of the regulating bank? It’s to be hoped with the publication of the information concerning the U-turn some answers will be given by the Reserve Bank.
Both Post and Radio Vanuatu News are reporting nine schools being transferred to the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) and the announcement being made concurrent with the PCV General Assembly at Erakor. PCV is probably the oldest educator on a large scale in the country and is said to have petitioned the government in the matter, although the reasons are not abundantly clear. It is said the move will ensure the churches have a portion of the 2016 budget.
Thirty students have won MP Ralph Regenvanu scholarships for semester 2 at USP this year. An award ceremony was held recently.
Seven hundred are attending the PCV General Assembly at Erakor village. The Assembly has often sent strong messages to government. None have been publicised so far this time.
Ecole Française won the school’s debating competition sponsored by the Pacific Institute of Public Police.
After 2 days of none from the Digest, "here is the news" …
Fulfilling the already established Right to Information (RTI) policy is today a commitment of government according to both Radio Vanuatu News and Daily Post. Legislation is to be passed this year to ensure that the right to know, transparency and freedom of information precepts on which this policy is based are practised within the national context. A unit to ensure implementation is being set up by the Government Chief Information Officer, Fred Samuel. The legislation was promised by PM Kilman in a recent media briefing.
The Mayor of Luganville will be elected tomorrow Daily Post tells us today, following the clarification of certain legal issues relating to the northern town’s election. The new council has 13 members including 5 women.
The Mayor of Port Vila, Ulrich Sumtoh, sees women as already helping to assist the capital’s council financially through various initiatives women have put forward. Port Vila has faced a massive drop in revenues of certain kinds, Radio Vanuatu News tells us today, from 93 m vatu of some good many years ago, to just 6 m vatu presently.
Parliament Speaker Pipite has a brand new official vehicle. He handed over the keys of the former car to Acting Opposition Leader Ham Lini this week. He indicated the older vehicle is still in perfect condition, Daily Post tells us today. He also says in Radio Vanuatu News that the Parliament building must very soon undergo repairs. He describes the building as dilapidated in today’s Daily Post. Certain government departments are still working from the main building in town, even though it is condemned. Others, which used to be there, are working from Melitco House now. Yet apparently we still have money for new cars.
The Vanuatu Project Management Unit says the ground-breaking ceremony for the 1.45 billion vatu project for the beautification of the seafront will take place on 28 August. It will proceed following recommendations of the Vanuatu Tourism Project. The New Zealand Government is helping massively along with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) as part of the WTO Aid-For-Trade programme and the Vanuatu Government is also contributing. This includes the area from the Seafront to Fung Kuei and Fatumauru Bay to Chantilly’s, Radio Vanuatu News says.
The Shanghai Construction Group has begun work on the new main wharf for Luganville, Santo. Ships have arrived which will assist in the work and Daily Post reports the group anxious to complete the whole undertaking on time. Shanghai was the company responsible for USP construction work at Emalus, Port Vila.
DPM Carcasses is wanting the VCMB to work closely with farmers to ensure farmers grow what is appropriate for all Vanuatu markets. He appointed a new VCMB board last week at Luganville. Incentives will be needed for copra re-planting, he also pointed out. (VBTC)
DPM Carcasses has lifted his ban on foreign D2 licences for wholesale and retail shops. However, such licences will be required to "bring into Vanuatu an annual income of VT 30 million" a Daily Post story says.