Vanuatu daily news digest | 19 April 2014

The Government / Malvatumauri joint understanding on Kastom determining the application of the issuance of land leases has achieved new levels of cooperation during the week. Following contributions from the Vaturisu, Chamber of Commerce and Custom Land Tribunals Office (CLTO), on 11 April the Malvatumauri handed the Minister of Lands, Ralph Regenvanu, written authorisation to amend the new laws. Regenvanu promised to ensure the amendments would be debated by the first ordinary sitting of Parliament at the end of this month. At the close of the one-week meeting of the Malvatumauri, members performed a custom ceremony for the Minister and made a presentation to mark their gratitude for the long-awaited amendment to Article 30 of the Constitution.

Changes to the Custom Land Management Act concern the possibility of fee refunds for matters awaiting adjudication which have been transferred to a new judicial or customary body, removal of quorum requirements for nakamal meetings to determine custom ownership, and the finality of decisions of single or joint customary tribunals.

Amendments to the Land Reform Act remove the requirement for an EIA to be undertaken as a condition for approving a negotiator’s certificate, removal of the requirement for ministerial consultation in disputes except where major issues are concerned such as the intention to sub-divide. The new land laws can be seen at the Lands Ministry’s web site at http://www.mol.gov.vu/.

Land leasing remains a concern at Tanna Coffee Development Company reports Daily Post this morning. The lease for the property involves 32 nakamals and they have received no lease money for 4 or 5 years. A New Zealand company is said to be now developing part of the lease without proper and full consultation with the land owners. The far reaching new land laws placing lease issue and ownership beyond administration control should surely be able to deal with this new case. Custom owners’ spokesman John Saupat said provision of employment was one of the reasons for enabling the lease. However, custom owners remain jobless as outsiders are brought in to work on the coffee plantation.

Friends of People with Special Needs is planning a huge fund-raising for the Vanuatu Society for People with a Diability (VSDP) at Saralana Park on May 29. It will be the Biggest Garage Sale ever and a family fun day and they hope to raise VT 3 million.

Radio Vanuatu transmission and news were rather discombobulated this morning with yesterday’s news being repeated exactly as it was yesterday at 6 and then another bulletin being given at 7. Some staff seemed to have had a late start.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 18 April 2014

The official Port Vila election results have been announced and slightly narrow the advised difference between the Green’s Jean-Yves Chabod and GJP’s Andrew Napuat. It is now 1,941 to 1,906 respectively. We are again reminded of the huge drop in voter turnout by all the media.

Daily Post tells us this morning that a judicial review of the Fishermen’s case will be heard on April 24. The legal counsel of the 1,131 former SPFC employee fishermen, now calling themselves the Vanuatu Fishermen’s Cooperative Marketing Consumer Society Limited, has sought the review. The fishermen’s leader is Remy Kunuan. Daily Post advises the case is against PM Carcasses and the Republic of Vanuatu.

The telecommunications regulator is to conduct a full mobile service coverage audit. The intention is to have 98% of the Vanuatu islands covered by 2018 under the Universal Access Policy (UAP). Mobile owners are asked to cooperate with those conducting the audit should they be questioned concerning their service and reception quality.

Wan Smol Bag saw its new Kam Pusum Hed Clinic opened this week at Tagabe with VT 35 million of assistance from the Australian Government. Australian High Commissioner Jeremy Bruer performed the opening of the new reproductive health facility. The opening is part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of WSB.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 17 April 2014

No airport in the world has ever been completed in less than two years. Brisbane airport is taking at least 4 years, just for a new runway. However, we are told Rentabau’s Greenfield airport (without any national surveys or awareness) will be operational in 2016. Daily Post this morning reveals there had been no airport site inspection at Enam, south-east Efate, not even an entry to the property, until a fortnight ago, when the developers were seeking to put down pegs to mark where the airport would be. No custom owners, nor the lessees of the property, had ever been consulted in the matter. The developers are a local/Singaporean company set up at the behest of two Chinese who were originally looking at tobacco growing on Tanna, or said they were. They and the company they set up with government officials (VTDL) are now requiring promises of USD 350 million and needed the urgent costly meeting of Parliament to reassure them of their claim to this amount. Well, yes they must if we are already signed up, which we believe we are – since last July – by our PM and DPM. Are we signed up to a scam?

The tourism industry has not asked for any 747 airport and has even condemned such an airport as out-of-date. Efate chiefs have not asked for such development and might well be considered to be opposed to it considering the ultimate loss of their lands. The Malvatumauri has not been consulted, nor the general public. This is surely another scam, repeating the sequence of them we have had since Independence. Is no-one going to ask for an Ombudsman report in the matter when we have present politicians previously involved in such scams – and named in Ombudsman reports – as leaders, trying all over again? We must have an Ombudsman report.

Please buy Daily Post today to read all about how this project will rob Efate of the only presently certified organic beef cattle raising project in the country and 20% of the local meat market. It will also rob Efate custom land owners of their property, without there being any public debate or due process under the country’s new law. Until it is too late.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 16 April 2014

So far the election for the Port Vila seat vacancy has produced only unofficial results with the Moderates’ Jean-Yves Chabod winning 1,973 on top. Next was Graon mo Jastis’s Andrew Napuat with 1,895 and third the VP’s Levi Tarosa with 1,884. Daily Post and VBTC News reported low turnouts at all polling stations.

A possible election complaint may arise following the revelation by a founding member of the Reunification Movement for Change (RMC) that RMC’s logo was used by Chabod. RMC’s Opposition Whip Charlot Salwai said even though two RMC MPs broke away during the recent Opposition sponsored motion against the PM (Kalsakau and Telukluk), they had no right to use the RMC logo on Chabod’s poster.

Daily Post today has TVL providing the Malvatumauri chiefs with mobile phones enabling a free calling circle for all chiefs present for the occasion. The chiefs are said to have come from all island councils and will have contact with TVL and each other (excluding family contacts).

Thompson Pakoa Matokai in Letters in Post today points out that ni-Vanuatu children and grand-children will be those having to pay back the Greenfield airport promissory notes if Parliament agrees to accept them.

Nasimal comments to this blog concerning our long history of scams involving airports and resorts (given yesterday) that this comes about because politicians are chosen who have never run profitable companies. "When foreign scams come along, they try to make quick bucks: they cannot differentiate between fact and fiction … In Vanuatu we have everything to live for, only if some of those politicians speak to and learn from our own struggling population in our villages. We would be doing better in Vanuatu if our politicians are honest in their activities instead of taking out begging bowls all the time."


Vanuatu daily news digest | 15 April 2014

It is voting day today for the vacant seat in Port Vila. Not a lot of hard news: instead here is an editorial …

A short history of Vanuatu scams

Vanuatu leadership is continually bedazzled by the schemes or scams of the super-rich (from whatever source) to make themselves increasingly wealthier here in a country which possesses the greatest asset available anywhere, an environment which gives well-being freely to all. (Economic well-being has been splendidly dealt with by its premier exponent in the VBTC news today.)

In today’s Daily Post, Dr Tobey Huff points out the sheer nonsense of the government’s spin on a project (yes, the Rentabau / Greenfield airport) which has just involved the country’s Parliament in a costly and totally pointless exercise to show that at least the Parliament has received documents which the creators of the scheme and Prime Minister believe has now to be proven for negotiations to proceed.

Tobey Huff also points out the almost total impossibility of land owners agreeing in reasonable time for the leasing of their land under the new legislation, as they are required to do. He should know of the demands Eton / Rentabau custom owners may have for their land since he resides at Eton. Eton should seriously start to consider the government guarantees they would require if the huge airport project, un-wanted by all except VTDL executives and Government leaders, was forced upon them.

Vanuatu as a tax haven has suffered from the same sorts of scams, some quite criminal, for so long now our leaders ought to be decidedly more sceptical. So often they involve banks, casinos and pirivileges for investors, like passports. These should be the give-away. Failed Australian property developer John Avram offered all of these and a 400 million dollar tourism complex for Moso Island in 1994. Fortunately it never eventuated.

Not much later, however, there was the Olilian Group proposing an offshore financial centre and a free trade zone (not the last) for Santo. This was intended to bring some 3,000 wealthy Asians to buy Vanuatu passports. It failed when the promoters were charged with fraud in 1995.

Resort Las Vegas Group came next when PM Vohor and Foreign Minister Soksok gave the group (also known as the South Pacific Immigration Authority) the right to sell citizenship. Its principal was Jai Yong Jung who had criminal convictions and fled South Korean serious fraud charges. He claimed he would build a $100 million hotel at Tukutuk, west Efate. Up to 80,000 Asians would reside in this tax haven country. He had a money-making citizenship programme for Vanuatu which was supposed to bring Vanuatu $ 350 million. Ombudsman Marie-Noelle Patterson exposed the scheme’s fraudulent elements and it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds parliamentary majority. Media coverage assisted the parliamentary failure.

Then, of course, there was the Vohor Government’s approval of the Volani International plan for an upgraded airport, luxury housing and a large casino-hotel complex for Asian visitors on a state-within-a-state at Santo. And the international airport would be transferred to the Vanuatu Government after 25 years of operation. Again Ombudsman and media efforts had the scam put down.

Next on the scene, and with assistance from DPM Willie Jimmy and Lord Keyes of the UK House of Lords, and other MPs and civil servants still at post, came the Mondragon Free Trade Zone, wanting 80,000 hectares of Santo. Nevada real estate developer, Michael Oliver, had sponsored Vemerana secession of the New Hebrides and Vanuatu since the Seventies, but the Kumul Force rather put an end to his chances. Oliver’s colleague, Stefan Mandel, took over, Mandel being the Mondragon man-in-Vanuatu. Oliver severed connections with Mandel when Vanuatu Trading Post exposed the dubious past of Mandel and his bankruptcy in Australia in 1995 was revealed. Ombudsman Alatoa concluded that Mandel had financially assisted Willie Jimmy and three other government officials improperly. It’s all there in the report and its annexes. You can read all about the plans for the Big Bay Free Trade Zone in the Ombudsman Report. The Big Bay International Airport for 747 and 767 planes (then still viable) only became the subject of a further, but smaller, scheme which custom owners to this day claim has never been honoured by Mondragon.

Not a lot of honour is apparent anywhere in this history. Lots of promises there are, whether needed to be backed by bank or government promissory notes, or not. But not a lot of honour, and nothing to contribute to the well-being of the Vanuatu nation. Can we not learn something from the Rentabau / Greenfield efforts of the two Chinese? After all, for a start they only wanted a tobacco project on Tanna. And now, together with civil servants’ efforts and planning, and calling themselves VTDL, the project is aiming to build an outdated airport at Rentabau on land they do not own or lease. And which happens to be the country’s only certified organic beef production area.

I think an Ombudsman report is called for.


Vanuatu daily news digest | Parliament this afternoon

Motions concerning acceptance of huge loans to finance the Rentabau Greenfield Airport “build / operate” project and other matters were withdrawn from Parliament this afternoon. No explanations were given: they were simply voted as tabled, their purpose never explained, so that the ad hoc committee for the project could continue to work with them. Government’s plans for the future of aviation, tourism and custom land ownership remain still murky. The add hoc committee is to report back by 13 June.

Further deputy speakers of Parliament were elected. They are Toara Daniel and Havo Moli. This was the only business conducted.


Vanuatu daily news digest | 14 April 2014

The critical extra-ordinary session of Vanuatu’s Parliament to look into agreements signed by the Prime Minister, involving a massive airport development at South Efate, and USD 350 million worth of state guarantees to the build / operate developers, was further postponed this morning. Along with a huge loan from the Ex-Im Bank of China for some purpose not yet stated and VNPF loans to Air Vanuatu, none of these matters was ready for debate this morning. Apparently all were on the agenda simply for voting as motions.

VBTC did not explain how many MPs were present. However, there was apparently a quorum. In the face of such governmental ineptitude it becomes increasingly difficult to see Carcasses holding his coalition together.

"The Government needs to look back on the matters before Parliament for consideration this morning," the Speaker told MPs this morning at 9.15, forty-five minutes after starting time. Parliament was therefore adjourned until 2 o’clock this afternoon.


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