Previous Vanuatu governments must have enabled one Kevin Lai, pictured on the front page of Daily Post today, to have honorary Vanuatu citizenship, into which he slipped a year ago, and the positions of Vanuatu Permanent Representative at UN ESCAP and special envoy in Thailand. He had set up a bank in Vanuatu and was accused by the Thai police of milking VT 945 million from Thai, Chinese and Malaysian investors to his bank (with negligible website) here in Vanuatu which was ultimately to have the country’s first eight-story building block opposite the Melanesian Hotel.The bank is already in existence and is called the United Development Bank of the Pacific (UDBP). UFun management is another company with which Kevin Lai has close relations. This was used as a headquarter for Vanuatu politicians visiting Bangkok. The charges involved should be an easy matter to settle, especially since it will be done in Thailand.
Meantime, Daily Post today reports Police raiding a Vanuatu bookmaker with Melbourne underworld links. Offering bets on Australian racing results to Australians overseas is illegal in Australia, but that has not bothered a company called Betjack. Such companies can be fined up to AUD 340,000 a day for so operating, but this has not troubled Betjack which faces huge claims from Australian punters it ignores. There would seem to be a massive ignorance of due diligence on the part of the Australians concerned and the betting company.
Meanwhile the Vanuatu Ombudsman has called for the powers of his office to be be increased to investigate the judiciary. He tells Vanuatu Journalism students that there have been many cases which simply disappeared: were never finished. He also wants the definition of leadership widened to enable the Leadership Code to investigate all senior public servants and political appointees, Post reports today.
The Independent reveals Asco Motors has recalled some 29 vehicles fitted with the faulty airbags which have caused 63 million cars worldwide to be recalled.
There have been various communications problems with the Digest for a few days, but it’s mostly headline news only you’ve missed. But you must still have the news… and so, here goes …
The President of the Australian South Sea Islanders in Sydney, Imelda Davis, says the islander Australians were pleased to be able to assist ni-Vanuatu in the wake of cyclone Pam. She was here to check the unloading of some 5 containers of relief items which came from the Association with Rainbow Warrior.
The ICT Manager of the Department of Lands, William Ganileo, says the new title information system will be opened in a month. It is important title holders check their particulars in the system.
The CIIP agency in China has been re-launched. A government delegation headed by the Minister of Finance, Maki Simelum, went to Shenzen for the purpose. The new need for credibility and sustainability, unlike with the PRV programme, was stressed in presentations.
The VNPF has answered the allegations made against the Board in last weekend’s Post. This one will, as they say, run and run. Most of us cannot know the full story yet.
Urology patients have been receiving wonderful assistance from visiting Australian specialists. And Post says today Prof Dr Ian Frazer, developer of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine will be visiting from 25 May. He will be giving awareness talks at Freshwota School from 8.30 on Tuesday concerning cervical cancer and young women are encouraged to attend.
Prime Minister Joe Natuman is attending the PALM 7 meeting of Pacific leaders in Japan as reported yesterday. During his absence Trade Minister and DPM Ham Lini will be Acting PM. Before his departure PM Natuman paid a tribute to the regional colleagues from MSG countries, Fiji, FLNKS of New Caledonia, PNG and the Solomons, for "lifting the spirits of the people of Vanuatu" in serving the people of this country. Daily Post has an amazing photo of the ministers of government and Vanuatu law and order personnel gathered together with representatives of the island countries outside the MSG Headquarters.
Rainbow Warrior, flagship of Greenpeace, is today distributing 15 tons of relief tools, solar torches, clothing, kitchen utensils, stationery and books to places affected by cyclone Pam, Post reports.
Post also reports a visit from the deputy head of the United Nations to see for himself the development needs and issues of the country. Mr Haoliang Xu felt his visit was at the right time to see for himself the challenging task of recovery following the cyclone.
The weekend Kivhan Music Festival at Saralana raised over VT 350,000 for the relief efforts. Five thousand people enjoyed the charity event.
Paama people are insisting on government removal of the MV Kimbe, the wreck of which lies off Tahji village. The vessel sank 14 years ago and Chief Paul Ulas claims significant damage to the marine and coastal environment. Daily Post carries the story.
Information and Communications Technologies have dominated the media in recent days in Vanuatu. Prime Minister Natuman emphasized at the Warwick Le Lagon event marking Pacific ICT Days 2015 "ICTs are now essentially part of our lives" (Daily Post). Three overseas companies attended the event VBTC News reported.
The Appeal Court is reported in Post to have ordered the Director of Lands to register Takara leases to Green Peak Limited and Costa del Mar Limited after receiving proof of the incorporation of the two companies. The leases are concerned with geothermal exploration.
PM Natuman is attending the Japanese Pacific Islands’ Leaders Meeting (PALM 7). It is on the theme "We are islanders": Commitment to the Pacific from Iwaki, Fukushima: Building a prosperous future together.” PM Natuman is speaking on the recovery operation after cyclone Pam, and the major role of the NDMO in restoration.
Port Vila Municipality is warning kava bar operators to provide better hygiene and toilet facilities points out Post today.
With the greater immediacy of radio news, VBTC had the biggest story at noon today … The government’s post-cyclone Pam Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Plan was outlined late Friday to the development donor partners and media. This was to highlight what government wants to be noted as priorities. United Nations agencies, and other international funding bodies like the Asian Development Bank, were present. Prime Minister Natuman observed that the people of Vanuatu trust the government to work with all such agencies for reconstruction. Donor partners were also told that the country still very much relies on their assistance. "Essential is a common understanding and commitment to prioritize the activities," PM Natuman said. He emphasized that the government must make use of its systems in place for the management of recovery funds. Responsibility for recovery management will be with the ministries of government and donor assistance will need to support this objective.
Donor partners gave their responses to the government plan. The Australian Government is contributing 184 million vatu for renovation of schools, to top up maintenance money for Shefa and Tafea schools following damage reports.
Daily Post has announced the gazetting of the honorary citizenship plan. People granted this as part of the economic rehabilitation plan will be entitled to hold a Vanuatu passport but there are strict limitations on the privileges this will provide for a payment of around VT 13 million. Political involvement is prohibited.
Daily Post also carries a photo of government leaders celebrating a year in office and a long unattributed (other than by "staff reporter") article on recruitment irregularities at the VNPF. In addition the Marobe urban land claim dismissal by the Appeal Court is detailed.
Not a lot in the papers yesterday or today (and thus no Digest yesterday), but we do have two interesting Appeal Court judgements. Yesterday Post had the loss to Gilbert Dinh of Urelapa Island off South Santo where Dinh was to build a resort. An airstrip and jetty were constructed and a tank positioned. Silver Holdings had acquired an indefeasible title after a 2006 forfeiture by the Valuer-General back to the lessor as represented by the Pamavari family.
Today Post brings us the Appeal Court ruling on the appeal of Marianne Bani, who had filled an interim position at the Vanuatu National Council of Women. "The grounds of appeal which question the validity of Mrs Bani’s appointment and her entitlement to be remunerated are totally without substance," said the court.
Yesterday’s Post also had more information concerning the cyclone resistant houses being built on Ifira land. Commercial partners from Korea, Thailand and the United States are involved in the project. Other models from the Round House at Freshwater to the Erakor Half-road area have been seen previously. Following cyclone Pam, the main government consideration for maintenance must be given to roofing.
Vanuatu Times "in its findings" discovers that VT 2 billion will be needed to "repair government houses". Later in the story, however, this figure is given as the amount needed for "replacement of such dwellings". With quite solid properties (such as around Independence Park) needing only new timber and glass work, government must establish fully professional estimates for such work on each house before deciding to sell off the asset to new citizens or business partners.
Australia has reduced aid to Indonesia and various other countries, but not to Vanuatu the Post reveals today.
Radio Vanuatu today carries further news of CIIP applicants with criminal records and whose applications have not been accepted by the Citizenship Commission which undertook the due diligence not carried out by the Hong Kong CIIP agents. "We cannot compromise our national identity just for the sake of raising revenue," said Public Relations Officer Kiery Manassah. The ineligible applications were all made in Hong Kong. "People wanting citizenship must be good citizens," Manassah said, insisting that agencies in Hong Kong carry out proper checking. "We cannot allow people with criminal connections to enter."
The President of the Green Confederation who is also Leader of the Opposition says he agrees that Port Vila MP Jean-Yves Chabod moves out from the Greens to the Vanuatu National Development Party, VNDP, headed by Christophe Emelee. to stand for Port Vila in 2016. Carcasses confirmed the move following a meeting of those involved.
Tafea Province has agreed that timber cutting may resume on Erromango, VBTC reported this morning.
Daily Post today starts with a magnificent artist’s impression of the seafront of Port Vila, the curve from behind the library to the Grand. This marks the closure on Friday of tenders for the upper wharf road and seafront. This is part of the Vanuatu Tourism Infrastructure Project greatly supported by New Zealand.
One about which we will all want to learn more is broached by Daily Post today. It is the launch of cyclone resistant homes on Ifira land as part of the re-birthmof the National Housing Corporation. This has just taken place.