Vanuatu daily news Digest | 4 March 2015

In Daily Post today, Godwin Ligo very reasonably questions what happened to the 1986 Physical Plan for Port Vila created by British planner David Corscaden. There are also four additional photos of the floodwaters in the main streets. This morning, Wednesday, four days after the worst of the flooding, there was still one-way only in the main road through Man Ples. Ligo is of course unable to answer what did happen with the Plan which covered long-term solutions to a range of problems. Public discussions were to provide wider consultation and involve government, the private sector, municipality, PWD, Police and residents’ representatives. The Plan was sought by the Ministry of Home Affairs. And it is surely only reasonable the Plan be re-located and form part of discussions which are surely needed before the aid-funded road and drainage work we have so recently been again promised by a Vanuatu government.

Post highlights 38 government agencies being investigated by the Public Accounts Committee headed by MP Marcellino Pipite. Included are contracted development, aid-funded projects like the Inter-Island Shipping Support Project of New Zealand and the Port Vila Urban Development Project and Transport Sector Support provided by Australian Aid. The VNPF, VBTC and VFSC are amongst the high profile SOEs.

Post is also particularly interesting on the Australian funded hours of maritime aerial surveillance to protect the country from illegal, un-reported un-regulated – IUU – fishing activities. Samoa Air offers special aerial services from Bauerfield to enable reports to the Tukoro for its surface patrols.

Radio Vanuatu News today led with the government planning a department to be concerned with water. There is presently duplication of many activities concerned with water supply. There are two Acts of Parliament and two authorities dealing with water, regionally and municipally, Lands Minister Regenvanu advised through the national broadcaster.


Vanuatu daily news Digest | 3 March 2015

Provincial presidency elections led news bulletins today. Daily Post carried the news of East Efate and the Graon mo Jastis Pati taking the Shefa presidency – not South Efate as confidently predicted by that area. Councillor Johnny Max won for GJP.

Radio Vanuatu’s mid-day news bulletin had the Tafea presidential election yesterday erupting in chaos and having to be postponed until later today. The poll is still to take place.

News just in says GJP’s councillor William Fred Tasso has win the Malampa presidency.

Of considerable interest beyond our shores was Daily Post reporting a recovery unit from Hawaii to dive and seek the remains of the two who died in wartime when the US troop carrier President Coolidge struck US mines in the well protected Santo harbour area. Over five thousand men got safely ashore. The Coolidge sank off Million Dollar Point.

Both major media news outlets report the Ambrym alert level being reduced from 3 to 2.

Japan is to fund five projects with a total value of VT 38 million. They comprise a new fire fighting facility for the Vanuatu Maritime College at Santo and a garbage compactor truck, also for Luganville, as well as school renovations at Lenakel, Rentabau and Tautu. (Daily Post, today.)

The hospital Outreach Programme providing clinics and minor operations, Post reports, operated on 13 patients at Lenakel on Tanna last week. Doctors on the first such visit to Tafea said they hope to be able to make a return visit in about a month to continue to provide such treatment where it is needed.

MSG central bank governors have decided to set up an emergency and stabilisation fund at a meeting here in Port Vila last week. It was previously discussed in 2013. It seems to be mostly concerned with emergency relief. (Radio Vanuatu News.)


Vanuatu daily news Digest | Natuman on Lini

From today’s Daily Post

Fr. Lini —right man at the right time: PM Natuman

By Kiery Manassah

Saturday 21st February was Lini Day in Vanuatu— about 15 years since the passing of Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister and leader of the independence struggle.

Prime Minister Joe Natuman led a delegation to the island of Pentecost where he visited the grave to pay his respect to someone whose leadership during the heydays of independence was exemplary, to say the least.

Since 1999, this has been the norm. Most leaders at the helm have been on the island on the day because all recognise Fr. Lini was indeed a unique character in the country’s political history.

Only this time, it was extra special because Prime Minister Natuman—an advisor to the country’s first PM at the time of independence, was being accompanied by people who shared the same aspirations and dreamt the same dreams for their country.

Among those travelling with the Prime Minister was the leader of the Vanua’aku Pati Edward Natapei, Melanesian Progressive Party’s Barak Sope and a representative of the People’s Progressive Party. Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini had been on the island one week before the arrival the PM’s delegation.

Before laying a wreath at the graveside, Prime Minister Natuman was invited to kill a pig, after which he was bestowed with a special custom name – “Tarimulei”— a name that is accorded someone called to ‘rebuild’.

The name signifies his current role, not only in recapturing the dreams and visions of the founders, but also rebuilding the country from where they left off because it is clear that since the disintegration of the main political parties, leaders have lost track of why we as a people decided to break the colonial yoke, which bound the then New Hebrideans for 74 years.

The prime minister was handed this responsibility almost a year ago when he amassed 40 votes from thin air to topple the previous Moana-led government.

It is no small task by any stretch of imagination. Prime Minister Natuman knows his would be one of the most difficult of jobs, not only as he tries to rebuild the country, but also as he sets out to reform the political and institutional structures needed to kick-start the engines of a functioning democracy, and ensure the Vanuatu dream is realised—one that can cater to the economic wellbeing of citizens now and into the future.

This is a task the entire cabinet under his tutelage, is determined to achieve once fully given the time and space.

Prior to a pig-killing ceremony, Prime Minister Natuman was adopted into the Godwin Ala family, for which he is truly honoured. Following this he recounted the history he so well remembers.

“Fr. Lini represented a rare group of individuals whom I believe were specifically chosen by God for a specific task—leaders who were hand-picked by a power beyond our understanding, to mobilise people towards attaining either political freedom, or rid a country from an oppressive system,” the Prime Minister said of the late Fr. Lini.

Natuman was not hesitant to liken Lini to great leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi of India, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln of the USA, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

“These leaders were raised up at different times for a reason and purpose by God. Ours was Fr. Lini. He epitomised our struggle to break off from the condominium government.

“He was the right man, at the right time at the right place,” said the Prime Minister.

Fr. Lini accomplished his mission quite successfully despite the odds stacked against him. Apart from overcoming the dual systems and their well-entrenched machinery, he had to unite a scattered group of islanders with their own diverse cultures, not to mention the fact he was starting from scratch.

Using his strength as an eloquent speaker, he was able to unify the people. There was a certain aura of respect about him. Fr. Lini commanded and spoke with great authority, so much so that he could play off the interests of both the US and the USSR. His government adopted a non-aligned policy when they decided Vanuatu’s interests as a newly independent state, would be better served if we remained ‘friends to all and enemies to none’.

As a staunch nationalist, Lini was all for localisation and stood up for Vanuatu when required, not just for his people in Raga. He believed in the few ni-Vanuatu who had only just graduated then.

Fr. Lini had strong views on many regional and international issues like political emancipation and nuclearisation issues.

“I remember once he asked us to check with the US embassy responsible if a proposed visit by a US navy would be carrying any nuclear armaments. The US embassy came back to say they could ‘neither deny nor confirm’ anything. Based on the response, he refused to grant them entry,” PM Natuman recalled.

Under Lini, Vanuatu became the first country, before NZ under David Lange, to declare a nuclear-free state policy. At that time all superpowers and their leaders did not subscribe to what he stood up for.

Today those views are changing. Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster, Japan and others, including Germany are rethinking their nuclear policies.

“He was mart. He searched out and identified quickly the few of us who had gained university qualifications and leant on us for support and advise.

“Our struggle was compounded by the fact we were colonised by two superpowers in Britain and France. We were caught in the middle of nowhere because we had no status,” said Prime Minister Natuman.

But along with others, he fought with tact and purpose to get Vanuatu’s struggle recognised regionally at the Forum and internationally at the UN through their extensive contacts.

It was in 1980 —attending a regional forum for the first time that he enlisted the support of PNG through then Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan. All of that is now history, but just as important for the younger generations not to forget.

In his tribute, Prime Minister Natuman highlighted institutions Fr. Lini was instrumental in setting up during those early days: Air Vanuatu, NISCOL, VCMB, the National Bank, the Reserve Bank and so many others.

“I remember we went down to Australia and he asked the Australian government to help him set up an airline because he was keen to grow the national economy supported by an active tourism industry. Australia offered a 727 aircraft, which has long been replaced.

He also had a strong vision to grow the economy through agriculture, which led to the establishment of the Malekula Metenesel Project, Tanna Coffee and others.

He was simply a man of the people!


Vanuatu daily news Digest | 2 March 2015

Daily Post leads today’s reportage with an amazing photo of the Seven Stars area flooding on Saturday, a boat the only transportation, and stopped by a woman waist deep in floodwaters in the middle of the ‘high street’ of the Seven Stars Anabrou suburb.

Daily Post fully reports the Prime Minister’s speech at the Lini Day observations and remembrance on Pentecost a week ago.

Internal Affairs Minister Charlot Salwai has met with RSE workers in New Zealand to further discuss how RSE returnees can better engage in and promote Vanuatu’s productive rural sector – especially coffee, kava, cocoa and taro – which New Zealand buys regionally. This would need to be accomplished with the assistance of the Ministry of Trade, Radio Vanuatu News states today.

Radio Vanuatu also details the widening gap between teacher needs and availability with population increase. At secondary level there is a shortage of 174 teachers: at primary level it is 198. Classes are being taught comprising as many as 50 pupils. The government is trying to find the means to increase graduate teacher output at the training college, VITE.

Charlot Long Wah’s funeral and contribution to society are also adequately covered in Post.

Furthermore that paper announces a Department of Tourism launch of a booklet for entrants to rural tourism business. It will be extremely helpful to a new industry.


Vanuatu daily news Digest | 1 March 2015

Sources of political parties’ funding has been one of the topics under discussion this week at the political dialogue between party heads and MPs led by Commonwealth experts and everyone making contributions to a paper by Professor Don Paterson. Government PRO Kiery Manassah told Radio Vanuatu of the various sources of revenue discussed and the possibly propriety of government supporting political parties. That was in yesterday’s news. Today there was mention made of the possibility of electing a Speaker of Parliament who is not an MP, but elected to the post by the people. Manassah pointed out that government wants much greater participation in this political discussion by the people and is urging the general public to consider the issues. Changes to the law could be effected by present parliamentarians, he pointed out, but there are other issues which must have the public’s consideration, and these would go to a referendum. Floor crossing was another of the topics discussed and the meeting found it of interest how islanders from other Melanesian countries deal with the problem.

The Upper Administrative Court in Germany has upheld the ruling of the lower court to lift the ban on kava, Daily Post reports. In 2002 the ban was placed on kava imports to Germany following research by a German institute (BfArM) alleging the custom libation’s responsibility for liver toxicity. BfArM might still appeal, however, Post warns.

Radio Vanuatu News mentioned a new route to Port Moresby through Honiara following the code-sharing agreement between the national airlines of the 3 countries.

Tongoa Education Board comprising school principals and community leaders of Tongoa schools has been meeting to discuss the poor results of the island’s students, and Shefa performance generally, in class 6 results last year. There was no clear indication as to the particular reasons for the unsatisfactory results communicated by Radio Vanuatu News.

Saratamata, Ambae, has a new water supply scheme costing PWD some VT 30 million and covering both the provincial headquarters area and Lolowai. Saratamata land was also under discussion there led by Minister Regenvanu. He was urging people to establish custom ownership so that land could be obtained as state land to enable more provincial projects to take place in the regions and minimise the migration trend to the capital, Radio Vanuatu News reported from Ambae.

Yumi Toktok Stret reports the appalling condition of Port Vila streets after immensely heavy rain such as yesterday, Saturday. Rubble is brought down from the water tanks and the site that used to belong to Radio Vanuatu for its links to the transmitters, at the top of Joint Court. We can now add Independence Park to the places distributing rocks in floodwaters to the main street near the Post Office. And have you seen how yesterday’s torrential rain tore up the coal tar at the southern end of Unelco?

The Independent continues to report senior police persons whether suspended, or stood down or on leave giving their views on what is going on in the force.

The Independent does also, however, report the visit of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, calling on the Acting DG of the MSG, Molean Kilepak, here, assisted by her international adviser on regional issues, Anna Naupa. Both organisations are pursuing a strong partnership through an MoU.

Vanuatu Times covers the Efate Island Court declaration of the custom ownership of the land title G57 covering Sumalapa, Tebakor, Manples and the Federation areas. And they also have their say in senior police matters.

Daily Post reports the expatriate Eilon Mass being arrested and kept in custody following a campaign mounted by fellow expatriate Ronan Harvey against him in social media from afar. A teenage girl is the alleged victim in the matter which was not reported for investigation until a week ago. The rape is supposed to have happened in July.

Post also reports the huge costs involved with the Geothermal exploration at North Efate. A lengthy study looks into how huge costs have affected the share price of Geodynamics, the company conducting the testing of the thermal site.

Efate cattle farmers are meeting Tuesday, 9 am at the Livestock meeting room at Tagabe to discuss a census of cattle. Small farmers are encouraged to attend along with the holders of large ranches. The many and varied problems within the industry will be discussed. The ministerial policy to re-introduce training and the role of field assistants will be of great interest to all and a reason why Joe Ernst is hoping for a large attendance, Post reports.

Post also reports "Sanma chiefs" wanting both Chand and Sakita out of Niscol as the dispute takes on the proportions of Ronan Harvey v Eilon Mass.


Serious action planned against possible Australian kava ban

The Betoota Advocate newspaper tells us

Entire scaffolding Industry in Quuensland on strike over ban on kava

One of Queensland’s most tight-knit construction communities have this week announced plans to go on strike over the government’s controversial new measures to monitor the transportation and personal consumption of the psychoactive southern Pacific plant, Kava.

The consumption of kava is a cultural tradition for a vast number of Polynesian and Micronesian communities based in the Pacific Islands as well as New Zealand, Hawaii and Australia.

The roots of the plant are used to produce a drink with sedative and anaesthetic properties. The relaxing effects of kava are non-stimulated and sedating. It is primarily consumed to relax without the intoxicating effects of other drugs.

However, gradual pressure has been put on Australian-Polynesian communities by members of both state and federal governments who do not understand the concept of socially-responsible consumption.

The new measures proposed by authorities to tackle the possession, sale and transportation of kava – has seen this same community reach boiling point.

The entire scaffolding industry of Queensland’s south-east corner, which is predominantly made up of deeply-rooted Pacific Islander-Australians, have this week put the government on notice.

Their demands are simple. The authorities have received an ultimatum:

“If restrictions continue to be placed on the consumption and or transportation of kava… Then construction projects in Logan, the Gold Coast and Brisbane will be halted indefinitely.”

Lote Rokocoko, a spokesperson for the newly-organised KIWI SCAFFERS AGAINST KAVA BANS (KSAKB) has spoken to the Betoota Advocate about the first Australian workers strike to be organised without any help from the unions.

“The government is happy for us to spend every minute of every day on the top of half-built skyscrapers, but they aren’t happy with how we spend our down-time. What the fuck do they know about kava?!”

“They would prefer us to go to the pub and drink a skinful of piss until we start bashing the fuck out of each other like every other blue-collar Aussie. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t interest us,”

“Kava is the Polynesian communities’ answer to tea or coffee. It is an integral part of our community – they’re just intimidated by the fact that they can’t tax it,”

The strike is currently well underway, with both small and large construction companies desperately trying to sub-contract. Most have seen little success in their attempts to replace the well-engrained Polynesian-Australian scaffolders.

A spokesperson from Queensland-based construction conglomerate, Hutchinson builders, has also spoken up.

“Jeez, I wish one of those pin-striped suits up there in Parliament would hurry up and give these blokes what they want,”

“We can’t replace them – and we can’t work without them. It’s bad for business. Leave that kava shit alone so we can get back to work – it’s not like they come to work drunk on the shit”

However, with lawmakers showing no signs of bowing to the pressure of a suspended infrastructure, it looks like the tools will stay down until both sides can come to an agreement.

The Betoota Advocate have also received unconfirmed reports of similar pro-kava activity in several other Pacific-Islander industries including: nightclub security, NRL football and the Mormon Church.


Vanuatu daily news Digest | 27 February 2015

Radio Vanuatu News sounded to be in its death throes on FM100 a short while ago with lengthy breaks between and within stories. No explanation was ever given.

The leading Radio Vanuatu News stories began with the announcement of the Minister Responsible for Climate Change saying there is now a defined "no go zone" on Ambrym. The volcanic disturbance continues at level 3.

Another item of national importance had Minister Tosul announcing his agricultural policy objective of restoring the positions of field assistants which were largely all withdrawn during the period know as CRP (the Comprehensive Reform Programme). In a country where everyone owns land, the ‘Nineties withdrawal of the services of farming experts in the neighbourhoods was never understood – nor appreciated.

Radio Vanuatu reported significant tributes to the life and contribution to rural society of the late Charlot Long Wah who died yesterday. First Head of State Ati George Sokomanu spoke of the arrival of the Long Wah family in the country and of Charlot’s unique place in the rural community and the marketing of kava, nangae and other nuts.

Godwin Ligo gives an excellent and complete account of Charlot Long Wah in today’s Daily Post. And Charlot is quoted saying "I have done what I can and will continue to do it to assist [the people of Vanuatu]" just a week before his passing away. We are also reminded of the Long Wah contribution to Independence, the first National Arts Festival and Charlot’s rather more youthful services to radio-communications and to Radio Vila,.

Much space is also given in Daily Post today to an MP Willie Jimmy claim there will be a one billion vatu deficit this year, largely because of the failure of the Hong Kong capital investment scheme. The former Finance Minister, MP Jimmy calls on the Task Force overseeing this scheme to explain to Members of Parliament what went wrong with the scheme that "caused the suspension of the PRG Programme" that will cost the government VT 900 million. The public, as well as MPs, wants to know.


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