Well, the tropical depression was in G4 (top lefthand side) when Radio Vanuatu gave out the news. No name was given to the thing and the warning extended south to Malampa. The NDMO issued a blue alert for the northern islands.
… and see the last item today.
Prime Minister Carcasses says the work is underway to unite the "Modérés" again. He said this to Radio Vanuatu News when the Greens and UMP met in Port Vila at the weekend. UMP has said it will rally behind the Greens for their candidate, Jean Yves Chabot, the Radio announced. That said, the Port Vila UMP regional committee has approved Ephraim Songi for the April 15 election to fill the Crowby vacancy and Daily Post has also added that UMP President Serge Vohor says UMP will not contest the by-election. The union would seem still to need a degree of consummation. Maybe it will be a "rush" job, like getting the motion’s floor crossers back to Gov at the last minute.
Radio Vanuatu also announced that the Vanuatu Government, Foreign Minister Natapei says, has much to do to bring together the forces opposed to West Papua control by Indonesia, following the PM’s and DPM’s meeting with the UN Human Rights Council. The West Papua National National Council for Liberation (WPNCL) representative, Dr John Ondowame, praised the Vanuatu stand – "an excellent job."
A temporary structure is being created at Star Wharf to enable the newly arrived Vanuatu (formerly Moorea) Ferry to start services. It is presently unable to dock properly as the facilities needed did not exist. Daily Post has the story. Meanwhile P&O and the country’s tourism officials are still awaiting the Public Works construction of a bollard (granted it will cost VT 8 million, though P&O, it’s understood, was once going to pay) for the bigger cruise liners they want to bring in. It’s been many years of toktok. Maybe the Government feels a Rentabau 747 airport has a much higher tourism potential than that one.
The body of a 9 month old baby was found at Kawenu Field, Daily Post reports. The mother, it is said, has been questioned.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group is celebrating its anniversary this Friday, which is styled MSG Day. A ceremony will be held in front of the Government Building.
If you would like to receive up-to-the-minute information about the weather you are welcome to subscribe to the Australian-funded NDMO emergency short code messaging service. It’s free. Just text the word INFO (for updates in English) or SAVE (Bislama) to 166.
There is really only one seriously challenging news item today … The Supreme Court says the Ministry of Health must make a clear decision about the suspension of the three doctors, 7 months ago. So reports Radio Vanuatu News. It is appalling that the three remain suspended. Doctors Leslie Garae, Len Tarivonda and Russell Tamata were told by the Ministry, which is clearly unqualified to make such a blanket decision, they are not qualified for the work they were undertaking. To its shame the Public Service Commission was also complicit in this decision. To our shame, the press has not treated adequately with the issues involved – only the occasional interview. As a nation we are all implicated in requiring doctors to stay at home when there are long queues awaiting medical treatment and patients are told there is no weekend service. Justice Fatiaki told the State Law Office and the doctors’ lawyer Silas Hakwa, that the Ministry is obliged to make a clear decision and not allow the suspension to continue thus, as if indefinitely. The three are receiving their full pay for doing nothing. The State Law Office asked for more time to discuss with the Ministry. Hakwa allowed this, but insisted on a pre-trial hearing before the court case. This will take place 2 – 5 May.
No blog yesterday for a lot of reasons, but The Daily Post led with Government Parliamentary Secretary Yatan slamming the Opposition for employing bigotry against Prime Minister Carcasses. Yatan complained that Lini had reportedly asked "how can Carcasses, a Tahitian, represent Vanuatu’s views on the West Papua cause?" Yatan saw the remark as racial. Lini, in today’s Post, together with all 22 members of the Opposition and their supporters, is ready to met the Greens’ 3,000 supporters whom Yatan was prepared to unleash on the Opposition. Ham Lini has also stated that his remarks are not racist, but concerned with Vanuatu’s indigenous ownership of its leadership. He also wondered whether Yatan would be prepared to face the VNPF membership and to answer questions concerning the VNPF decisions to finance big foreign owned companies and projects like Wilco and Belmol, and the valuations achieved for those projects. Opposition parties have joined together to choose a non-Vila candidate for the national Parliament vacancy left by the late Patrick Crowby. What a good idea when so many of the Council of Ministers are residents of the capital and need to hold expensive CoM meetings in the islands to learn about the island life which engages Vanuatu and on which they make decisions. Candidacy applications for the election are now closing.
The Prime Minister has addressed the matter of Matthew and Hunter (Leka) islands in the United Nations Human Rights Council. He said that France "has begun to demonstrate its willingness for our indigenous people to visit two of our very sacred islands, Umaenupne (Matthew) and Leka, to fulfill their cultural obligations." This is the first announcement of any such promise of which this writer is aware. "I want to focus on the rights of our indigenous people to practice their cultural and spiritual rituals in the two islands," he said. Secondly, "I will bring to the forefront of our debate some of the issues regarding human rights abuses in West Papua." And the PM then went on to chronicle a number of cases of brutality on Papuans by Indonesian security forces. And he questioned the continued very existence of the West Papuan Melanesian people.
In other news missed yesterday, Trade will be bringing us a new VCMB in the near future to be concerned with the marketing of Vanuatu commodities. DG Marokon Aililee announced this following meetings with private stake-holders. A draft for the Bill is to be completed soon.
The ACTIV Association will soon be buying cocoa from Epi and Malekula at a good price which is better than the international market pays ACTIV says. And meanwhile work continues on the Vanuatu chocolate enterprise at the Second Lagoon for Island Chocolate Makers. The first machinery has arrived and a training programme has started for farmers to ensure a high quality product, Radio Vanuatu News assures listeners.
Today Post brings us news from a visiting IMF mission that real GDP growth moved up to 3% in 2013 and is expected to increase in the next few years with certain donor-funded projects coming on-line. The IMF statement did not mention population growth in any way. Inflation is said to remain ‘comfortable’ in the 0-4%. And CIIP was mentioned in terms of "may give a temporary boost to the budget; in the long term a more durable solution is required."
Barely gazetted, the first set of amendments to the new land laws are about to be tabled with the Malvatumauri. The full council of the Vaturisu will be meeting Minister Regenvanu next week to discuss changes to the Custom Land Management Act. "User guides" are also now being prepared by the Ministry and Department.
Daily Post yesterday had the presentation of Nikenike Vurobaravu’s credentials to Fiji’s Head of State Ratu Epeli Nailatikau at the Suva State House in Fiji. Nikenike becomes the new High Commissioner, and with the news coming from Foreign Affairs we can assume that is the correct title for Vanuatu’s official representative there.
Policy think tank condemns PNG PM’s failure to act on land grabs
By Jemima Garrett for Pacific Beat
A US think tank has criticised Papua New Guinea’s prime minister for failing to act on the findings of his Commission of Inquiry into controversial land leases.
Three commissioners took more than a year to investigate the leasing of more than 5 million hectares of land, often to foreign interests, without the permission of land owners.
The research findings have been revealed in a new report by the Oakland Institute and the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), titled ‘On Our Land- Modern Land Grabs Reversing Independence’.
The Oakland Institute has also launched an accompanying film about land acquisitions in PNG and the human and environmental cost of land and resource loss.
Policy director Frederic Mousseau produced eight reports on land grabs in Africa before turning his attention to Papua New Guinea.
Mr Mousseau says land grabbing is taking place in PNG on a "shocking" scale.
"I have coordinated all the studies of land acquisition in Africa and I am afraid I have seen in Papua New Guinea some of the most shocking examples of land grabbing and extraction of resources for foreign interests in a developing country," he said.
More than 11 per cent of the Pacific nation’s land mass has been let out under controversial Special Agricultural and Business Leases, or SABLs.
"Processes that were supposed to have been followed obviously weren’t followed," Claire Kourous, from the PNG NGO Act Now, said.
"So we had major forestry and logging companies just come in and take advantage of the SABLs instead of going through the normal procedures to get proper forest management authorities."
In Turubu in East Sepik province, ancient forests were clear-felled without permission of landowners.
Gabriel Mollock, from the Turubu Eco Forestry forum, says laws must be scrutinised to ensure people are able to give their "free, prior, informed consent."
"It is not development; development is about people, improvement of their standard of living, their quality of life, infrastructure. But looking at what is happening right now, it is like ripping off our resources," he said.
Turubu landowner Martin Shukei says he feels let down by the government.
"The government said this SABL is good for the customary landowners, for that reason we take this step to get our customary land into this SABL lease," he said.
"From there we found out our land has been grabbed and has been taken away by foreigners and other smart ones."
Special Agricultural and business leases were intended to make land available for agriculture not for logging.
But Mr Mouseau says the Oakland Institute’s research found the leases are not suitable for agriculture either.
"The key problem we find is a policy which is led by the government, which is about freeing up land for developments, which is ..taking away customary land from landowners and giving it to foreign interests," he said.
In September Prime Minster Peter O’Neill presented the first part of a Commission of Inquiry report into the land scandal to parliament.
Mr Mousseau is critical of his failure to act on its findings.
"It was really interesting to hear the reaction of the prime minister when he tabled the report and we had heard previously his comments on the SABL schemes saying it was full of corruption, it was a scandal, it was a shame for the country," he said.
"Then it was really astonishing for us as well as for local colleagues in PNG to hear his conclusion.
"We are going to review the legislative framework governing land acquisitions but we are going to continue the policy of freeing up land for development."
The Oakland Institute recommends policies that look at how to support local farmers to develop agriculture rather than how to lease out their land.
This report is by Jemima Garrett for Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat
Daily Post today goes a long way to explaining the Opposition stand on Carcasses, following the Opposition press conference yesterday. They have vowed to remove him. Indigenous ni-Vanuatu, says Charlot Salwai the Opposition Whip, are beginning to lose the ownership and leadership of their country. Carcasses is blamed for the downfall of earlier governments – Korman’s, Natapei’s and Kilman’s. A real risk is seen to sovereignty and "the Opposition is determined to remove Moana Carcasses and take back leadership of Vanuatu," Salwai promised. There has been no development under the Carcasses leadership, it was said, "Except lots of unfulfilled promises." That the Prime Minister no longer has the support of the majority of MPs was a main reason for the motion, along with citizenship sales in Hong Kong, the tax on the export of local commodities, directives for the VNPF to lend money to foreign owned companies such as Wilco and Belmol, a failure to employ local pilots and the deterioration of health and education were all blamed directly on to Carcasses himself whose educational and business accomplishments were also ridiculed.
The Opposition press conference also makes clear MPs paid for their camp at Tropicana Lodge, from whence the new ministers defected to join the government. MP Tony Nari, bitter at the defection, said "young MPs of today want to make a difference and stand for what they believe is right for the country by committing to foot the bill for the Opposition camp." MP Ham Lini observed there had to be expatriate influence at work that should entice the four MPs aside at the last minute to join Carcasses. He questioned what those business interests might be.
The Opposition group also sees CIIP as a disaster. CIIP is regarded as a main thrust in losing the indigenous leadership which is what Independence was all about. Parliamentarians were given false information when told about CIIP and what it would bring the country. A new bank has been allowed into the country to control and distribute the revenue CIIP is supposed to bring, together with the Permanent Residence Plan. Deputy Opposition Leader Salwai envisaged all sorts of wrong and criminal people coming to settle and allowed to do so because they are rich. They would then want land which is the life of man ples as Opposition Leader Lini observed.
Subdivisions are being stopped until the government introduces a subdivision policy says Environment Director, Albert William. He sees real estate agents and landowners having had a field day promoting such ventures without any guidelines. There will, in future, have to be certainty over infrastructure such as electricity, roads, communications, health facilities, sports and schools before any such venture can go on the market. The story leads today’s Post.
Secretary General Surmat of Tafea Provincial Council, says he will continue to strengthen what is planned in Tafea’s area councils Radio Vanuatu News tells us today. He wants a good and strong commitment from other stake-holders and civil society and private business for the development of the province. He said this on taking office replacing Ketty Napuat. This writer cannot establish if the switch of the two secretaries general has ever been publicly explained, Tafea’s transferred to the Banks and a Banksian to Tafea.
Also in Post today: the workers at the Vila Central Hospital are receiving their entitlements. They showed their appreciation to Labour, Police and Health personnel.
Buses are being fined VT 10.000 if they enter the market area, a move intended to prevent a great many of the traffic jams and slowdowns in the capital.
Opposition Whip Charlot Salwai has told a press conference today that indigenous ni-Vanuatu must own the leadership of the country to save it for the country’s future. He spoke of a need to register political parties and make them accountable to the auditor general. He said too many wrong persons were buying their way into politics by handing out saucepans and meat and giving kava to voters. This was a lead item in the mid-day news on Radio Vanuatu today. It will be further covered tomorrow in the print media and possibly on TBV tonight.
Special events are being held for the National Day for Custom Chiefs tomorrow, 5 March. Chief Tirsupe of the Malvatumauri National Council said the theme will be Restore, Strengthen and Empower Our Traditional Authorities. North Pentecost Chiefs have arranged their own programme and creation of a constitution, and a special day is planned at Freswota for all the sections of that huge suburb.
There are still nine political parties united in the Opposition despite the Prime Minister elevating a number of Opposition leaders to the Council of Ministers to prevent a motion of censure in his leadership. A Post report yesterday explains they came together at a gathering at the nakamal of the Leader of the Opposition Ham Lini last Saturday. They simply want government which is not subject to the demands of wealthy foreigners. One of the last minute floor crossers back to government last Wednesday, Willie Jimmy, is Acting Prime MInister today. This comes about because both PM Carcasses and Deputy PM Natapei left on Friday to attend a European meeting concerned with West Papua. It is the Human Rights Council Meeting of the United Nations.
The Reserve Bank now declares the one and two vatu coins and the 100 vatu note are no longer legal tender. People who still have stocks of any may take them to the Reserve Bank to be exchanged for legal tender.
20 Chinese travel agents are in the country to promote Vanuatu as a tourism destination.
There was no bulletin on Saturday, for which apologies.
The Labour Department has seen workmen’s pay issues resolved concerning employment on the Japanese building project of the new Vanuatu Central Hospital. Police were called on several occasions. The workmen were not happy with the management of their terms and conditions by Pacific Consulting Group Limited (PCGL), the local partner of the Dai Nippon Construction Company. Dai Nippon (DNC) was paying VT 500 per hour and the employees reportedly receiving only VT 227 per hour. PCGL claimed the amounts taken by their company were in keeping with their contract, recognizing the Japanese company lacked the skills to employ persons locally. Today is settlement day for outstandings to be paid up.
Labour has also been warning the public against paying fees to unregistered New Zealand RSE and Australia SWP agents. Such tricksters have turned up on a number of islands. Huge fines can be levied for the fraud.
Government Friday signed a contract with Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie – AUF – to provide tertiary studies in French. Francophone studies for a bachelor’s degree in Economic and Social Administration at the AUF for 2014 have been launched by Dean Francis Querol of the University of Toulouse 1 Capitole and Ambassador Michel Djokovik. There was a 72% pass rate last year, and this year 63 students are enrolled. Education Minister Loughman said Friday’s signing formalized an existing agreement.
Government is said to be planning an international symposium on West Papua. Foreign MIniaster Natapei told Daily Post’s Winston Tarere that the "government will act as a neutral environment where all the different groups can come and sit together under one roof and try to look beyond their differences and unite behind issues of common interest." He suggested the plan was an alternative to the failure of the fact-finding mission of the MSG foreign ministers.