Appropriations Bill passed unanimously; unlawful land transfer by former Minister to cost Vt 45M

Vanuatu Parliament chamber

The extraordinary sitting of Parliament unanimously passed the Appropriations Bill for 2016. Finance Minister Pikioune praised both sides of the House for the comment and debate which highlighted the discussions. He was also pleased to announce that last year 2015 was the third year in a row to record a fiscal surplus to end the year 2015. The year 2013 saw a surplus of over Vt 250 million. In 2014 the surplus amounted to over Vt 300 million and last year’s was over Vt 500 million.

The sitting of Parliament was closed, having also considered a motion from Justice Minister Warsal to set up a committee to advise the Head of State on matters relating to pardoning. There is constitutional provision for such a committee and it would be the first time since Independence to have such a body in existence. It might well have avoided some of the political/ legal problems of the end of last year.

A decision of former Lands Minister Raphaël Worwor to unlawfully transfer Ifira land from the family Toro to another party, making the Minister himself the lessor, will cost Vanuatu Vt 45 million according to a particularly interesting judgement reported on page 1 of today’s Daily Post. Medici Investment Limited is a defendant in the case, and it was to this company the ultimate lease transfer was made as authorised by the Minister. Judgement was given by Justice Harrop on 15 March.

Some 804 cartons of cigarettes allegedly belonging to Rock International Tobacco Ltd have been buried at the Etas landfill on orders of the Customs Department. Two individuals behind the Rock company were those who came here to try to establish commercial tobacco growing on Tanna and ultimately became responsible for the planned long-haul airport development at Rentabau in the name of Vanuatu Trade Development Pty. Ltd. The cigarette importing company disappeared and they failed to renew their bond licence. (Daily Post)

The Council of Ministers remains committed to fee exemptions for schools affected by TC Pam, Education Minister Nirua stated at the graduation ceremony of INTV this week. This covers terms 2 and 3 of 2015 and term 1 of 2016. (Daily Post)