The Vanuatu Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, has just resigned.
In an extraordinary move, following Kilman’s resignation, Parliamentary Speaker George Wells closed the sitting of Parliament and would not listen to the demands of the Opposition, after Opposition Leader Edward Natapei moved to have a new prime minister elected immediately, seconded by Ralph Regenvanu. The Speaker announced there would be an extra-ordinary sitting Friday next week. This is unlikely to be readily accepted by the majority ‘opposition’.
The Opposition in Parliament was standing by to take over government this afternoon following its motion of no confidence. The Government threatened to boycott, and had earlier today said it might need a Sunday sitting to advance the no confidence debate, however its Members were in attendance. There was a quorum. In another extraordinary move, Kilman Government Minister of Internal Affairs Toara Daniel crossed the floor to join the Opposition.
Radio Vanuatu News this morning indicated the determination of the Vanua’aku Pati and its allies to have West Papua join the Melanesian Spearhead Group as a full member, should they form a new government today. Opposition Leader Natapei told Radio Australia he would want Indonesia removed as an observer before July.
In other news today, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu Board member Tom Bayer has been removed. Finance Minister Charlot Salwai claims that Bayer has a conflict of interest as he is also an agent of private Vanuatu bank the European Bank, reports VBTC News. The Minister’s decision follows the Act governing the Reserve Bank. Former Finance Minister Carcasses appointed Bayer.
The sailing boat Phocea is ready to depart, and is currently refueling at Port Vila’s main wharf. The self-styled Deputy Commissioner of Maritime Affairs, Guy Benard, says he expects Government will learn that compensation is required by the self-styled owner (or more likely lessee) of Phocea, because of Vanuatu government officials holding the vessel in a manner he sees as equivalent to ‘piracy’. Benard seems to be overlooking the Phocea’s series of fake registrations. Benard must have had similar feelings himself when he arrived in Port Vila, all those years ago, bearing elephant tusks.
Port Vila MP Willie Jimmy says he will appeal the striking out of his electoral petition against Prime Minister Sato Kilman, VBTC Radio News reports Jimmy saying at a press conference yesterday. He says the Electoral Commission has allowed an offence to go unheeded. Jimmy says that a debt to the state has been sanctioned in his constituency, and that he will appeal yesterday’s judgement. The radio news story did not say whether an appeal can be allowed in such a matter or if he has to submit a different case.
The Independent’s ‘smoking gun’ for its story last week on PM Kilman receiving USD200,000 from Pascal Anh Quan Saken is an email to that paper from Saken saying “Bro! Never! But I have sent lots of money to Madame Goiset, in order to pay the legal bills of mr PM sato kilman, during his fight against the motion of ‘non confidence’ in April; 2011!! Warm regards”. The email contains typos and grammatical errors similar to those found in other documents by Pascal Anh Quan Saken. The Independent also refers to a series of emails believed to have been sent from Brussels where Anh Quan claims he financed the restructuring of the Vanuatu Embassy there. Elsewhere he claims to have carried out this work after graduating from the Charles Henry Saken University at Pango. He wants to restructure the Vanuatu United Nations mission. He is working as a volunteer. More such fabrications are expected in the Phoceable future as the present Government continues to conceal a matter which has destroyed all of its credibility—making diplomats of dubious people with hidden agendas.
Meantime, The Independent has more news of Sakens falling out. Last year, ‘Mme. 15%’ Thi Tham Goiset was charged with forgery contrary to section 140 and uttering forged documents contrary to section 141 of the Penal Code Act. Both charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars. Furthermore, last year Mr Saken filed a criminal case against Mme. Goiset alleging the Vanuatu diplomat forged his signature so she could transfer the ownership of a vehicle belonging to Anh Quan to herself. An Independent newspaper investigation finds that this criminal case is still pending at the State Prosecutor’s Office. And now MP Robert Bohn Jr. of Vanuatu Maritime Services Ltd says the owner of the Phocea has contacted them to ask for registration of the Phocea on the Vanuatu Shipping Registry, Bohn says on the front page of today’s Daily Post. Might VMS Ltd advise the Commissioner of Police on the identity of the owner in order to assist lawyer Less John Napuati with his prosecution ‘in rem’ of the vessel? This would help the Trans-National Crime Unit by clearing the name of the real owner and releasing further information about the illegal documentation (on which VMS Ltd must now be clear) which has bedevilled the Phocea since its arrival in Vanuatu.
Today’s Daily Post carries an interesting letter from the Santo Chamber of Commerce pointing out how nationally desirable it should be for any new airport to be built in Luganville rather than Port Vila. It makes no silly reference to 747s and points out how an airport could be built without having to depend on patronage-seeking investors.
Lastly, Daily Post also carries a full page story on George Bogiri and his conflict of interest in Pacific Migration Consultants, under the banner of Transparency International Vanuatu. Eagle-eyed readers will observe that it quotes extensively from the story we published on the matter, but attributes all quotes to the Daily Post. Bigfala shame, Daily Post and TIV—credit where credit is due, please.
Vanuatu Meteorological Services have just released a tsunami advisory following a 8.0 earthquake in the Santa Cruz Islands north of Vanuatu. The advisory reads:
Tsunami Advisory Number 2 for Vanuatu issued by the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department at 1:30 pm Wednesday, February 06, 2013
At 12:12 pm local time today 06th February 2013, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 was located at 10.9 degrees south, 165.1 Degrees East. This is about 575 kilometers north northwest of Luganville, Santo.
An earthquake of this size has the potential to cause destructive Tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) advises people throughout Vanuatu to take appropriate action and precautionary measures upon receiving this advisory. This includes immediate evacuation from coastal areas and to higher grounds.
People throughout northern and central Vanuatu who have moved to high grounds are asked to remain. Those who have not, are asked to do so.
People are advised to continue to listen to all radio outlets. The next advisory will be updated today at 2.30 pm today.
The Prime Minister’s Office wants the Police to investigate whether Hilaire Bule has defamed PM Kilman in last weekend’s Independent newspaper, where he alleged that Pascal Anh Quan Saken contributed USD200,000 to PM Kilman’s 2012 election campaign. Bule says he will offer proof of the transaction this coming weekend in the Independent, VBTC News reported yesterday. As we have reported previously, a police investigation into Anh Quan Saken and the arrival of the Phocea was opened six months ago by the Police Trans-National Crime Unit, but promptly halted by the Government for unspecified reasons. The officer in charge of the investigation, Andrew Kalman, was suspended, and remains so to this day. Patunvanu, however, gets a full page of today’s Daily Post to rant in. It seems he views the media revelations about Phocea as a “conspiracy against Vanuatu” and calls for an Ombudsman report. What a good idea. An Ombudsman report on Saken’s illegal activities with the Phocea and Government Ministers might finally reveal why members of the Government of this nation are getting into bed with an alleged drug and arms smuggler.
Speaking of libellious statements, Vanuatu blogger Phil Manhire strenuously denies all assertions by Jeff Joel Patunvanu that he is associated with Pascal Anh Quan Saken. As well as blogging, Manhire sits on the board of Vanuatu Youth Against Corruption.
Anh Quan Saken company director working for Youth Against Corruption in Vanuatu, claims outraged Government PRO. Government Public Relations Officer Jeff Joel Patunvanu questions why Radio New Zealand International and Radio Australia raise many allegations about the yacht Phocea yet do not speak of Pascal Anh Quan Saken’s business in Australia, he said on Radio Vanuatu and in a emailed media release yesterday. Patunvanu brought this up together with Anh Quan Saken’s bogus curriculum vitae, which highlights the Vietnamese renegade’s claimed “academic achievements and business calibre.” In the CV, Anh Quan claims to have studied at a university named after his brother in Pango, Charles Henry University, which does not exist. Patunvanu says Pascal Anh Quan Saken is a wealthy businessman with businesses in many countries including Vanuatu and Australia. But the issue of the yacht Phocea is a foreign issue, he says, without explaining his logic. Patunvanu reiterates the claim that Anh Quan Saken did not fund Prime Minister Sato Kilman or his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) A the last election. The PRO also claimed an expatriate working in Vanuatu in the NGO Youth Against Corruption is the director of a Saken-owned company in Australia. This was denied by Youth Against Corruption personnel yesterday. The lies, deceptions and falsehoods surrounding the Phocea saga continue, whether from Pascal Anh Quan Saken or the Vanuatu Government spokesman. PM Kilman has said nothing about the vessel, even though he attempted to have it released from its Vila Harbour detention.
The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock and Bio-Security Kalfau Moli says the separation of Livestock and Quarantine into two separate departments will improve their work and is in the best interests of the country. Quarantine will now be called Bio-Security Vanuatu and become a Government entity, the Minister said. Most readers of this blog have always understood it to be a public entity all along. Minister Kalfau Moli spoke of the financial difficulties Government faces while officially announcing the new arrangement. “While the development is good”, he told Radio Vanuatu News, without explaining how it would be good, “all civil servants must bear in mind the financial constraints government faces. They must work to increase government revenue.” He blamed previous governments for their failure to give priority to the needs of agriculture, but assured his audience that this will change with him.
31 students will benefit from Graon mo Jastis Pati Malakula MP Danou Nalet’s Malakula scholarship scheme. As with other Graon mo Jastis Pati MPs, Nalet is funding scholarships from his parliamentary allocation. His contribution amounts to over Vt 1 million. Over 200 students applied. The selection panel for scholarships comprises leading educationalists in Malampa along with members of selected business houses. Graon mo Jastis expects each MP to contribute 25% of their allocation to the party’s education scheme for their constituency.
An investigative report in last weekend’s Independent newspaper alleges renegade mega-yacht claimant Pascal Anh Quan Saken gave USD200,000 to PM Sato Kilman for his 2012 election campaign. Prime Ministerial spokesmen have repeatedly denied this, but the Independent’s “close source from Government” said Saken was “trapped” by Vanuatu politicians, and the Vanuatu Government was implicated at the highest level in Anh Quan’s forged documentation and diplomatic passports.
The weekend’s Vanuatu Times says former Epi MP Ioane Simon is confident of a by-election on Epi because Robert Bohn Jr. has not been adopted by an Epi family, as is required by the Representation of the People Act. Ioane Simon is expecting judgement this week.
Vanuatu Times also has Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy, claiming that he was just doing his diplomatic duty for a fellow citizen in requesting passage for Vu Anh Quan Saken to Port Moresby, PNG, as Anh Quan had “legitimate and validated documentation.” There is no reference to Anh Quan’s use of allegedly forged papers in other matters such as the Phocea yacht registration. He makes no mention of the tremendous engineering help Saken claims to have provided for the Brussels-based embassy.
The Supreme Court will give its ruling early next week on Willie Jimmy’s petition contesting PM Sato Kilman’s eligibility to stand in last year’s election. Political maneuvering is going ahead full swing ahead of the court ruling. RNZI reports that some Government MPs have already been lured to the Opposition in advance of the ruling.
Daily Post carries a story that quotes a former registered migration agent from Australia now residing here who says the fees for Australian migration agents’ services quoted by George Bogiri are misleading. Former agent Robert Rokvic also points out that the any move to outsource Government services could lead to the “opening up of the flood gates” for other ministries to use private agents to collect other government fees and taxes. In Australia, migration agents must be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, which provides regulation of their activities. Says their website: “Registered Migration Agents are bound by a Code of Conduct and are required to have an in-depth knowledge of Australian migration law and procedure and meet high professional and ethical standards.”
Bogiri has had a lot of media attention but has completely side-stepped the issue of his personal conflict of interest in Pacific Migration Consultants. Both the Constitution and the Leadership Code Act are crystal clear on this; leaders are obliged not to use their office for personal gain, and they must disclose any business interests in any matters where they may have a conflict of interest.
Radio New Zealand International reports: “Pascal Anh Quan Saken has not returned to Vanuatu since leaving last July before he could be questioned in relation to the 75 metre yacht. It was raided and seized by police, immigration and customs officers on suspicion of passport fraud and drugs trading. All criminal matters relating to the Phocea have been dropped but the Ports Authority [sic] says the vessel is unable to leave the country after it was confirmed that it does not have Maltese registration. Mr Saken says his boat is being confiscated so that officials can charge high berthing fees. He also accuses Vanuatu police of piracy when raiding the Phocea, including wearing shoes on the yacht’s Persian rug interior.”
Prime Minister Sato Kilman has not made any statement concerning Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot or Pascal Anh Quan Saken through the mainstream media in Vanuatu yet. This comes about when their partnership is the most discussed topic in the media and nakamals of the capital. Opposition Leader Edward Natapei, in the Daily Post on Friday, insisted the PM terminate Carlot. Natapei sees Carlot’s involvement with Saken as detrimental to Vanuatu’s international credibility.
VBTC News this weekend carried a complaint by Immigration officers over the establishment of a new company, Pacific Migration Consultants, by the DG of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri. The Principal Immigration Officer, François Batick said the new company will be able to earn over Vt 200 million annually.
The President of the Vanuatu Vietnamese Association, Dinh Van Than, says Pascal Anh Quan Saken was born in Vietnam and lived there until he was 11 years old. He then moved to France for 15 years and became a French citizen, he says in this weekend’s Daily Post. “It was a lie that Pascal Saken went to school in Port Vila as I would have known him. Instead Pascal Saken went on to live in Bangkok to this day”, Than told Daily Post. Dinh Van Than was born in Vanuatu in 1944 and has lived here ever since. Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot had told freelance journalist Hilaire Bule, when the Phocea was boarded in July last year, how he came to know Pascal Anh Quan. The Minister replied “While you were still playing in your jungle [on Pentecost], I was going to school with him in town.” Than says Saken did not attend any school, in town, and it is a lie to say he did.
Pascal Anh Quan Saken sees himself as the deputy head of the Vanuatu European Union embassy in Brussels. He claims he still holds a valid Vanuatu diplomatic passport, even though the Prime Minister’s Office cancelled it and advised the Commissioner of Police that the passport was cancelled last year. Radio Vanuatu News yesterday morning carried a report based on an interview Pascal Anh Quan gave Radio New Zealand International on Friday. Saken claims to have been the victim of bad publicity while in Papua New Guinea and says that reports are all untrue and just aimed at damaging his reputation. He is still working hard for Vanuatu, he says. He is hoping to work more with Europe and the United States to build the structure of his country, Vanuatu. Saken says he cannot come to Vanuatu because his sailing boat Phocea is still being held by the Government on suspicion of carrying arms or drugs. He says he has heard all the allegations against him. While in PNG, he could not meet the US Ambassador as planned, but hopes to go back to PNG next month. He has also heard his passport was revoked by PM Kilman last September, but he believes the passport he holds is still valid.
The Citizenship Commission has announced that adult “adoption” does not entitle the adoptee to Vanuatu citizenship. The Citizenship Commission will continue to expect new citizen applicants to have resided in Vanuatu for more than ten years. Read the rest of this entry »