Finance Minister orders suspension of VNPF General Manager; PM under threat from Phocea scandal

Finance Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil has asked the board of the Vanuatu National provident Fund (VNPF) to suspend the General Manager and other senior staff who have serious allegations against them. He says there will be a Ministerial inquiry. This was reported Monday night by Radio Vanuatu News.

Too little too late, the chiefs and church leaders on Efate say. According to Daily Post, following the meeting of these community leaders yesterday afternoon, they are giving only 48 hours to the Government to ensure an inquiry and their own representation on such an inquiry, to ensure transparency.

The Ministerial instruction was delivered by letter yesterday to VNPF Chairman Simil Johnson and anticipates an inquiry by an investigating team to report through the Auditor General. The Minister says this should send a clear message to fund members and stakeholders that the board takes the allegations made seriously. According to the chiefs and pastors it will not. Therefore they insist on a presence in any inquiry.

We must also keep an eye on Moana Carcasses’ involvement with the VNPF. Carcasses has a history of making gifts to his cronies. Our VNPF funds are still under threat, possibly even a greater threat. We must all be vigilant.

Meanwhile, the President of the Political Commission of Nagriamel, John Lum, has written to Prime Minister Sato Kilman, asking him to answer allegations concerning the VNPF and the yacht Phocea in the media. He says that if the Prime Minister continues to be silent, his coalition will face “strong challenges” in the forthcoming election campaign because the Government has failed to address these matters of national interest.

The weekend’s Independent carried additional Phocea-related news of the masked gunman at Etas. He is described as a “Rambo-style intruder wearing army fatigues” who insisted on being taken to a particular senior civil servant’s home. He was told the civil servant was away from Efate. The gunman was said to be a foreigner.

The Independent also reported MP Ralph Regenvanu deploring the release of the crew of the Phocea on bail. One is believed wanted by the Australian Federal Police, he said. Regenvanu said the takeover of the immigration portfolio by the Prime Minister Sato Kilman is a cover up for the Phocea affair.

Vt 30 million ignites the Phocea arms scare is the page three headline of Daily Post. The story links the Vietnamese phony who ran away when the Phocea was first boarded. He was allegedly adopted by the Saken family of Santo when he arrived several years ago. He was illegally naturalised, it seems. He was a business associate of the Goiset Saken extended family of Vila. “When [Santo] Saken was away, 100 of his cattle were allegedly sold to the Vanuatu National Provident Fund to keep in their farm at Bellevue (Bouffa, presumably, unless they have acquired other plantations through VNPF fund members’ savings).” This management of the cattle was to be done by a ni-Vanuatu business person looking after the farm who allegedly borrowed Vt 30 million from him (Saken). The Tongan and Samoan heavies brought in illegally by Saken were supposed to reclaim their boss’s property.

Local rumour amongst francophones now alleges a Phocea involvement in an issue of debts arising from last year’s recognition of Abkhazia. This was an entirely commercial matter, supposed by its proposers to benefit Vanuatu. The renegade and runaway mastermind of the Phocea visit, Mr Pascal Anh Quan Saken, was said to be involved in brokering a deal whereby these debts to Russian and Abkhazian interests would be paid off through Vanuatu citizenship and passports.