No school today as Ministry of Education runs out of funds following illegal payment to Snoopys

A sign says "No school today" at a school in Pango village, Efate, 17 October 2012, following a death in the village.

Ministers steal remaining education funds to pay illegal Snoopy’s claim. This is what today’s Daily Post headline should say. Instead, it states simply “Ministry runs out of funds”. Either way, this should never have happened. And it’s not as if there can be two sides to the story. The Government cannot justify paying Vt 17,000,000 to Snoopys when two separate Supreme Court decisions in February and April 2009 said NO monies should be paid. Both of these struck out the civil claim by the long-defunct Snoopys Stationery. However, the Council of Ministers in May decided it would settle anyway. So they stole all the funds left in the Education budget to pay this illegal bill.

Vanuatu’s parents and citizens should be very, very angry about this. And they should make their feelings known in the ballot box on October 30.

The photo above of a sign at a Pango school was quite clear yesterday. There was to be no school. It was, however, for a village death. It was not due to the absence of funding. But will the new government that forms following the election be able to find funds to cover this theft of state funds on behalf of Snoopys? Or will we see “No School Today” signs around the country? By letting this dirty money go to Snoopys, Prime Minister Sato Kilman, his Cabinet, Education Minister Marcellino Pipite and Finance Minister Moana Carcasses are all guilty of theft: all of the Ministers of the caretaker Government are guilty of theft. And no matter what Richard Kaltongga might say there simply aren’t two sides to this story. Responsible reporting can only say what this blog said yesterday and Daily Post says today.

Radio Vanuatu leads with the news that the 40 pieces of land being sold to Lands Department officials were not necessarily requested by Lands personnel. Possibly no staff members had applied for them. The Lands Management and Planning Committee said Minister of Lands Steven Kalsakau had given instructions to authorise the transfer of these lands to his staff and a senior staff member of the Luganville Municipality, a senior staff member of Sanma Province, a senior staff member of the Forestry Department (Santo, another in Agriculture (Santo) and a senior staff member of Public Works in Santo. However, a public servant who spoke with Radio Vanuatu News said his name was on the list but he had never applied for land himself. He said the transfer of these titles by his Minister has to be illegal when there is no application for the land in question. Is this person trying to evade the likely repercussions? Possibly. A simple check of the title of the land parcel in question will show whether he signed or not.

Regardless, this ‘gift’ of cheap land is a bribe. By ‘giving’ these parcels of land to selected staff, Minister Kalsakau is buying these public servants. They now indebted to him, and like any debt, there will come a time when the debt must be repaid. How? We don’t yet know. Perhaps what he is buying is their silence, or maybe they will be required to do his bidding later on. As was noted in this blog yesterday, Minister Kalsakau is still facing Supreme Court fraud charges in relation to land dealings. Perhaps this is why he is being so generous with property that does not belong to him.

It should be pointed out that this is not the first time that this has happened. The roots of this sickness reach back right to the 1980s, when many of the Vanua’aku Pati “fathers of independence” helped themselves to cheap land in the capital following independence. No doubt, like those today, they created a rationale for their actions, and probably some of them even believed it. But this is beside the point. Their actions created a precedent; they made it acceptable for Vanuatu government officials to appropriate state property. And once this sickness was allowed to take hold, they were powerless to stop it; their own corrupt actions made it impossible for them to speak out against the corrupt actions of others. Corruption bred further corruption. And so here we are today, paying the price yet again.

Daily Post today observes campaign rallies failing to attract huge crowds in town as they used to. Undoubtedly this reflects the feelings of people against the present Government, which has stolen both people’s land and their children’s’ education. And perhaps it reflects a disdain of politicians generally. The characteristics we should be seeking in a candidate are honesty and service. Luckily, there are enough professionals still uncorrupted who could bring wisdom to the running of Government. We need people in our Government who will serve the nation and who are honest.