Barak Sope, convicted fraudster and friend to international conmen, says foreign investors corrupt Vanuatu politics

Barak Sope used the radio and TV election policy forum at Wan Smolbag yesterday to lecture the audience on the dangers of foreign investors corrupting Vanuatu’s politicians. No doubt he speaks from experience — Sope was implicated by the Ombudsman in the 1996 USD100 million (vt9.1 billion) Peter Swanson fraud, he forged two guarantees of Vanuatu sovereign funds to foreign “investors” worth USD23 million (vt2 billion) and was put sent to prison for forgery, and he was also implicated in the attempt to give between USD50 and 300 million (vt4.5–27.3 billion) in Vanuatu Government bonds to Indian conman Amarendra Nath Ghosh and was booted out of Government as a result. He has absolutely no credibility lecturing us about the dangers of corruption. None whatsoever. Did he keep Ghosh’s ruby as a memento, we wonder? Perhaps we should put it in the National Museum as a monument to the greed of Vanuatu’s so-called big men. Or maybe we should put it in the front of Parliament House, instead of that bloody statue…

The media is going quiet on controversial issues at a time when the airwaves and newspaper columns should be full of the wrongdoings of many of those standing for public office in the upcoming election. The public must continue to be reminded of their appalling track record.

However, we do at least have Mele Trustees and Mele chief Simeon Poilapa today in Daily Post warning Efate rural voters not to believe the false claims of candidates offering leases to Mele land to potential voters. Just as we had the warning yesterday from Transparency International Vanuatu that the Minister Steven Kalsakau’s “gift” of urban land leases to Dept. of Lands and other public servants are likely to be declared invalid in court.

Otherwise, it all seems to be good news. Ballot boxes are being sent to the islands, all the media tell us. The municipalities are working closer together. Moso foresees self-reliance in sandalwood. The Telecoms Regulator will hold a consultation on Vanuatu internet on 21 November.

What happened to the new ballot boxes that the Electoral Office had planned, we wonder, that were to be made out of transparent perspex? How much money was spent on this white elephant?

Vt 65 million has been allocated for running the general election. This goes to printing ballot papers and travel and transport arrangements for ballot boxes and polling officers around the Vanuatu islands. Acting Principal Election Officer Lionel Kaluat has told Radio Vanuatu News that the Electoral Office is expecting to keep within the budgeted amount.