Vanuatu daily news digest | 3 January 2013

Happy new year to all of our readers! We are back online after a brief intermission.

Today’s Daily Post  shows that the provisions of the Vanuatu Maritime Act may prove costly to new citizen Vu Anh Quan Saken, alleged owner of the yacht Phocea. The vessel has been detained for several months awaiting legal papers to prove its ownership. So far, investigators have only been presented with forged papers. Using false documentation is an international crime under the Port State Control (PSC) maritime agreement to which Vanuatu is a signatory, the Tokyo MoU. The Prime Minister has attempted to have the vessel released, as did the late Minister Harry Iauko. But Ports and Harbour Dept personnel are determined that the matter be dealt with legally,as their international reputations are on the line.

The Opposition is taking Prime Minister Sato Kilman to task over his intention to release the Phocea. Under the PSC MoU to which Vanuatu is a signatory, only the licensing officers of the Ports and Harbour Department are entitled to do this. The Opposition has issued a press release noting that the PM has stated that matters of law and order are to be dealt with by the appropriate authorities, but the Opposition accuses Kilman of hypocrisy, as he has taken the Phocea case out of the hands of the legal authorities. The Opposition asks in whose interests is the PM is acting, Daily Post reports.

Tony Nari is the new Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities. Nari, elected to Parliament in October last year under the banner of the Iauko Group, is also now the Iauko bloc’s leader following the death of Harry Iauko.

The suspended DG of Health, Howard Aru, is asking for a decision concerning his case this week. Now that DGs are political appointees, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission Holi Simon has been enabled to refer the matter back to the PM. Simon said the Prime Minister will  make a statement on the matter this week.

Personnel problems in the Ministry of Health have also been blamed by an MP for the death of a baby and an elderly person in South East Ambrym, reports yesterday’s Daily Post. Both qualified personnel of the Utas clinic took holiday leave at the same time, putting the clinic in the hands of inexperienced staff, says Ambrym MP Maki Simelum.

Proxy votes for the four provincial elections are open and will close on 8 February, the Electoral Commission advised on Radio Vanuatu.

Seven people were charged last week in relation to the death of Joseph Marae and the vandalism of his house that followed his assault. One was charged with reckless driving causing death. The others have been charged with unlawful assembly, criminal trespass, damage to property and/or theft, Daily Post reported yesterday.