Vanuatu daily news digest | 15 January 2013

Breaking news: Two expatriates were taken for police questioning this week after being seen robbing an ATM in the centre of Vila. The security officer of another bank saved the day. We don’t have the full story, but will report on it when more news becomes available. We don’t have the resources to follow up all news tips we receive, but we are expecting more concerning the allegations of rape against a senior Minister we mentioned yesterday.

The Minister responsible for prisons, Minister Thomas Laken, announced on Radio Vanuatu News he was planning to send the inmates of Port Vila’s correctional facilities back to their home islands. When detainees are kept in the same place they cause too many problems, he said, especially when they run away. He went on to suggest that this would make the detainees the responsibility of community leaders like pastors and chiefs, thereby minimising the burden for Government. Have any pastors or chiefs been consulted about this idea, we wonder, or is this just more policy-making on the run? As many as 70% of the inmates of Vanuatu’s prisons (almost all men) are in jail because they have been convicted of sexual crimes like rape and incest. Sounds like a great recipe for communal harmony in the islands, Minister Laken. Vanuatu’s women will be thrilled with the idea. And what if the inmates are from town, or of mixed parentage, Minister? What’s your plan then?

Opposition Leader Edward Natapei is highly critical of Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s appointment of Moana Carcasses as Parliamentary Secretary for political and technical corporation (sic), he says in today’s Daily Post. The PM’s Office already houses the Aid Coordination Unit, so Carcasses’ appointment is an “unjustifiable” and unnecessary duplication, says Natapei. He also questions where the budget for the position will come from, since Government has no funds set aside for the position in this year’s budget.

The Kilman Government, it is plain to see, doesn’t really care that much about the actual work of running a country, and could not care less what the public thinks. The first priority of the Kilman Government is to cling to power, so we are likely to see more juicy deals for political allies in the months to come. We can only hope that Parliament gives this ludicrous appointment thorough scrutiny; we want to see the full details of Carcasses’ terms and conditions and his salary package. We don’t need another fat cat taking a skim of money intended for Vanuatu’s development à la ‘Mme. 15%’ Goiset.

Director General of Trade Marokon Alilee described 2012 as the best year ever for Trade. He and his colleagues were visited by Trade Minister Ham Lini, doing his round of the Departments in his portfolio. Alilee spoke of trade’s importance to the economy, and he thanked the Government for being making human resources available for developing the sector. Tourism was singled out as the main contributor to national income; however, it was not explained what the Vt 260 million annual budget of the Ministry actually achieves. It would be good to hear more from the Trade Dept about its achievements in regard to tourism, since practically all growth in tourism is led by the private sector, not Government, and since a significant proportion of the income the tourism sector brings in goes straight out again in the form of earnings and dividends or the foreign investors who own all of the large tourism businesses in Vanuatu.