Vanuatu daily news digest | 23 January 2013

The Vanuatu Police Force has announced the Australian Federal Police will resume operations in Vanuatu following negotiations between the Vanuatu Government and Australia. Acting Commissioner Arthur Caulton made the announcement and said the AFP presence is needed because of the difficulties Vanuatu has been experiencing recently, which is a polite way of saying the welcome mat is no longer out for Pascal Anh Quan and his kind. A Government mole tells us this volte face was negotiated by PM Sato Kilman’s office, an obvious political fist in the face to coalition partner Alfred Carlot.

It is regrettable that Vanuatu’s police, despite all of the assistance Australia and other donors have given over many years, do not yet have sufficient capacity to investigate and act against transnational crime. Hopefully the AFP this time around will not follow the paternalistic, know-it-all, in-line approach they have in the past. This complaint aside, the return of their expertise, and of the re-establishment of Vanuatu’s links to Interpol, is welcome.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, says the Foreign Affairs Minister of Vanuatu, Alfred Carlot, is not telling the truth when he says he visited PNG at the invitation of the PNG Government. O’Neill made this statement in a media conference he gave on the Saken scandal in PNG earlier in the week. Vanuatu Government Public Relations Officer Jeff Joel Patunvanu had earlier told the PNG Post-Courier newspaper that Alfred Carlot had he and the Sakens were in PNG following the invitation of the PNG Prime Minister. Not true, says O’Neill.

The Transnational Crime Unit of the Vanuatu Police Force gave the PNG Police the right to return the “diplomatic passports” of the Sakens when they were apprehended there last week. Acting Police Commissioner Arthur Caulton said the Police were acting on the advice of the acting DG of Foreign Affairs. However, for Caulton, a big question remains – how can the Saken brothers continue to hold Vanuatu diplomatic passports when the Office of the Prime Minister had ordered their cancellation in September last year. He questions the validity of these passports. Like the Anh Quan CV we posted yesterday, they are full of grammatical errors. Perhaps, like the Phocea docmentation, they are forgeries too. Caulton questions how Foreign Affairs can be certain of their validity.

To the above we would add, why was Vanuatu’s EU Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy making diplomatic requests on the Sakens’ behalf, if his office was aware that the passports were invalid? And why was Vanuatu’s Brussels embassy involved at all, when PNG is a close regional neighbour of Vanuatu, and when the Department of Foreign Affairs has a Protocol office in Port Vila that normally handles diplomatic requests?

Foreign Ministry DG Johnny Koanapo complains on VBTC today against the media saying it is easy for the media to give the Government a bad name, but building back trust will take a long time. He is quite right. When lying and deception become the standard operating procedure of a national Government, and when a Minister of State consorts with known narcotics and arms traffickers and offers them diplomatic status, it becomes increasingly difficult for that government to re-establish its reputation. The media makes mistakes, too, of course, as in the statement yesterday we said Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) attributed to PNG PM O’Neill, that Minister Alfred Carlot arrived in Port Moresby on a plane belonging to the Sakens. RNZI say they didn’t say it. Our reporting erred somewhere along the way, and for that we apologize.

The signing of a production licence for KUTh Energy to start geothermal drilling in north Efate by Minister of Lands, James Bule, led the VBTC Radio News this morning. Minister Bule issued the drilling licence for Australian company KuTH Energy in a ceremony yesterday at Le Lagon resort. KUTh MD David McDonald and “declared landowners and Chiefs of Takara, Chief Amearaliu and Chief Tamama and their delegation” and the DG of Lands, Joe Ligo, were present for the ceremony. No mention was made of any land dispute. The company has 12 months to prove geothermal energy capacity at Takara, then 2 years to start production. Within 3 years, a geothermal plant has to be built, says to Ligo.