Vanuatu daily news digest | 20 July 2014

The 34th Independence celebration, next Wednesday, is devoted to revisiting the ideals and core values of Vanuatu’s Independence in 1980. This was made clear at the opening of the festivities by the Mayor of Port Vila in the company of the Council of Ministers, led by Prime Minister Natuman, with the participation of national leaders and school children. Traditional Melanesian values, faith in God and Christian principles were at the base of those ideals and nationally held aspirations at the time of Independence. They still underpin the country’s future as has been seen with the return to customary adjudication as regards land matters.

Robert Bohn MP’s message for the Opposition for Independence seems to be that public servants are failing the country. He takes the full front page of The Independent to say it, as detailed by that run-as-a-public-charity-newspaper’s editor, Tony Wilson, reports. Many would disagree and are likely to see the failures of Vanuatu primarily being amongst the politicians themselves. Bohn complains that the Pacific Aviation Safety Organisation seems likely to move out of Vanuatu because of VT 85 million in fees unpaid by civil servants, which at VT 14.5 million a year represents unpaid dues of quite a few of the country’s coalitions prior to the present one and most likely includes one of MP Bohn’s choice, no? Certainly the Carcasses Government did not get the VT 85 million paid when it was in power until a few months ago, and Bohn did not complain then.

Directors General are not civil servants. In Daily Post today we have the detail of the judicial review in the case of Mark Bebe. This matter, which went as far as the Appeals Court, proves Directors General should not be considered as public servants however devoted to the service of the public they are. Certainly Mark Bebe was and is. In June 2013 Bebe told this reporter (vanuatudaily): "Vanuatu is being run by gangsters, and can only be saved by the Judiciary." Mark did not feel he was exaggerating when he gave me the above superb quotation a year ago. But how right he was. And certainly he has now been himself saved by the judiciary, having won his case, essentially against the former government, which tried to transfer him away from the Justice Ministry to Lands. Even at the time of the quotation, there had been five Ministers of Justice since Bebe’s appointment as Director General of Justice. He had been contracted to work as DG there for four years, but just one year later was being told that the Ministry of Lands required "a DG "of high calibre" and Prime Minister Carcasses required him to move. At the time Bebe told this reporter that he was devoting his life to getting in place everything required to properly run the Justice Ministry for which he had been employed, but which had been subjected to many political thrusts as ministerial re-shufflings frequently continued. These took place to try to maintain latest coalitions and the political whims of new ministers. Bebe stood his ground. He was ordered by a new Minister of Justice in August last year to leave Justice. He did not. He then began a judicial review challenging the prime ministerial transfer. The case then went to the Appeals Court and Bebe won. Judgement was handed down 5 days ago by Justice Sey. Mark Bebe is back at work at Justice.

The Prime Minister’s Office has a new Director General, Johnson Naviti, who has been acting in the post for nine months. Naviti graduated from Massey University in New Zealand and has held the regional position of Programme Implementation Officer at the Pacific Forum Secretariat. He has also worked closely on aid coordination and negotiation at the Prime Minister’s Officer and is certainly a "high calibre" professional. He is a worthy successor to the greatly admired Jean Sese.


One Comment on “Vanuatu daily news digest | 20 July 2014”

  1. b.j. Skane says:

    Small correction to the item regarding judgment in Mark Bebe v Rebublic.
    The case was first heard by the Supreme Court on Aug 28, 2013. The Supreme Court declined jurisdiction to hear Mr Bebe’s claim. He then appealed to the Appeal Court which, on November 22, 2013 sent the matter back to the Supreme Court to determine whether, for the purposes of Article 58 (2) of the Constitution a director-general is a public servant. Judge Sey subsequently determined in the Supreme Court on July 20, 2014 that director-generals are not public servants.