Vanuatu daily news digest | 15 August 2014

An extremely important item which has not made it to the Digest yet …

A Land Subdivision Policy Advisory Committee has been established – and in good time. No new subdivisions have yet been approved this year (since the introduction of the new legislation) and the only legal approval possible now comes from the Land Planning and Management Committee. The World Bank is assisting with finance because of the connection between subdivision policy and climate change. This is especially noteworthy in a country like Vanuatu where much subdivision is associated with coastal ventures. Main-Streaming Disaster Risk Reduction will be of great importance in the Subdivision Policy Advisory Committee and is already expected of the now announced committee: Owen Sisi (Shefa provincial planner), John Rogara (MIPU), Jeffrey Kaitip (Physical Planning Unit), Reedly Tari (Environment), William Frank (Municipality), Martin Sokomanu (Survey), Jay Hinge and Darren Vatu (Lands). They will meet weekly under consultant Stephen Tahi who will oversee the drafting of a subdivision policy.

The MIPU policy advisory committee on the developments taking place at the Port Vila wharf area seems to be far behind in the planning, explanation or notification of their accomplishments. A public meeting was held yesterday to advise on what has been going on for a long time to increase handling capacity of cargo shipping, at Lapetasi, as well as with trans-shipment to the west of the main wharf. A well attended meeting did not learn much it has not already been advised of after press investigations and reports. It should, however, be noted that the means are now at hand for the general public and stake-holders to make further comment via MIPU (the public works ministry). This will be most important for fore-stalling of costly mistakes possibly already in the pipeline. Such commentators should also refer their ideas to the media – for double-checking.

On the same day (yesterday) as the MIPU policy re wharves was being announced, Daily Post advised that the Ifira Port Development and Services Company (IPDS) had quashed the plan for the rotten old Northern Star and Southern Star to be used as pontoons in their positions to the west of Star Wharf and the main wharf. They are to be removed at earliest.

The former Club Vanuatu, understood to be purchased by the VNPF for three million Australian dollars, is to house the Customs and Inland Revenue Department. Tenders are being called for works to be carried out, and the Mainguy Consulting Engineers company is project manager.

PM Natuman has this week given his government’s views on West Papuan independence to the new Indonesia Ambassador who was on visit here. Natuman emphasized human rights abuses often reported but stressed the basic right to independence of the West Papuans and explained that the forthcoming meeting of West Papuans here is for those representative West Papuans to express their wishes – not Vanuatu’s – in the matter on their independence. We are all well aware of the Vanuatu Government stand on West Papua. To hear the majority of West Papuan independence (or non-) community groups’ ideas will be heartening.

Possibly of much greater importance in this issue is the change of date for the West Papua Unification Committee (which speaks for the various West Papuan groups) conference which was to have started on August 27. It will now run from October 1 to 4. Chairman of the Organizing Committee Pastor Alan Nafuki says "This is going to be a symposium of significant magnitude. We have to delay it to allow all the delegates from abroad to complete their travel documents in order to make it possible for everyone to attend." Some 50 were expected to come but it now looks more like double that number.

The Government of Timor-Leste will be making special awards to recognize the efforts of Barak Sope and Hilda Lini towards that country’s independence at their August 30 independence anniversary celebrations. They are both well-known for their staunch support for the people of the colonised Pacific.

A number of Transparency Vanuatu items have not made it to these pages as yet. One concerns the use of duty free fuel which had been allowed to the Vanuatu Ferry company which, it seems, enabled cheaper fares than those offered by other trading vessels. The Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre of Transparency Vanuatu has complimented Customs Vanuatu on its prompt action in the matter. TIV has advised that the former acting executive officer (Lyndsey Wilson-Akers) has resigned. The excellent TIV National Integrity System Assessment for 2014 remains in constant demand. Requests can be made to transparency or e-copies given by attending the office (the CK building with entry from the car park behind the Olympic Hotel) with a flash-drive.

Another report which is undoubtedly available on flash-drive comes from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and is their Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update dated 31 July. It appeared in a recent Daily Post. It is an important statement of Vanuatu’s present financial position.

"Lively Isles" they certainly are – and such is the title of David Luders’ new book which gives a background to Vanuatu. The liveliness extends from the swirling and kaleidoscopic colour of the country’s custom dances to the volcanoes and geological thrusts and rock tumbles which occur every few years. "Lively Isles" is some dozen papers on topics ranging from the Lapita people to the Tweedledum / Tweedledee Condominium to the Santo Rebellion and the hard won Independence. Captain Cook, the blackbirders, missionaries and traders all get adequate coverage.

The honorary consul for Germany has gone on trial for the theft of around VT 800.000 of the Beach Front Resort.