Vanuatu daily news digest | 29 January 2015

Most importantly, first today is a clarification of the Prime Minister’s Office position on the appointment of one Christopher Griggs to undertake the prosecution of the alleged police mutiny of some years ago. An appointment by the former Acting Public Prosecutor to prosecute the case "is not sufficient" a government press release in Daily Post states. The government also understands "there is no record of such an appointment." The release from the PMO says "Following latest media reports, the government is beginning to connect the dots on whose real interests the individual could be serving." Furthermore, Griggs came into the country on a tourist visa to "visit friends". The report suggests there are elements within government which could be working against the interests of the government. "Meanwhile, police officers pursuing the ‘conspiracy’ case against former Police Commissioner Joshua Bong and others can’t decide on their own who should represent them in court; and even more importantly, if it is a case of national interest and warrants such public spending. For this reason, any decision on the part of the persons concerned to achieve a certain objective, is tantamount to a clear conflict of interest." Indeed. Thank you, PMO.

The Board of Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) has signed off on the Corporation’s accounts, for auditing, for the year 2012, Radio Vanuatu itself states. Board Chair Jennifer Kausei said she wanted to get the VBTC accounts into line with government requirements. One wonders how this has been avoided for nearly a decade now. It would surely have something to do with the political coalition nature of the Corporation Board. Kausei hoped the accounts for 2013 and 2014 could then be brought up to date. Indeed. How did they go uninspected for so long? Political reasons? This writer knows the Corporation accounts were fine and well in 2002. It seems this is the last time they were.

The Vanuatu Government is reported as prioritising the geo-thermal project at Takara and anxious to prevent the prospecting company moving out, the acting head of the Environment Department, Trinison Tari, said last Thursday at the EIA meeting at Takara. He said the onus is on the landowners, the people and all relevant stakeholders to see eye to eye and speak with one voice to enable the project to proceed. Climate Change DG Jotham Napat explained that New Zealand had provided two geo-thermal experts to work with the government’s responsible task force to scrutinise the EIA submitted. This was not publicly evaluated last week as the task force was still working on it. However, a number of concerns of the people have been answered.

Since last week and the Environment Impact Assessment discussions for hydro-electricity at North Efate there has been reporting in the two principal news media concerning the value of renovating and upgrading the Quoin Hill airstrip at Takara. It has been used for emergency landings and it is given as, variously, certain custom owners on the one hand, and the whole community on the other, see it as a possible important factor for developing the area along with providing geo-thermal power if approved.

Over 170 passengers of the MV Renaissance had to spend a night ashore at south-east Malekula, the vessel having struck a reef the previous night. The office of the shipping company confirmed the incident, VBTC reported, and advised passengers were all safe and well at Lamap, awaiting transportation. Ports and Harbours is investigating.

Foreign ministers of the MSG countries have agreed to set up a commercial arm of the sub-regional body. This was decided at their Port Vila meeting a week ago. Melanesian Solutions will become an important part of the MSG with branches in each country.

Some members of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua are here for next Monday’s meeting to prepare their application to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Others will arrive before Monday.