Five Opposition MPs join Govt; 13 electoral petitions; Vanuatu gives vt10M disaster aid to Fiji; China digital TV project raises questions

A severely damaged village in northern Fiji

Vt10 million from Vanuatu for TC Winston disaster relief… a severely damaged village in northern Fiji. Photo: NZ Defence Force

Vila Times for this week reports 5 MPs of the UMP party going to the house of PM Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas to express their support for Salwai’s election as PM. They were escorted by the Vice President of UMP and made a presentation of mats and kava to the new Prime Minister. They said they could not turn their backs on Salwai as they are all moderates together. For his part, the Government leader said he had no problem with UMP and that he was appreciative of their support. He said people of Vanuatu need unity and a stable government to provide the services required in the islands and he let it be known the UMP assistance would help. UMP MP for Port Vila, Ishmael Kalsakau, Leader of the Opposition, did not attend.

With the death of Havo Molisale, Nagriamel MP for Malo/Aore, Parliament is now left with only 51 Members. He was the Second Deputy Speaker and died at the Santo hospital on Tuesday. His body was taken to Avunatari on Malo for burial.

Daily Post reports today 13 electoral petitions have been lodged, one of which was against the election of the late Havo Molisale. A by-election will now have to be held for Malo/Aore. 22 February was the closing date for petitions. The election of Fred William Tasso of Paama constituency was challenged by Job Andy and that of Ham Lini for Pentecost challenged by Richard Leona. These two petitions have been heard in part already by the Chief Justice. The others will be heard next month. Constituencies concerned are Tanna with 2 petitions, Banks, Malo/Aore, Ambrym, Epi, Tafea Outer Islands, Ambae, Efate Rural, Santo Rural, Luganville, Paama and Pentecost.

Daily Post reports VT 10 million being contributed by government to the Fiji Cyclone Winston relief efforts. The death toll in the tragic event in Fiji now amounts to 42.

Daily Post also mentions an amount of VT 50 million approved by the Council of Ministers to address problems caused by the present El Niño. Water issues, food and the logistics of getting these essentials to the needy are the main headings.

Bred Bank generosity to trusted and worthy humanitarian organisations is seen once again with a donation of VT 1 million to the Vanuatu Red Cross. Red Cross CEO Jacqueline de Gaillande expressed the body’s gratitude during a presentation of the cheque for a million vatu this week.

South Paray land owners have signed an agreement with the Ministry of Public Works for the domestic wharf construction there. The agreement is said to give a clear outline of the responsibilities of the land owners, people of Ifira, Shefa and Port Vila councils. The land owners have yet to create a proper land lease for the land in question. This will have to set out the terms of the leasehold area.

A media project which has been given negligible public awareness is the VBTC arrangement with a private Chinese company to provide television to all the islands of Vanuatu. The VanuaMadia [sic] Digital TV Network is reported created for this purpose by Vila Times. VT 500 million worth of equipment is said to be going to arrive, the first shipment this weekend. There has been no public discussion on the merits and disadvantages to communities and cultures of such a scheme. Accounting at VBTC has been the subject of complaint by the Auditor General and it is to be hoped that appropriate expertise has been sought to evaluate such a project at a time when food and water are being shipped to islands suffering the ravages of El Niño. An early opinion of the Salwai Government would be appreciated by everyone.