Former Minister Morkin Stevens Iatika dead; Govt’s responsibility is to boost rural economy, says PM

The coffin of former Minister and MP Morkin Stevens Iatika escorted by a VMF cortège. Photo: Eslyn Kaltongga

The coffin of former Minister and MP Morkin Stevens Iatika is escorted by a Vanuatu Mobile Force cortège yesterday at Bauerfield, en route to Tanna. Photo: Eslyn Kaltongga

Former minister and long-serving MP Morkin Steven died Tuesday night at Vila Base Hospital at the age of 50. He served a total of 14 years in 5 legislatures. His body was flown to Tanna yesterday for burial. A little known fact: his baptised first name is actually Morgan.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai reiterated government’s responsibility to provide road, shipping, telecoms and aviation services to enable islanders to better engage in economic activity. He was speaking at Lakatoro on a recent visit covered by Radio Vanuatu News this morning. Salwai outlined his coalition’s belief that Malekula has been a long-term player in “growing the economy”. Indeed, he said, all of Malampa Province has participated to a huge extent. “Agriculture, fisheries and tourism” were the fields in which Malekula had been a big player. It was noteworthy that he was returning to the cries of the “Founding Fathers” responsible for Independence in that he has recently promoted equally Santo’s interests as has now done with Malekula’s. Independence leaders also saw the two big islands as cornerstones to the country’s economy. Norsup airport, like Pekoa airport at Luganville, was highlighted as needing extension. Extension of rural electrification by Brenwei hydro-power to more north-east Malekula was viewed as necessary when Salwai spoke at Lakatoro. Loading ramps for shipping and a jetty for Port Sandwich were also mentioned. Working together was said by the PM as a key to commercial success and he warned that disputes would likely result in an end to government co-operation.

Radio Vanuatu News today also dealt with Vanuatu being part of a pilot project to provide construction workers for Christchurch, New Zealand, in a manner parallel with RSE worker supply. Fiji and PNG are also part of this programme as well as Tonga and Samoa. This was announced by a NZ Employment official at a conference in Vanuatu yesterday. Such workers will be away for six months. The Labour Department will handle applications. Further information will be communicated when another NZ official visits later in the year.

A further two men and four women APTC graduates with experience in the hospitality industry locally are being sent to northern Australia to work in food and beverage, kitchen and housekeeping in hotels there. This brings the total of those who have undertaken such work to 24. The latest six leave next week. (VBTC)

Daily Post today headlines the Vt 250 million in grants transferred to school bank accounts for those schools affected by Cyclone Pam. Remaining funds cover all of 2015 outstandings: 60% of term 2 and 100% of term 3 and 100% of term 1 this year, the paper says. The school fee exemption applies to Merelava, Maewo, Pentecost, Paama, Ambrym, South and south-east Malekula and all the islands of Tafea and Shefa.

Daily Post carries an excellent picture of President Lonsdale and State Office staff clearing the land around the wrecked former State House in the Joint Court area. This was the country’s first presidential residence after ceasing to be the French Resident Commissioner’s house at Independence. A new State House is planned.