Vanuatu joins ranks of 105 other nations with Right to Information laws

right to information vanuatu

The story of the week last week – most certainly for the press – was the passing of the “historic” Right to Information (RTI) Bill – very much “a step in the right direction”. Government must tell us what it is doing. And by treating all information as open by default it underscores the government serving the people principle. There will be information officers in every ministry, department or agency who must supply the needs of the serious inquirer, even though the process will sometimes appear tedious. Many people have worked for a long time on the policy which went into the provision of the Act. The Media Association of Vanuatu was appreciative, even the Pacific Islands News Association. Vanuatu joins 105 other countries which have RTI laws.

The Appeal Court has declared that State Land is not the same as Public Land, making it quite clear that in the Court’s opinion the 178 claimants of Ohlen Freshwind are squatters. This is the land which loomed into importance soon after Independence as “public land” to become part of the physical boundary of Port Vila. Settlers went on to the former SFNH’s (then afterwards Henri Ohlen’s) land with the knowledge and consent of former MP Barak Sope. A 50-year lease was given to Freshwind Limited by the Lands Minister in 1995, and then in 1997 the lease was surrendered for the purpose of sub-division and derivative leases were created. The earliest date for anyone to arrive on the Freshwind land was 1982, so there was no question of custom ownership by the minister or anyone else and the Court decided that from that date in 1982 onwards everyone settling there must be held to be a squatter. (Daily Post)

Api Jack Marikembo’s termination from the Police Service Commission has been declared unlawful. It is said the Government had been wrongly advised of a previous criminal conviction. And Marikembo said the Court had shown his removal was done in bad faith. Parties in the matter were to have met yesterday but no publication of results has yet been issued. (Daily Post)

Clear directives are still needed as to next moves after DG contracts ended or are ending. DG Howard Aru’s contract ended Thursday and directors of departments had to make a temporary arrangements as to interim measures with no agreed plans in place. (Daily Post)

Happy rest of Unity Day.