The Vanuatu Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, has just resigned.
In an extraordinary move, following Kilman’s resignation, Parliamentary Speaker George Wells closed the sitting of Parliament and would not listen to the demands of the Opposition, after Opposition Leader Edward Natapei moved to have a new prime minister elected immediately, seconded by Ralph Regenvanu. The Speaker announced there would be an extra-ordinary sitting Friday next week. This is unlikely to be readily accepted by the majority ‘opposition’.
The Opposition in Parliament was standing by to take over government this afternoon following its motion of no confidence. The Government threatened to boycott, and had earlier today said it might need a Sunday sitting to advance the no confidence debate, however its Members were in attendance. There was a quorum. In another extraordinary move, Kilman Government Minister of Internal Affairs Toara Daniel crossed the floor to join the Opposition.
Radio Vanuatu News this morning indicated the determination of the Vanua’aku Pati and its allies to have West Papua join the Melanesian Spearhead Group as a full member, should they form a new government today. Opposition Leader Natapei told Radio Australia he would want Indonesia removed as an observer before July.
In other news today, Reserve Bank of Vanuatu Board member Tom Bayer has been removed. Finance Minister Charlot Salwai claims that Bayer has a conflict of interest as he is also an agent of private Vanuatu bank the European Bank, reports VBTC News. The Minister’s decision follows the Act governing the Reserve Bank. Former Finance Minister Carcasses appointed Bayer.
The sailing boat Phocea is ready to depart, and is currently refueling at Port Vila’s main wharf. The self-styled Deputy Commissioner of Maritime Affairs, Guy Benard, says he expects Government will learn that compensation is required by the self-styled owner (or more likely lessee) of Phocea, because of Vanuatu government officials holding the vessel in a manner he sees as equivalent to ‘piracy’. Benard seems to be overlooking the Phocea’s series of fake registrations. Benard must have had similar feelings himself when he arrived in Port Vila, all those years ago, bearing elephant tusks.
Prime Minister Sato Kilman has not made any statement concerning Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot or Pascal Anh Quan Saken through the mainstream media in Vanuatu yet. This comes about when their partnership is the most discussed topic in the media and nakamals of the capital. Opposition Leader Edward Natapei, in the Daily Post on Friday, insisted the PM terminate Carlot. Natapei sees Carlot’s involvement with Saken as detrimental to Vanuatu’s international credibility.
VBTC News this weekend carried a complaint by Immigration officers over the establishment of a new company, Pacific Migration Consultants, by the DG of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri. The Principal Immigration Officer, François Batick said the new company will be able to earn over Vt 200 million annually.
The President of the Vanuatu Vietnamese Association, Dinh Van Than, says Pascal Anh Quan Saken was born in Vietnam and lived there until he was 11 years old. He then moved to France for 15 years and became a French citizen, he says in this weekend’s Daily Post. “It was a lie that Pascal Saken went to school in Port Vila as I would have known him. Instead Pascal Saken went on to live in Bangkok to this day”, Than told Daily Post. Dinh Van Than was born in Vanuatu in 1944 and has lived here ever since. Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot had told freelance journalist Hilaire Bule, when the Phocea was boarded in July last year, how he came to know Pascal Anh Quan. The Minister replied “While you were still playing in your jungle [on Pentecost], I was going to school with him in town.” Than says Saken did not attend any school, in town, and it is a lie to say he did.
Pascal Anh Quan Saken sees himself as the deputy head of the Vanuatu European Union embassy in Brussels. He claims he still holds a valid Vanuatu diplomatic passport, even though the Prime Minister’s Office cancelled it and advised the Commissioner of Police that the passport was cancelled last year. Radio Vanuatu News yesterday morning carried a report based on an interview Pascal Anh Quan gave Radio New Zealand International on Friday. Saken claims to have been the victim of bad publicity while in Papua New Guinea and says that reports are all untrue and just aimed at damaging his reputation. He is still working hard for Vanuatu, he says. He is hoping to work more with Europe and the United States to build the structure of his country, Vanuatu. Saken says he cannot come to Vanuatu because his sailing boat Phocea is still being held by the Government on suspicion of carrying arms or drugs. He says he has heard all the allegations against him. While in PNG, he could not meet the US Ambassador as planned, but hopes to go back to PNG next month. He has also heard his passport was revoked by PM Kilman last September, but he believes the passport he holds is still valid.
The Citizenship Commission has announced that adult “adoption” does not entitle the adoptee to Vanuatu citizenship. The Citizenship Commission will continue to expect new citizen applicants to have resided in Vanuatu for more than ten years. Read the rest of this entry »
Breaking news: Two expatriates were taken for police questioning this week after being seen robbing an ATM in the centre of Vila. The security officer of another bank saved the day. We don’t have the full story, but will report on it when more news becomes available. We don’t have the resources to follow up all news tips we receive, but we are expecting more concerning the allegations of rape against a senior Minister we mentioned yesterday.
The Minister responsible for prisons, Minister Thomas Laken, announced on Radio Vanuatu News he was planning to send the inmates of Port Vila’s correctional facilities back to their home islands. When detainees are kept in the same place they cause too many problems, he said, especially when they run away. He went on to suggest that this would make the detainees the responsibility of community leaders like pastors and chiefs, thereby minimising the burden for Government. Have any pastors or chiefs been consulted about this idea, we wonder, or is this just more policy-making on the run? As many as 70% of the inmates of Vanuatu’s prisons (almost all men) are in jail because they have been convicted of sexual crimes like rape and incest. Sounds like a great recipe for communal harmony in the islands, Minister Laken. Vanuatu’s women will be thrilled with the idea. And what if the inmates are from town, or of mixed parentage, Minister? What’s your plan then?
Opposition Leader Edward Natapei is highly critical of Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s appointment of Moana Carcasses as Parliamentary Secretary for political and technical corporation (sic), he says in today’s Daily Post. The PM’s Office already houses the Aid Coordination Unit, so Carcasses’ appointment is an “unjustifiable” and unnecessary duplication, says Natapei. He also questions where the budget for the position will come from, since Government has no funds set aside for the position in this year’s budget.
The Kilman Government, it is plain to see, doesn’t really care that much about the actual work of running a country, and could not care less what the public thinks. The first priority of the Kilman Government is to cling to power, so we are likely to see more juicy deals for political allies in the months to come. We can only hope that Parliament gives this ludicrous appointment thorough scrutiny; we want to see the full details of Carcasses’ terms and conditions and his salary package. We don’t need another fat cat taking a skim of money intended for Vanuatu’s development à la ‘Mme. 15%’ Goiset.
Opposition leader Edward Natapei answers MP Robert Bohn Jr.’s accusations in Daily Post that the Opposition is the cause of instability by pointing out that Bohn signed an MOU with the Sato Kilman bloc, then held discussions with the Opposition, then formed a bloc (‘Cloud Zero’) with Independent MP Richard Namel “so that whoever got into government, the ‘Cloud Zero’ bloc would be in government.” Bohn at least admits the Opposition “captured the moral high ground”, even if he chose not to meet it there.
Bohn also apologises to his Epi constituency for his inability to provide an upgrade to the Burumba clinic there because expenses related to the motion of no confidence cost the country vt500,000, he said. Natapei points out that most of this sum of money has not been paid, anyway. The Opposition Leader also reminds us of the appalling state of the country’s finances, as detailed in the Motion. With some teachers still unpaid, the 2012 budget remains in disarray and there is no Parliament-approved budget for 2013. The situation is not unusual in Vanuatu. When Parliament does not sit for a Budget before the end of the year, the law provides for what is called a “supply bill”. This allows for three months of appropriation (January to March). The appropriation is based on the previous year’s budget, and does not need the approval of Parliament. This was quite common in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Vanuatu had political uncertainty. So, basic Government services should continue — to the extent they are currently actually being delivered. Whether or not this brings joy to the people of Burumba depends on what might have been decided for them by the Kilman Government. Both Radio Vanuatu News and Daily Post this weekend carry the Opposition Leader’s comments on Robert Bohn’s opinion piece.
Prime Minister Sato Kilman yesterday said he was not pleased to see the Opposition boycott of Parliament that occurred after the Supreme Court granted the Opposition request for a Parliamentary sitting. Kilman said the move had cost the people of Vanuatu a lot financially. He said the Opposition boycotted the sitting so it could win additional MPs over to their side before Monday’s debate of the no confidence motion in Parliament. The Speaker was directed by the Supreme Court to hold the sitting, reported Radio Vanuatu News.
The Opposition boycott of Parliament yesterday saw only two Opposition MPs attend, Ralph Regenvanu and Tony Wright, meaning a total of only 31 MPs present, not a quorum, says Daily Post. It was also reported that not all Opposition MPs were present in Vila in time for the sitting, not surprising given the confusion surrounding whether or not there would be a sitting.
The Vanuatu beach volleyball team won the Oceania Championships in Papeete, French Polynesia this week, beating Australia in the final. But this fantastic news is tinged with sadness– the team may be forced to skip tournaments next year due to a lack of funds. Business houses, here’s a huge positive branding opportunity, as Vanuatu Volleyball Federation President Debbie Masaufakalo points out: “the results speak for themselves — they’re winning — and we get huge press exposure. Fantastic for sponsors to jump on board: get their logos on our uniforms; get the TV coverage; get the media exposure and join us in the World Championships.” Who will step up and help our team?
The shock horror news of today is the former political adviser in the Ministry of Health being awarded a VT 3 million health consultant contract as qualified and experienced health practitioners are being retrenched. Daily Post reports his fee is higher than any ni-Vanuatu doctor’s salary. Joemelson Arnhambath Joseph formerly worked in Snoopy’s Stationery and as Chairman of the Citizenship Commission when that office became embroiled in controversy. From evidence before the various Phocea court cases, Arnhambath acted as middleman for the citizenship of the two ‘debt collectors’ in the employ of Vu Anh Quan Saken, obtaining their citizenships in contravention to the Citizenship Act and in (possibly) record time. The Government has not laid any charges in this matter. Arnhambath served under his brother-in-law, former Minister Willie Reuben, as political adviser, and his new 12-month contract was signed by the now removed DG of Health, Maturine Carlot Tary. Arnhambath will “ensure human resource workforce remunerations and grading per per the revised health structure are carried out in timely manner and ample time”, whatever that means.
Daily Post also highlights the visit of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) DG, Pascal Lamy. He will have kava today with DPM and Minister for Trade Ham Lini, before departing tomorrow. Trade Director Sumbe Antas told Daily Post the brief visit is in relation to the almost deadlocked Doha Round of talks and the ministerial meeting of the WTO in Bali next month. The Vanuatu Council of Churches and other organisations are hoping a mission promised to assess the relevance of the WTO to the aspirations of the people of Vanuatu will still take place here, after a strong campaign against the WTO accession.
Four new cases of HIV in Vanuatu is the Daily Post’s headline today. The new cases have only been reported since November last year, a sudden rise in reported cases. Between 2002 and 2010 there were five cases, two fatal. Director of Public Health
Dr Len Tarivonda emphasized the need to respect patient confidentiality. His main message is that people need to be careful how they conduct their sexual relationships and to use abstinence and contraception.
Daily Post today has two Chinese nationals fined over phony Vanuatu passports. Two women of a group of ten entering Vanuatu were found to have phony Vanuatu passports and were detained and fined just vt250,000 each, half the maximum provided for by law. Our Government is anxious to promote migration to Vanuatu through the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission and Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority in Hong Kong. A group of ten women from Hong Kong travelling to New Zealand calls in via Vanuatu— an expensive detour, and why? And why do they need Vanuatu passports—fake or not—for the rest of the journey? And who is manufacturing these fake passports and why?
An interview with Edward Natapei in Daily Post says the 2012 general elections were the worst ever. We do seem to be getting more of the same almost immediately, as in the phony passports story. Are we destined for a replay of the last couple of years all over again — and for another four years?