The Director of the Environment Unit, Albert Williams, approves the use of Parliament Park for the proposed convention centre. Meetings on the subject have taken place as far back as 2010, he told Daily Post, and it was agreed another space (other than the park close to Parliament) should be used for festivals and events such as Independence. The mayor of Port Vila has also given his approval to the project and questions MP Ralph Regenvanu’s failure to support it. Those against the new project, including Regenvanu, don’t support it because the project has already been built—It was built at the Le Lagon resort for the ACP/EU Ministerial Summit last year. Those against the proposal question the Vanuatu Government’s ability to maintain a new convention centre, given the Government’s failure to maintain ndependence Park and Korman Stadium. Even Parliament House itself, another ‘gift’ from China, looks like it is not being properly maintained at present.
A committee has met to re-count the votes cast in Santo during last year’s election. This is expected to be completed this week, and the result communicated to the court on 25 January. Lawyers, the principal electoral officer and the Electoral Commission comprise the committee, Radio Vanuatu News says. The news did not make it clear whether this was for Santo Rural or Luganville constituency, both of which are reported to have disputes.
A ministerial-level Chinese police delegation visit is taking place. The unannounced mission has included talks at VANSEC House and a guard-of-honour, VBTC News says today.
Dominique Dinh tells Daily Post today of the extensive planning he has carried out for a new 747 airport for South East Efate. He challenges Government to pick up the project, or he will himself find the investors to carry out the work. Even though the 747 is on its way out. He has enlisted the assistance of Vaturisu President Chief Andrew Kalpoilep and the Secretary General of of Shefa Province, Michel Kalworai. In the past, the Dinh family has been closely allied to Trade Minister Ham Lini of NUP who, last week, directed Shefa and the Vaturisu and land owners to find a site for such an airport following promises he had received from Korean investors. Efate land owners seeking to keep control of the remaining few unleased pieces of their birthright have not been consulted.
Opposition MP Ralph Regenvanu points out that Port Vila already has the national convention centre planned for near Parliament. It was in place for the ACP meeting last year at the Le Lagon, he tells Daily Post today. The huge amount of funds for another complex “should be rather spent on so many other needs of the country such as schools, repair of government properties, infrastructure, better hospitals and clinics and roads in the islands”, suggests Regenvanu. Daily Post’s editorial takes the same line and points out the lack of maintenance of Vanuatu’s schools, hospitals and health centres. There’s also the issue of urban planning and green space: 90% of the Parliament Park will be taken up with this ugly, unwanted monstrosity. The people of Port Vila will have lost yet another precious open space for recreation.
A source within Government sheds light on why this future white elephant is proceeding: the Chinese Government is forcing the Vanuatu Government to accept the Vt 1.3 billion project, as the Chinese have already contracted the construction company, China Jiangsu Provincial Construction Co. Ltd, an enterprise owned by—you guessed it—the Chinese Government. A clear case of boomerang aid. Our source also informs us that the Vanuatu Government tried to back out of the deal, but China refuses to take no for an answer. The Vanuatu Government is normally very vocal about perceived interference from donor countries, but strangely silent on this matter. Why is this? Wasting money on this magnitude is deeply insulting to the people of Vanuatu, China.
DG of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Johnson Binaru, points out that Bauerfield cannot be extended to take Boeing 747s. The geography of the area defeats such a plan. However, Binaru mentioned three proposals being considered to have 747 arrivals: an International Finance Corporation project “involving private partnership”, an MoA signed with the “Shanghai Corporation” and a package from the World Bank “Vanuatu can tap into.” All a bit too vague, surely, and what of Minister Lini’s friends, the Koreans, whose idea this 747 airport seems to be? What do they stand to gain from the proposal? The Secretary-General of Shefa Provincial Council, Michel Kalworai, has called an urgent meeting of the Vaturisu this week to discuss Ham Lini’s proposal.
A note for the budding aviation and infrastructure policy geniuses in Government and the private sector: the 747 is now over 46 years old and is being phased out. As commenter Alan Churchill points out, airlines today prefer smaller, cheaper, more efficient aircraft like the Boeing 767 and the Airbus A330, both of which require a runway length similar to what we already have, and both of which are capable of travelling from Asia.
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.
A wrap-up from the last few days’ news:
A senior Minister in the Kilman Government is facing multiple allegations of rape, this blog has learned. More on this story as details come to hand.
Daily Post reports that a Chinese woman was seen running in Nambatu last week from two Chinese men who were pursuing her. The men were said to be the woman’s employers in the “hospitality” industry. The woman had been beaten. She was taken to the Police Station, and police also interviewed her attackers, Daily Post said. This attack raises the ugly possibility that Chinese nationals are engaged in human trafficking and sexual slavery within Vanuatu’s borders.
PM Sato Kilman has created a position for MP Moana Carcasses to work on political and technical co-operation, Radio Vanuatu News told us on Saturday. The post will have the same powers as a Minister, and all the perks, we would assume, but will it have any any of the oversight and accountability that a Ministerial role is supposed to have under the Leadership Code Act? Not that this has proved much of an impediment to illegal and unethical dealings by Ministers in the past, of course…
Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini wants an airport capable of handling 747s on Efate. He has been “meeting with a group of Koreans who obviously have the money and are willing to fund a new international airport to cater for 747 and 767 types of aircraft”, which raises the question of where the long-range 747s and 767s might be coming from, and for what purpose. Fully-laden 747s need 3,100m of runway and much more room than Bauerfield has currently for ground manoeuvring. Minister Lini as Minister for Trade has been heavily promoting Asian investment in Vanuatu. Airports require large amounts of flat land, and most the remaining level land on Efate is highly fertile agricultural land that supplies Port Vila with food. The area of the World War II airstrip at Takara, north Efate, is already earmarked for the KuTH geothermal energy project. Lini also rules out Luganville for such an airport: “The environment [there] is not ready to take on board such a project”, he says.
The Vanuatu Police Force and National Housing Corporation remain within the portfolio of the Prime Minister, where they were moved last year. Police were previously the responsibility of the Minister for Internal Affairs, while the National Housing Corporation was with the Finance Minister, said Radio Vanuatu News at the weekend. No reason was given for this clarification or its timing. A large number of Government houses around the Independence Park and Joint Court areas, many of them previously homes for serving police officers, have been left to rot, when all they need is renovation. Are Kilman cronies about to receive some gifts of Government land?
Today’s post is a bit of a catch-up. The various Daily Digesters are all enjoying the holiday season immensely, and have got a bit too relaxed. Notable news items in Vanuatu’s media this week:
From the weekend: VBTC News and Daily Post on Saturday told us that the 2017 Pacific Games will be held in Vanuatu. Notably, the Minister responsible for Youth and Sport, Steven Kalsakau, was also the Minister responsible for selling off the Government land which was promised by Minister Ham Lini to the international committee as the area for the Games Village. Talk about shitting in your own nest. Games CEO Joe Carlo has four years to sort this out.
Government will review education policy, said Prime Minister Sato Kilman in his New Year address to the nation. He told Radio Vanuatu News there are policies which need a quick review to answer many “concerns” and “issues” which have arisen. He also wants to share the educational responsibilities with NGOs to ensure Government “focuses on the main areas of work.” We can only hope ordering school stationery is not one of these “main areas”.
Yesterday: we revealed in this post that a lease over customary land belonging to the people of Mangaliliu and Lelepa, leased out to Kalorip Poilapa of Mele by the then Minister of Land Steven Kalsakau in September last 2012, has been resold. The present Minister of Lands, James Bule, authorised the sale of the lease to Michel Monvoisin and Ludovic Bolliet for the pitifully small sum of VT 2 million, a few days before Christmas last year. Merry Christmas, indigenous people of Vanuatu, with love from your own Government! xoxoxo
Daily Post lead with a rundown of the support Government has from the 12 parties and three independents affiliated with PM Sato Kilman. There is a list of Ministers and their parties including new Minister Tony Nari of the Iauko Group. Another Daily Post story has MP Tony Wright urging PM Kilman to talk with the Opposition. Wright feels that the small political groupings “hold the government to ransom.”
And finally, from today’s media: The Government promised that the Auditor General’s report on the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) would be made public last Monday. The report has not been released by Government, and the VNPF website has been taken offline. No news is good news, it seems for the VNPF management and the Vanuatu Government. The report was commissioned by the previous Kilman government to examine allegations of mismanagement within the nation’s superannuation fund. The VNPF, according to the last available VNPF Annual Report from 2011, is responsible for more than Vt 14 Billion of member’s funds.
As a “waiting and eager financial member” observes in today’s Daily Post Letters, one suspended executive is receiving vt346,154 of members’ funds fortnightly while suspended pending the outcome of the Auditor General’s report.
International criminals, are looking for a safe and pleasant jurisdiction to run your operations, free from pesky law enforcement types? Then why not come to Vanuatu, untouched criminal paradise! Interpol, the international global police network, no longer has any official connection with Vanuatu’s police force, another casualty of Vanuatu’s retaliatory deportation of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following Australia’s imprisonment of dodgy Sato Kilman aide Clarence Marae. The Daily Post story also notes that Vanuatu has never been a member of Interpol, which links the police forces of over 190 member nations, significantly enhancing the ability of a national police force to combat transnational crimes such as drug smuggling. Vanuatu has always had to rely on foreign police forces to assist with transnational criminal investigations. So much for self-reliance.
Perhaps the international criminals who will no doubt flock to Vanuatu on hearing this news will find companionship with international war criminals, who can also find a safe haven here in Vanuatu. Is Vanuatu’s Government actively working to attract international criminals to our country? It certainly seems like it.
The new Vanuatu Ombudsman, Kalkot Mataskelekele, has promised to investigate why his predecessor’s many reports were never acted on. As the Anti-Corruption Day event on 9 December learned, there has not yet been a successful prosecution of a leader named in any report from the Ombudsman’s Office. The new Ombudsman is an experienced lawyer and highly-respected leader who will be expected to deliver results. Mataskelekele will concern himself first with the Ombudsman Act, Radio Vanuatu News reported last night.
The seventeen unsuccessful candidates in Luganville constituency will have their electoral petition heard when the Supreme Court moves to Luganville to hear the matter, in coming days. Donald Restitune, speaking for all Luganville petitioners, expressed his confidence in the upcoming hearing. The result may affect the appointments of Speaker George Wells and Agriculture Minister Kalfau Moli. The Luganville petition is in addition to the Santo Rural electoral petition which will see a recount of the vote in that constituency.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Ham Lini has instructed the Vanuatu Commodities Marketing Board (VCMB) to subsidise the copra price by vt8,000 per ton until the end of January 2013. The present world price for copra is the lowest it has been for a decade. The copra price is now vt28,000 per ton for the limited period. Minister Lini has also ordered payment of all outstanding grower subsidies by the end of this week.