The Opposition has filed an urgent constitutional case against the Speaker of Parliament George Wells for failing to accept their written request to call an extraordinary sitting of Parliament to debate the motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Sato Kilman. The Speaker, in Radio Vanuatu News and Daily Post, alleges various MPs have told him they want their signatures removed from the motion. However, Opposition spokesman Ralph Regenvanu says this is not for the Speaker to decide: Parliament alone must decide where any waverer in the matter stands. This is how the courts have previously treated such motions. The Constitution says the sitting must be called.
PM Sato Kilman’s premiership is also under stress because of the electoral petition case lodged by MP Willie Jimmy. The case began yesterday before a packed Supreme Court at Dumbea Hall, Daily Post reported. The case is primarily concerned with whether or not the Prime Minister owed monies to the Vanuatu Government as alleged, thereby disqualifying his candidacy. Mr Jimmy’s counsel filed for an amendment to the petition and the case will be continued at 2pm Friday. Another electoral petition against MP (and now Minister) Toara Daniel was thrown out because of “insufficient evidence”, VBTC News reported.
Daily Post features the hunt for high-ranking officers for mutiny on its front page. Former Police Commissioner Joshua Bong and 15 others have either been arrested or are still sought following the September incident which saw the arrest of the Acting Commissioner Arthur Caulton and other senior personnel. The Daily Post story suggests Ministers Ham Lini and George Wells, President Iolu Abbil and Police Chief of Staff Ron Tamtam were also to be arrested by the Bong group. The matter is being treated as a mutiny.
Four backbenchers from the Kilman government have joined the Opposition in support of the motion of no confidence to be debated in the coming days. This gives the Opposition 28 votes to the Government’s 24. The electorate at the last election voted for change, unhappy with the way national affairs were conducted by the previous Government. Change would be guaranteed if the Motion of no confidence passes. On Radio New Zealand International, some coalition backbenchers said the Prime Minister had failed to keep his promise to give them ministerial portfolios.
The Vanuatu Times reports the suspension of VBTC senior journalist Antoine Malsungai following his talkback program on Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s vt13M debt to Government. This matter could determine the legitimacy of Kilman’s candidacy in the last election. Shock, horror! Malsungai has “breached the VBTC’s guidelines”. Shame that the guidelines are not actually available to the public for scrutiny. VBTC, of course, sits inside the Prime Minister’s portfolio, which seems to indicate direct censorship by Kilman of the state-owned media outlet.
The whistlestop visit of the DG of the World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy gave a chance for Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Ham Lini to ask for “special and differential treatment for Vanuatu as a Least Developed Country and as a Small Island State.” Lamy said his visit here was a “testament to the importance of all WTO member countries, irrespective of size.”
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.
The re-count of the vote in Santo Rural constituency now awaits a date to be set by the Supreme Court. The re-count will be attended by the Chief Justice. This is the only case of electoral dispute which has been registered so far with the Supreme Court, and today is the last day for receipt of electoral petitions from the 2012 General Election, Radio Vanuatu advises.
One petition likely to find its way to the Electoral Commission today is MP Willie Jimmy’s contesting the validity of Sato Kilman’s candidacy. In today’s Daily Post, Jimmy says he has already signed his petition. His petition centres around claims of an unpaid debt to Government of Kilman’s. The Kilman v Tete 2008 Supreme Court civil case 133 of 2008 required an order of the Chief Justice to be complied with and a conference of 22 August for a Judicial Review of the matter to be held. These outstanding issues will need to be resolved to confirm Kilman’s electoral legitimacy.
The 10th Parliament of Vanuatu sits this morning and will elect MPs to the positions of Speaker and Prime Minister as well as make other constitutional appointments. Radio Vanuatu News says both sides have prepared well for the votes needed this morning. However, how the whole house will treat the many electoral disputes raised so far is not known. Solidarity signings have continued in recent days with entire political parties and fragments of parties.
Daily Post says “Parliament meets with both sides still claiming numbers“. Two Alliance groups met outside the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday afternoon, both seeming to represent a return of the Kilman government. One was led by PM Sato Kilman, the other by deputy PM Ham Lini.
We can only wait and see… keep hitting ‘refresh’ in your browser throughout the day as we keep you updated.
Phocea is still here. And as reported by this blog last night, and Daily Post and VBTC this morning, the skipper and two other defendants were only fined minimal amounts yesterday. Captain Richard Bob Malaise gets off with a light vt310,000 fine for illegal entry and failure to report to Customs. And the two defendants (the formerly Samoan and Tongan, now ni-Vanuatu ‘citizens’) are fined just vt110,000 each. And so to the question at the court house — “Vu Anh Quan Saken i trikim hu nao?” Much of the evidence which remains, the false Vanuatu registration papers for Phocea, the falsified Maritime College certificates for the crew and the plastic bag containing drugs are pretty much just circumstantial evidence without the vessel and owner. The drugs have not been tested because the Fraud Squad expert was suspended by the outgoing Government as soon as the investigation started. The outgoing Government is deeply implicated in this affair. It is proving harder and harder for them to extricate themselves from the mess. The Fraud Squad expert is also an expert on the drugs runs which come through Tonga — ah yes — and Vanuatu, on their way from South America where Vu Anh Quan Saken has become a ni-Vanuatu diplomat and owns a shipyard. He brokers luxury yacht charters all over the world. Hypothetically speaking, and not to implicate any person in particular, the possession of a number of diplomatic passports and a diplomatically-protected vessel would make perfect cover for a drug-smuggling operation, would it not? Perhaps. And only hypothetically speaking, of course.
Vu Anh Quan Saken could have pitched our leaders some good stories which would have greatly interested a government anxious to make good in the eyes of the electorate, and with time running out. Has he outwitted all in the outgoing Government cabinet? It remains to be seen who, if any, from the former cabinet, might just fall by the wayside when it comes to Monday’s formation of a new government. Two are out already.
Serious allegations concerning illegal practices at the Department of Lands have emerged in Daily Post today along with news of the break-in which kept the Land Registry section closed yesterday. A notice at the Registry yesterday said it was closed “due to thief break-in”. The thief appears to have been looking for certain land records.
In another twist, maybe or maybe not related, it is also alleged that the Principal Registry Officer of the Department of Lands is responsible for the removal and destruction of land lease documents, after land owners have claimed they are receiving too little for their land sales. The land is then resold, the source claims. Mortgage documents in the files are also burned, it is claimed.
The Independent newspaper at the weekend said that the caretaker Government had reached an out-of-court agreement concerning the detained four-master mega-yacht, Phocea. Sources said an amount of more than vt4,000,000 had been agreed as an out-of-court settlement between the yacht’s owner Vu Anh Quan and Government to enable Phocea to leave the country. Caretaker Finance Minister Moana Carcasses said the release of Phocea is a civil case. However, Daily Post sought legal advice on the matter and with the forged documentation found on board, then personnel and the owner of the ship should be able to be charged with forgery — a criminal matter. Read the rest of this entry »