Vanuatu daily news digest | 13 December 2012

Vanuatu’s new Ambassador to China, Nguk Yang Dennis Nai, has agreed to comply with President Iolu Abbil’s request that Vanuatu’s embassy in Beijing not sell Vanuatu passports. Radio Vanuatu News reported this yesterday, and Daily Post today quotes Pres. Abbil’s request: “Vanuatu passports are very important documents to any ni-Vanuatu citizen, and that must be respected at all times.” He said he does not want to hear reports that the Vanuatu embassy in China is involved in selling Vanuatu passports.

Radio New Zealand International aired a rather breathless story this morning about how Port Vila ground to a “virtual standstill” for the state funeral of Harry Iauko yesterday. It didn’t, as anyone who was actually in Port Vila could have told RNZI’s reporter. Daily Post’s senior purple prose writer Len Garae was also reported saying that “the streets were packed with people standing quietly to show their last respects”, which is another falsehood. RNZI’s story seems to be predicated on the assumption that the death of a significant public figure automatically elicits reverence from the general public, which, in Iauko’s case, sori blo talem, simply is not true. In death, as in life, Iauko continues to divide opinion.

The Supreme Court recounted the votes for the Santo Rural constituency this morning in the presence of Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek, the Electoral Commission and a lawyer from the State Law Office. The recount is required due to a successful electoral dispute petition in that constituency. No word yet on the result.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 5 December 2012

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.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 3 December 2012

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.”

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 15 November 2012

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.

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Investigation into VNPF management and investments begins

The investigation into the management of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund has begun, following the discovery of widespread nepotism in August, report Radio Vanuatu News and Daily Post. It has taken Government long enough to hire the auditors (Ernst & Young Australia), but it is said they will also be looking at the investment portfolio — most important in view of recent noteworthy changes in the nature of the securities the Fund uses. VNPF members will also need a report on the management appointments which enabled dismissed staff from Telecom Vanuatu Limited to fill important positions at the VNPF as if they are professional fund managers. The audit will be completed by Read the rest of this entry »

Supreme Court strikes out police mutiny case

The Supreme Court has struck out the mutiny case against the former chairman of the Police Service Commission and three senior police officers. It sat on 6 October to hear the bail conditions of police officer Ron Tamtam, and following this application, struck out the mutiny case. The case was between the Public Prosecutor and defendants, the former Chairman of the Commission (Tony Arthur), the Acting Police Commissioner (Arthur Caulton), Commander Southern Region (Pierre Carlot), Police Commander Maritime (John Taleo) and two other officers.

The court reconsidered certain counts under the penal code, and based on information the court had already Read the rest of this entry »