Vanuatu daily news digest | 27 January 2013

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 »


Vanuatu daily news digest | 6 December 2012

Electoral petitions have kept Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek and the Supreme Court at Dumbea Hall occupied in the last few days, and the Chief Justice has had reason to insist on correct procedures being followed by all legal counsel for petitioners. There has been duplication of petitions and instances of insufficient sworn evidence. “Unless you provide substantial evidence and file in sworn statements with the petition you are just floating allegations”, the Chief Justice cautioned various counsel, says Daily Post.

This morning also sees the Opposition’s constitutional case against the Speaker’s ruling that their motion of no confidence is not in order. Without waiting for that case (Constitutional case No.11 of 2012) to be heard, it has been publicised in Daily Post that PM Kilman’s PPP party has given the Agriculture portfolio to Luganville MP Kalvau Moli. PPP’s Dunstan Hilton relinquished the post to give PM Kilman the numbers to defeat the motion, which Moli had signed. The motion will be debated tomorrow if the Chief Justice agrees that the planned Parliamentary sitting is in order.

The Minister of Public Works and Utilities has obtained a deed of release for the sailing boat Phocea to enable it to leave port with immediate effect. Forged documents were found on the vessel by the authorities when a boarding party of Customs, Immigration and Quarantine officials boarded after the vessel ignored proper entry requirements for several days. The self-styled owner of the vessel then fled and has not returned since to claim Phocea or to answer charges put by the Transnational Crime Unit. However, his counsel in Port Vila is said to have secured release of the vessel for a pathetic VT 1 million — under international law, Vanuatu should be able to receive up to VT 100 million because of the ship’s falsified documentation. In spite of the “deed of immediate release”, Customs cannot release the vessel without original and proper international registration papers being supplied.

RNZI reports that Director of Ports and Marine Morris Kaloran says he has not been asked by the office of the Attorney General to release Phocea, and that Iauko has no authority to release the vessel. Kaloran says that the Phocea’s arrival in Vanuatu breached international maritime law and Vanuatu should force Vu Anh Quan Saken to face charges.

The DG of Lands Joe Ligo is conforming to a recent decision of the Council of Ministers that all sale of leases to state land in Vanuatu must cease. Ligo gave the end date for all such sales as November 26. No word yet if the recent sale of leases to state-owned land to Joe Ligo and other Lands officers have also been stopped.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 30 November 2012

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.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 17 November 2012

We have been far too concerned with the illegalities of the Phocea saga and should have paid more attention to the Department of Lands break-in. The DG of Lands, Joe Ligo, has ordered an investigation, Daily Post tells us today. Hot on the trail of emails filled with allegations, his inquiries came up against a brick wall. The DG is asking anyone with any knowledge of the matter to come forward and see him, especially the writer of the emails.

While Transparency International Vanuatu is complaining about the work of the Electoral Office prior to the 2012 elections, Prime Minister Kilman is congratulating the Electoral Commission on a job well done. That said, he goes on to point out the differences between the Electoral Office and Commission and seems to think that the former could have done better. He looks forward to a new electoral roll, but one which is unlikely to be in place by the end of this month when provincial election candidates have to announce themselves and their constituency.

There is to be a new TV channel devoted to US televangelists. That’s right, another one, 24 hours a day. Vanuatu is 99% Christian already, and is saturated with every flavour of Christian church. Do we really need this new foreign TV station? According to our sources in the capital’s banks, the people of Vanuatu already wire transfer hundreds of thousands of vatu every week to these televangelists, who use the money to buy themselves nice palatial estates and private jets. These evangelists make a substantial proportion of their money from donations from people in developing nations and the lowest socio-economic classes in western countries. Is it ethical to extract money from the poor, the gullible and the uneducated like this? Is it Christian?

“Public interest high on who will be the new PM”, says Daily Post. Indeed, it is the only topic of conversation, it seems. But Daily Post today tells us of the pre-World War II breed of pigs which have come out of the bush at Epau — a much more interesting topic to fill the hours until Monday morning.

Vanuatu daily news digest | 9 November 2012

Like most of the population, elected Liberal Democratic Party leader Willie Jimmy Tapangararua is wanting proof that caretaker PM Sato Kilman paid his outstanding VT 13 million debt to government before the cut-off day. Jimmy, like Kilman, was required to pay outstanding government invoices in time to be accepted as a candidate. He is now seeking Supreme Court-attested proof of Kilman’s payment, he says in Daily Post today. This was an election issue in 2008, and Jimmy is determined to have proof of payment this time around.

Lands DG Joe Ligo attempted to deflect the issue by saying Kilman claims he was owed a substantial amount of money by government over an entirely different piece of land — Lakatoro customary land he claims as his own. This is doubted in many quarters, Kilman being of a Pentecost origin on the paternal side. It was also noted that when questioned on this subject at a Malakula campaign toktok he gave, he did not answer the question and promptly closed the meeting.

For the leader of the political party which won the most seats in the election, Edward Natapei of the Vanua’aku Pati, horse trading over portfolios is not standing in the way of better governance. The prime ministership, the speaker’s chair and other important posts are still available via the negotiating teams if it helps the ongoing fight against corruption. Political fraud has plumbed new depths in recent years, and if a fairer distribution of ministerial responsibilities can help to lift the economy, Natapei will promote it. The VP is ready to sacrifice. Natapei was amplifying the Solidarity Agreement signed by MPs on Wednesday — an agreement signed by many leaders of the main political parties. Mr Serge Vohor signed for UMP. Mr Willie Jimmy Tapangararua’s Liberal Democratic Party has also joined the grouping. MPP’s Nato Taiwia signed for the party of Barak Sope.

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Justice Fatiaki: “Public Prosecutions Office is completely and utterly incompetent”

The fraud case against Minister Steven Kalsakau and his brother Yohan Kalsakau may be dismissed today because of failures on the part of the Prosecution, says Daily Post. Justice Daniel Fatiaki declared the performance of Prosecution personnel in the matter to be “intolerable”. They failed to appear for the case, as for other matters in the last two weeks. The prosecuting officer on another case knew nothing of it but was obliged to stay, or there would have been no-one from the Prosecution in the court. And no files on the matter were in court until an hour-and-a-half after the case was scheduled to begin. At one point, it was suggested the Prosecution and the defendants’ lawyer make alternative arrangements for the case. Justice Fatiaki said “The Public Prosecutions Office is completely and utterly incompetent”. If everyone is not in court today the matter will have to be dismissed for want of prosecution.

Also in the Daily Post, Marie-Noelle Patterson, chair of Transparency Vanuatu, has a cogent article appealing for responsible voting in the October general election. She refers to Read the rest of this entry »

Prepaid meters best for Vanuatu’s electricity consumers, say Ministers

Another slow news day. Radio Vanuatu News has Ministers Moana Carcasses and Steven Kalsakau and Lands DG Joe Ligo all thumping the table — still — over their gripe that the Utilities Regulatory Authority is taking too long to decide on the appropriate prepaid meter system.

Minister Steven Kalsakau sees us better managing our use of electric power with prepaid meters, he tells us in Radio Vanuatu News, in a further run of soundbites from last week’s press conference. Hardly news today, and where Steven Kalsakau is concerned, many voters in the peri-urban area most likely see only the empty election promises of Ministers who are in jeopardy.

While on the topic, Minister Steven Kalsakau’s fraud case finally comes into court on Thursday at Dumbea court house.

ADB and New Zealand’s support for the inter-island shipping project just Read the rest of this entry »