Vanuatu daily news digest | 4 December 2012

Speaker of Parliament George Wells has thrown out the no confidence motion against Prime Minister Sato Kilman. He said that three who had signed the motion had written to withdraw their signatures, but then two of the three later indicated they wanted their signatures to remain. It gets more complicated: one didn’t say anything at all, so Wells considered he had withdrawn his name from the Motion. Speaker Wells told Radio Vanuatu News that the request for a special sitting of Parliament did not comply with Standing Orders. The withdrawal of the one signature meant he could not accept the Motion as it only had the support of 27 MPs. The Opposition has filed a Constitutional application against the Speaker as the withdrawal of signatures is only allowed inside Parliament. Daily Post names the floor-crossing backbenchers as: David Tosul and Johnny Amos (PPP), Jonas James (Natatok) and Tony Nari (Iauko Group).

Should the Motion against the Prime Minister succeed, a new Government may sever ties with Indonesia over West Papua, Daily Post reports. Politicians Kalkot Mataskelekele, Barak Sope, Ralph Regenvanu, Joe Natuman and Sae Esmon, plus members of the Vete Association met with West Papua freedom leaders Dr John Ondawame and Andy Ayamiseba on Saturday and their message was that the “colonisation by the Indonesians of West Papua is a sin.”

The Supreme Court is upholding employee entitlement of one month of severance pay per year worked from the date of employment. The Attorney General’s test case goes against both the ANZ Bank Vanuatu Limited and Wilco Hardware and a number of other employers who have tried to pay considerably less than the award rate, or nothing at all, and who owe large amounts of severance pay to their former employees. Justice Daniel Fatiaki rejected the argument that the updated rate of severance pay should only apply from the date it was officially gazetted.

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Performance review for former Police Commisioner set for 8 October

A review of the performance of Joshua Bong as Police Commissioner will take place on October 8. The role of the Police Service Commission, the PSC Deputy Chairman told us today, is to ensure independence and transparency in appointments to senior police posts. However, at the weekend Minister for Internal Affairs George Wells stepped in and reappointed Tony Arthur as Chairman of the PSC. Arthur is facing mutiny charges and is also an intending candidate in this month’s election. Further meetings of the PSC were banned by the Minister on Monday. It would seem that Minister Wells prefers political interference over independence and transparency.

The Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat, Peter Forau, told Daily Post that the the largest MSG partner, Papua New Guinea, has officially gazetted the MSG Trade Agreement. One can only add that it would, wouldn’t it? Whether WTO or MSGTA, it is the largest countries which benefit the most such agreements. It will only be a matter of time before Fiji joins in, too.

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Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau acts against interests of kastom land owners in Mangaliliu land sale

Map showing customary land area leased by Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau against the wishes of the people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu

Map showing customary land area leased by Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau against the wishes of the people of Lelepa and Mangaliliu

Lands Minister Steven Kalsakau has approved a lease over large area of the customary lands of Lelepa and Mangaliliu (Lelema) to a Mele man for 75 years, against the wishes of the customary land owners. Mangaliliu Chief Mormor said at the time of the creation of a customary lease application for their own lands,  back in May: “We want a custom land lease ourselves, over our land, to protect ourselves and our land”. The North Efate land owners now have to protect themselves from the Minister of Lands. Daily Post leads with this story today. It covers how the chiefs of North Efate wrote to the Minister requesting a halt to all further land dealings in their area after nearly two years of consultation and mapping and for six community leases to be issued so their lands could truly remain theirs in perpetuity.

Lelepa and Mangaliliu chiefs signing an agreement to protect their customary lands in May 2012

Lelepa and Mangaliliu chiefs signing an agreement to protect their customary lands in May 2012

The Land Reform Act [Cap 123] gives the Minister for Lands the power to approve leases on behalf of customary owners if the land is in dispute. However, the Lelema lands are not under dispute and are unalienated. Minister Kalsakau here is acting in breach of the Act and against the letter of the Constitution. There is speculation too that the Mele lessee is just a front man for powerful foreign business interests.

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Pipite threatens media with defamation over Phocea reports – despite being photographed aboard megayacht

Minister Marcellino Pipite is complaining that reports concerning his and Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot’s illegal visits to the Phocea were politically motivated. He counselled against people believing what the media says in the matter. He says he is taking Daily Post and Television Blong Vanuatu to court for defamation. Daily Post‘s Editor Royson Willie pointed out that only the facts of the matter have been reported by his paper — Pipite cannot sue for defamation if it was a fact that he was on board the vessel, which as we have already seen, has been documented in photos. Anyway, Pipite will be holding another press conference tomorrow, at which he expects the presence of the Commissioner of Police and investigating officials as well as the media, “to clarify the issue relating to the yacht Phocea.” The Minister’s stand in the matter could similarly be labelled “politically motivated” in view of the proximity of the elections.

Much more important news was the vindication of the stand by Read the rest of this entry »