Vanuatu daily news digest | 5 February 2013

Anh Quan Saken company director working for Youth Against Corruption in Vanuatu, claims outraged Government PRO. Government Public Relations Officer Jeff Joel Patunvanu questions why Radio New Zealand International and Radio Australia raise many allegations about the yacht Phocea yet do not speak of Pascal Anh Quan Saken’s business in Australia, he said on Radio Vanuatu and in a emailed media release yesterday. Patunvanu brought this up together with Anh Quan Saken’s bogus curriculum vitae, which highlights the Vietnamese renegade’s claimed “academic achievements and business calibre.” In the CV, Anh Quan claims to have studied at a university named after his brother in Pango, Charles Henry University, which does not exist. Patunvanu says Pascal Anh Quan Saken is a wealthy businessman with businesses in many countries including Vanuatu and Australia. But the issue of the yacht Phocea is a foreign issue, he says, without explaining his logic. Patunvanu reiterates the claim that Anh Quan Saken did not fund Prime Minister Sato Kilman or his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) A the last election. The PRO also claimed an expatriate working in Vanuatu in the NGO Youth Against Corruption is the director of a Saken-owned company in Australia. This was denied by Youth Against Corruption personnel yesterday. The lies, deceptions and falsehoods surrounding the Phocea saga continue, whether from Pascal Anh Quan Saken or the Vanuatu Government spokesman. PM Kilman has said nothing about the vessel, even though he attempted to have it released from its Vila Harbour detention.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock and Bio-Security Kalfau Moli says the separation of Livestock and Quarantine into two separate departments will improve their work and is in the best interests of the country. Quarantine will now be called Bio-Security Vanuatu and become a Government entity, the Minister said. Most readers of this blog have always understood it to be a public entity all along. Minister Kalfau Moli spoke of the financial difficulties Government faces while officially announcing the new arrangement. “While the development is good”, he told Radio Vanuatu News, without explaining how it would be good, “all civil servants must bear in mind the financial constraints government faces. They must work to increase government revenue.” He blamed previous governments for their failure to give priority to the needs of agriculture, but assured his audience that this will change with him.

31 students will benefit from Graon mo Jastis Pati Malakula MP Danou Nalet’s Malakula scholarship scheme. As with other Graon mo Jastis Pati MPs, Nalet is funding scholarships from his parliamentary allocation. His contribution amounts to over Vt 1 million. Over 200 students applied. The selection panel for scholarships comprises leading educationalists in Malampa along with members of selected business houses. Graon mo Jastis expects each MP to contribute 25% of their allocation to the party’s education scheme for their constituency.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 10 January 2013

Opposition MP Ralph Regenvanu insists that the Prime Minister investigate the transfer of a lease over the Lelema (Lelepa and Mangaliliu) lands in North Efate to developers for just two million vatu, reports Australian media outlets Radio Australia and Yahoo7, plus Radio Vanuatu News this morning. The matter has been in the courts since the chiefs of Mangaliliu and Lelepa discovered the land had been transferred to a Mele man by former Minister of Lands Steven Kalsakau. This lease was flipped to land developers Michel Monvoisin and Ludovic Bolliet just before Christmas.

Daily Post reports today that developer Michel Monvoisin delivered to the newspaper yesterday a consent to transfer document, signed by the present Lands Minister James Bule, showing a transfer fee of twenty million vatu and saying this was the amount paid for the land. The document that we have seen, and published on this website, clearly shows that the figure of Vt 20 million has been crossed out, the modification initialled and replaced with a figure of Vt 2 million.

But the amount paid is beside the point. The main issue is how the interests of the indigenous customary landholders, which the Constitution says the Minister of Lands and his staff have a duty to protect, were pushed aside in favour of moneyed foreigners. And Vt 20 million is still a pittance of  a lease premium, considering its size and position.

The Prime Minister’s Office has announced the appointment of the colourful Jeff Joel Patunvanu as the Government’s public relations officer. Patunvanu has a chequered history as a self-styled ‘right-wing freedom fighter’, rabble-rouser, occasional Muslim, dabbler in Judaism and part-time Santo real-estate consultant. Patunvanu’s appointment is an odd choice for the Kilman Government, already suffering from poor credibility, but is in keeping with the general tone of Kilman’s administration to date.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 20 December 2012

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.

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Motion of no confidence saga continues

The Extra-ordinary Sitting of Parliament which was intended to take place yesterday afternoon has been adjourned until Monday December 10.  The session was supposed to be held yesterday following a Supreme Court order to maintain the sitting and debate the motion of no confidence in PM Sato Kilman’s Government. However, the Opposition boycotted the sitting as some Opposition MPs had not yet arrived from outer islands. Speaker of Parliament George Wells continues to maintain the Opposition motion is not in order. It is not yet known whether the Speaker will face contempt proceedings.

The Speaker’s reluctance to call the sitting was un-Constitutional and only a majority of the Parliament can decide the matter, said Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek when he ruled against the Government.

The appointment of MP Kalfau Moli as Minister of Agriculture on Thursday means MP Dunstan Hilton relinquishes his Ministerial responsibilities so the Kilman government can boost its numbers in time for the debate of the motion of no confidence.

All Director General posts to be vacated by November as Kilman Govt makes DGs political appointees

Prime Minister Sato Kilman is advising all Directors General that their positions end in November. This follows legislation passed by the last Parliament and now gazetted. The DG job descriptions are being advertised and applications are required by 1 October. This suggests the outgoing Government intends to have new appointments finalised before the election campaign begins. The new amendments are “designed to improve performance”, says the PM.

In actuality, the amendments remove public oversight from these important and powerful positions, and make them political appointments. Salaries are decided by the Government of the day, not by the Public Service Commission’s salary scale for Government employees. We all know where this will lead – more corruption, more greed, more incompetent, unqualified cronies appointed, less transparency and of course greater power for Kilman and his associates. The net result for the people of Vanuatu? A public service unable to operate because of political interference, a reduction in the ability of Government to provide services to the population, and (yet another) stain on Vanuatu’s international reputation under Sato Kilman.

Vanuatu lost over Vt 100,000,000 on the Café du Village lease sale. The actual market value of the lease according to real estate agents is likely to be somewhere between Vt 100 million and Vt 150 million. Read the rest of this entry »

Dept of Justice to act against non-attendance, bungling by Public Prosector’s Office

Justice vows to clamp down on Prosecutions is the front page story in today’s Daily Post. Director General of the Ministry of Justice Mark Bebe says the Ministry takes very seriously complaints made by the police and public concerning the handling of a number of major court cases. The Ministry will be looking to see if public servants have failed to carry out their duties. Cases have been abandoned because the Prosecution has failed to appear. Chief Detective George Twomey echoes these complaints, and highlighted the NISCOL and Phocea cases. Members of the judiciary have also been greatly inconvenienced by the Prosecution on numerous occasions in the last few weeks alone.

Daily Post refers to the incredibly low literacy rate for Shefa Province of just 27.6%, which also suggests an even lower literacy rate for other provinces. The survey was conducted by the Vanuatu Education Policy Advocacy and explained by Anne Pakoa at the ‘Free Education’ forum at Erakor last Wednesday. Pakoa asked everyone listening to the broadcast of the forum to ask themselves why there had been so little advantage taken of school places available. Indeed, there is less competition for class places in the rural areas than in the two towns.

Perhaps it is time to speak more bluntly. The Ministry of Education, and the nation’s educators, have failed the nation. The two most important foundations of any nation are health and education. If the majority of Vanuatu’s students are not functionally literate in any language by the time they leave school, then what hope is there for the future of our nation? It is time for a radical change in how we educate our children if there is to be any hope at all.

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