National Chiefs Day celebrated with opening of new Malvatumauri nakamal

The new Malvatumauri nakamal under construction last month. Photo © Vanuatu Daily Digest

The new Malvatumauri nakamal under construction last month. Photo: Vanuatu Daily Digest

National Chiefs’ Day was being celebrated yesterday, and this year’s highlight of the celebration has been the Read the rest of this entry »

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Prime Minister steps in to halt Air Vanuatu’s planned termination of ni-Vanuatu pilots

Air Vanuatu Boeing 737-800 AV1 loading at Port Vila's Bauerfield International Airport. Photo: Air Vanuatu

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Happy Earth Day! Vanuatu signs Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Earth Day

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 6 February 2013

Vanuatu Meteorological Services have just released a tsunami advisory following a 8.0 earthquake in the Santa Cruz Islands north of Vanuatu. The advisory reads:

Tsunami Advisory Number 2 for Vanuatu issued by the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department at 1:30 pm Wednesday, February 06, 2013

At 12:12 pm local time today 06th February 2013, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 was located at 10.9 degrees south, 165.1 Degrees East. This is about 575 kilometers north northwest of Luganville, Santo.

An earthquake of this size has the potential to cause destructive Tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) advises people throughout Vanuatu to take appropriate action and precautionary measures upon receiving this advisory. This includes immediate evacuation from coastal areas and to higher grounds.

People throughout northern and central Vanuatu who have moved to high grounds are asked to remain. Those who have not, are asked to do so.

People are advised to continue to listen to all radio outlets. The next advisory will be updated today at 2.30 pm today.

The Prime Minister’s Office wants the Police to investigate whether Hilaire Bule has defamed PM Kilman in last weekend’s Independent newspaper, where he alleged that Pascal Anh Quan Saken contributed USD200,000 to PM Kilman’s 2012 election campaign. Bule says he will offer proof of the transaction this coming weekend in the Independent, VBTC News reported yesterday. As we have reported previously, a police investigation into Anh Quan Saken and the arrival of the Phocea was opened six months ago by the Police Trans-National Crime Unit, but promptly halted by the Government for unspecified reasons. The officer in charge of the investigation, Andrew Kalman, was suspended, and remains so to this day. Patunvanu, however, gets a full page of today’s Daily Post to rant in. It seems he views the media revelations about Phocea as a “conspiracy against Vanuatu” and calls for an Ombudsman report. What a good idea. An Ombudsman report on Saken’s illegal activities with the Phocea and Government Ministers might finally reveal why members of the Government of this nation are getting into bed with an alleged drug and arms smuggler.

Speaking of libellious statements, Vanuatu blogger Phil Manhire strenuously denies all assertions by Jeff Joel Patunvanu that he is associated with Pascal Anh Quan Saken. As well as blogging, Manhire sits on the board of Vanuatu Youth Against Corruption.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 17 January 2013

Vu Anh Quan Saken does not own the Phocea, maybe. French dotcom entrepreneur Steve Rosenblum, founder of Europe’s largest ecommerce website, Pixmania, was the owner as recently as 2011. So says maritime sleuth BJ Skane in today’s Daily Post, who has not been able to find any reference to the vessel being sold since then, despite Rosenblum, his wife and the Phocea having previously been regulars in the social columns of publications like Vogue. The papers the vessel presented in Panama en route to the Pacific showing Vanuatu registration were not in order, and the Vanuatu registration papers seized aboard the Phocea by suspended police investigator Andrew Kalman are forgeries.

Big questions remain. What was “Mr Saken, ℅ Phocea” planning in collusion with certain Vanuatu Government Ministers? If Vu Anh Quan does own Phocea, why did he bother with forging Vanuatu registration documents? Why has Rosenblum not demanded his boat back, or, if he has since sold it, why has he not distanced himself from Vu Anh Quan and his Vanuatu misadventure aboard the Phocea? Phocea was flying the Vanuatu flag on routes linking the illicit drug production centres of the Golden Triangle (Phocea’s stated destination and Vu Anh Quan’s home turf) and South America (where he was promised Vanuatu diplomatic status). Monsieur Rosenblum would surely not wish to be involved in such matters. Nor should Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman. It is time to ask the Australian Federal Police and Interpol to return.

Labour Commissioner Lionel Kaluat says his Department is taking a stronger stand in enforcing the provisions of the Labour (Work Permits) Act. All new applications by foreigners for work permits will be closely scrutinised. Kaluat admits to an “alarming” increase in the number of wholesale and retail shop workers in 2012. We have noted already on this blog the growing numbers of foreign workers employed as builder’s labourers, another occupation that is supposed to be reserved just for ni-Vanuatu. Kaluat also referred to illegal shortcuts to gaining citizenship. Of course, Kaluat needs the full assistance of the rest of the Vanuatu Government, which he calls on to be more accountable and transparent. As Chairman of the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority, he is in a strong position to permit only the kind of investment which will provide Vanuatu’s people with much-needed employment opportunities.

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Vanuatu daily news digest | 21 December 2012

Total chaos rules at the Ministry of Health. Minister of Health Don Ken has suspended his new Director General of Health Howard Aru, replacing him with Dr Graham Patas, who was terminated last Tuesday for incompetence and is also likely to face criminal charges over death threats he made to Health Department staff, including to former Vila Central Hospital administrator Dr Willie Tokon. These moves follow the dubious recruitment practices of former DG Maturine Carlot Tary and her gift of a VT 3 million ‘Workforce Development Consultancy’ contract to former political adviser, Joemelson Arnambath. Insiders say the Minister wanted Aru out for a number of reasons, however Minister Ken’s actions are in total breach of Public Service laws, irrespective of directors-general contracts having recently become political appointments.

The situation is truly alarming when there are significant health problems in Vanuatu. For example, diarrhoea has become widespread amongst children. The public demands better health care, without political interference and cronyism. Our health is far more important than your petty politics. The full story is covered in today’s Daily Post. Radio Vanuatu was yesterday told by the First PA in the Ministry, Ishmael Williams, that only the Minister could explain Aru’s suspension, yet the Minister failed to oblige at all yesterday. The Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Holi Simon, for his part, said he had not been officially informed of Aru’s suspension, and that under the new DG contracts, only the Prime Minister has the right to recruit and deal with any DG employment matters.

While on health matters, we note that Port Vila Municipal Council has not collected rubbish in a number of weeks. The central business district stinks of rotting waste, especially at the Central Market, where most Vila residents purchase their produce. With the current warm, humid weather and a more than usual numbers of people in the area for Christmas shopping, all of the ingredients for a serious disease outbreak. This appalling lack of public sanitation may already be responsible for the outbreak of diarhoea in children. This is of course entirely preventable, if the PVMC and Shefa Province market management could just manage to get off their backsides and do their job.

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How healthy is our society?

A new documentary, ‘Well-Being in Vanuatu’, has just been released. It highlights key findings from a pilot study on ni-Vanuatu well-being conducted between 2010-2012 by the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs and the Vanuatu National Statistics Office.

The documentary asks questions about how we currently define ourselves as a country — how do we measure how well we are doing collectively, as a society? Do we use western methods that measure mostly economic criteria, or do we use other measurements that are more relevant to the way we actually live our lives in Vanuatu?

The study is part of the ‘Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia’ project, endorsed by the Melanesian Spearhead Group and due to roll out in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji in 2013.