Kastom and criminal justice in the spotlight; Pediatrician cautions parents over outbreak

The six men convicted of abduction on Tanna last month. Photo: Supplied

The six men convicted of abduction on Tanna last month. Photo: Supplied

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Chairman of VNPF expresses outrage at nepotism claims

The chairman of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund was outraged at alleged lack of balance shown by Daily Post yesterday. The paper’s front page story was this time emphasising already mentioned nepotism at the VNPF. Whilst it is easy to understand the Chairman’s vexation, the story was a listing of facts surrounding appointments at the Fund which demonstrate nepotism at work. Answers are needed by Fund members and Daily Post is right to demand them.

Two facts which have not been denied by the VNPF are the appointments of the treasurer of Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s political party to the position of VNPF head of corporate services (against the staff code of conduct) and the appointment of the Prime Minister’s formerly out-of-work sister as Manager, human resources. There appears to be a tendency to readily employ former TVL staff (maybe just because they are ‘known’) to posts which pay above award rates. Then there is the question of extraordinarily high salaries — the handyman is on Vt 100,000 a month.

The VNPF chairman wants ‘balance’ in the story. Statements of fact cannot be the subject of balance. Fund members want answers. Nobody wants a riot. Simil Johnson says the government is aware of the allegations and is investigating. It must now respond.

The Transparency page in Daily Post today focuses on Statutory Bodies being bled of their funds and assets. It is a continuation of last week’s observations, the VBTC under the spotlight.

In court yesterday, the Phocea crew claimed to be generally sorry for arriving without proper entry papers. Their main concern is to go home to the Philippines and the Czech Republic. The crew seem to also comprise the passengers of the luxurious vessel, just meandering from place to place. They were simply doing their job claimed their counsel, whether the work was as basic as cleaning the ship or maintaining the engines. There was no explanation as to how personnel such as the captain and engineer, people who must have spent many years at sea, could see it unnecessary to hold valid entry permits (especially visas) for other countries such as Tonga and Vanuatu presently. The captain is actually legally responsible for this.

The Public Prosecutor is wanting the investigation being carried out by the Fraud Unit to be completed so that in the event of there being further charges against any of these passenger/crew, they have not already been allowed to leave the country. And, of course, there are many questions to be answered, especially the involvement of Mr Pascal Anh Quan Saken who fled the country at the first attempt to have a search of the vessel. In the event, the Public Prosecutor won a stay of one week for hearing the charges against the crew.

Conversation around town now often centres on the large drugs cache found hidden at a South Efate beach a few years back. A vessel like the Phocea has many hiding places which would easily conceal drugs already here on their way to elsewhere. As well as Vanuatu diplomatic passports. (Why were Foreign Affairs personnel at the party on board before the vessel was cleared?) It is to be hoped the Police are pulling the vessel apart. We are to learn more later today. The Acting Commissioner of Police told Radio Vanuatu News this morning that criminal matters are being investigated, charges laid.

The groundbreaking for Vanuatu’s new National Archives Building took place late yesterday. A custom nasautonga took place over a week ago. The Vt 238 million building will be Australia’s gift to Vanuatu to mark this country’s first three decades of Independence.

A secondary school has opened at Big Bay Bush, Santo. It has been running for some time, but the official opening took place recently and Year 10 will be examined there at the end of this year.

Former Minister Don Ken has been found not guilty to charges which stem from drunkenness. The Public Prosecutor brought five eye-witnesses and a medical report which was disregarded “because it was not made by a medical practitioner”, Daily Post reported. The defence case was built around there being no assault at all. The charge of being drunk and disorderly was, curiously, withdrawn.

Court orders name change for breakaway political party

Daily Post begins with the attention grabbing headline of Charlot Salwai’s group ordered not to use UMP or UMPC as their party. The case was brought by UMP against four MPs, two of whom are ministers of Government — Charlot Salwai and Steven Kalsakau (who is also facing fraud charges). The other two are Raphael Worwor and Emiliano Buletari. Justice Spear handed down the judgement Friday afternoon.

Signing of the Vt 232 million contract for the National Archives has taken place, said Daily Post. National archivist Mrs Anne Naupa reminded those present at the signing that the provision of the archives building is a gift from Australia to mark Vanuatu’s three decades of Independence.

The Police have applied to the courts for a search warrant for the 4-masted sailing vessel in port, Phocea. Radio Vanuatu News said the vessel was not properly complying with the law. Persons on board are allegedly holding red Vanuatu passports. Two people have been arrested. The vessel is registered in one name and traveling under another. The ship also permitted people on board before a Customs inspection when the vessel arrived on Saturday a week ago.

The VNPF continues to deny allegations against it. The livestock officer who carried out the study on Bouffa plantation was an officer of the Agriculture Department and not the partner of the Fund’s general manager, today’s Radio News quotes a press release saying. However, the original allegation also said the Fund had never paid the ministry for the service. The plantation was acquired for a housing project, but seems to be being used for primary production which might well be the subject of further allegations.

The PM has called on “technical people” to draft a ‘national service policy” for Vanuatu. He called on everyone, working in government or the private sector, or as donor partners, to become involved in the policy formulation. His appeal was made at the launching of the country’s first trade policy framework last Friday. The service sector wins Vt 2 billion a year, or 50% of the government income on goods, he observed on Radio News.

The Vanuatu appointment to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is a woman but the appointment could not be announced until today, VBTC said. This will be the deputy permanent representative at the IMO.

The government says it is subsidising the price of copra by Vt 8,000 a ton, the world price having fallen. The landed Port Vila and Luganville price is now Vt 38,000.