An investigative report in last weekend’s Independent newspaper alleges renegade mega-yacht claimant Pascal Anh Quan Saken gave USD200,000 to PM Sato Kilman for his 2012 election campaign. Prime Ministerial spokesmen have repeatedly denied this, but the Independent’s “close source from Government” said Saken was “trapped” by Vanuatu politicians, and the Vanuatu Government was implicated at the highest level in Anh Quan’s forged documentation and diplomatic passports.
The weekend’s Vanuatu Times says former Epi MP Ioane Simon is confident of a by-election on Epi because Robert Bohn Jr. has not been adopted by an Epi family, as is required by the Representation of the People Act. Ioane Simon is expecting judgement this week.
Vanuatu Times also has Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy, claiming that he was just doing his diplomatic duty for a fellow citizen in requesting passage for Vu Anh Quan Saken to Port Moresby, PNG, as Anh Quan had “legitimate and validated documentation.” There is no reference to Anh Quan’s use of allegedly forged papers in other matters such as the Phocea yacht registration. He makes no mention of the tremendous engineering help Saken claims to have provided for the Brussels-based embassy.
The Vanuatu Police Force has announced the Australian Federal Police will resume operations in Vanuatu following negotiations between the Vanuatu Government and Australia. Acting Commissioner Arthur Caulton made the announcement and said the AFP presence is needed because of the difficulties Vanuatu has been experiencing recently, which is a polite way of saying the welcome mat is no longer out for Pascal Anh Quan and his kind. A Government mole tells us this volte face was negotiated by PM Sato Kilman’s office, an obvious political fist in the face to coalition partner Alfred Carlot.
It is regrettable that Vanuatu’s police, despite all of the assistance Australia and other donors have given over many years, do not yet have sufficient capacity to investigate and act against transnational crime. Hopefully the AFP this time around will not follow the paternalistic, know-it-all, in-line approach they have in the past. This complaint aside, the return of their expertise, and of the re-establishment of Vanuatu’s links to Interpol, is welcome.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, says the Foreign Affairs Minister of Vanuatu, Alfred Carlot, is not telling the truth when he says he visited PNG at the invitation of the PNG Government. O’Neill made this statement in a media conference he gave on the Saken scandal in PNG earlier in the week. Vanuatu Government Public Relations Officer Jeff Joel Patunvanu had earlier told the PNG Post-Courier newspaper that Alfred Carlot had he and the Sakens were in PNG following the invitation of the PNG Prime Minister. Not true, says O’Neill.
The Transnational Crime Unit of the Vanuatu Police Force gave the PNG Police the right to return the “diplomatic passports” of the Sakens when they were apprehended there last week. Acting Police Commissioner Arthur Caulton said the Police were acting on the advice of the acting DG of Foreign Affairs. However, for Caulton, a big question remains – how can the Saken brothers continue to hold Vanuatu diplomatic passports when the Office of the Prime Minister had ordered their cancellation in September last year. He questions the validity of these passports. Like the Anh Quan CV we posted yesterday, they are full of grammatical errors. Perhaps, like the Phocea docmentation, they are forgeries too. Caulton questions how Foreign Affairs can be certain of their validity.
To the above we would add, why was Vanuatu’s EU Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy making diplomatic requests on the Sakens’ behalf, if his office was aware that the passports were invalid? And why was Vanuatu’s Brussels embassy involved at all, when PNG is a close regional neighbour of Vanuatu, and when the Department of Foreign Affairs has a Protocol office in Port Vila that normally handles diplomatic requests?
Foreign Ministry DG Johnny Koanapo complains on VBTC today against the media saying it is easy for the media to give the Government a bad name, but building back trust will take a long time. He is quite right. When lying and deception become the standard operating procedure of a national Government, and when a Minister of State consorts with known narcotics and arms traffickers and offers them diplomatic status, it becomes increasingly difficult for that government to re-establish its reputation. The media makes mistakes, too, of course, as in the statement yesterday we said Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) attributed to PNG PM O’Neill, that Minister Alfred Carlot arrived in Port Moresby on a plane belonging to the Sakens. RNZI say they didn’t say it. Our reporting erred somewhere along the way, and for that we apologize.
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While Phocea remains in Vila Harbour on its allegedly forged papers today, the Director of Ports and Harbours, Mr Morris Kaloran, was suspended last Friday, Daily Post tells us today. Questions concerning the request of the Brussels based EU representative for Vanuatu have also been raised. Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy, asked for PNG assistance for the plane taking the two Sakens to PNG. And overseas media tell us quite a bit more today, most significantly that Vu Anh Quan Saken and Charles Henry Saken are wanted by Interpol on charges of drug and arms smuggling. Their private charter flight originated in Mali in west Africa, where radical Islamic forces have take control over half the country, and a military intervention by France has just begun, an odd destination for a joy flight. The Daily Post page 1 story has government spokesman Jeff Joel Patunvanu telling us that Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot’s trip to Port Moresby is private, meaning it was not an official Vanuatu Government trip for Carlot to meet with the two Sakens. Serious consequences are likely for the Sato Kilman government, as it seems his Ministers and overseas diplomats have been aiding and abetting drug and arms smugglers. As we noted several weeks ago, Vanuatu has no laws in place to deal with persons wanted internationally for war crimes. Which perhaps explains why Vu Anh Quan and his associates want to set up shop in Vanuatu.
It appears that Vu Anh Quan and Charles Henry were both born in Vanuatu, members of Vanuatu’s Vietnamese population. Vu Anh Quan is a childhood friend of Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot. More on this to follow.
A man from Tongoa, hospitalised following a serious road accident in the Agathis area at the weekend, has died, Acting Deputy Police Commissioner John Taleo has announced to the media. The story is both sad and serious and has led to clashes between young men of several communitie, and Taleo is anxious to prevent the violence from spreading. The incident began as a road accident, but the media have reported that the bus was stoned by island-based gangs taking matters into their own hands. Homes have been damaged too. However, Taleo is quite right to insist on dealing with the matter as a traffic accident. The driver is being held by the police, according to VBTC midday news. He is certainly safer with them. However, look at how readily the South Tanna versus West Tanna dispute has enlarged.
The administrator of the South Pacific Fishing Company Claims Association, Mr Remy Kuaunuan, has told Daily Post that 1,000 fishermen are still awaiting their wage claims which date back to August 1989. The amount involved is huge, and many of the fishermen who spent years at sea with the SPFC company have not received any of the wages for which they worked hard for during their long and uncomfortable years at sea. Many have already died. The Council of Ministers has this year approved a commission of inquiry to look into the matter of the claims of each individual claimant. Mr Kuaunuan and his members question whether the commission has actually been formed. There has been no feedback from CoM at all about this matter.
Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the European Union Roy Mickey Joy has expressed his displeasure with the Pacific leaders in the ACP Group (the Asian, Caribbean and Pacific collaboration of developing countries) for not sending a Pacific leader to the current meeting of ACP heads of state in Equatorial Guinea. The ACP Group is due to expire with the Cotonou Agreement in 2020 and, Mr Joy is castigating his Pacific colleagues for not sending a president or prime minister. Meanwhile, Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot has been attending a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People in Marrakech, Morocco.