A Commonwealth Observer mission for the election will give practical recommendations to help strengthen Vanuatu’s electoral process based on their observations. The group is headed by a former Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham. They arrive today from Australia, Guyana, Fiji and Uganda. They remain until 5 days after the elections, reports the Daily Post. A former ombudsman, an MP, an editor, an election supervisor and a gender equity expert are included in their ranks.
The court case being brought by a former chargé d’affaires in Beijing, Willie Toama, will not delay the snap poll. Toama’s name was not included in the official list of candidates. Daily Post has the story on page 1 today. They also re-confirm, Charles Lini’s name is now officially included.
Radio Vanuatu has had elements from the Moderates continuing to insist that Serge Vohor in prison Read the rest of this entry »
The Director of the Environment Unit, Albert Williams, approves the use of Parliament Park for the proposed convention centre. Meetings on the subject have taken place as far back as 2010, he told Daily Post, and it was agreed another space (other than the park close to Parliament) should be used for festivals and events such as Independence. The mayor of Port Vila has also given his approval to the project and questions MP Ralph Regenvanu’s failure to support it. Those against the new project, including Regenvanu, don’t support it because the project has already been built—It was built at the Le Lagon resort for the ACP/EU Ministerial Summit last year. Those against the proposal question the Vanuatu Government’s ability to maintain a new convention centre, given the Government’s failure to maintain ndependence Park and Korman Stadium. Even Parliament House itself, another ‘gift’ from China, looks like it is not being properly maintained at present.
A committee has met to re-count the votes cast in Santo during last year’s election. This is expected to be completed this week, and the result communicated to the court on 25 January. Lawyers, the principal electoral officer and the Electoral Commission comprise the committee, Radio Vanuatu News says. The news did not make it clear whether this was for Santo Rural or Luganville constituency, both of which are reported to have disputes.
A ministerial-level Chinese police delegation visit is taking place. The unannounced mission has included talks at VANSEC House and a guard-of-honour, VBTC News says today.
Dominique Dinh tells Daily Post today of the extensive planning he has carried out for a new 747 airport for South East Efate. He challenges Government to pick up the project, or he will himself find the investors to carry out the work. Even though the 747 is on its way out. He has enlisted the assistance of Vaturisu President Chief Andrew Kalpoilep and the Secretary General of of Shefa Province, Michel Kalworai. In the past, the Dinh family has been closely allied to Trade Minister Ham Lini of NUP who, last week, directed Shefa and the Vaturisu and land owners to find a site for such an airport following promises he had received from Korean investors. Efate land owners seeking to keep control of the remaining few unleased pieces of their birthright have not been consulted.
Work is about to begin on a conference facility in the Parliament grounds worth VT 1.3 billion. The Government built a similar facility at the Le Lagon resort for the 2012 ACP/EU conference. A Chinese construction company, China Jiangsu Provincial Construction Co. Ltd., has been chosen for this new Parliament facility, but it has not been announced whether ni-Vanuatu will be employed on the project. Many building occupations are reserved exclusively for ni-Vanuatu citizens under the Labour Act, but many large projects have somehow circumvented this provision in recent years. Daily Post reports that the facility will take around 18 months to build. The project has been given priority over other much-needed major building works such as the new Supreme Court.
MP Willie Jimmy’s electoral petition against the candidacy of the Prime Minister has taken a dramatic turn: Jimmy’s lawyer has requested Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek disqualify himself from the case. MP Jimmy says he has no personal complaint with PM Sato Kilman, but he does feel that the Chief Justice gives preference to the rules governing such cases rather than the substance of the organic law passed by Parliament. Jimmy is also hiring a Queen’s Counsel to assist his petition, says Daily Post and Radio Vanuatu News.
Vanuatu’s new Ambassador to China, Nguk Yang Dennis Nai, has agreed to comply with President Iolu Abbil’s request that Vanuatu’s embassy in Beijing not sell Vanuatu passports. Radio Vanuatu News reported this yesterday, and Daily Post today quotes Pres. Abbil’s request: “Vanuatu passports are very important documents to any ni-Vanuatu citizen, and that must be respected at all times.” He said he does not want to hear reports that the Vanuatu embassy in China is involved in selling Vanuatu passports.
Radio New Zealand International aired a rather breathless story this morning about how Port Vila ground to a “virtual standstill” for the state funeral of Harry Iauko yesterday. It didn’t, as anyone who was actually in Port Vila could have told RNZI’s reporter. Daily Post’s senior purple prose writer Len Garae was also reported saying that “the streets were packed with people standing quietly to show their last respects”, which is another falsehood. RNZI’s story seems to be predicated on the assumption that the death of a significant public figure automatically elicits reverence from the general public, which, in Iauko’s case, sori blo talem, simply is not true. In death, as in life, Iauko continues to divide opinion.
The Supreme Court recounted the votes for the Santo Rural constituency this morning in the presence of Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek, the Electoral Commission and a lawyer from the State Law Office. The recount is required due to a successful electoral dispute petition in that constituency. No word yet on the result.
Like most of the population, elected Liberal Democratic Party leader Willie Jimmy Tapangararua is wanting proof that caretaker PM Sato Kilman paid his outstanding VT 13 million debt to government before the cut-off day. Jimmy, like Kilman, was required to pay outstanding government invoices in time to be accepted as a candidate. He is now seeking Supreme Court-attested proof of Kilman’s payment, he says in Daily Post today. This was an election issue in 2008, and Jimmy is determined to have proof of payment this time around.
Lands DG Joe Ligo attempted to deflect the issue by saying Kilman claims he was owed a substantial amount of money by government over an entirely different piece of land — Lakatoro customary land he claims as his own. This is doubted in many quarters, Kilman being of a Pentecost origin on the paternal side. It was also noted that when questioned on this subject at a Malakula campaign toktok he gave, he did not answer the question and promptly closed the meeting.
For the leader of the political party which won the most seats in the election, Edward Natapei of the Vanua’aku Pati, horse trading over portfolios is not standing in the way of better governance. The prime ministership, the speaker’s chair and other important posts are still available via the negotiating teams if it helps the ongoing fight against corruption. Political fraud has plumbed new depths in recent years, and if a fairer distribution of ministerial responsibilities can help to lift the economy, Natapei will promote it. The VP is ready to sacrifice. Natapei was amplifying the Solidarity Agreement signed by MPs on Wednesday — an agreement signed by many leaders of the main political parties. Mr Serge Vohor signed for UMP. Mr Willie Jimmy Tapangararua’s Liberal Democratic Party has also joined the grouping. MPP’s Nato Taiwia signed for the party of Barak Sope.
The Santo Electoral Officer advised on Radio Vanuatu late this morning that unofficial results from the Santo Rural constituency will not be available before the weekend. Voting papers and ballot boxes have not yet made it to several polling stations in South Santo and the Big Bay area due to flooded rivers.
Unofficial results from other constituencies around the country are trickling in via social media, however these are yet to receive independent verification. What is clear however is that voter turnout has been low, less than 50% in some polling stations.