Daily Post today headlines a story from the Finance Department: “jailed MPs did not refund gratuity payments.” The big question to be asked yet is why did the Finance Department ever make the payments? The un-identified departmental or ministerial spokesperson does not explain further. Everyone will likely wonder whether the Caretaker Finance Minister, who did plead guilty to the conspiracy which put the others in gaol, or his advisers, might have been involved, especially since each recipient/conspirator in the bribery case received vt4,452,023. It is too large a sum to be blamed on a clerical error. However, there has been no announcement of any investigation into the illegal gratuity issue by Finance. One also wonders why not? in that regard.
The other conspiracy case, the Pipite Purported Pardons, will be heard on the second of February. The Magistrate’s Court did meet yesterday afternoon, despite the earlier unofficial announced date of tomorrow, to hear the Preliminary Inquiry of the Public Prosecutor. Prosecutions submitted 42 witness statements, three items of exhibit and various documents, Post tells us. Former MPs Marcellino Pipite, Silas Yatan, Arnold Prasad, Thomas Laken, John Amos, Paul Telukluk, Sebastien Harry, Tony Wright, Tony Nari, Jean-Yves Chabod and Jonas James were all charged with conspiracy to defeat the course of justice, a crime under the Penal Code (section 79a). The conspiracy was planned to have the Acting President Pipite pardon himself and 13 others involved in the bribery case immediately before the return of the substantive President from overseas. (Daily Post)
The Supreme Court yesterday threw out Constitutional Case no. 36 of 2016, Radio Vanuatu News reported this morning, Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s post is a bit of a catch-up. The various Daily Digesters are all enjoying the holiday season immensely, and have got a bit too relaxed. Notable news items in Vanuatu’s media this week:
From the weekend: VBTC News and Daily Post on Saturday told us that the 2017 Pacific Games will be held in Vanuatu. Notably, the Minister responsible for Youth and Sport, Steven Kalsakau, was also the Minister responsible for selling off the Government land which was promised by Minister Ham Lini to the international committee as the area for the Games Village. Talk about shitting in your own nest. Games CEO Joe Carlo has four years to sort this out.
Government will review education policy, said Prime Minister Sato Kilman in his New Year address to the nation. He told Radio Vanuatu News there are policies which need a quick review to answer many “concerns” and “issues” which have arisen. He also wants to share the educational responsibilities with NGOs to ensure Government “focuses on the main areas of work.” We can only hope ordering school stationery is not one of these “main areas”.
Yesterday: we revealed in this post that a lease over customary land belonging to the people of Mangaliliu and Lelepa, leased out to Kalorip Poilapa of Mele by the then Minister of Land Steven Kalsakau in September last 2012, has been resold. The present Minister of Lands, James Bule, authorised the sale of the lease to Michel Monvoisin and Ludovic Bolliet for the pitifully small sum of VT 2 million, a few days before Christmas last year. Merry Christmas, indigenous people of Vanuatu, with love from your own Government! xoxoxo
Daily Post lead with a rundown of the support Government has from the 12 parties and three independents affiliated with PM Sato Kilman. There is a list of Ministers and their parties including new Minister Tony Nari of the Iauko Group. Another Daily Post story has MP Tony Wright urging PM Kilman to talk with the Opposition. Wright feels that the small political groupings “hold the government to ransom.”
And finally, from today’s media: The Government promised that the Auditor General’s report on the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) would be made public last Monday. The report has not been released by Government, and the VNPF website has been taken offline. No news is good news, it seems for the VNPF management and the Vanuatu Government. The report was commissioned by the previous Kilman government to examine allegations of mismanagement within the nation’s superannuation fund. The VNPF, according to the last available VNPF Annual Report from 2011, is responsible for more than Vt 14 Billion of member’s funds.
As a “waiting and eager financial member” observes in today’s Daily Post Letters, one suspended executive is receiving vt346,154 of members’ funds fortnightly while suspended pending the outcome of the Auditor General’s report.
International criminals, are looking for a safe and pleasant jurisdiction to run your operations, free from pesky law enforcement types? Then why not come to Vanuatu, untouched criminal paradise! Interpol, the international global police network, no longer has any official connection with Vanuatu’s police force, another casualty of Vanuatu’s retaliatory deportation of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) following Australia’s imprisonment of dodgy Sato Kilman aide Clarence Marae. The Daily Post story also notes that Vanuatu has never been a member of Interpol, which links the police forces of over 190 member nations, significantly enhancing the ability of a national police force to combat transnational crimes such as drug smuggling. Vanuatu has always had to rely on foreign police forces to assist with transnational criminal investigations. So much for self-reliance.
Perhaps the international criminals who will no doubt flock to Vanuatu on hearing this news will find companionship with international war criminals, who can also find a safe haven here in Vanuatu. Is Vanuatu’s Government actively working to attract international criminals to our country? It certainly seems like it.
Happy new year to all of our readers! We are back online after a brief intermission.
Today’s Daily Post shows that the provisions of the Vanuatu Maritime Act may prove costly to new citizen Vu Anh Quan Saken, alleged owner of the yacht Phocea. The vessel has been detained for several months awaiting legal papers to prove its ownership. So far, investigators have only been presented with forged papers. Using false documentation is an international crime under the Port State Control (PSC) maritime agreement to which Vanuatu is a signatory, the Tokyo MoU. The Prime Minister has attempted to have the vessel released, as did the late Minister Harry Iauko. But Ports and Harbour Dept personnel are determined that the matter be dealt with legally,as their international reputations are on the line.
The Opposition is taking Prime Minister Sato Kilman to task over his intention to release the Phocea. Under the PSC MoU to which Vanuatu is a signatory, only the licensing officers of the Ports and Harbour Department are entitled to do this. The Opposition has issued a press release noting that the PM has stated that matters of law and order are to be dealt with by the appropriate authorities, but the Opposition accuses Kilman of hypocrisy, as he has taken the Phocea case out of the hands of the legal authorities. The Opposition asks in whose interests is the PM is acting, Daily Post reports.
Tony Nari is the new Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities. Nari, elected to Parliament in October last year under the banner of the Iauko Group, is also now the Iauko bloc’s leader following the death of Harry Iauko.
Speaker of Parliament George Wells has thrown out the no confidence motion against Prime Minister Sato Kilman. He said that three who had signed the motion had written to withdraw their signatures, but then two of the three later indicated they wanted their signatures to remain. It gets more complicated: one didn’t say anything at all, so Wells considered he had withdrawn his name from the Motion. Speaker Wells told Radio Vanuatu News that the request for a special sitting of Parliament did not comply with Standing Orders. The withdrawal of the one signature meant he could not accept the Motion as it only had the support of 27 MPs. The Opposition has filed a Constitutional application against the Speaker as the withdrawal of signatures is only allowed inside Parliament. Daily Post names the floor-crossing backbenchers as: David Tosul and Johnny Amos (PPP), Jonas James (Natatok) and Tony Nari (Iauko Group).
Should the Motion against the Prime Minister succeed, a new Government may sever ties with Indonesia over West Papua, Daily Post reports. Politicians Kalkot Mataskelekele, Barak Sope, Ralph Regenvanu, Joe Natuman and Sae Esmon, plus members of the Vete Association met with West Papua freedom leaders Dr John Ondawame and Andy Ayamiseba on Saturday and their message was that the “colonisation by the Indonesians of West Papua is a sin.”
The Supreme Court is upholding employee entitlement of one month of severance pay per year worked from the date of employment. The Attorney General’s test case goes against both the ANZ Bank Vanuatu Limited and Wilco Hardware and a number of other employers who have tried to pay considerably less than the award rate, or nothing at all, and who owe large amounts of severance pay to their former employees. Justice Daniel Fatiaki rejected the argument that the updated rate of severance pay should only apply from the date it was officially gazetted.