Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 804
1) Nuclear Free Pacific disagreement spawned MSG agreement
Posted on February 11, 2013 – 2:00pm
Last week Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders converged on Port Vila to celebrate its Silver Jubilee. But how many of them know the circumstances surrounding the creation of the MSG, what kind of leaders were behind it, and what was their vision for Melanesia?
We can find some of the ideologies and visions behind the creation of a Melanesian sub-regional political grouping in the words of the late Fr. Lini. He said if Vanuatu decides to imitate other countries of the world, there can be no freedom in terms of being one’s own individual identity. He believed in a bright future for Vanuatu in terms of economic and social development, and taking an important and active role in the region. He said, “Gradually but surely, such phrases as “Pacific Way”, “Pacific Revolution”, “Pacific Ideology”, and “Pacific and Melanesian Socialism” will become realities in our lives. Melanesian Socialism means “Small is beautiful, small is powerful, and small is practical”.
He penned these very words on the eve of independence in 1980. During his first four year term as Prime Minister, he was embroiled in disagreements with Australia and France over the independence of East Timor, West Papua, New Caledonia, Tahiti, and the issue of a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone.
In 1982, Fr. Lini imposed a ban on US nuclear warships docking in Vanuatu or entering into its territorial waters, committing Vanuatu to be totally free of all nuclear weapons or material.
In 1983 Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands followed suit and declared a port ban on nuclear materials in their ports.
At the Pacific Forum leaders meeting at Rarotonga, Cook Islands in 1985, Prime Minister Lini refused to sign the final form of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. He defied Australia, New Zealand and all the other Pacific island nations which agreed with Australia, saying the Raratonga Treaty was weak, not comprehensive and partial.
Fr. Lini said he wanted the treaty to be water-tight. He would not sign the agreement until the document was by his definition water-tight.
Only three countries objected. The formation of a regional Melanesian bloc within the Pacific Islands Forum was emerging and at the helm were Prime Minister Walter Lini, PM Paias Wingti of PNG and Prime Minister Ezekiel Alabua of the Solomon Islands.
They objected to the compromises forced on the Forum by Australia, trying not to jeopardize relations with the United States.
After this ‘David’ stand-off with ‘Goliath’ in the Forum, New Zealand followed suit in declaring port bans on nuclear material in their ports.
At the 1986 Forum meeting in Suva Lini together with Wingti and Alebua said they would not sign the agreement if it was still not strong enough at the Suva meeting. Their position was consolidated in Suva in 1986 and two years later on March 14th 1988 in Port Vila, they formally established the MSG.
Here they demonstrated that Melanesia, was small, but powerful. It was able to withstand external pressure from the US through Australia to water down a significant treaty that would declare the Pacific a nuclear free zone.
Due to their will and determination, the Nuclear Free Pacific was not signed, was revised and made sure it was strong enough to have an impact on the way nuclear powers viewed the pacific.
Many will argue its insignificance on the global stage. However, just how would the US and its allies be strategically positioned to strike the USSR, if their nuclear worships and submarines did not pass through territorial waters of Pacific Island countries to replenish supplies, without violating international law. So the determination of the three Melanesian leaders was significant in ending the nuclear standoff between the Soviet Union and its allies in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), which includes nuclear powers France and Great Britain.
What has been achieved so far?
It was never the intention of the three leaders to undermine the Forum, but to serve particular interests and more bargaining power and leverage in meetings. Part of their vision was to apply pressure on the Forum to take a much stronger stand on the decolonization of Pacific island countries particularly, New Caledonia, West Papua, East Timor and Tahiti. It was also the vision of Prime Minister Fr. Walter Lini to establish a regional peace keeping corps that would be deployed into hot spots around the region. This emanated from Vanuatu experience when Fr. Lini sought assistance from the PNG Defense Force to quell the Santo rebellion in 1980.
East Timor has gained Independence. Vanuatu peacekeepers were deployed there. The Forum signed the Biketawa declaration which calls for military intervention in member countries. The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) is its first fruit. The MSG is now developing its own cadre of peace keepers through the MSG Police Formed Unit (MSGPFU).
The MSG is a major regional economic and trading bloc in the Pacific. The implementation of a labor mobility scheme promises further growth and integration within the region. It has also placed more emphasis on the maintenance of culture with the inclusion of the Melanesian Arts Festival. The establishment of an MSG Secretariat in Port Vila reflects maturity and a new phase in consolidating its resources for future development.
However, one objective is still lacking. The Silver Jubilee has seen a regress in the MSG efforts towards West Papuan independence. A decision by the government for Prime Minister Sato Kilman to sponsor West Papua’s bid as an observer in the MSG was denied. Instead he accepted Indonesia bid for observer status in the MSG.
PM Kilman’s rationale has been to bring Indonesia in, in-order to achieve independence for West Papua through dialogue, where Vanuatu can also benefit from closer bilateral and economic relations with Jakarta. It becomes a challenge that will test the very core of the MSG’s founding principles and ethics behind their original agreement to form a bloc.
This test will either solidify and strengthen the founding vision of the MSG on decolonization for all the colonized, or compromise and resort to a weak and dilute stand, imposed by its leaders today so as not to jeopardize friendly relations with its major and potential aid donors.
When Indonesia enters the MSG, it is not just Jakarta it represents. It’s by economic and political association representing transnational corporations – who are extracting oil and mineral in West Papua – the United States, Australia, WTO, OECD, IMF, World Bank and all other international financial institutions.
It is true that Vanuatu or the MSG cannot grow in isolation from the global economy. But, the issue is whether its leaders still have the resolve and the courage to proclaim their uniqueness, cultural heritage, overcome their smallness, and move heaven and earth not to compromise and follow the rest of the world, but to stand up and be counted that Small is beautiful, small is powerful, small is practical. And small does not have to go along with the masses, but be firm and rooted in what it beliefs and stand for.
It remains to be seen whether Vanuatu and the MSG will be able to rekindle the fire and the passion which burned in the hearts of its founders to see West Papua gain independence.
Time will be Kilman’s witness to see if his approach will give West Papua independence, or whether his approach is a sellout of the aspiration of the Papuan people.
>>The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the Vanuatu Daily Post
2) Australia bai helpim Solomon Islands
Updated 10 February 2013, 18:53 AEST
Australia bai givim planti moa helpim long Solomon Islands.
Ol haus i bagarap bihaenim tsunami long Solomon Islands (Credit: ABC licensed)
Odio: George Hemming tokman blong Solomon Islands PM itoktok wantem Caroline Tiriman
Australian Foran Minista Mr Bob Carr, i go lukim pinis ol bagarap em guria na tsunami ibin kamapim long Temotu provins blong Solomon Islands, na emi tok Australia bai mas givim sampla moa halvim igo long kantri.
Wanpla bikpla guria emi bin hamarim provins long wik igo pinis ibin kamapim wanpla tsunami emi bin kilim 10pla pipal.
Senator Carr ibin go long Santa Cruz Islands tede blong lukim planti ol vilis em dsewpla tsunami ibin bagarapim ol na wasim ol igo long solwara.
Senator Carr itok Australia imas givim sampla halvim igo long Solomon Islands.
3) NZ opposition MPs criticise speaker’s move to ban West Papuan from parliament
Posted at 01:46 on 11 February, 2013 UTC
The decision by New Zealand’s parliamentary speaker to bar a visiting West Papuan activist from speaking at parliament this week has met with criticism from opposition MPs.
The UK-based Benny Wenda is due in Wellington tomorrow to talk about the plight of the indigenous people of Indonesia’s troubled Papua region.
Speaker David Carter’s refusal stems from advice he says he received from government officials deeming the Wenda visit inappropriate.
The Green Party MP, Catherine Delahunty, says the refusal is disappointing.
And the Labour MP, Maryan Street, says cross-party events should not be dictated to by the level of sensitivity that a government feels about them.
“He is a representative of West Papuans. He is recognised internationally as that. He has been a guest of the UK parliament, the European Union parliament and a guest at the United Nations. Why can’t he be hosted at the New Zealand parliament even if the government does not agree with his position? Parliament is more than government. It’s government and opposition.”
Radio New Zealand International
By Online Editor
4) PNG 2013 Budget analysed
4:27 pm GMT+12, 11/02/2013, Papua New Guinea
The 2013 PNG Budget analysis presented last week at the National Budget Forum showed that the 2013 national budget continued the tradition of rapid expansion of government expenditure seen over the last decade.
The forum was organized by the National Research Institute and Australian National University.
Professor Stephen Howes, Director of the ANU’s Development Policy Centre, stated that the growth in expenditure had benefited key sectors, such as education and health and especially roads, where the road rehabilitation and maintenance spending has increased markedly.
Professor Howes also argued that front-line service delivery (health, education, law and order etc.) was underfunded and that, although there were some welcome increases this year, they appeared to be temporary and the underfunding could well worsen in the future.
There appear to be several reasons for the squeeze on front-line service delivery funding.
First of all, overall expenditure growth is going to slow. This is because the growth of revenue has already slowed, and is likely to stay slow, in part due to generous tax concessions. The large deficit this year will also constrain expenditure growth.
Secondly, the development (or project) budget continues to expand at the expense of the recurrent budget which funds front-line service delivery.
In the last ten years, the share of the total budget taken up by the development budget has risen from 30% to 45%. This upward trend is projected to continue, and reach almost 50% by 2017, which is very high by international standards.
In a constrained fiscal environment, this implies that recurrent funding for front-line service delivery will fall.
Third, the biggest change in this budget is in devolved funding to provinces, districts, and local-level governments, which increases from about 5% of the overall budget to a massive 15%. While devolution is welcome, the increase in funding is nearly under the development budget and so will result in more projects rather than recurrent funding for service delivery.
Fourth, the design of the Sovereign Wealth Fund will direct the flow of dividends from the PNGLNG project into development rather than recurrent funding.
Initial evidence from the just-completed PNG Promoting Effective Public Expenditure (PEPE) survey is consistent with the squeeze of funding for front-line service delivery. The surveyors came across many examples of District Service Improvement Program (DSIP) projects which are meant to help schools and health centres with new buildings, but which are incomplete, or even if complete, cannot be used due to staffing constraints.
In conclusion, Professor Howes noted that this is an important and exciting time for the PNG budget, with many new reforms and initiatives.
“Monitoring of implementation will be key he,” said.
The PNG PEPE project, being carried out by NRI and ANU, with financial support from AusAID through the Economic and Public Sector Program, has a strong emphasis on data collection through surveys, and so should be an important tool for government and civil society.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
5) PNG’s Post-Courier makes new appointments
By Online Editor
4:09 pm GMT+12, 11/02/2013, Papua New Guinea
The Post-Courier has announced the appointments of senior journalist Gorethy Kenneth as Chief of Staff and Melanie Vari and Ephata Samuel as the Business and Sports Editors of the newspaper.
Kenneth previously worked as the Post-Courier Buka Bureau Chief before returning to the newspaper’s headquarters in Port Moresby. She joined the newspaper in 2000 and is an award-winning journalist. Vari joined the newspaper in October last year after working for the National Parliament as well as having brief stints with The National newspaper and undergoing postgraduate studies in Western Australia.
Samuel joined the newspaper in January 2008 and started off on the newspaper’s inaugural edition of the Weekend Courier, writing the magazine’s ‘Down Memory Lane’ and Flash Back’ columns as well as special assignments such as major sporting events. These included covering the 2011 Arafura Games. He previously worked for Coca-Cola as well as produced programs for EMTV and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Post-Courier Editor Alexander Rheeney expressed confidence in their appointments, saying his newsroom management team was now in place and ready to steer the newspaper in its strive to improve the quality of its news as well as roll out new content for its readership.
“Our readers would have noticed the special reports we have published in the last one to two months on the Vanuatu-Connection, Spotlight on Djoko, the PNG-Indonesia Border and MV Rabaul Queen – One Year On, which are issues of concern for a lot of Papua New Guineans. The newspaper will this year bring you more of these reports in the hope that the spotlight will compel Government to act,” he said.
For the sports pages, Samuel recently commissioned the Papua New Guinea Kumuls – Road to the World Cup which is a column dedicated to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in October this year.
Columns and pages dedicated to other sports will also be rolled over the course of this year.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
6) Aftershocks rattle Solomon Islands
Posted 11 February 2013, 8:51 AEST
A third powerful aftershock has rattled Solomon Islands as aid agencies struggle to assess devastation five days after a massive magnitude 8.0 quake triggered a deadly tsunami.
A third powerful aftershock rattled Solomon Islands early this morning, as aid agencies struggled to assess the devastation five days after a magnitude 8.0 quake triggered a deadly tsunami.
The confirmed death toll rose to 10 with the discovery of a child’s body in a ditch in the remote Santa Cruz Islands on Sunday, while more than 3,000 people are squatting in shelters after their homes were destroyed.
Two boats carrying urgently needed supplies of medicine, food, water and tents have arrived at Lata, the main town in the island group, but the fragile communications system meant further shipments were on hold.
Officials in the capital Honiara said they had not been able to receive full assessments of the situation in the outlying islands.
“At the moment we don’t know if we are still in the relief stage or have moved to the recovery stage,” Red Cross secretary general for the Solomon Islands, Joanne Zoleveke, told AFP.
“We don’t know if what we have sent is sufficient or if more is required and we have to charter more boats.
“We can’t make those decisions until we receive assessment reports from Lata and communications are intermittent.”
A magnitude 6.3 earthquake centred 51 kilometres south-west of Lata at a depth of 35 kilometres hit the region early this morning.
It followed a magnitude 6.5 quake early Sunday which was centred just 29 kilometres south-southwest of Lata at a depth of 18 kilometres, and a 7.0 aftershock late on Friday night.
Solomon Islands government has declared the Santa Cruz Islands a disaster area. Aerial surveys indicate most of the damage is confined to the Lata region.
It was estimated about 590 houses had been destroyed, with most of the destruction caused in the initial earthquake on Wednesday and the metre-high tsunami which swept through coastal villages soon after.
Initial reports put the death toll at 13, but Ms Zoleveke said the intermittent communications with Lata indicated it was not that high.
“The official death toll is now 10 as of last night. The body of a child was found in a ditch,” she said.
Australia pledged additional aid on Sunday, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr travelling to Solomon Islands to tour tsunami-wrecked areas.
Canberra has already donated $250,000 to the local Red Cross.
Senator Carr announced funding for an emergency flight of three doctors and three nurses to the devastation zone, with the return flight due to ferry severely injured patients back to the capital for treatment.
“We’re deploying two AUSAID workers to get into Lata to assess the damage and help coordinate relief, and a medical flight to the disaster zone,” he said.
“We’ll fund the evacuation of two people injured in the tsunami to get hospital treatment elsewhere in the Solomons.”
Solomon Islands are part of the Ring of Fire, a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
A tsunami following an magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 2007 killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless.
7) Lata hospital in Solomons running low on supplies
Posted at 03:25 on 11 February, 2013 UTC
A senior nurse at Lata hospital in Temotu Province in Solomon Islands says the hospital is running low on clean water, food and some frequently used drugs.
The hospital currently has 50 patients with a variety of minor injuries and ailments after last Wednesday’s quake and tsunami.
Mere Nelly says they have not been offered any aid assistance so far but are coping as best they can.
She says a nearby water source was contaminated by the tsunami, while the hospital kitchen is almost out of food.
“At the moment we are using just a little bit of water that is still left in the tank but if it’s finished then (there) will be no more water. Food is also a problem.”
Mere Nelly says they are expecting more people to be admitted with water borne diseases so the need to restock supplies is urgent.
Radio New Zealand International
8) Ol toktok blong mi long Radio Vanuatu tede
I gat wan intaviu we Radio Vanuatu i mekem wetem mi we i kamaot tede long moning (mi no harem, be ol man oli talem se oli harem).
Samari blong ol toktok blong mi long redio i stap daon, long Daily Digester blong tede:
Vanuatu daily news digest | 11 February 2013
- Last year over 600 people from China or Hong Kong people achieved special investor status and now do not need a work permit to work in Vanuatu, Port Vila MP Ralph Regenvanu points out on VBTC News this morning. He questions the set-up of the Hong Kong Permanent Residence Visa scheme by VFSC and VIPA. If such people are awarded permanent residence status by Government, says Regenvanu, they could enter Vanuatu to work in shops and on building sites as they won’t need a work permit for any category of employment. Employment in stores and on building sites has previously been reserved for ni-Vanuatu. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Toara Daniel, signed an order in January permitting such work-permit-free employment, and backdated it by more than a year. MP Regenvanu questions why, when the Hong Kong Investment Programme was launched by the Government, was it was not explained that anyone could come and work in Vanuatu, said Regenvanu? The DG of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri (who we thought had been asked to resign by his Minister) said the program was set up because the Prime Minister wanted to raise more revenue due to an expected budgetary shortfall. “What do you really want?” Regenvanu asks the Government. “Are you trying to give a legitimacy to foreigners who have been working against the labour laws since 2011? What about work for ni-Vanuatu who have a legal priority?”
- Australian organised crime figure Mick Gatto has been linked to Port Vila online betting agency BetJack, reported the Australian media over the weekend. Gatto is known in Australia as the inspiration for a character in a hit TV series about Melbourne’s criminal underworld, Underbelly. He was charged with the suspected murder of a hitman in 2004 but was acquitted. More background about his recent tax troubles here and here, and his attempts at public relations here. Gatto denies any involvement in BetJack, though as the story we linked to yesterday points out, the secrecy provisions of Vanuatu’s tax haven make Gatto’s claim impossible to verify.
- While on the topic of Vanuatu’s tax haven and the kind of people it attracts, from New Zealand comes word of some new arrivals to Port Vila who have skipped out on their NZ tax obligations. “After leaving behind a string of collapsed businesses which owe nearly [NZ]$2.5 million to the New Zealand taxman”, says the New Zealand Herald, Ross Harold Fitches and Christine Angela Fitches appear to have escaped to Port Vila. The couple are on a NZ Govt list of people who are banned from running a company there. We wonder if the Fitches have made any application to VIPA, and if so, if VIPA is aware of their background.
- Ten scholarship holders for the University of New Caledonia were refused permission to continue their studies this year when they turned up at the Scholarships Office on 28 January, Daily Post reveals this morning in information from the Vanuatu Anti-Corruption Commission (VACC). The students’ names had already appeared on the list of successful students following 2012 exams. The list, however, was modified by the Minister. VACC sees this as a “direct interference” in their studies and future prospects.
- Government has expressed its displeasure at the failure of its own directors-general and Ministers to attend the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the new Vila Central Hospital. PM Sato Kilman and the Japanese Ambassador Yutuka Yoshizawa officially launched the project together last week, but building work commenced late last year. Government Public Relations Officer, Jeff Joel Patunvanu, says the PM is disappointed with the turnout of senior government officials because it presents a poor image to donor partners like Japan who have given money to Vanuatu’s health sector. Only 3 or 4 DGs turned up, said Patunvanu on Radio Vanuatu News, and some Ministers failed to attend. We wonder why it is considered the role of the new Public Relations Officer to point out the defects in Government leadership. It will surely only exacerbate what disunity there clearly is already.
- Port Vila MP Ralph Regenvanu says the Government should spend money on dealing with the many challenges people are facing today, instead of putting it in MP’s pockets. He was commenting on the order signed by PM Kilman to create a new position under the Official Salaries Act—Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for his coalition partner, MP Moana Carcasses Kalosil. Carcasses’ official salary is higher than that of the President of Vanuatu, according to the Public Service Commission’s official salary scale. Regenvanu says the new post is a waste of public money, especially when there are insufficient Government funds for basic services. Says Regenvanu: “The Parliamentary Secretary, or Chancellor, we do not yet know exactly what is the title for the position which will give employment to MP Moana Kalosil, as the Leader of the Opposition says, is both unnecessary and a waste of public money. It will cost the public over VT 3 million, but just think of the roads on your island needing repair and maintenance when there are teachers unpaid and scholarships for which Government says it has no money.” Regenvanu says there is no need for work to find aid donor funds. The Department of Economic and Sector Planning and the Aid Management Unit, both part of the Prime Minister’s Office, already do this.
- Ports and Harbours Acting Director Glen Takau is taking advice from the tenders board concerning the sale of the Government-owned ships Northern Star and Southern Star. They have deteriorated to a “quite dangerous” state, he says. “They are no longer safe.” In addition, there are two other vessels the government should sell, and one is Euphrosyne, the pre-Independence British Residency vessel, which Takau says has been working but he is not aware of any agreement covering this.
9) The new Immigration Agency – a breach of the Leadership Code Act?
Posted on February 11, 2013 – 2:25pm |
There have been many newspaper articles, letters to the editor and media releases about the recent announcement that a monopoly on processing residency permits for foreigners has been given to a private company set up by the Director General of the Ministry responsible for the Immigration Department. There was no public announcement of this project, no consultation amongst civil society and politicians.
The announcement that came out instructed foreigners to use a newly created private company, “Pacific Migration Consultants” set up by the DG of internal affairs and his daughter as Agent for all immigration applications.
It has been reported that Pacific Migration Consultants were appointed by the Principal Immigration Officer of the Immigration Francois Batick as agents to carry out tasks for and on behalf of the Immigration Department.
The Daily Post stated:
“The Director General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri has just awarded himself a highly lucrative but almost un publicized contract to take over the processing of Vanuatu’s immigration visas. An advertisement appeared in the Daily Post last week (see below) announcing the change. The contract is expected to earn a company owned by George Bogiri more than Vt200 million per year”.
In response to the exposure of this scheme, the DG’s press release of stated:
… under powers under Section 9(2)(d) of the Immigration Act to designate persons as immigration officers. The role of the designated immigration officer is to make sure all conditions of the different visas are correct”.
However legally the DG appears to be confused about the legal terminology and definitions of what was intended by the Act.
The DG omitted to say that even though the Immigration Office can designate persons to be Immigration Officer under Section 9 of the Immigration Act 17 of 2010, the Body who can appoint Immigration officers in writing is the Public Service Commission.
“The Public Service Commission is to appoint in writing person to be immigration officers” (section 9).
But nothing in the law authorizes the PIO to designate a private Company to be immigration officer.
It might be a different matter if the Immigration Department having “hired” this company, paid them a fee, but the payment is to be made by the applicant.
According to the Daily Post,“Under the new procedure, the urgent service fee is vt 50,000 charged by the consultant for a residence Visa application and on top of this, the normal immigration fee of vt57,600 is also payable, PMC process the Visa application but the power to grant visa still remain with the PIO.
In the Immigration Visa Regulation Order No. 180 of 2011, Clause 6 & Table 2 of the Schedule, the Minister may prescribe charges/fees of Visa application starting with Vt 57,600 for a residence Visa period of 1 year.
There is nothing in the Act or regulation that could provide for an “Agent Service Fee”. Even the public notice issued by the PIO about the designated Immigration Officer to deal with Visa applications did not mention that a certain agent service fee would be added when applying for visa. No provision of the law provides for this new fee. Actually this type of extortion might be at borderline with a criminal offence.
There are also widespread misgivings that under this scheme one private company will be privy to sensitive personal details of every foreigner in the country, with no realistic guarantee of confidentiality as they request to send their private information by email using a webpage not protected.
In this age of identify fraud and attacks on unprotected email accounts, this is a genuine area of concern for anyone being asked to submit personal information, and is an indication that this company clearly is out of touch with current private sector concerns.
Is the workload of the Immigration Department so great that they are no longer capable of doing this basic work and if they are, the PIO could plan to increase his human resources? Would it not make more sense for the PIO to designate an officer within the Department of Immigration who is already familiar or qualified with the various visa requirements to be an officer responsible for residency applications?
The DG claimed in a press statement released on 29.01.2013 that he no longer is associated with the company Pacific Migration Consultants. Whatever he may have done to try to distance himself from the public outcry, there remains a clear conflict of interest so long as he is the DG of the Internal Affairs Ministry (responsible for immigration) and his daughter will be processing and obtaining payments from applicants.
The Director General appears to ignore the Prime Minister’s speech during his reappointment when addressing the DGs to “serve within the national interest and not their own interest or family interest?”
The fact of removing himself from the front line of the private Company does not remove his conflict of interest as his daughter is “close family” within the meaning of Art.6 of the Leadership Code.
Quite apart from the several areas of concern involving payments and confidentiality, there is a serious matter of an obvious conflict of interest involving the DG. This conflict of interest only serve to further undermine the reputation of Government, already damaged by years of scandal and scams.
Director Generals are leaders under the Leadership Code Act.
Under the Leadership Code Act [Cap 240], Section 6, 7 and 24 states:
6. Meaning of “interest”
A leader has an interest in a matter in either a business or personal capacity if the leader or his or her close family, either alone or with someone else:
(a) owns, directly or indirectly, property, or other assets of any kind related to the matter; or
(b) in the case of a company or other body corporate related to the matter owns shares in the company or body; or
(c) is in a position of control in relation to the matter.
7. Conflict of interest
(1) A leader has a conflict of interest in a matter if the matter relates in any way to:
(a) property the leader directly or indirectly owns or controls; or
(b) property owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a member of the leader’s close family; or
(c) property in which the leader has a beneficial interest of any kind, whether through a trust or otherwise.
(2) A leader has a conflict of interest in a matter if the leader, or a member of the leader’s close family, could benefit directly or indirectly from a decision on the matter, except as a member of a community or group.
24. Conflict of interest
A leader who has a conflict of interest in relation to a matter must not act in relation to the matter, or arrange for someone else to act in relation to the matter, in such a way that the leader or a member of his or her close family benefits from the action.
The DG expects the public to believe that because he has stated he has resigned or is no longer officially named as a company owner that he will not benefit in any way from this contract.
The law shows that The DG is involved in a prima face case of conflict of interest. It is not credible for the general public to believe that he will not personally benefit from the guaranteed revenue of more than Vatu 200 million that Pacific Migration Consultants will earn if this scheme is not cancelled by the Minister of Internal Affairs or the Prime minister.
On the face of it this looks like just the latest in a long line of disreputable, self serving schemes where certain officials, living off the public purse (largely filled by the tax paid to the Government by these foreigners and their businesses) have secretly engineered a way to fill their pockets without competing in the normal private sector way.
As yet, nothing has appeared in the media from the Government to cancel this arrangement, and reassure foreigner residents and potential foreign residents that they will not be forced to pay Vt50, 000 for each and every application Vanuatu residency. That silence in itself is troubling, allowing the man behind the scheme to go on the offensive to defend his actions.
The Immigration Department is under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Director General of the same Ministry.
The designation of Pacific Migration Consultant (a company originally owned by the DG and run by his daughter,)to be the immigration officer responsible for Visa Application amounts to a conflict of interest (section 6 and 7) and is in breach of sections 24 of Leadership Code Act [Cap 240].
Therefore this matter should be referred to the Ombudsman for breach of Leadership Code and prosecuted for the offences.
The Government through his Minister of Home Affairs or the Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers should come out and cancel this Order to return to the proper system of the Immigration Department taking care of all visas.
>>The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the Vanuatu Daily Post.
10) Women gone political: the challenges
Posted on February 11, 2013 – 2:15pm |
Two Pacific Island women who have the right to be represented politically.
On Saturday February 2, 2013, the only woman Candidate on Malekula, Ms. Salote Ansen Ray contesting the upcoming provincial election of the Malampa Provincial Council was assaulted by her brother. This was due to the challenge that Ms. Ray possess to her brother who is also a candidate in the upcoming provincial election.
In the Solomon Islands, husbands and Church elders give explicit instructions to wives and girls on which candidate to vote for. In Papua New Guinea, the life of a woman candidate was threatened so she has to step down during the 2007 national elections. These are some of the challenges faced by women leaders in Melanesia today.
The challenge ahead for the 12 women among the 274 candidates contesting the upcoming four provincial elections scheduled for 12 February can only be described as very challenging. However, the real feelings and the atmosphere surrounding the women concerned can only be best described by the women contestant themselves. After 12 February, these women contestant would have an experience of a lifetime to contest an election. The challenge for women leadership is not unique to Vanuatu and Melanesia but it is a global issue when it comes to women leadership especially in politics.
Women also remain woefully under-represented in the parliaments of the Pacific Island states, with an average of 3.2 percent (excluding Australia and New Zealand, where women’s representation stands at 24.7 percent and 28.3 percent, respectively).
Democracy is a system of political governance where citizens are considered as “political equals”. Women constitute half of the world population but the world average for women representation is only 17%. Locally, within our registered voters, in some constituencies, male and female registered voters are roughly 50% for both sexes especially within Shefa province. So a lot of women voters have been voting our Male dominated parliament, local government councils and provincial councils since 1980. By participating in these provincial elections, these women contestants are trying their best to achieve the 30% target set by the global community under the Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW.
Obstacles to women and political participation may be political, socio-economic and ideological and Psychological.
There is politics in all the decisions made within a society. So within a male dominated Melanesian society like Vanuatu, the masculine model of politics is an obstacle to women’s participation in politics. The above scenario on Malekula is a clear example of the masculine model of politics. For candidates vying the use of the fist, be advised that the fist is not a good political tool.
There was and is also lack of party support from political leaders and parties. The current 12 out of the 274 candidates depict the fact that there is lack of political support for women candidates. This figure represents a mere 4.4% of the total number of candidates.
Another obstacle are socio-economic obstacles such as the feminization of poverty and unemployment. This is the notion that the labour of women is cheap or unaccounted for in monetary terms. So the financial purchasing power of a woman to be able to compete with men is also minimal.
Secondly, there is also the socio-economic obstacle called the Dual Burden. This is a sociological terms when a women has the responsibility of unpaid work and paid work. For instance, working mothers who work as lawyers and also do household chores after working hours. This creates a perception in the mind of women who have the potential to hold back and be deprived of lifetime chances of becoming political leaders because they feel that they have a more important role in the house as a mother.
The last socio-economic obstacle is the lack of education and training. This is a obstacle that may diminish in its impact of women political leadership as we embark on our national vision of a educated, healthy and wealthy Vanuatu.
The last class of obstacles are ideological and psychological obstacles which include tradition, lack of confidence, the perception of politics as dirty and the role of mass media. How does a traditional role impact on women leadership?
It is common perception in Vanuatu that woman is meant for the kitchen and to look after the kids. This is exactly the first perception when a elder in the village hears the name of a woman candidate.
The quote below by Anna Balletbo, a former MP from spain is very interesting:
‘Women believe that entering parliament means choosing between a private
life or a public life. This is not the case. Instead, women should view their lifeas a continuum. They should decide what they want to achieve in life and
prioritize these goals in chronological order. There is a certain right time to
achieve each of these goals, whether it is becoming a wife, mother, professional
or a parliamentarian. Life is long and women can achieve many things.’
The second obstacle under this class is the lack of confidence by women leaders. Growing confidence is lacking in women leadership. In a recent training of potential women candidates at the Crystal blue Resort initiated by the DWA, lack of confidence is identified as a main obstacle. The next obstacle is the main perception that politics is dirty and those who participate in politics are also of the same nature. So with this perception, women find politics as an issue that they generally cannot subscribe to.
The last obstacle is Mass media which is the fourth branch of power because of their influence on public opinion and public consciousness. The media in any society have at least two roles: as a chronicler of current events; and as an informer of public opinion, thereby fostering different points of view. Often, the mass media tend to minimize coverage of events and organizations of interest to women.
The media do not adequately inform the public about the rights and roles of women in society; nor do they usually engage in measures to promote or improve women’s position. Most of the world’s media have yet to deal with the fact that women, as a rule, are the first to be affected by political, social and economic changes and reforms taking place in a country—for example, they are among the first to lose their jobs. The fact that women are largely alienated from the political decision-making process is also ignored by the media.
Whilst there are talks about introducing Temporary Special Measures (TSM), Pacific French territories are currently applying TSM such as the French law on parity which provides that all political parties to include 50% women on their zipper list. In New Caledonia 52.6% MPs are women and 42.1% in French Polynesia. A proportional representation voting system is assisting the implementation in these French colonies.
If our government is serious about getting Women going Politics, temporary special measures should be considered seriously as approximately 50 % of voters are women.
>>The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the Vanuatu Daily Post.
11) Fiji Government Further Criticized Over Draft Constitution
‘Unacceptable’ draft constitution to be rewritten by A.G.’s office
By Sean Dorney, Pacific Correspondent
MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 8, 2013) – The military-ruled Fiji is getting a new constitution, but it won’t be the one drafted after extensive public consultation.
The military-ruled Fiji is getting a new constitution, but it won’t be the one drafted after extensive public consultation.
It’s been six years since Commodore Bainimarama led a military coup which removed the prime minister, followed later by the suspension of the constitution.
A draft constitution, prepared by an internationally respected constitutional lawyer, was presented to the president at the end of last year, in preparation for promised 2014 democratic elections.
At a military parade last week Commodore Bainimarama told the troops that draft constitution was unacceptable.
“It was seen that it was not without flaws, it did not correspond with the idea that the government of Fiji has a blueprint for a Constitution to take us forward,” he said.
Professor Brij Lal, who was involved in drawing up the draft for the 1997 constitution that Commodore Bainimarama abolished, says the rejection is not a surprise.
“I think one thing that the Ghai Commission recommended that the regime might have found unpalatable was this idea that, you know, the soldiers should go back to the barracks and that they should be under no obligation to obey illegal orders,” he said.
In the next few weeks a new draft constitution, drawn up by Fiji’s attorney-general’s department, will be put before a Constitutional Assembly whose members will be handpicked by Commodore Bainimarama.
“[The new constitution is being] prepared by faceless men and women in the attorney-general’s office, with no accountability to the public, except to their masters,” Professor Lal said.
That was not the plan forecast by Commodore Bainimarama when the Constitutional Commission was established last year.
“Every Fijian who wants to contribute and be forward looking in the creation of an enlightened constitution will have the opportunity to do so,” he said at the time.
“For the first time everyone will have a voice.”
Professor Yash Ghai from Kenya and his Commissioners travelled extensively around Fiji for three months and heard more than 7,000 submissions.
The Constitutional Commission completed its draft constitution but when Yash Ghai made copies for the public his office was raided by the police, the copies were confiscated and he was alleged to have broken the law.
Professor Brij Lal says the military even accused him of doing the bidding of Australia and New Zealand who had helped Fiji fund the public consultations.
“I find it incredible, I find it truly incredible that the regime would appoint such an eminent person to draft a constitution, and then denigrate him once his draft was found to be unacceptable to the powers that be,” he said.
Commodore Bainimarama’s government has also brought down a decree governing political parties.
Parties have been given just 28 days to register with a confirmed, paid up membership of at least 5,000 people, drawn proportionally from all four divisions of the country.
Professor Lal says the decree is questionable, given there has been no political activity in the country since the coup in 2006.
“No freedom of speech, political parties were in a limbo, party infrastructure was in disarray and rusting,” he said.
“So I think the regime thought that by this decree they might catch some of these parties on the hop…and hobble them.”
The Director of Fiji’s Citizens Constitutional Forum says the process is back to front – the Constitution should be adopted first before regulating political parties.
“It’s actually forcing compliance for political parties rather than…about what the democratic process is all about,” he said.
“The political parties have to base their political power base on the new constitution.
Commodore Bainimarama’s concern about political parties may have been part of the reason he ordered an Australian long time Catholic missionary, Father Kevin Barr, out of the country after sending him abusive text messages.
The threatened deportation was reversed after an outcry but Father Barr says he’d attended a Fiji Trade Union Congress conference, at which the formation of a new party was discussed.
“I’d simply given a talk about social justice to the conference and the formation of the party was one of the items on the agenda of the meeting,” he said.
“I think the media may have been responsible for a misinterpretation of what had happened and caused some problems.”
Commodore Bainimarama is expected to announce the membership of the Constituent Assembly that will approve the new constitution shortly.
“In just a short while we will announce the members of the Constituent Assembly,” he said.
“We the military will not be detached (from this process); we will have a representative in the Constituent Assembly which will prepare a new constitution to take Fiji towards a prosperous and peaceful future.”
Commodore Bainimarama has promised the new constitution will be in place by March.
Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra
12) Fiji unionists quit NFP roles to comply with party decree
Posted at 16:50 on 10 February, 2013 UTC
Two leading Fiji unionists have quit their political roles to allow the National Federation Party to try to re-register under the regime’s new political party decree.
FBC News says Attar Singh and Pramod Rae relinquished their leadership positions at a weekend meeting in Nadi.
The party president, Raman Singh, says the NFP has managed to sign up the 5,000 required members and intends to apply for registration on Wednesday.
The NFP won no seat in the last three elections but was a major force in Fiji politics until 1999.
Most parties will be disestablished by the Thursday deadline, but there are expectations that the Fiji Labour Party and a renamed SDL will try to comply with the decree.
SDL is an acronym for its Fijian name but wants to switch it to mean Social Democratic Liberal Party.
Radio New Zealand International
13) Pacific trade and health workshop to be held in Fiji
Posted at 16:25 on 10 February, 2013 UTC
The link between trade policy and non-communicable diseases in Pacific Island countries is the focus of a workshop in Fiji that starts today.
Representatives of Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are attending the four-day meeting, whose organisers include the United Nations Development Programme.
The UNDP’s Pacific Poverty Reduction and MDGs team leader says the workshop is the first to look at the links between trade and health.
Ahmed Moustafa says most developing countries lack the capacity to negotiate free trade agreements that take into account a rising incidence of non-communicable diseases.
“Available data and recent studies here in the Pacific link obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes to imported food with very low and dubious nutritional value – mainly cheap processed food imports.”
Ahmed Moustafa says taxing such products is a proven way of helping people become healthier.
Radio New Zealand International
14) Aust helps Kiribati on climate change
Date February 11, 2013 – 7:43AM
Australia will give $15 million to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati towards the cost of rebuilding a main road damaged by rising sea levels.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr who is visiting Kiribati says fixing the road will ensure people can get to schools health clinics and markets.
“Kiribati is at the front line of climate change,” Senator Carr said in a statement on Monday, adding its highest point is now just three metres above sea level.
Without help in the fight against climate change, Kiribati could be uninhabitable by 2030.
Coastal erosion, rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion into drinking water are major concerns.
Senator Carr will join Kiribati President Anote Tong in presenting a statement to the UN Security Council calling for climate change action to reduce the risk of future conflicts over scarce resources.
They will record the message in a Kiribati village destroyed because of rising sea levels.
15) Nauru’s Foreign Minister Resigns
Dr. Kieren Keke gives no reason for leaving Cabinet
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 8, 2013) – Nauru’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Health and Sport, Dr Kieren Keke, has resigned from Cabinet.
The resignation was announced by the Speaker, Ludwig Scotty, at the start of Thursday’s parliamentary sitting.
No reason was given for the Dr Keke’s decision which came after an unsuccessful attempt by the opposition to remove the government through a vote of no confidence.
Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com
16) Marshall Islands auditor general fraud investigations
By Online Editor
4:12 pm GMT+12, 11/02/2013, Marshall Islands
A newly established investigations division at the Marshall Islands Auditor General’s Office needs to beef up its operations in response to reports of fraud and abuse of power by government officials.
Auditor General Junior Patrick said they need more staff in the division to meet the demand for investigations. In addition to 13 complaints filed alleging instances of theft and fraud in government, an ongoing special investigation of fraud dating back several years has “identified 21 additional alleged fraudulent activities and suspected additional players in the fraud scheme.”
About 10 people have been charged in court since 2011, and several convicted, with theft involving nearly half a million dollars in Ministry of Health grants.
Lack of funding for staff is a roadblock to expanding audits and investigations by the Auditor General’s office, Patrick said. In a letter submitted to the Nitijela, or parliament, Patrick said 11 of the 21 positions in the office remain vacant. Until recently, Chief Investigator Damien Jacklick was the only one in the Investigations Division until Helias Ned was transferred from another division in the same office, creating a vacancy in the auditing division.
Patrick, in his letter, said that the additional fraud discovered by his offices re-audit of Marshall Islands financial data going back five years has been “reported to the attorney general for appropriate action.” No new criminal cases have yet been filed.
Now that the Investigations Division has been established, the office is receiving complaints and allegations of fraud through its fraud hotline, email, visits to the office and phone calls, Patrick said. The complaints include allegations of embezzlement, lack of compliance with RMI procurement policy and grant agreements, unethical conduct by public officials, and abuse of power by public officials, Patrick said.
“The Investigation Division is only staffed by the Chief of Investigations and the workload is heavy for a single person to handle,” Patrick said, noting that he had just received approval to move one of his existing staff into investigations. But, he added, “recruitment of the Deputy Investigator was postponed due to budget constraints.”
To expand operations of the Investigations Division, Patrick said he is working with the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General to schedule fraud investigation and auditing trainings for his staff. These will be held in Majuro in the near future.
SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS
17) Flambée des activités dans le secteur des ressources en Mélanésie
Posté à 11 February 2013, 7:04 AEST
Ce boom est associé à la rapide expansion des ressources minérales et forestières de la région.
Mine d’OK Tedi dans la Province ouest de PNG. [Ok Tedi Mine CMCA Review]
Un essor qui a conduit à une croissance économique sans précédent en Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée et aux îles Salomon. D’importants nouveaux projets se profilent aux îles Fidji et l’exploitation minière est centrale aux économies de Papouasie occidentale et de Nouvelle-Calédonie.
Ce qui signifie que les économies de Mélanésie surpassent celles de Polynésie alors que, comparativement, c’était plutôt l’inverse.
Cette situation a fait l’objet d’un débat à l’université nationale australienne. L’un des participants, le professeur Satish Chand, de l’Université de Nouvelle-Galles du Sud, estime qu’il n’y a pas que du bon dans cette flambée des activités qui ne sont pas sans risques.
CHAND : « Quelques risques et en particulier dans l’exploitation minière par exemple et dans l’exploitation forestière qui produisent des effluents qui peuvent être toxiques pour l’environnement. Rappelez-vous le cas de Bougainville et les toxines déversées dans deux rivières. Tout cela a un coût.
Autre risque : Les activités génèrent d’importants revenus, ce qui crée un environnement qui repose sur la maximisation des bénéfices. Ainsi, des activités corrompues légitimes ou illégitimes cherchent à accéder à ces revenus. »
Et dans de nombreux cas dans la région, ils sembleraient également que ces importants revenus ne profitent pas toujours à la population.
CHAND : « Absolument vrai. Toutes les flambées des activités du secteur des ressources débouchent sur des inégalités. Vous avez ceux qui ont accès à ces ressources, parce qu’ils en sont propriétaires, parce qu’ils vivent prés du lieu où les ressources sont extraites. Eux, ils en profitent.
Mais les coûts de l’extraction de ces ressources sont plus largement répartis. Pensez aux habitants des villages qui sont en aval d’une mine. Ils vont payer le prix de cette exploitation minière.
Toute cette expansion des activités minières crée des inégalités énormes en termes de revenus mais aussi en termes d’accès à l’emploi et aux services. Tout cela engendre des problèmes dans la société. »
Le point de vue de Satish Chand, professeur à l’École d’administration des affaires à l’Université de Nouvelle-Galles du Sud.
18) Ces maladies tropicales qui infestent le Pacifique
Posté à 11 February 2013, 6:56 AEST
Des infections bactériennes qui tuent, blessent, handicapent et rendent aveugle.
« L’une des autres découvertes décevantes a été le taux élevé d’infections chez la population aborigène d’Australie. » (Credit: ABC)
Un nouveau rapport sur la santé à l’échelle mondiale souligne le besoin urgent d’amplifier les programmes d’éradication des maladies tropicales négligées (MTN) en Australie et dans les nations océaniennes du Pacifique.
Ces maladies portent sur un groupe de 17 infections bactériennes et parasitaires qui sont à l’origine des problèmes de santé parmi les plus courants dans les pays moins nantis et en développement.
L’auteur principal de ce rapport, le professeur Peter Hotez, est le doyen de l’École nationale de médecine tropicale de la Faculté de médecine Baylor à Houston au Texas. Voici ce qu’il nous a confié à propos des pays de la région.
HOTEZ : « Le pays qui a le plus de problèmes, étant donné sa taille et le niveau de pauvreté, c’est la Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée où plus de la moitié de la population est infectée par des ankylostomes, les taux de d’anguillulose sont énormes. Sans oublier les infections de la peau qui résultent de la gale et qui débouchent sur des infections secondaires à streptocoques, à des maladies cardiaques et rénales. »
Précisons que l’ankylostomose est une maladie parasitaire provoquée par la présence de vers parasites sur la muqueuse intestinale. Elle est associée à l’anémie, à des troubles digestifs, à de la fièvre est à des états dépressifs.
L’anguillulose est une infection intestinale due là aussi à un vers, une femelle adulte qui pond des œufs dans l’intestin.
Et les streptocoques sont des bactéries qui peuvent être responsables de graves maladies comme la méningite.
Mais pas besoin d’aller jusqu’en Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée pour constater des maladies qui affectent beaucoup les moins nantis.
HOTEZ : « L’une des autres découvertes décevantes a été le taux élevé d’infections chez la population aborigène d’Australie. »
De toute évidence, les précédents efforts pour éradiquer ces maladies tropicales ont échoué ou n’ont pas été suffisants. Que préconisent le professeur Hotez.
HOTEZ : « Il faut des efforts plus vigoureux et des traitements collectifs. Nous nous sommes aperçus que des traitements collectifs qui utilisent des médicaments à faible coût ou gracieusement offerts sont l’une des meilleures réponses. Malheureusement, la Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée et la population aborigène n’ont pas bénéficié de ces traitements collectifs. Il y a eu des réussites ponctuelles avec l’élimination de la filariose lymphatique et d’autres maladies dans certaines petites îles. Mais pour la Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée et pour les plus pauvres d’Australie, il reste beaucoup à faire contre ces maladies.»
La filariose lymphatique est une maladie tropicale causée par des filaires, des vers filiformes.
Le professeur Peter Hotez en a profité pour lancer un appel au gouvernement australien et aux institutions régionales du Pacifique.
HOTEZ : « Ils n’ont pas établi de priorités à propos des maladies tropicales négligées alors que selon les résultats de notre étude, ces maladies sont les plus importants problèmes de santé parmi les moins nantis de la région. Et c’est tellement facile à résoudre, on parle d’un coût de 50 centimes par personne et par an. Un investissement modeste somme toute. Et en mesure de régler tous les problèmes du gouvernement australien qui pourrait travailler en collaboration avec d’autres organisations de la région. »
19) PNG wins East Asia Pacific Twenty-20
By Online Editor
3:32 pm GMT+12, 08/02/2013, New Zealand
Papua New Guinea has won the final of the East Asia Pacific Twenty-20 cricket championship on Thursday, defeating Vanuatu by 38 runs.
Vanuatu snuck into the final of the seven-team tournament after defeating Fiji, but were unable to match the highly-favoured PNG team.
The International Cricket Council’s Adam Cassidy said PNG were challenged throughout the day and only took control late in the second innings.
“It was really entertaining cricket and I think PNG can now consider themselves a genuine chance of actually qualifying for that world cup in 2014,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.
PNG will now advance to the final stage of qualification for the next World Twenty-20, to take place in Bangladesh in 2014.
Cassidy said organisers were impressed by the noticeable improvement in standard since the last tournament in 2011.
He said PNG is the only country in the region that has turf wickets.
SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS