TIV Board Member Attends UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Training In Tonga

Transparency International Vanuatu’s (TIV) Board Member, who is also a prominent long-time media activists and at the same time currently serving as the President for the Media Assosiesen blong Vanuatu (MAV), Mrs. Evelyne Toa, recently attended a UN Convention Against Corruption training in Tonga.

The two day training provided insights into the Convention and the work of the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption (UN-PRAC) project. It aimed to build the capacity of selected journalists to prevent, detect and investigate cases of corruption through greater awareness of United Nations Conventions Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the media’s role as a non-state actor.

Mrs. Evelyne Toa said that journalists or reporters usually target government officials and leaders in their investigations over issues of corruptions, and they put less focus on the civil society sector.

“However, at the workshop, participants came to realize and learn that corruption is everywhere, in the local communities and within the government,” she said.

Mrs. Toa also emphasized the fact that there is the practice of not following up on stories, furthermore budget restrictions is a major challenge to effective investigations and reporting’s.

“The workshop also noted that lack of funds is something to consider because it can hinder investigations. That is very true in Vanuatu’s situation, where journalists don’t always receive back-up from their management, and most today who are free lances find it more difficult,” she said.

Mrs. Evelyne Toa calls on journalists in Vanuatu and whistle-blowers to continue to report and fight against corruption. 

“As MAV president and also as a member of Transparency (International Vanuatu), use media as a messenger, and whistle blowers should not refrain in reporting corruption. Despite the fact that some of us were threatened in the past, we must continue to fight corruption and influence our leaders to change their behaviors,” she said.

“For Transparency as a way forward, setting up an Anti-Corruption Commission would be a good idea,” Mrs. Toa added.

Annika Wythes, who is the Anti-Corruption Adviser for the Pacific with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, said “the question is no longer ‘why’ we should be fighting corruption, but rather ‘how’. The general consensus – supported by the number of ratifying countries – is that the platform to be used is the UN Convention against Corruption.”

“While governments, the private sector and civil society have essential roles to play, media involvement and commitment is also vital because of their role as public watchdog, protecting public interests and raising awareness,” Annika Wythes said.

More than 30 journalists from Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu’s Evelyne Toa and Antoine Malsungai from the Vanuatu Broadcasting Television Corporation (VBTC) participated in that two-day workshop.

The training was an activity of the UN Pacific Regional Anti-Corruption project, a four-year joint initiative of UNDP and UNODC, supported by the Australian Government. UNDP’s Tonga Governance Strengthening Programme, also supported by the Australian Government, assisted in the training.

The joint UNDP-UNODC project aims to help Pacific Island countries and territories fight corruption by supporting: i) ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC); ii) UNCAC implementation through the strengthening of policies, laws, measures and institutional frameworks; and iii) engagement in UNCAC processes, including the Implementation Review Mechanism.

The project draws on the strong global partnership and comparative advantages of both organizations in the fight against corruption.

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Part 4: Statelessness To Freedom (Choosing The Right People)

ONE OF VANUATU’S founding fathers who had put a lot of time, commitment and effort into drafting the constitution, is calling on the people of Vanuatu to choose the right people into the parliament.

Mr. Ati Geoge Sokomanu said that independence from the colonial powers in 1980 meant everything for the new Republic of Vanuatu. Not only did it allow us to claim back our rights to our ancestral lands, but it also gave us the right to establish our own laws through the parliament.

This right is stated clearly in chapter four of Vanuatu’s national constitution. That is why our independence leaders had to “put in plenty time and effort to ensure everybody is happy and satisfied with the constitution,” Mr. Sokomanu said.

Today we have the Vanuatu parliament, and as citizens of Vanuatu we have the power to elect candidates to become Members of the Parliament.

However, Mr. Sokomanu cautions that “we must think carefully and choose the right people into the parliament”.

Today we have the parliament where leaders can raise their people’s concerns in a more formal place, discuss and debate bills as well as pass legislation’s.

Youth Parliamentarians of 2013 debating a Bill

Youth Parliamentarians of 2013 debating a Bill in Parliament

For the voters that are residing in Port Vila, the by-election in October will be an opportunity to exercise their rights to vote. And as Mr. Sokomanu explained, it is important to vote wisely. Think carefully. And when you think that you have chosen the right candidate, think again.

As a democratic state, Vanuatu’s national governance structure is held up firmly by the power of the people. Since 1980 governments have come and gone, politicians in tight knit black suits that have sworn to serve Vanuatu to the full have come and gone but the people remain. Therefore, your vote counts. Your vote is the one vote that makes a thousand votes possible, therefore “think carefully” as Mr. Sokomanu said.

Once a candidate is elected into parliament, he or she will have the power and the duty to debate and accept new laws once he or she confirms that the law being debated is of national interest.

Chapter four of the constitution enshrines this powers;

The Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Vanuatu, the Parliament shall make laws by passing bills introduced either by one or more members or by the Prime Minister or a Minister; When a bill has been passed by Parliament it shall be presented to the President of the Republic who shall assent to it within two (2) weeks.

If the President considers that the bill is inconsistent with a provision of the Constitution he shall refer it to the Supreme Court for its opinion. The bill shall not be promulgated if the Supreme Court considers it inconsistent with a provision of the Constitution.

The article also states that citizens will exercise their right to vote by electing members of the parliament under their preference of political party. The number of chairs each political hold in the parliament will depend on citizen’s choice.

Many of the discussions surrounding the ideas for the constitution were held at Mr. Sokomanu’s house at Mele Village code named the ‘Blue House’.

“The letter that was sent to the UN as part of the call for Independence during that time was discussed and drafted in the ‘Blue House’,” Mr. Sokomanu said.

The reasons why we have chapter five (Our rights and duties) in our constitution will be published in the Transparency page next week.

International Youth Week Motivates Youth To Participate In Civic Education Program

FROM 12 – 16 AUGUST young people around Vanuatu celebrated the International Youth Week at Arep Junior Secondary School in Sola, TORBA province.

The three days event gathered more than 200 young people from the six provinces of Vanuatu including the two municipal areas of Luganville and Port Vila.IYD_20152 copy

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) was privileged to be part of the event to facilitated workshops and debates to motivate youth engagement in civic awareness.

TIV’s Civic Education Coordinator Douglas Tamara said that most pf the youth agreed that it is time youth start to be involved in civic education programs to help make a change in all levels of society whether it be in politics, family, church or in schools.

Mr. Tamara conducted several activities coinciding with the 2015 theme: “Youth Civic Engagement”, from August 12th – 14th.

At the end of the three days workshop, each province came up with a one year work plan to be submitted to the Vanuatu National Youth Council for assistance.

“TIV will be working alongside VNYC for the next 12 months to assist the youth in the provinces to achieve their work plans. And in the next International Youth Week, which will be held in in Penama, each province will present their achievements, or progresses on their work plans,” Mr. Tamara said.

The President of Vanuatu, the Minister for Youth and Sports and another member of parliament, and the Director and Director General for Agriculture also attended the one week event in SOLA.

The other stake holders who facilitated other workshops during the event were the Telecommunications and Radio Communications (TRR), UNICEF, Vanuatu Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET), and the Correctional Services.

The event was organised by the Vanuatu National Youth Council (VNYC).

Photo supplied by VNYC Media.

Transparency International Vanuatu Acknowledges Improvement In Vanuatu Judiciary

A RESEARCH BY Transparency International Vanuatu into the Vanuatu Judicial System, to investigate why cases have not progressed nor been finalized in a timely manner, discovered that though there were not much evidence of corruption, there were instances where conflict of interest appeared to affect actions by the police, prosecutors and judges.

The Vanuatu Judicial Monitoring System (VJMS) research report published in 2013 also identified several factors that contributed to delays of processes within the judicial system.

However, the judiciary is not to be blamed entirely for the delays as there are private lawyers, prosecutors and other parties who contribute to this. “Unfortunately the court system is not robust enough to consistently control the manipulation of the court process by various parties through the use of delaying tactics” states the report.

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) through its monitoring of court cases recognises that the judiciary has progress since the launching of the report in 2013. More high profile cases have now progress further to the Supreme Court with rulings made.

One such high case that has progress on is the bribery case against the Members of Parliament.

According to Port Vila’s Magistrate Court on Wednesday 12 August, the members of parliament accused of bribery allegations are now scheduled for trial in the Port Vila Supreme Court on the 1st of September.

Though the case has drag on for sometimes, TIV Chairman Dr. Willie Tokon stated that this is the first time for such a proceeding that involves Ministers and MP’s to go that far in the Vanuatu’s courts.

Although there have been reports in the past discriminating the slow processes and delays within the judiciary system, this bribery case against more than a dozen national leaders sets an example for future cases of similar nature.

Moreover, it sets a fairly progressive precedent that should be an encouragement to many who have had mixed perspectives on the judiciary in-dependency.

Part 3: Statelessness To Freedom

PICKING UP FROM the last story, we continue our journey to look back at the events that evolved around the creation of our national constitution, leading up to Independence Day on 30 July 1980.

During the colonial era, New Hebrideans (as the people of Vanuatu were called then) were not qualified to acquire a citizenship of either of the colonial powers, France and Britain.

Vanuatu’s first President, Mr. Ati George Sokomanu, explained that “before we gained our independence we were not citizens of any country, therefore we cannot own passports to allow us to travel abroad”.

“When we wanted to travel abroad, the British or the French resident commissioner will issue travel identity documents,” Mr. Sokomanu said as he recalled back on the processes used by the British and French Condominium in the then New Hebrides.

“The travel documents included necessary information like the date of birth, and the two flags of the two powers are also always printed on the document,” he related.

“Those travel documents will identify you as a protectorate for France and England when travelling abroad,” Mr. Sokomanu added.

This practice continued for some time until 1980 when Vanuatu gained its Independence.

It this for these reasons that chapter three of Vanuatu’s national was constituted into our national constitution.

Chapter three states that on the “Day of Independence a person who has or had four grandparents who belong to a tribe or community indigenous to Vanuatu; and a person of ni-Vanuatu ancestry who has no citizenship, nationality or the status of an optant shall automatically become citizens of Vanuatu”.

The chapter continues to explain that “they shall become a citizen of Vanuatu if they make an application, or an application is made on their behalf by their parent or lawful guardian, within 3 months of the Day of Independence or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe”.

The Vanuatu citizenship of such a person shall automatically lapse if he has not renounced his other citizenship or nationality within 3 months of the granting of Vanuatu citizenship or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe, except that in the case of a person under the age of 18 years the period of renunciation shall be 3 months after he has reached the age of 18 years.

It is because of chapter three that we, the people of Vanuatu, can be a citizen of a country. It is because of this chapter that we, the people of Vanuatu, are able to fill any application form that requires a nationality. Today, we inherit the Ni-Vanuatu (meaning of Vanuatu) nationality.

Furthermore, anyone born after the Day of Independence, whether in Vanuatu or abroad, shall become a citizen of Vanuatu if at least one of his parents is a citizen of Vanuatu.

When Transparency International Vanuatu visited the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission to inquire on matters involving unlawful citizenship, the Secretary General for the Commission, Mr. John Enock Ware, read proudly the legislation for naturalized citizens to TIV.

He held his copy of the constitution and read out loud “A national of a foreign state or a stateless person may apply to be naturalized as a citizen of Vanuatu if he has lived continuously in Vanuatu for at least 10 years immediately before the date of the application. Parliament may prescribe further conditions of the eligibility to apply for naturalization and shall provide for the machinery to review and decide on applications for naturalization.”

“This means that any foreigner who wants to obtain Vanuatu Citizenship must live in the country for at least 10 years,” he explained.

Therefore, as Ni-Vanuatu citizens we should all be concerned when cases involving the unlawful granting of citizenship’s are leaked, or are reported through the media or through other sources.

father_walter_h_lini_15 In 2013, an amendment was made on this chapter that allowed Vanuatu to recognize dual citizenship. This means that a person who is a citizen of Vanuatu or “of a state other than Vanuatu may be granted dual citizenship”.

However, for the purposes of protecting the national sovereignty of Vanuatu, “a holder of dual citizenship must not: hold or serve in any public office; be involved in Vanuatu politics; fund activities that would cause political instability in Vanuatu; affiliate with or form any political parties in Vanuatu; stand as a candidate and vote at any of the following elections: general election for Members to Parliament; provincial election for members to a Provincial Government Council; and municipal election for members to a Municipal Council”.
To avoid doubt, this article (above) does not apply to an “indigenous citizen or a person who has gained Vanuatu citizenship by naturalization, who hold dual citizenship”.

In sub article 5 Parliament may prescribe: the requirements to be met by categories of persons applying for dual citizenship; or the privileges to be accorded to any category of persons who are holders of dual citizenship.”

Our citizenship is an inheritance that was struggled for. And because it is our sovereign identity therefore we must not let it be de-valued through unlawful means.

Next week we will look at chapter four of our constitution and the reasons behind it. Transparency International Vanuatu will be getting in touch with those that signed the constitution to get their stories and to share it. We believe it is important that today’s generations are aware of these stories. We also believe that taking ownership of the freedom and being proud of our national identity will empower us to develop Vanuatu in the rightful way.

You can read more of our stories online at www.tivnews.wordpress. And if you have any comments regarding this story please share it with us on Facebook, or email us at transparency@vanuatu.com.vu. Tel: 25715.

Part 2: Stateless To Freedom

Our Rights and Duties in the Constitution

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU  recently met again with Mr. Sokomanu, the first President of Vanuatu. We asked him these question; what did it feel like to be stateless? How valuable was the relationship between the independence leaders?

While sipping on a warm cup of coffee, he began by saying “rights and duties are an international obligation for any country that is going through Independence,” referring to chapter two of the Constitution which outlines our rights and duties Ni-Vanuatu citizens.

Mr. Ati George Sokomanu said that before New Hebrides gained its Independence in 1980, the people were stateless.

During those days “we had nothing to protect us. If we did something wrong, whether it be the French or English Court, you have to face it,” Mr. Sokomanu explained. “Assessors from the Islands Courts, who are chiefs from certain areas, can be present in the courts as assessors to argue and give judgment” on cases including indigenous matters.

“Being stateless did not empower us to claim our land, and even claim ownership of our indigenous lands,” he added.

But when the country gained its independence the environment changed, and the people of

Mr. Ati George Sokomanu

Mr. Ati George Sokomanu

Vanuatu became entitled to the rights and the freedom that are enshrined and safeguarded in the constitution. But the journey to gaining independence was not short, or pleasant, it took years of hard work by committed individuals, sometimes risking their own safety’s for the greater good.

Mr. Sokomanu was a member of the group of independence activists and leaders who signed the Vanuatu’s Constitution; he related how they worked hard for independence, at times they ‘risked their own lives to confront aggressive individuals and groups. But they were very energetic activitists, and they were passionate and eager to fight for our freedom, and most importantly to get the land back to the indigenous customary land owners.

They patriotically strived to gain independence from the British and French colonial powers during the 70s up to the 80’s.

In the 70’s a cultural association was initiated to promote independence, “I was working at Lakatoro during that time when I was approached by Johnson Iolu Abil who gave me some documents about this new association” Mr. Sokomanu explained, he continued to say that this events followed up to eventually bring about the birth of the Vanua ‘aku Party.

Most of the individuals who participated in these groupings were British government employees like Mr. Sokomanu. “My workmates were always complaining to our superiors because I was getting paid while I was attending the party congresses. Finally, in 1975 after a meeting with Father Walter Lini, I resigned from my position to join” the independence movement he said.

“My house in Mele was codenamed the ‘Blue House’” said Mr. Sokomanu. “By orders of the British administrator my letters in my mail box, which was P.O Box 478, were being opened and checked at the Post Office. Once I was informed of this through my sources within the British government I revised my plan and began writing and receiving my letters in Fijian…I am fluent in the Fijian language” he said.

Eventually, the group toured the whole of the New Hebrides Islands to document what the people wanted to be included in the Constitution, the message they received was clear, they     “wanted to protect their values, beliefs, cultures, faith and be free” Mr. Sokomanu said.

The workings of this group guided them to constitute chapter two of the constitution which gives us the rights that we are enjoying today. These rights also have allowed us never to feel stateless again, thus it is our moral duty to defend this rights and also to use them in a rightful manner.

“It was around 3 o’clock early in the morning when we completed the signing of the constitution,” Mr. Sokomanu said, smiling as he reflected on those memories.

“We were so happy, we hugged each other and sang songs together…we sang ‘We Shall Overcome’”.

The signing took place at L’Houstalet, “that place should be a monumental site” he remarked.

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L’Houstalet

The finalizing of the constitution took hours,  it was grilling process, they amended some parts and they discussed and debated throughout the night, “the legal officer representing the colonial powers cried” during the process.

Mr. Sokomanu eventually became the first Minister for Internal Affairs during the National Unity Government and in the newly independent Vanuatu government led by Prime Minister Walter Lini.

Mr. Sokomanu says that he will resign from his civic activism duties next year; as he sets forth with writing about his life’s story in his biography.

“We are human beings, we have our own customs and values and we want to move freely but we need to establish some boundaries to help us exercise our rights and freedoms in the rightful manner,” this is why the second chapter of the constitution was formed he said.

Mr. George Sokomanu emphasizes that our rights and duties is something that should bind us together as we move along, he says that the result of their strong relationship produced the constitution, “the constitution is our relationship” he said while pointing at a copy of the constitution lying on the table, “our relationship made that possible”.

With that, he carefully got up, said his good byes’ and headed for the Capitol FM 107 to co-host the Talk Back Show with Mr. Moses Steven.

Transparency International Vanuatu would like to encourage us to remind ourselves of our history, take note of the time and the commitment made by those that made our independence possible. Protect our constitution, develop our country, rid away the corrupt behaviors’ and play your part to vote in the election.

More stories will be published next week; Transparency International Vanuatu will be getting in touch with those that signed the constitution to get their story and to share it. We believe it is important that today’s generations are aware of these stories. We also believe that taking ownership of the freedom that we have today can empower us to develop Vanuatu in the rightful way.

Visit our blogsite: www.tivnews.wordpress to read more stories, and get in touch with us on facebook, or email: transparency@vanuatu.com.vu to share us your comments, or call us: 25715.

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Part of Chapter 2 of our Constitution:

“When the country gained its freedom, all citizens have the right to life; liberty; security of the person; protection of the law; freedom from inhuman treatment and forced labour; freedom of conscience and worship; freedom of expression; freedom of assembly and association; freedom of movement; protection for the privacy of the home and other property and from unjust deprivation of property”.

Moreover, the Indigenous’ Duties are:

“To respect and to act in the spirit of the Constitution; to recognise that he can fully develop his abilities and advance his true interests only by active participation in the development of the national community; to exercise the rights guaranteed or conferred by the Constitution and to use the opportunities made available to him under it to participate fully in the government of the Republic of Vanuatu; to protect the Republic of Vanuatu.

To safeguard the national wealth, resources and environment in the interests of the present generation and of future generations; to work according to his talents in socially useful employment and, if necessary, to create for himself legitimate opportunities for such employment; to respect the rights and freedoms of others and to cooperate fully with others in the interests of interdependence and solidarity; to contribute, as required by law, according to his means, to the revenues required for the advancement of the Republic of Vanuatu and the attainment of national objective”

“In the case of a parent, to support, assist and educate all his children, legitimate and illegitimate, and in particular to give them a true understanding of their fundamental rights and duties and of the national objectives and of the culture and customs of the people of Vanuatu; in the case of a child, to respect his parents.


Nevertheless it is the duty of all public authorities to encourage compliance with them so far as lies within their respective powers”.

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Click here to download the Vanuatu Constitution in Bislama.

Click here to read more of the Vanuatu Constitution in English.

Picture Sources:

  1. http://www.snipview.com/q/New%20HebridesNatives of Tanna.
  2. http://www.snipview.com/q/Ati_George_SokomanuAti George Sokomanu

Part 1: Stateless to Freedom

Constitution Day 35 years ago

Constitution Day 35 years ago

Before 1980, people in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) were ruled by two colonial powers of Britain and France. People from Britain and France migrated to the New Hebrides, as a result the archipelago was administrated by both Britain and France.

Over time, several aspiring indigenous leaders of New Hebrides decided to work together to gain their independence from the two colonial powers.

Father Walter Lini led the group of indigenous leaders, they worked hard with pride to prove to the colonial masters that they deserve their Independence and are capable or administrating their own country.

ati-george-sokomanu

Mr. Ati George Sokomanu

Mr. Ati George Sokomanu was a member of that aspiring group, when TIV talked with him he said that  “between 1979 and 1980 the group formed the constitution and legislations to prove to the colonial powers that Vanuatu is capable of looking after itself. 1979 and 1980 were two very important and formal years as we tried to form legislatures on how to move forward independently,” Mr. Sokomanu said.

In 1980, New Hebrides was granted its independence after more than 70 years of being colonized. After gaining its Independence it was no longer called New Hebrides but was called Vanuatu – meaning ‘our land forever’.

The leaders struggled for our freedom, they were proud of their achievement and because of that the Mama Law or the Constitution was formed to safeguard those achievements, and to cherish our ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity.

Ati George Sokomanu, who was elected as the first President of Vanuatu, said, “When a country achieves self-reliance, it needs to have a statue, something to bind everyone and start us off as we go through our journey”.

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First President of Vanuatu Ati George Sokomanu

So in 1979, the leaders sat together and started writing the Mama Law. Mama is the Bislama word for Mother.

“When God sends Moses to the Mount Sinai he gave them two stones with the ten commandments written on it. The Constitution is like the Vanuatu’s ten commandments to guide us as we achieve our independence and work through it,” Mr. Sokomanu related.

The first chapter of the Mama Law embraces Vanuatu and its powers.

Firstly, Vanuatu is a democratic country where the people hold the power to elect its members of parliament who make up the government. The government then administrates the affairs of the country.

This Mama Law is the highest law for the nation and every other law comes under it.

The independence leaders of the Independence also set out on the mama laws the National and official language for the nation. The national language is Bislama, the official languages are Bislama, English and French and the principal languages of education are English and French. Also the republic of Vanuatu must protect its native languages as part of Vanuatu’s heritage and can declare any one of them as the national language.

The citizens of Vanuatu have the rights to elect the members of parliament to form the government to rule the country. If the parliament establishes other laws, every citizen over the age of 18 years is entitled to cast a secret vote.  Political parties may be formed freely and may contest elections but shall respect the Constitution and the principles of democracy.

This was the first chapter of the Mama Law agreed on by the people who led the country to Independence in 1980.

Transparency International Vanuatu will be publishing weekly editions of the National Constitution, chapter by chapter, page by page, and story by story. TIV will be gathering stories from the leaders who signed the constitution and who are still alive to share it the public, TIV thinks it is important to reflect on that part of our history, and who better to hear it from but from those that signed the constitution themselves.

Follow us on our next weekly news on the paper as we go on to learn more about our rights and duties that are enshrined in the Constitution.

Next week’s edition will see Mr. Sokomanu reveal how it was to live in a group of islands ruled by two colonial powers. He will talk more about how it felt like to be stateless.

Also, TIV has a civic education program which educates communities about the Constitution, it is offered for free to communities who request it. Call us: 25715.

Click here to read more of the constitution.