Marchers Against Violence Meet Leaders At The Parliament House

THE PHOTOS BELOW were taken this morning  when the peoples MARCH AGAINST VIOLENCE entered the Parliament compound to meet the national leaders (MPs).

The Members of Parliament were patiently waiting at the main doors of the Parliament ready to receive the marchers.

Among the crowd of marchers was Florence Lengkon who is a recent victim of violence. She has been in the spotlight over the past weeks for bravely speaking out through the media after being subjected to violence.

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Opposition: Bringing Professionalism Into Politics

ON TUESDAY THIS WEEK the Office of the Opposition gathered its MP’s together to discuss on matters surrounding the national budget a week before it is tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Finance. This is a first ever initiative by the Opposition at the parliamentary level.

As a Member of Parliament (MP) you are expected to perform to a certain standard. Representing a constituency is not always an easy task, it demands commitment, determination, courage, and the passion to symbolically keep on dancing even after the music had stopped. But to achieve this a lot of practice is needed, regularly.

This is what the Office of the Opposition is currently working on. The Private Secretary to the Opposition Leader Mr. Levi Tarosa mentioned on social media on Monday this week that they will be conducting a get-together workshop where MP’s in the Opposition could brainstorm, discuss freely among themselves, “especially the new MP’s or those that come from rural areas, to understand the budget and to know how it will impact each of their constituencies.”

“The Opposition Leader wants to encourage all the MP’s to talk, and not just the same ones” Mr. Levi Tarosa stated.

When Transparency International Vanuatu met with Mr. Levi Tarosa they had just finished from their get-together to discuss the budget in the Opposition Conference Room at the Parliament House.

“Some of them (MPs) are new,” Mr. Levi said, “and the budget is one of the most important things because the first thing to always be debated (every year) is the budget. And since it is their first time in parliament they will feel like they do not know what to talk about” Mr. Levi explained. “And if you do not know what to talk about and you are silent in the beginning then that means that you accept what will happen in the next twelve months.”

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It is because of this reason that the Office of the Opposition has called in its MP’s to discuss and understand “the implications of the budget on each of their constituencies and how it will affect them, their work and their projects” the Private Secretary said.

Ten out of fourteen members of the Opposition attended their first meeting to discuss the budget, “One thing that was interesting today was that we invited Willie Jimmy, the former Minister of Finance, to give some insights on how to prepare for it. It is because he was one of those that stood at the other end to present the budget” he said.

Mr. Levi explained that Mr. Willie Jimmy gave them some insights into how to think like a Finance Minister. They also looked at how to listen to a budget speech including what parts of the speech to focus on for debate and questions. Mr. Levi said that together they covered several significant topics like; what to listen for when the Minister of Finance is giving his speech? How to pick up on familiar points? What questions to ask and for what reasons?

Mr. Levi continued to explain that during their short training they found out that even though the budget for this year would increase by around 2 billion vatu, there are two vital government ministries that will have a decrease in their budget.

“So this increase (of 2 billion vatu) is somewhere, tomorrow (Wednesday this week) we will try to find out where this increase is,” Mr. Levi explained.

“The MP’s are excited and are finding it interesting that at least they are receiving some guidance from some people to help the new MP’s. And some existing MP’s are saying that it is a good initiative, it is one of the first.”

TIV acknowledges the effort taken by the Office of the Opposition to up-skill the performance of its MP’s. In 2014 a research by Transparency International Vanuatu suggested that the technical capacity within the legislative, or the parliament, needs to be improved so that it can effectively “fulfill its role as the central law making and accountability body.” (NIS Assessment Report; 2014)

Speaking in parliament may look like an easy task from the outside, but it is not that easy when you are on the inside, and for first-time parliamentarians it can be even harder to represent when everything is new; the environment, the faces, the language, the affiliations and exedra. All this factors can contribute to a lack of performance which can reflect poorly on the constituency concerned.

As voters, we expect to see our MP’s speak and debate in Parliament, we want to see them strategically negotiating for the interest of their constituencies. A prime indicator that can be used to measure MP performance is by taking note of how many times their Member of Parliament speaks to represent his or her constituency during a parliament session.

The current initiative by the Office of the Opposition indicates that there is the possibility to experience an increase in MP participation when parliament sits to discuss the budget during the first extraordinary session this month.

Some government MP’s also showed interest to take part in the Oppositions budget workshop says Mr. Levi, however since the Conference Room is short on space they have not been able to attend. He explains that it does not really matter whether you are in the government or in the opposition, because when the time comes to discuss the budget then you have to speak up for your own constituency and not which side of the House you affiliate with.

Similar workshops for MP’s are expected to continue regularly to up-skill them so that they can perform at a capacity that is expected of them.

“A pure hundred percent politician may talk about some of the things that we are doing like – ‘what are you doing? What are you trying to show?’But we are training to improve the standard of administration, we are bringing professionalism into politics” Mr. Levi explained.

 

 

 

 

Finally, The Mama Law.

THE MAN IN THE blue cut-out shirt in the picture expressed a smile of satisfaction when he received 5 copies of the Vanuatu Constitution 15 years after he began his search for it.

He clutched the Constitution books hard against his chest and said “thank you very much, I have searched for the Vanuatu Constitution since 2001, thank you Transparency International Vanuatu, I am so happy.”

His search for the Vanuatu Constitution began when he came to Port Vila to take part in the 2001 round island relay. “I took part in the 2001 round island relay on the island Efate, when I was there I looked for a copy of the Vanuatu Constitution, I wanted to bring one back with me to Tanna” he said.

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Unfortunately for him, finding a Vanuatu Constitution book in the capital Port Vila was an impossible task. “I saw a copy of it but it belonged to a cousin of mine and it was in English, I had to return to Tanna empty handed,” he said still clutching the Constitution books firmly in his hands.

He is from Kwarmanu village which is located in the south eastern part of the island of Tanna. When Officers from Transparency International Vanuatu arrived there they were busy clearing up a thick growth of grass that had grown around a UNICEF tent that was being used to accommodate pre-school classes.

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Villagers clearingthe bush around Pre-School tent.

The TIV officers held a short meeting with the villagers who were present and talked to them about the rights stipulated in the Mama Loa, and a lot of emphasis was stressed on the Right To Information (RTI) Policy which was the main objective of the tour to Tanna.

Click here to read more on the Right To Information.

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The officers were part of another group that had traveled further down south to the village of Manuapen to deliver the same information and more Constitution books.

During the meeting corruption was also talked about, and later corruption booklets were given out to the members of the community. Also, over 20 Constitution books were given to the Kwarmanu Primary School library for students to access.

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Click here to read of the RTI Tour to the island of Santo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transparency Team Tours Tanna Island

LAST WEEK A TEAM from Transparency International Vanuatu run a series of Right To Information (RTI) public awareness programs on the island of Tanna.

The TIV Team landed on Tanna on the 21st of February and stayed over at Lenakel for two days before traveling to Imaki Village on south Tanna to conduct the RTI awareness there. The TIV team then moved eastward through to the central part of Tanna holding several meetings with communities on the Right To Information along the way.

Hundreds of Vanuatu Constitution books were also delivered to several communities and schools throughout this week on the island of Tanna.

The TIV Team also visited Lenakel Presbyterian College, Tafea College and Imaki College and delivered constitution books, rights and duties booklets including corruption booklets. On Monday the team blasted RTI information from speakers at the Lenakel Market House before ending the day successfully at Bethel Village.

Tuesday the 23rd of February was meant to be a busy day, unfortunately cyclone warnings kept the team at base at Lenakel. Heavy rains and strong winds were experienced throughout Tanna on that day, however by late evening a brief peek of sunshine promised a better weather for Wednesday.

The road to the south was a rough ride, as was explained by people at Lenakel. The team left at 9 o’clock in the morning and arrived there at around midday. Again, the team talked to villagers and students about the right to information, and how much benefit it would bring if the right to know is specifically made a law in Vanuatu.

At Lenakel Presbyterian College over 40 students and teachers attended the right to information public awareness on the island of Tanna. And while the rain poured lightly outside Mr. Douglas Tamara from the TIV Team talked about the national anthem and the meaning of ‘Yumi’. Eventually, the students began to sing the national anthem, and they sang it perfectly.

The awareness at Lenakel College took place inside the schools dining hall. Outside, the remains of the wrath of TC Pam is still visible. A UNICEF white tent still accommodates for classes and the dining hall is still divided in two; eat on one side and have classes on the other.

On the other side of the school compound a blue tarpaulin is used to replace the roofs that had been blown off a classroom building. Regardless of this, normal classes proceed as usual for roughly two hundred students. “That number is expected to increase,” explains the Deputy Principal, “once school fee problems are sorted out we will be expecting over four hundred students.”

After the meeting the staff at the school thanked the team for the information shared, including having their own copies of the Vanuatu Constitution which will be made available to students at schools library.

This is the second tour for the TIV Team for the RTI mission, the first tour took the team to the island of Santo. The next tour will be known once plans and logistics are confirmed.

Transparency International Vanuatu believes that everyone has the right to be informed, equipping citizens with the necessary information will not only allow citizens to participate effectively, but it will also give them the opportunity to be the builders of a nation.

The right to information originates as a national fundamental right, and is expressed in Vanuatu’s National Constitution under article five. At the moment there is no RTI Law that will give legal effect to this fundamental right however preparations have already been made and an RTI policy was launched in 2014, and until it becomes law TIV will continue to advocate for the RTI in Vanuatu.

The RTI is important because it is a symbol of an open democracy and a key to governance. The RTI promotes transparency and accountability in the public sector. It supports and protects human rights and it strengthens the foundations of democracy, and most importantly it fights against corruption.

Photos of the RTI tour on Tanna will be published on Transparency’s facebook page and blogsite (www.tivnews.wordpress) once the team returns to Port Vila on this coming Sunday.

For more information on the RTI, or any other matters surround the works of Transparency International Vanuatu please contact us at Tel: 25715, or email: transparency@vanuatu.com.vu