WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

THE WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY activities will take place on Tuesday the 3rd near the Port Vila Market House.

The activities on that is being spearheaded by the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) and includes speeches by the Prime Minister, Leaders in the Pacific and Vanuatu media industry and including Government leaders.

There will also booths set up by different media outlets and organisations to give out information on what they do.

The theme for that day is – Right To Information Saves Lives. The activities will begin with a parade through town and kick start at 7:30am.

Everyone is welcome to take part in the activities on that day.

Want to learn more about World Press Freedom Day? CLICK HERE.

 

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Right To Information Consultation – Malekula Tour

THE THIRD TRIP for the Right To Information (RTI) public consultation tour came to end on Friday 8th on the island of Malekula. The public consultation program was spearheaded by Transparency International Vanuatu alongside the Right To Information Unit from the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO).

The team arrived on the island of Malekula on Saturday the 3rd and headed for accommodation at Lakatoro. After months of dry weather and dusty roads Malekula had finally began to turn back to its original green, thanks to the rain that had been pouring down regularly over the past couple of days.

On Sunday the 4th the team prepared to depart for consultation with the community of Wallarano, the Transparency International Vanuatu Team made headway for Wallarano at 9 o’clock that morning.

Initial arrangements had scheduled that the team arrive there at 10 o’clock, just in time for the Sunday Service to end so that the people can gather together at the church hall, for the RTI awareness, before they went home to have their lunch.

The RTI awareness session run just above an hour and a half, after which the villagers asked questions while some wrote down their thoughts on a two meter long brown paper that was placed at the front of the hall.

A village elder, in a white buttoned shirt with navy blue jeans, voiced that “to stop corruption this (RTI) Bill must pass because I want to know the work of MP’s. 36 years have passed in this country that has had too many corruption issues, this thing (corruption) must stop. This (RTI) Bill must pass, I support it.”

“Yes, the Right To Information will help the grassroots people to access the exact information that they want” stressed a stout villager in his early thirties, “it is for the grassroots to get the right information and to avoid corruption” he emphasized.

The rain had continued to pour heavily throughout the day with strong winds while the RTI consultation session run on undisturbed inside the church hall. Given the abundant amount of wind and rain predictions of a potential depression somewhere near showed concern on the faces of several elders from the village.

After the Wallarano RTI session the team returned back to Lakatoro where they were staying until they returned to Port Vila on Sunday the 10th.

Over the course of one week the team visited the communities of Unmet, Matanvat, Brenwei, Pinalum, Atchin, Walarano, including Rensarie College, Lakatoro Junior Secondary School, Amelvet Secondary School, Lakatoro Market House, Norsup College, Norsup Hospital, and Tautu. A Public Forum was also held at the Wilkins Stadiuim Conference room where public servants attended to learn more on the Rigth To Information.

At Pinalum the chief there thanked the team for visiting them, “thank you for coming to do this awareness. The Right to information is a good thing. If we have the right to access information then we can be mo certain when and proactive when we question politicians who come and campaign during elections in our community” he said.

The last location to visit was the community of Brenwei at North West Malekula. The team visited the secondary school there to talk with the teachers and the students. “The RTI must pass so that we can know information about any projects in our school and community” stated a student while another wrote down on paper that the Right To Information Law would be very helpful because “all the high offices will respect any group age to pass the information asked.”

At those places that were visited the TIV officers distributed over 500 Vanuatu Constitution books that were translated into Bislama.

The Right To Information Policy was launched by the government in early 2014, thereby forming the basis for the Right To Information Bill to be developed. The RTI Bill was listed to be debated in Parliament in late 2014 but was withdrawn for further revisions.

 

Solomon Islands High Court Objects To MPs Tax Free

ON TUESDAY LAST WEEK the High Court of Solomon Islands ruled in favor of several concerned citizens who had stood up to challenge the decision by the Members of Parliament Entitlements Commission (MPEC) after they amended regulations in 2015 to increase MP funds as well as allocate funds towards other activities that also cover their families.

It happened in the month of April 2015, the decision by the MPEC aroused discontent among the people of Solomon Islands and triggered expressions of concern from various groups and leading individuals.

Some of the amendments that were included regulated that the salaries of MP’s were now tax free, and that a new health and medical care scheme for all MPs also included their families. Furthermore all the MPs, and their families, were entitled to life insurance with a reliable insurer company from within or outside the Solomon Islands and the list goes on.

When this amendments were made public knowledge the Transparency International chapter in the Solomon Islands felt that this was an unfair decision, and raised that this amendments were not made in the interest of the citizens and the public servants of the Solomon Islands. Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) then launched a petition against the amendments, commonly known as PER 2015, and called for public support.

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) was also part of this campaign and called for support, through the media, in Vanuatu and especially to the Solomon Islanders working or studying in Vanuatu. The campaign encouraged the public to participate in the petition so that justice could be served in the Solomon Islands, the petition recorded over a thousand signatures.

The successful claimants outside the High Court.

The successful claimants outside the High Court. (Photo provided by Transparency Solomon Islands.)

Eventually, several concerned Solomon Islanders took a more proactive approach. They sought legal action and fought the MPEC regulations in court, and on Tuesday this week, which is almost a year after the formation of the PER 2015, they won their case in court against the Members of Parliament (Entitlements) Commission (MPEC).

Transparency International Vanuatu has since send a letter to a claimant in the case, Ruth Lioqula, who is also the Executive Director of Transparency Solomon Islands to congratulate her, and her fellow claimants, on a campaign job well done.

“I wish to share my encouragement, and that of my office, to you and to those that believe in the values of good governance and anti-corruption that we must continue to fight the good fight” Dr. Tokon, the Chairman of Transparency International Vanuatu, expressed. “Our passion is ignited by the interests of the people and the core values of our nations, and we use this passion to motivate us, as well give us the strength to move forward, even when we know that the fighting will only get steeper. Amongst all our national and personal difficulties, we must be content that God has His own ways of letting us know that he is still in control,” he emphasized.

Ruth, as reported by BBC, stated that the court ruling is a “victory for taxpayers” and that the MPEC failed to take into account the overall state of the economy before recommending such generous benefits for MPs.

The  citizens who took up this case were Waita Ben Tabusasi, Derick Rawecliff Manu’ari, Anthony Vernon Hughes, Graham Mark, and Ruth Lioqula.

According to the High Court of Solomon Islands Ruling Statement on Tuesday this week; the court declared that the regulations enforced in April 2015 by the MPEC are unconstitutional and null and void.

Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer, who presided over the case, stated that “there are guidelines to facilitate the work of a Member of Parliament in his representational capacity and performance of other duties towards his constituents and does not give MP’s a blanket right to dispense cash or money “willy-nilly” or for any sort of reason. These are not private funds to be dispensed with at will and pleasure, these are people’s money and must be accounted for in a plain, transparent and responsible manner,” the Solomon’s Islands Newspaper Island Sun reported this week.

This successful case involving concerned citizens and the Solomon Islands MPEC should be an encouragement the people of Vanuatu to continue to challenge questionable issues within the government to ensure there is transparency and accountability.

 

 

 

 

 

‘We Are Moving Forward,’Former Youth Parliamentarian

WHEN WE (Officers from Transparency International Vanuatu) were visiting communities on the island of Malekula we caught up with a youth participant who took part in the first ever 2013 Vanuatu National Youth Parliament.25

We met him across the Vesle House building near the Lakatoro Trading Centre amid showers of rain. He had ran across the street to greet us, giving a little time away from his busy schedule that afternoon.

His name is Morry Reuben, he had been busy painting popular internet icons inside a soon to open internet Café at Lakatoro, the first of its kind in Malekula.

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We would later learn of his involvement in the setting up of this new internet café that will cater to promote youth development in the proper and productive use of the internet.

We met him again when Transparency International Vanuatu organized the Right To Information Public Consultation at the Wilkins Stadium Conference Room, and we asked him what their team’s visions are on the future of their youth oriented Internet Café.

“The Internet Café will be established as a fund generating mechanism for future youth projects” he explains, “with the income that we receive we plan to use it to move us around Malekula so that we can train young people in Malekula to up-skill them on how to properly use new technologies like emails, Facebook, and other forms of new ideas that are developing rapidly in this era.”

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He continued to stress that he and his youth associates plan to develop a Mobile Team that will go out to the communities to train young people how to properly use the internet. But this could only be achieved, Morry stresses, “after the financial arm of this youth initiative has been developed and strengthened,” and this is where the Internet Café comes in.

The Internet Café will raise funds when members of the public pay small fees to use their computers or to access the internet, also funds will be raised through ad developments, membership fees and through other fundraising activities.

Morry is not new to youth oriented activities, he was a participant in the 2013 Vanuatu National Youth Parliament in which Transparency International Vanuatu helped to organize. During that event he was a member of the Parliamentary Youth Opposition, and was vocal on climate change adaptation issues and how new developments are affecting natural habitats on his home island of Malekula.

“The Youth Parliament gave me a lot of courage,” he acknowledges, “after the Youth Parliament I returned home and when people asked me about my experience I was ready to share with them the real duties of a Member of Parliament – which is to make laws.”

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His experience in youth activism led him to become the Acting Malampa Youth President from 2013 to 2014. His new responsibilities did not force him to stop there, but it motivated him to continue to move on, he explains confidently, “to greener pastures”. He pointed out that “the Youth Parliament experience helped me to go for further training at the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC).”

After almost six months of training he graduated in 2015 with a Certificate Four in Community Development at the APTC.

He attended the Right To Information Public Forum, which was organized by Transparency International Vanuatu at the Wilkins Stadium conference room on the 4th of April, along with three other young people from his group.

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At the end of the forum he explained briefly why he chose to support the Right To Information Bill, “the whole idea behind this Internet Café initiative is to promote good development through information sharing,” he pointed out, “and the Right To Information Bill, when it becomes law, will help us out a lot in our area of development because it will give us the right to access information that can help to develop young people in our communities.”

He further pointed out that they have plans to use social media to store information so that people can access it whenever they want to, and wherever they are, “those are our long-term plans” he coincided. Morry, and his fellow associates, are the administrators of the Tokbaut Malekula forum on Facebook which has over 2,000 members.

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They also acknowledge the contributions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition MP Sato Kilman who donated five computers for their Internet Café, along with a Network Computing system that will cater for six users simultaneously. MP Sato Kilman is also assisting them by providing the space that they are now currently using to develop and promote their initiative, they are currently occupying the last room on the far right side of the Vesle House building.

This Internet Café is being driven by seven young people who are part of a bigger youth group based in Malekula and Port Vila.

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“To start something we must not think inside the box, but we need to also get advice from other young people on what they think should be done with regards to proper youth development,” Morry says.

He concluded our short conversation by stating that “it is a new idea that we are all new at, we know that there are areas where we will fail at, but at least we are not doing nothing. We are moving forward.”

Morry later followed us to Unmet, Brenwei and the Lakatoro Market House where he talked in support of the Right To Information Bill.

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Right To Information Consultation Malekula Tour

THE THIRD TRIP for the Right To Information (RTI) public consultation tour came to end on Friday 8th on the island of Malekula. The public consultation program was spearheaded by Transparency International Vanuatu alongside the Right To Information Unit from the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO).

11The team arrived on the island of Malekula on Saturday the 3rd and headed for accommodation at Lakatoro. After months of dry weather and dusty roads Malekula had finally began to turn back to its original green, thanks to the rain that had been pouring down regularly over the past couple of days.

14

On Sunday the 4th the team prepared to depart for consultation with the community of Walarano, the Transparency International Vanuatu Team made headway for Walarano at 9 o’clock that morning.3

Initial arrangements had scheduled that the team arrive there at 10 o’clock, just in time for the Sunday Service to end so that the people can gather together at the church hall, for the RTI awareness, before they went home to have their lunch.

The RTI awareness session run just above an hour and a half, after which the villagers asked questions while some wrote down their thoughts on a two meter long brown paper that was placed at the front of the hall.

8

A village elder, in a white buttoned shirt with navy blue jeans, voiced that “to stop
corruption this (RTI) Bill must pass because I want to know the work of MP’s. 36 years have passed in this country that has had too many corruption issues, this thing (corruption) must stop. This (RTI) Bill must pass, I support it.”

9

“Yes, the Right To Information will help the grassroots 15people to access the exact
information that they want” stressed a stout villager in his early thirties, “it is for the grassroots to get the right information and to avoid corruption” he emphasized.

The rain had continued to pour heavily throughout the day with strong winds while the RTI consultation session run on undisturbed inside the church hall. Given the abundant amount of wind and rain predictions of a potential depression somewhere near showed concern on the faces of several elders from the village.

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After the Wallarano RTI session the team returned back to Lakatoro where they were staying until they returned to Port Vila on Sunday the 10th.

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Over the course of one week the team visited the communitie13s of Unmet, Matanvat, Brenwei, Pinalum, Atchin, Walarano, including Rensarie College, Lakatoro Junior Secondary School, Amelvet Secondary School, Lakatoro Market House, Norsup College, Norsup Hospital, and Tautu.

A Public Forum was also held at the Wilkins Stadiuim Conference room where public servants attended to learn more on the Rigth To Information.

7

At those places that were visited the TIV officers distributed over 500 constitution books in Bislama.

The Right To Information Policy was launched by the government in early 2014, thereby forming the basis for the Right To Information Bill to be developed. The RTI Bill was listed to be debated in Parliament in late 2014 but was withdrawn for further revisions.

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE MALEKULA RTI TOUR

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TIV Tour To Imaki

TANNA IS AN island full of independent endeavors. When Transparency International Vanuatu visited the island in February the air was immense with booming activities, small to medium scale businesses continue to increasingly operate throughout the township of Lenakel.

Construction work on the new tar seal roads had opt in a new vision for the future as folks begin to dream about the vast potentials waiting to be explored once the whole of Tanna becomes physically accessible.

Volcano

Evidently, life after Cyclone Pam is indifferent, the same challenges continue to be faced; rough roads, unmaintained infrastructure, lack of information, and the lack of proper medical facilities. Despite these challenges the show of resilience by the people continue to downcast the reality of the situation.

And to see a school principal smile while several of his classrooms had no rooftops is a reminder that their hope for a better tomorrow is what faithfully keeps the classroom doors open.

Transparency International Vanuatu, in association with the Right To Information Unit, had planned this RTI toksave trip to Tanna immediately after doing the same thing on the island of Santo in November of last year.

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The TIV Team landed on Tanna on the 21st of February and stayed over at Lenakel for two days before traveling to Imaki Village in south Tanna to conduct the RTI awareness there. The road there is rough, only the toughest vehicles with experienced drivers can get there.

The community of Imaki lies above on a plateau looking out to sea, out against the horizonIMG_8832 the islands of Futuna, Aniwa and Anietyum can be seen on a clear day. The village accommodates a Francophone primary school and a secondary school called College D’Imaki, and the people there are largely from the catholic denomination.

When the team from Transparency International Vanuatu arrived there the village was still in mourning, three deaths had occurred in the past week, one involving a young woman who had unfortunately died at sea when gathering seaweed while gale force winds from TC Winston stormed from the east.

The RTI awareness at Imaki gathered students from both the Primary and the Secondary classes. After the awareness copies of the Vanuatu Constitution booklets were donated to the school’s library.

A demonstration of rights and duties at Imaki

Nancy Feimanga is a women leader is the community, she also attended the Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) Right to Information Awareness session,, she says that apart from assisting women in the community “I keep them updated on matters that may affect their livelihoods the RTI policy is one of them.” (Source Info: Pacific Leadership Program)

Overall, the teachers at Imaki expressed their support for the Right To Information Bill, “since we are living in a very isolated part of the island this new bill would definitely support the community given that easy access to information will be legalized,” a secondary school teacher said.

WATCH: Right To Information Tour – Tanna Island.

For more information on the RTI or any other topics surrounding the work of Transparency International Vanuatu please contact us at Tel: 25715 or email: transparency@vanuatu.com.vu