TIV Presents Experiences At Samoan Integrity Workshop

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU (TIV) had the opportunity to participate in a two day Integrity Validation Workshop for Senior Samoan Government Official organized by the Samoa Government, UNODC and UNDP from the 9-10 November 2016.

The workshop is about helping Samoan Government Officials understand the UNCAC Convention and hopefully get the Samoan Government to ratify the UNCAC Convention in the near future. So far 11 Pacific Island States are parties to UNCAC. The countries are; PNG, Fiji, Palau, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Vanuatu is the 4th Pacific Island States to ratify UNCAC.

TIV presented the work we are doing around awareness on the Right to Information in Vanuatu as an example for the region where a CSO is working in partnership with a Government Institution (RTI Unit) in promoting a Government Policy that supports integrity, accountability and transparency in Vanuatu.

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TIV Program Manager, Mr. Wilson Toa – Presentation at the Integrity Workshop for Samoan Government Officials.

This is the third presentation for TIV to do in the Pacific region. In July TIV had the opportunity to present the RTI awareness work with regional institutions in Fiji organized by the Pacific Leadership Program, and in August, TIV again presented the RTI awareness work at a CSO regional workshop in Fiji organize by the South Pacific Island Forum.

TIV is excited about our work on the RTI being recognize regionally especially by regional bodies such as the Pacific Island Forum and the UNDP.

TIV and the Vanuatu Governments RTI Unit carried out awareness in all province especially in the islands of Vanua Lava, Santo, Malekula, Ambae, Pentecost, Ambrym, Efate Outer Islands, Schools in North Efate, Tanna and last week in Erromanga. Next month TIV and RTI will carry out awareness work in the Sherperd Islands.

This RTI campaign tours are funded by the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP) who supports Transparency International Vanuatu’s work with the Government’s Right to Information (RTI) Unit to raise awareness and promote public interest in the RTI Policy and Bill. PLP’s support has enabled TIV to campaign in communities and schools and host public forums on the RTI Policy and Bill, using its strong networks in the provinces.

This process has built the public’s knowledge and understanding of the principles of good leadership and the importance of government transparency and given the RTI Unit insights into how the Policy can be effectively implemented.

The Pacific Leadership Program (PLP) is a regional initiative of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that recognises the pivotal role of leadership in development. PLP builds, applies and shares knowledge on developmental leadership (i.e. individuals, organisations and other stakeholders working together on inclusive policy and institutional change for the public good).

 

“Call To Pardon, Based On Custom, Is A Very Dangerous Call”: Dr. Tokon

THE VANUATU JUDICIARY SYSTEM set a high benchmark when the Vanuatu Supreme Court sentenced the corrupt politicians to prison in 2015 and it must not look back, says Transparency International Vanuatu Chairman Dr. Willie Tokon.

Commenting on Barak Sope’s comment – who said that if he was President he would pardon the jailed politicians, Dr. Tokon says that this would be unfair because it would be like having two separate laws; one for ordinary citizens, and one only for leaders.


CLICK HERE to read Barak Sope’s comment in an interview with Radio New Zealand.


Dr. Tokon says that he understands that Mr. Barak’s comments may be coming from the traditional perspective -the respect for custom, but he says that we are living in the new era where traditional values must work alongside the rule of law, and not above it.

“For those of us who grew up during those early years – fifty to sixty years ago, we can definitely understand this traditional reasoning, but for the rest of us thirty years and younger this may make no sense at all because everyone today expects ‘Justice for All, and All for Justice’. In custom, leaders can be treated different as custom dictates, but that must not be the same with the rule of law. Hence, the thought of freeing the jailed politicians is a very dangerous call” Dr. Tokon says.

Talking with Radio Australia Dr. Tokon says that he knows that some of the jailed politicians are very sick and their health conditions will only get worse in prison, but the right thing to do is to appeal to the Parole Board.

CLICK HERE to listen to the audio interview with Radio Australia Tok Pisin Service.

Support For Right To Information On Pentecost

CLOUDY SKIES LOOMED ABOVE as the Air Taxi gracefully touched down at Lonoro Airport, South Pentecost. Two Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) officers arrived on the island on board the six-seater aircraft on Friday the 19th to continue the nation-wide Right To Information (RTI) Bill community awareness on the island, and by the end of their five day awareness program they had visited over fifteen communities and had spoken to over seven hundred people.

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Since 2015 Transparency International Vanuatu has been heavily involved on a nation-wide community awareness program carefully moving from one island to the other, gradually thousands of people are being informed of how the RTI Bill can affect their lives when it becomes law. And so far, everyone has been positive about their right to access accurate information and hoping that their representatives in parliament will represent their wishes.

On the island of Pentecost the TIV team held their first community awareness at the 2Waterfall community, the home village of Member of Parliament for Pentecost MP Silas Bule. With a small population of less than a hundred people the community derives its name from the actual waterfall located around 200 to 300 meters behind the village and near the base of the mountainous landscape that stretches along the entire length of the island, from the north to the south.

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“It is true that information is hard to get today,” said the chief of Waterfall. “When you go to Vila to get information the response you get is ‘come again tomorrow’” the chief pointed out, “I went to Vila to try and get information on some work that I was doing and I ended up staying in Vila for seven months. It cost me over three hundred thousand vatu (VT300, 000) and I did not finish my work and came back, also the family that I was with were getting tired of me”.

He continue to say that he is happy with the RTI Bill, “if it passes then its good because we are just wasting time and money just for nothing”.

The chief then described a real situation where the Right To Information can be put to 4really good use; “I signed an agreement with contractors from the public works to use our sand and coral for the construction of the cement slaps across the creeks. When they finished they never paid us for the materials, they lied to us that they would pay us but they never did until they left”.

This is an incident, said the chief, where the Right To Information can be utilized to get information on the contractors as well as their operational budget breakdown and how much cost they allocated towards community assistance.

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Leaning against the post in the middle of the Waterfall nakamal Mr. Bule, an elderly villager, conveyed his support for the RTI, “to add on with what the chief has just said, for forty years I have been going to Vila to get information, I was a teacher and I taught for twenty one years” he revealed. “For a long time now I have been going to Vila to get information on my back pay, I went to the Teaching Service Commission they did not know me. I went to the Teachers Union, where I pay my bills all the time, and they do not recognize me as a teacher who paid bills for teachers before when I was at Kawenu (Primary School). There is no good answer, and as the chief said, every time they say ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. And so for forty years now there is nothing16. No answer”.

“Every time I come there is no answer, but those children that I taught are ‘big men’ of our country today” said Mr. Bule, “but still they do not recognize me. I just came back (from Vila), I was there for a month but there was no answer”.

He took deep sigh and said “I just want to say that make this (RTI) Bill pass quick”.

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The following day the team continued the awareness campaign to Pangi village, which is considered as the commercial hub for the South Pentecost region, and then to Wanur village by boat where a ‘victory’ feast for their local String Band (Salma Local String Band) was getting underway.

Villagers from Wanur, Pangi, Point Cross, and as far as Bunlap were present at Wanur. It was the right place to disperse necessary national information to a broad and wider audience.

On that same day the regenerated South Pentecost Football League affiliated clubs were 7challenging each other at the Panas football field. Over 200 hundred club supporters watched from the sidelines as South Pentecost’s best entertained their afternoon. Also from the sidelines TIV Officer Douglas Tamara blasted RTI information through the PA system during half-times while RTI brochures, posters and copies of the Vanuatu Constitution were being distributed to the football players and their supporters.

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“My name is Graham, I am from Pangi village” said a middle age football supporter, “we are happy to hear this information because it will give us the right to ask the government information relating to developments, for example in the health sector”. He particularly pointed out that their area was poorly equipped to provide proper medical services.

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The awareness team visited Melsisi, Tansip, Wali, Fanaea, and several more communities before moving to the north of the island. Of the total number of people that were talked to on the island sixty two percent (62%) of them were male and thirty eight percent (38%) of them were female, they all support the RTI Bill a hundred percent (100%)

Apart from the doing awareness on the RTI the team also distributed Bislama copies of the Vanuatu Constitution throughout the villages that were visited.

Furthermore, anti-corruption information was given out, it was said that during the 11recent electoral campaigns in January this year corruption was a big topic that heated up a lot of debates and discussions. This shows that corruption is becoming more discussed and is recognized at the community level as an enemy. Transparency International Vanuatu will continue to advocate against corruption during this awareness programs across Vanuatu.

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Transparency International Vanuatu will continue consultations on the Right To Information (RTI) Bill to the island of Ambrym next month.

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The RTI campaign program is supported financially by the Pacific Leadership Program. The Pacific Leadership Program (PLP)  is one of TIV’s partners and they support TIV’s work with Government’s Right to Information (RTI) Unit to raise awareness on the RTI Policy and Bill. This has enabled TIV to visit communities and schools and host public forums on the RTI Policy and Bill.

PLP supports action by Pacific Island leaders in policy and institutional changes and reforms promote stability, effective governance and economic growth at the regional, national and sub-national level.  The RTI awareness throughout Vanuatu has built the public’s knowledge and understanding of the principles of good leadership and the importance of government transparency.

The Pacific Leadership Program (PLP) is a regional initiative of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that recognises the pivotal role of leadership in development. PLP builds, applies and shares knowledge on developmental leadership (i.e. individuals, organisations and other stakeholders working together on inclusive policy and institutional change for the public good).

MPs Must Practice Constituency Consultation

“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME that a team has come to inform us, and consult with us, on new laws that are to go to parliament,” confessed a chief who looks after the community of Vureas Bay on Vanua Lava. His revelation brings to light an important question; are your MP’s consulting with you before and after they had participated at a parliamentary sitting? What are the roles of our MP’s?

Unfortunately, there is no specific law in Vanuatu that clearly illustrates the role of an MP. However, there are guided procedures and codes of conducts that provide a guide to what the role of an MP should, and must be.

Read below what the Parliament of Vanuatu has to say about the role of a Member of Parliament; (All details are outlined in the Parliament website)

“What Members of Parliament do? Most Members can thus be viewed as having three roles that of parliamentarian, constituency representative, and party member.”

Furthermore, when “Parliament is sitting (meeting), MPs generally spend their time working in the Parliament. This can include raising issues affecting their constituents, attending debates and voting on new laws.”

“Most MPs are also members of committees, which look at issues in detail, from government policy and new laws, to wider topics like human rights.”

The Parliament website continues to explain that when working in their constituency “Members (MP) provide a direct link between their constituents and the Parliament. In their constituency, MPs often visit their people, where local people can come along to discuss any matters that concern them.”

Again, the Parliament states exactly and clearly what citizens should discuss with their MPs, the people can discuss ‘any matters that concern them’ including laws, community projects, social conflicts, economical activities, opinions, and the list goes on.

Therefore, if your MP visits you to consult, and to gather your opinion, on new laws that are to be discussed in parliament then that is a great job well done, but if your MP is not visiting you to talk about new laws and other matters then you, the voter, must demand it from your MP otherwise you are missing out on an important democratic process.

Reportedly, according to information received from the Parliament the national consultation process could soon be made much easier owing to the rapid advances in Vanuatu’s telecommunication industry. This development would see to it that the Bills listed for debate would be digitally send directly to the MP’s computer, phone, or tablet. This will make it easier for the MP to distribute the Bill to his constituents easier and faster as well as receive the people’s opinion through the same manner.

The Parliament also states that “MPs also attend functions, visit schools and communities and generally try to meet as many people as possible. This gives MPs further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Parliament.”

This information is very important, it explains that MPs must try to meet as many people as possible during their term if office. They are Representatives who must debate and discuss in the interest of those that they represent.

“It is the constituents who pass judgment on the performance of Members of Parliament at each election. Members must prove themselves fit for the task of being their parliamentary representative. All Members who wish to make a long-term commitment to improving the governance of Vanuatu need to be dedicated to serving the interests of their electorates and proving themselves worthy of re-election.”

The Parliament of Vanuatu also provides to each MP a copy of the Vanuatu Parliamentary Handbook. The Handbook outlines the role of a MP among other functions.

The Handbook is a resourceful guide to how things are run in the Parliament. A statement from the Parliament Handbooks explains that the Handbook “is designed to introduce new Parliamentarians, and people planning to be candidates for election to Parliament, to the most fundamental aspects of the job”.

Throughout the awareness tours that were conducted by Transparency International Vanuatu one thing was certain during the discussion of laws and national development; the people want their MPs to do more than just an occasional visit, they want explanation on laws, they need to know how they are governed, and how new laws will affect them.

A Statesman from the Philippines once commented on changes in politics and the need for proper consultation with the people, he said that “our political system needs changing. It needs to move away from personalities and patronage to a system of party programs and consultation with the people.”

Simply, if a single MP cannot do it by himself, then the party that he is affiliated with has to support him to implement a constituency consultation program.

Strengthening Political Integrity Is A Must

POLITICAL INTEGRITY IN VANUATU must be strengthened to implement political stability. The expected constitutional change in Vanuatu’s National Constitution is on the right course to achieving political stability, the only other ingredient needed to complete this process is political will, and this is where public interest must be represented and not personal interests.

Now that the Special Parliamentary Sitting has been adjourned to Thursday next week, the entire country has been blessed with time to allow for more discussions between the country’s law makers and the people that they represent.

Whilst traveling around the islands Vanuatu TIV Officers continue to hear the peoples wish for political stability and integrity, and recently while conducting Civic Education awareness on the central part of Tanna Island a chief spoke up again instability, “all we need here is agricultural services and support from the government, if we can have that then we will have nothing more to worry about in terms of development.”

“But if we continue to experience political instability,” he stressed, “then it is harder to develop because when a new Minister goes in everything changes, when a new government is formed out of nowhere then everything suddenly changes for us.”

Some of the constitutional amendments expected to be presented in next weeks adjourned Special Parliamentary Sitting intends to uphold political stability and strengthen political integrity, this is very positive news, and this is the side of the coin that Transparency International Vanuatu has been advocating for over the past 15 years, and now we are just one week away from filling that gap.

In 2015 Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) published a report on Vanuatu’s History of No Confidence Motions, the report outlined a string of motions since 1985 that had ripped off from the public millions of vatu and left a history of political instability. But soon, if the law makers adhere to the people’s wishes, a change can be made to better alter the course of Vanuatu’s political future.

Regulating the occurrences of motions against the Prime Minister had been a talked-about solution for a while now. From meetings, ‘storians’, to radio talkback shows citizens have continuously raised this option as a means to ending the political instability in Vanuatu.

Eventually the law making body of Vanuatu, the Parliament, must endorse a twelve (12) month ‘grace period’ to allow time for one government to do more than just hold on to power. If it goes through then the news should come as a much needed guarantee, for stability, to a nation that really needs it to progress.

Another mechanism that will see further tightening’s is the increase in the number of MP’s that can sign a no confidence motion. If the proposed constitutional amendment goes through then the number of signatories will increase from eight (8) to seventeen (17), and to make it stricter all the signings have to be made at the same time and in the presence of the Speaker of Parliament.

Furthermore, giving the power to the parliament to regulate political parties is a significant step to tightening slack screws. In a research report published by TIV a while ago on the integrity of political parties it was concluded that the political party institution in Vanuatu lacked laws that require disclosure of financial information, and provisions that require political parties to maintain records on their finances and report on them.

Furthermore, in order to further address these issues the following options should be considered by the body set up to publicly develop political integrity laws and regulations:

a) For a motion of no confidence to be in order, requiring that it needs to be justified on the basis of political reasons (such as breaches in MOU or breaches of Leadership Code Act).

b) Introducing penalties for those who sign an unjustified motion of no confidence (such as a deduction from MPs salaries or losing one’s seat and requiring a by-election).

c) Developing a party discipline system, including penalties for members who cross the floor without justifiable reason.

d) Part of the development of a stronger party system may include funding parties, rather than individual MPs (via the MP allocation), with a discipline mechanism being to be cut off from party funding if the floor is crossed.

Transparency International Vanuatu has advocated a lot against instability since its establishment in Vanuatu more than a decade ago. Strengthening political integrity and putting tighter restrictions on motions of no confidence obviously will systematically implement each other for the better.

Politically stability was a big reason why people turned up to vote in the 2016 Snap Election, it is therefore demandable that because these constitutional amendments will look to strengthen political stability and integrity, then it must be passed and implemented accordingly.

Law makers must always represent the interests of the people, and when we begin to prevent instability from happening then we are slowly cutting away at the potholes that allow for corruption to exist with the political structure.

And lastly, if further parliamentary proceedings dictate that there has to be a nation-wide referendum done to gather factual public opinion then it must be done to ensure that everything is done in the interest of the whole nation.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.

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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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1000 Constitution Books For Tanna

THIS TIME NEXT WEEK Transparency International Vanuatu will have already distributed 1000 constitution books in the Bislama language in several communities and schools around the island of Tanna. The constitution books were translated into Bislama by Transparency International Vanuatu and have been in distribution since 2013.

In November of 2015 when officers from TIV visited Santo they gave away over 500 constitutions books to members of the public in Luganville. They also distributed more books to the community of Port Olry in east Santo and Mavunlep village in south Santo.

The TIV Team that will be leaving for Tanna on Sunday the 21st and will return to Port Vila on the 28th February, and they aim to return with empty boxes. Transparency International Vanuatu believes that the information contained in a document such as the national constitution should be available to every citizen.

TIV believes that a well-informed citizen can be able to participate more effectively in nation building.

For more information regarding constitution books please contact the Transparency International Vanuatu office at; 25715. TIV officers are also available to conduct short awareness programs in any requesting community surrounding the contents of the national constitution and the ideals behind it.

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