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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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.