THE VANUATU GOVERNMENT in partnership with Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) hosted this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day down at the Port Vila Seafront.
International Anti Corruption Day is held every year as an opportunity for the community to rally support of the work being undertaken to combat corruption in all its forms. The event was scheduled to be held on the 9th of December 2015, but was postponed to this year.
Programs of that day included a public parade against corruption from Chantilly’s to the Seafront space next to the Port Vila Market House. The VMF Brass band led the parade followed by government leaders, NGO’s and members of the public.
At the Seafront there were a few speeches, awareness programs, and drama performances by the Rainbow Disability Theater Group who created and performed the widely showcased drama – Pikinini Blong Seaview.
And to conclude the half day program Stan & the Earth Force soothingly closed of the activities with some of their hard hitting songs about the reality of life in Vanuatu.
At a quarter past nine the Honorable Prime Minister Charlot Salwai gave his speech, in his speech he emphasized his government’s commitment towards fighting corruption in Vanuatu.
Vanuatu, as a member state of the UN, is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2011. Therefore it is by obligation that Vanuatu must have in place mechanisms that implement and enforce this UNCAC.
A statement from the Ministry of Justice earlier that week explained that Vanuatu “has been working to strengthen the institutions and laws needed to address corruption. A 2013 review of Vanuatu’s progress to implement UNCAC found that some significant progress has been made, acknowledging work particularly in the areas of ant-money laundering, international cooperation and initiative in Correction Services.”
And because Vanuatu acceded to the UNCAC therefore it is important to have an Anti-Corruption Day so that government and civil society leaders can prioritize that day as a time to report back to the whole country on what they have done specifically in the areas of anti-corruption.
Those who also provided statements on anti-corruption today were the Director General for the Ministry of Justice Mark Bebe, the Ombudsman Kalkot Mataskelekele, and Transparency International Vanuatu Board Secretary Mr Joe Kalo.
The Ministry of Justice and the Office the Prime Minister were the main offices behind the observation of anti-corruption days, and Transparency International Vanuatu, as a civil society organization has been privileged to have worked in collaboration with the said offices during the past weeks and months towards the event.
The theme for this years celebration of the Anti Corruption Day in Vanuatu was “Fight Corruption. Use the Right Information. Enough Hearsay.”
A media release from the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS) this week elaborated more on the reasons behind hosting the Anti-Corruption Day.
The statement says that the theme reflects a key strategy “which the government is implementing to lead a more open and transparent administration”.
The statement also recognized Transparency International Vanuatu’s assistance towards the raising public awareness on the Right To Information (RTI) Bill. The statement from the MOJCS further explained that the theme for anti-corruption day was developed earlier this year, and Transparency International Vanuatu has been using it to conduct awareness programs on the Right to Information (RTI) Bill around the islands of Vanuatu.
Right To Information (RTI) is a Bill that is still in the drafting process yet to be passed in parliament which will give free access to the right information needed in this country.
The statement explained that in 2014 “the Government launched the Right To information (RTI) Policy which when fully implemented will mean that each agency will publish information on its organization, policies, activities and expenditure.
RTI will also mean that any person will be entitled to ask for any information held by the Government, and the Government will be required to provide that information, with limited exemptions to protect such things as personal privacy, national security, health and safety and legal privilege. An RTI Unit to oversee implementation of RTI has been established within the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer.”
“The Ministry of Justice and Community Services is leading a review of the Ombudsman and Leadership Code Acts to make sure that the laws reflect community standard and are strong enough to fight corruption in our public institutions. Other work to combat corruption in the private and not government sectors has also occurring.”
Over the years advocacies after advocacies have been implemented to combat corruption at all levels of society, yet no law has been tabled in Parliament that would evidently fight corruption effectively across all levels. It is about time now that Vanuatu move forward to enforce in such laws, and the Right To information is one of them.
During Transparency International Vanuatu community awareness programs on the RTI around Vanuatu a hundred percent of the people that were talked to wanted the RTI Bill to be passed and to become law, and though some people were careful on their opinions they eventually expressed support to have such a law place.
It was during the RTI Toksave on Malekula when a Chief from the North West emphasized
that “this is God’s plan, everything comes in a timely manner. This RTI Bill must become law. With human nature and Gods divine power anything is possible.”
It was also during another RTI Toksave on West Ambae when an elder from Vilakala village shed tears of joy. After listening to the RTI awareness the elder expressed that “Vanuatu will be free at last.”
He explained that “when I heard of the Right to Information Bill, I knew that Vanuatu will be free at last because despite our independence we are still not free yet, because the information that we want is not readily available to us citizens.”
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.
Thus the theme – Fight Corruption. Use The Right Information. Enough Hearsay. In Bislama it translates as “Faetem Korapsen. Yusum Raet Infomeisen. Inaf Blong Harem Se.”
As Transparency International Vanuatu continues to face further cuts on organizational funding we would like to continue to encourage us to be strong against corruption, corruption is everyone’s business. We have witnessed first-hand tears of hopelessness that were shed because of corruption, expressionless faces with eyes filled with pain. But we have also seen tears of joy, faces filled with energy and eyes filled with hope because corruption was defeated and removed as a parasite, an unwanted obstacle, towards achieving better living standards, a better future, and fair justice.
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