. . . . because they didn’t have any to begin with!
Before proceeding any further with this commentary, we should all be clear on one thing: in Vanuatu’s political arena, public service, police force, judiciary and government-controlled institutions, there ARE men and women who are true to their station – men and women who are diligent, hard-working, honest and honourable but who face huge obstacles every day in the guise of “leaders” who are bent, crooked, corrupt. In the not-too-distant future, I intend to write an “expose” of some of those GOOD CITIZENS who deserve recognition for their positive contribution to this country but for now, onto the subject at hand – INTEGRITY (or lack thereof on the part of our current leaders).
As a long-standing member of the Vanuatu community, it pains me to see the continual abasement of Melanesian values and common human decency by those in positions of power. These parasites revel in the fact they are very likely to be able to carry out their self-serving, corrupt ways without the fear of being held accountable for their actions.
In keeping with the above statement, if you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you grab a copy of this weekend’s Vanuatu Independent newspaper as there are three articles/comments in it worthy of noting.
The first is an article headed “MoE warns schools to effectively manage water”. Sure, it does contain some good advice on the subject. However, what really galls me is the statement attributed to the MoE (Ministry of Education) – “The ministry wants schools to continue with their operations and students to continue to attend school”. Assuming this comment to be true reporting – WHAT A LOAD OF CLAPTRAP this is!
Schools are being closed; students are being denied the right to attend school because the present government has failed them, betrayed the present generation of youths whose parents wish them to have an education. The government has been mandated to pay the school fees for those students whose parents haven’t been able to meet the fees due to the effects of Cyclone Pam on their income. Here on Efate, this especially applies to the Northern region of the island where the majority of parents rely on subsistence farming, to grow crops that can be sold to provide food, water and other life essentials mandatory for their survival. They now have the added impost of the El Nino weather pattern disrupting their efforts even further.
It is also true to say that the present government has proven its incompetence and corruption in its handling of aid and assistance to the Vanuatu community since the March cyclone. What has this government done to assist the schools hardest hit by the cyclone? As far as I can determine – ABSOLUTELY BLOODY NOTHING! It has taken the likes of the ex-pat community and their friends and compratriots, as highlighted by the Editor of The Vanuatu Independent, Tony Wilson in his column, “Wilson’s Word” to get behind the re-building of those schools affected. You only have to look at the awe-inspiring work undertaken over these past few months by the Ratua Foundation, the SHaRM Pikinin Ecole Foundation, Volunteer Vanuatu, Bluescope, Mele Beach Bar plus many, many caring individuals from Vanuatu and overseas (too many to cite here) to see evidence of their contribution to the restitution of our education facilities.
In the same paper, Evelyne Toa’s article – “Abuse of position goes on and on” makes for excellent reading as she analyses the actions of today’s leaders, in particular their corruption and abuse of power, a situation that we, the people of Vanuatu, have been tolerating for way too long.
One of the major and righteous questions being asked in the media is “What has happened to all the Aid money given to the government?” We know that some of it has been used to buy new cars for Ministers, fund overseas junkets and the like but where has this money been used for the benefit of the people of Vanuatu? Hello . . .is there anyone out there in government who can or will tell us?
Dear reader, you are no doubt familiar with the adage of “when a fish stinks, it does so from the head down”
Well so it is with the present Vanuatu government leaders.
PM Sato Kilman has surrounded himself with experts, experts in the art of graft, corruption, fraud, bribery and self-serving dishonesty. Fifteen, yes FIFTEEN of his MP’s are currently facing charges of bribery and breaches of the Leadership Code. They face judgement this coming Friday, 9th October when the presiding judge, Justice Mary Sey hands down her verdict.
Notwithstanding the eventual determination of the Supreme Court in this instance, there is no denying the fact that many of these same MP’s are a blight on our community and chief contributors to Vanuatu becoming a laughing stock on the international stage. A few prime examples . . . .
Marcellino Pipite. One of the self-determined “big men”, this MP keeps showing his true colours in his contempt for the system. Not a stranger to upholding his belief in his own self-importance (see a previous article – “The Minister of Chickens”), his contemptuous attitude is well-evidenced in his recent spending on a junket to the U.S. – eight million vatu from the public purse – 8,000,000 vatu of YOUR MONEY! Imagine how far that money would have gone to alleviating the pain of those whose children can’t attend school because the government won’t meet its obligations in this regard.
Paul Telukluk. Another MP who is well-practised in the art of rorting the system and practising fraud and deception, especially when it comes to his largesse to his family and cronies whilst at the helm of the Lands Department in his capacity as Minister of Lands. This is the same person who was once cited by a previous Ombudsman and quoted in www.paclii.org as having “. . . BREACHED EACH AND EVERY SECTION OF THE LEADERSHIP CODE IN THE CONSTITUTION: CONFLICT OF INTEREST, UNFAIR EXERCISE OF OFFICIAL DUTIES, DEMEANING POSITION, LACK OF INTEGRITY, USE OF OFFICE FOR PERSONAL GAIN.”
Steven Kalsakau. This particular person, also one of Sato Kilman’s close cronies, also has a long history of rorting the system for his own personal benefit whilst holding the much-sought-after-by-crooks position of Minister of Lands. (By the way, in support of this notion, it’s worth noting that PM Kilman has re-appointed Paul Telukluk to this very same position in spite of his crooked and shameful history in a similar capacity and in spite of MP Ralph Regenvanu’s honest attempts at restoring faith in the Department of Lands). Back to MP Kalsakau . . . his questionable actions have been reported extensively in the Vanuatu Daily Post and other media, including internationally. I have also previously touched on this aspect of his not-so-illustrious career in my article – “Public Enemy #1 – The Truth”. To gain an even better insight into his rorts and the like, it’s also worth havinga look at some of the articles in the Vanuatu Daily Digest. But once again, PM Kilman has looked after his mate Kalsakau by appointing him to the position of Parliamentary Secretary with all its extra power and financial benefits and without advertising the position or consulting anyone. It’s called “jobs for the boys”!
The bottom line?
The fetid stink of corruption that pervades the Vanuatu Parliament halls of power must be eliminated. Fortunately, there are ways that this can be achieved.
First up, it is up to YOU, the people of Vanuatu, to support the honest, honourable and decent men and women in our community in their quest for change for a better society, one that doesn’t just favour the crook and thieves who would call themselves “leaders” but rather those who, by their actions, have proven themselves to be people of INTEGRITY and who genuinely care about the welfare and the economic and social well-being of Vanuatu.
Secondly, have your own close-to-home community contact and question the Member of Parliament who is meant to represent YOUR interests in running the country. Find out their level of commitment, or otherwise, to having the government institute the necessary legislation and processes to conform to its UNCAC (United Nations Convention Against Corruption) obligations in establishing an independent, government-funded Anti-Corruption Agency that has full investigative and prosecution powers – similar to that of the Fiji and Hong Kong ICAC’s (Independent Commission Against Corruption).
Finally, at the next elections, VOTE WITH YOUR HEAD. Vote for those men and women of ACTION instead of those who would continue to attempt to dazzle you with words of false promises.
The FOUNDATION OF LEADERSHIP IS INTEGRITY!