OPEN LETTER TO HON. PRIME MINISTER SATO KILMAN

Dear Sir,

I have been defamed in the media by and at the instigation of the Vanuatu Government’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Jeff Joel Patunvanu. This is an act for which I hold both Mr. Patunvanu and the Vanuatu Government responsible and therefore – accountable.

THE FACTS:

On 1st February, 2013, the web site www.vanuatu2u.com had as its lead story one entitled “This Smells of Conspiracy against Vanuatu”. Note: A transcript of Mr. Patunvanu’s article was also published in the “Daily Post”, Issue No. 3774, on Wednesday, 6th February, 2013.

Since the initial publishing on the www.vanuatu2u.com web site, the Government’s PRO’s false allegations have been repeated many times over in the media. Note: This particular web site has ALL news items directed to the Vanuatu Government’s PRO for vetting/administration.

The very first posting of the article by the Government’s PRO also contained a photograph of the members of the newly-appointed Steering Committee for the “Youth Against Corruption Vanuatu” NGO, one of whom was myself. It was quite clear who the allegations were directed at, namely, me. The following is a copy of the www.vanuatu2u.com article (the italics are mine), as it was then (it’s been changed on a number of occasions over the past few days since by the Government’s PRO):

  1. 3.            “An Expat working for an NGO in Vanuatu – Youth against Corruption is the former Wealth Manager of Mr. Saken Company in Vanuatu – Agari (as reported by The Independent Newspaper) I am currently getting this confirmed by VIPA and other agencies.”

The Government’s PRO, Jeff Patunvanu, further repeated these same allegations on radio on Sunday evening 3rd February, 2013 and again on Monday morning, 4th February, 2013.

The Government’s PRO, Jeff Patunvanu, when requested by me, on two separate occasions by email, to supply me with the relevant documents in accord with his directions and I quote –

Because this issue is now officially entering the official investigation stage all attachments now require password to view please contact me on jjpatunvanu@gmail.com and jjpatunvanu@vanuatu.gov.vu   if you are a member of the Media or Public who has a special concern to read this further and I will consider granting you password to read. “, he has chosen to ignore my requests completely.

In view of the foregoing, I wish to draw your attention to the following Vanuatu Law, one to which everyone in Vanuatu is bound:

CAP135:                                “Offences against Reputation

120. Criminal defamation

No person shall by spoken or written words, gestures or any other method maliciously expose any other person alive or dead to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or otherwise harm the reputation of that other person.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years.”

By association, it concerns me greatly that the organizations and people with whom I actively work, including the Youth Against Corruption Vanuatu NGO, have also been adversely affected by these scurrilous and defamatory allegations that serve no other purpose other than to harm my reputation and hence – the reputation of those I serve, work with, socialize and live with. This is untenable.

In view of the foregoing, I hereby request that your Office, Mr. Prime Minister, respond to this letter as follows:

(1)    The Vanuatu Government makes a full and total retraction of these allegations in the form of a full-page public apology to me and to the “Youth Against Corruption Vanuatu” NGO members with such apology to be published in all three of Vanuatu’s newspapers as follows – the “Daily Post”, the “The Independent” and the “Vanuatu Times”. Additionally, this letter is to be published in its entirety on the home page of the www.vanuatu2u.com web site for a minimum period of one week. This apology is to be received by the herein-named media organizations by no later than 3.00 p.m., Friday, 9th February, 2013.

(2)    The Vanuatu Government publicly commits to the formation of an independent Anti-Corruption Agency. Note: The previous Government, under your leadership, Mr. Prime Minister, was presented with a petition for the formation of an anti-corruption body, in accord with the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), an action that had been ratified by the Parliament of Vanuatu on 14th March, 2010 but as yet un-acted upon by your Government. Consequently,

  1. This public commitment is to first take the form of a public announcement from the Prime Minister’s office via all Vanuatu’s recognized media organizations that it WILL legislate the formation of an Anti-Corruption Agency with similar operating principles and powers to those of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) but naturally modified to suit Vanuatu’s own particular culture and circumstances and that the Government will list this action as a top priority upon its return to Parliament In March, 2013 – or earlier by way of an Extraordinary Sitting of Parliament;
  2. Secondly, the public announcement is to include a commitment, on behalf of the Vanuatu Government, to allocate sufficient operational funds for the Commission’s establishment and thereafter, its annual operations. The initial budget considered appropriate is to be no less than twenty five million vatu and is to be included in the 2013 Budget to be handed down by the Government in March, 2013;
  3. Finally, the announcement is to also attest to the fact that, subsequent to the legislated formation of said Commission, a qualified independent Chairman having the appropriate and relevant legal qualifications is to be appointed by the Vanuatu Government as soon as possible;
  4. This commitment is to be announced within seven (7) days of the publication of this letter in the media.

I call upon you, Mr. Prime Minister, to take up this challenge for the advancement of the Vanuatu Government’s stated commitment to the elimination of corruption at all levels in Vanuatu.

In closing, should a satisfactory response to this letter not occur in a timely fashion as qualified herein, I shall initiate civil and/or criminal action against the Vanuatu Government’s PRO, Jeff Joel Patunvanu and the Vanuatu Government itself.

I await your response accordingly.

Respectfully yours,

PHIL MANHIRE

7th February, 2013

Phil Manhire

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