WALKOUT AT VANUATU PROVIDENT FUND

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (February 24, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---A majority of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) staff walked off the job Tuesday to protest the return to work of suspended General Manager Ietonga Ayong.

The staff walked out after Mrs. Ayong walked in, Radio Vanuatu reports.

Calling for Ayong's resignation, spokesman Eniel Johnson, said the staff wants the government to appoint an executive who is able to manage the office and the peoples' retirement investments properly.

In efforts to end the walkout, senior VNPF officers, Prime Minister's Office representatives, and the fund's caretaker board later met and agreed that Ayong could not resume official duties until the pay-out of members' contributions requested is completed.

Ayong was suspended after the January 12 Port Vila riot by VNPF members, during which they demanded the right to withdraw their retirement savings. The riot occurred after an Ombudsman's report found that Vanuatu politicians were given preferential VNPF loan treatment to purchase housing.

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