VANUATU PM SOPE THREATENS TO CHANGE LAW SO PUBLISHER NEIL-JONES CAN BE

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DEPORTED

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 24, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Vanuatu Prime Minister Barak Sope said his government is looking at changing immigration laws, if needed, to ensure it deports independent newspaper publisher Marc Neil-Jones.

Vanuatu Trading Post editor Len Garae revealed this in a report from Port Vila today as Sope continued his government's attack on Neil-Jones and investigative reporting by the Vanuatu Trading Post.

It came after the government's first attempt to deport Neil-Jones backfired.

Police placed Neil-Jones on to an early morning flight to Australia. But the Vanuatu Supreme Court issued an interim order that he must be allowed back into the country.

Neil-Jones established the twice-weekly newspaper as the country's first successful independent news medium.

Sope and his government have been angered by a series of recent investigative reports by Neil-Jones revealing embarrassing details about overseas businessmen the government is involved with.

Sope went on government-owned radio and TV to attack Neil-Jones again, Garae reported. He called Neil-Jones a threat to the security of the country, Garae said. Sope said the reports in the Vanuatu Trading Post are lies.

Garae said Sope also claimed Neil-Jones broke Vanuatu laws by having access to state secrets.

He said the prime minister warned all senior civil servants leaking state secrets clearly marked 'secret' to the Trading Post that they will be dismissed if caught.

Garae said Sope said he supports media freedom but it has a limit.

Meanwhile, Garae said Neil-Jones was rushed to the hospital by ambulance this morning after complications caused by diabetes. Neil-Jones is a diabetic and he said Vanuatu police refused to allow him to take his medication with him when he was deported.

Earlier, Neil-Jones said he unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Sope in an attempt to resolve the matter amicably and without going to court.

But he said Sope would not meet him and later cancelled a scheduled news conference where he was expected to face questions about the deportation.

Neil-Jones returned to Port Vila late Sunday night to a welcome similar to that given a sports hero.

Despite the late hour, more than 200 supporters and the media were at Bauerfield International Airport awaiting the flight bringing him back from Brisbane, Australia.

They cheered and welcomed back the man deported by the Vanuatu government last Friday.

Acting Chief Justice Vincent Lunabeck ruled that Neil-Jones' must be allowed to return unhindered by the government and should be allowed a permit to reside and continue with his business in Vanuatu.

A court hearing on the deportation issue has been scheduled for February 9.

 

VANUATU OPPOSITION SAYS DEPORT ORDER WILL BACKFIRE

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (January 24, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Vanuatu opposition believes the government's attempt to deport the country's only independent newspaper publisher will backfire.

Edward Natapei said the government was trying to prevent news coverage of the activities of a Thai businessman with close links to Prime Minister Barak Sope.

But Mr. Natapei said the botched deportation and subsequent return of Marc Neil-Jones, publisher of the Trading Post newspaper, will focus more international attention on a conspiracy to issue government bonds to the businessman:

"The government probably thought by getting rid of Marc Neil-Jones, they'd put a lid on what's going on behind the scenes but unfortunately, in fact, it sort of opened everything out by doing it that way.

"And now I'm hoping that the international media will focus more attention on what's happening in Vanuatu," Mr. Natapei said.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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