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By Marc Neil-Jones

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Port Villa Presse, Dec. 7) - Taiwan has been openly accused by Opposition members of ‘directly interfering in domestic politics’.

Eyebrows were raised by many when a well-known Singapore lawyer Edwin Tay suddenly arrived in Port Vila and turned up in court to assist Ronald Warsal from Santo to challenge the Motion of No Confidence and act on behalf of Serge Vohor and the Speaker Josias Moli.

He was told by the Chief Justice that he was not registered to act as a lawyer in Vanuatu and would not be allowed to be involved in the case. He is assisting Warsal as an advisor.

Former Prime Minister Edward Natapei has advised Daily Post that he was contacted by this same lawyer in Singapore in the last few weeks of his term as Prime Minister early in the year on behalf of the Government of Taiwan with a $2 million offer to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Natapei confirmed to the Post, "Yes Mr. Tay approached me in Singapore and offered me US$2 million if we could establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

It was all strictly on a top-secret basis. We were also offered free trips to Taiwan. I told the Council of Ministers what had happened and the idea of diplomatic ties with Taiwan was rejected out of hand."

He voiced his concerns over Taiwan blatantly interfering in Vanuatu’s domestic affairs and said that he would be discussing the situation with Leader of Opposition Sato Kilman.

The Taiwanese Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Kau and Director General responsible for Asian affairs Dr Gary Song Lin are still in Vanuatu with two other Foreign Affairs officials despite the Council of Ministers making their decision to support a one China policy.

They attended the court case and have been accused by China of not accepting the decision by the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Kau said: "We have had nothing to do with Mr. Tay coming to Vanuatu and we are not interested in Vanuatu politics.

The situation is still confusing to us as we deal with the head of the country, which is Mr. Vohor and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Only last week Minister Pipite told us the Taiwan flag was only down temporarily and that the government will be sorted out and give us land for the new embassy.

We have received nothing in writing from the government saying the signed agreement is revoked.

We are looking at a combined package including aid and private sector investment of US$40 million a year to Vanuatu and have offered to double the per capita income of everyone in three provinces of the government’s choice in four or five years."

Mr. Tay told Daily Post: "I have been appointed by Mr. Vohor to assist him with this case. I met him through a mutual client in Singapore. I have absolutely nothing to do with Taiwan and am not an agent of theirs in any capacity."

He admitted he had met Natapei through one of his Singapore clients with business interests in Vanuatu, "The client offered to assist with US2 million but it was nothing to do with Taiwan.

However the same client said they could get Natapei in touch with friends in Taiwan who could assist Vanuatu if diplomatic relations were set up. That is all."

Both Taiwan and China are still accusing each other of using money to bribe politicians.

The Opposition have made it clear that if they win the court case and form government the Taiwanese diplomats will be asked to leave the country immediately.

December 8, 2004

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