DEPORTED ‘PHOENIX’ FOUNDER BACK IN VANUATU

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DEPORTED ‘PHOENIX’ FOUNDER BACK IN VANUATU

By Lora Lini

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 22) –Government authorities have denied any knowledge of the entry of alleged financier of the "Santo rebellion" Michael Oliver, who was deported by Fr Walter Lini in 1980.

The American, who was behind the infamous Phoenix Foundation, reportedly entered the country this week after 25 years of being listed as a "Prohibited Immigrant" by successive Vanuatu governments.

Although the Principal Immigration Officer James Naruwayeng could not confirm his arrival yesterday Daily Post Santo reporter Ricky Binihi confirmed that Mr Oliver held meetings this week at Hotel Santo in Luganville with Chiefs from Fanafo and also members of the Nagriamel Movement.

Daily Post could not get confirmations on which Minister for Immigration may have removed Mr Oliver's name from the Prohibited Immigrants list.

However most government insiders contacted were stunned by Mr Oliver's arrival, including Public Utilities Minister Edward Natapei and Prime Minister Ham Lini.

Mr Oliver was deported in 1980 for allegedly being involved in the Santo and Tanna rebellion.

During the struggles for an independent Vanuatu by different political movements, Nagriamel declared independence several times in 1976 (in April and December). Oliver allegedly advised Jimmy Stevens in these attempts at Independence and told him to go " the free enterprise route and make your central government as small as possible."

A memory of Michael Oliver to many Ni-Vanuatu people who were part of the Independence struggle was back in May 1977 when the Phoenix Foundation published a Nagriamel Announcement offering 200-year leases on four-hectare plots of land in the New Hebrides for US$9,000.

The announcement described the Nagriamel Federation as a country without taxes, with free banking, and one in which "you will be left alone, as long as you do not infringe on the rights of others."

Monty Lindstrom, who wrote "American Dreams in Vanuatu," noted that A Na-Griamel Federation Constitution also appeared at this time guaranteeing these rights.

"Oliver contracted with the Letcher Mint of Lancaster, California, to manufacture one ounce gold and silver coins with Jimmy Stevens' head on the front and a Nagriamel logo on the back underneath the motto ‘Individual Rights for All’. The Phoenix Foundation sold these to its supporters in 1977 for $200 and $25 respectively although some pieces also found their way to Vanuatu both before and during the rebellion," wrote Lindstrom.

"Phoenix was also interested in the possibilities of the John Frum Movement on Tanna. In 1979, a Constitution of Tanna Federation-essentially the same as the earlier Nagriamel version appeared."

"Apparently it was directed more to Phoenix supporters than to John Frum people since it made little impression on Tanna."

"Oliver denied in 1980 that he was behind the dual revolts on Santo and Tanna although admitted that 'the separatist movement was scheduled to be capped June 18 by orderly takeovers on northern and southern islands."

After the capture of Mr Stevens, Radio Vanuatu reported in September 1980 that Stevens had named the Phoenix Foundation as a source of money to the rebel movement and blamed foreign influence for the arming of the rebellion.

An authority discovered in Vemarana records empowered Stevens and other rebel leaders to draw up to $20,000 a month on an account held in the names of Vemarana Federation and Tafea Federation by the Noumea branch of the Banque de l'Indochine et Suez. Other signatories of the account were Michael Oliver and F. Thomas Eck, principals of the Phoenix Foundation

Oliver's arrival may be unknown to other government leaders including the Prime Minister but the Chiefs of Nagriamel have told the media that anyone wanting to talk on behalf of Nagriamel must have the consent of the Chiefs of Fanafo and Nagriamel.

December 23, 2005

Vanuatu Daily Post: http://www.vanuatudaily.com

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If Oliver would have succeeded that would be the Hong Kong of the region.

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