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By Lora Lini

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 24) – The Government of Vanuatu has been ordered by the Supreme Court of Vanuatu to stop the issuing of any licenses to any party other than the Telecom Vanuatu Ltd.

Supreme Court judge Patrick Treston handed down up to 7 orders recently against the government who have tried to grant a second license to another telecommunications company.

The order was made after Telecom filed an application for a judicial review over a decision by the Minister for Public Utilities Edward Natapei to issue a license to a local company, Pacific Data Solutions, to provide telecommunication services in Vanuatu.

Order Number 3 states that the Pacific Data Solutions and its employees, servants and agents are restrained from publicly advertising and otherwise publicly holding themselves out as providers of telecommunication services and/or systems until further order of the Court.

The Court however did note the undertaking of the local company that it is not in a position to operate and will not operate any Telecommunication System or Services prior to July 1, 2006.

Daily Post understands Telecom Vanuatu Limited is the sole company to have signed a franchise agreement with the Government - an agreement that is valid until 2012, at least seven more years from now. The Franchise Agreement signed in 1989 gives Telecom the right to be the only providers of Telecommunication services and/or systems.

The Court will need to sit again to assess the damages that the government may need to pay for breaching its contract with Telecom.

Observers believe the government stands to lose quite a substantial amount of money in damages as a result of the case.

December 29, 2005

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