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By Lora Lini

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, April 5) – The Vanuatu Government and New Zealand Government signed yesterday a 57 million Vanuatu vatu [US$532,200] agreement to commence Phase II of the Prisons Upgrade Project.

The Director General for Internal Affairs Johnson Wabaiat and New Zealand High Commissioner Paul Willis signed the funding agreement at the Department of Economic & Sector Planning office in Port Vila. New Zealand High Commissioner, Paul Willis said that phase two of the project will run for the next two years, focusing on the establishment of the new Vanuatu Correctional Services department, and the completion of a new temporary Luganville prison, before a new national facility is constructed near Vila next year. "A small contingent of New Zealand Defense Force engineers, and Vanuatu Police Force engineers, will be assisting with the Luganville Project to be completed by June," says New Zealand High Commissioner Willis.

The Vanuatu Government confirmed that the next important step is the appointment of a director and senior staff for the new Vanuatu Correctional Services Department.

Director General Wabaiat also confirmed that a Bill for the Correctional Services Department will be tabled in Parliament in the Extra Ordinary Session at the end of this May by the Government. "NZAID is providing New Zealand prisons and probation advisers in-country to support the staff of the new Vanuatu Correctional Services Department," said the New Zealand High Commissioner.

During the signing ceremony, Director General Wabaiat also confirmed that the new department is a blend of modern and traditional system to find a common ground on trying to rehab the prison services and for prisoners to become better citizens. He said the project represents a considerable investment by the New Zealand Government in upgrading and modernizing one of the key institutions of government responsible for helping maintain good public order and security in Vanuatu.

New Zealand High Commissioner Paul Willis also said that the creation of a professional department of corrections including a probation service, and building of a new prison would help the government address some of the concerns raised in the media recently.

April 10, 2006

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