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Claims they illegally gave themselves back pay

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, March 30, 2009) – Member of Parliament for Tanna Harry Iauko is pressing charges against all 11 Port Vila Municipal councillors over a back payment the councillors had received recently which he claimed were illegal and contrary to an order signed by the Minister for Internal Affairs.

The councillors are Robert Seule, Louis Serge, Yoan Johnson, Vai Maki, Joselito Wokon, Tony Wright, James Kalo, Willie Pakoa, Charley Sakariah, Donald Palaud and Wenjio Tamau.

MP Iauko called into the Daily Post to say that he has filed the complaint not only as an MP but also as a taxpayer of the Port Vila Municipality.

In a statement to Police, MP Iauko said the complaint was specifically over a decision by the councillors to backdate their salaries from July to November last year when the order signed by the Minister specifically stated that the commencement date was December 3 2008.

Iauko alleged that according to the amendment in the Port Vila Municipal Council standing order no.51 of 2008, signed by Minister for Internal Affairs Patrick Crowby, any back payment before December 3 is "unlawful".

Meanwhile, Daily Post could not get comments from the councillors on Friday and the paper was referred to the Deputy Lord Mayor Robert Seule who is yet to respond to the allegations.

A source from the Port Vila Municipal Council however informed Daily Post that the councillors have been informed of the complaint against them.

He said there is no formal obligation for the councillors to respond at this stage especially amidst the court orders that were issued by the Supreme Court for the PVMC to maintain the "status quo" in February.

They questioned Iauko’s motives saying: "We only hope that he and Lord Mayor Avock are not in contempt of court over various orders issued recently by the Supreme Court which all parties agreed on consent to.

"The case is still pending and these orders are still very much alive," explained the source.

Iauko is close to Lord Mayor Avock.

Daily Post was told that the councillors are seeking advice and may commence proceedings for contempt.

The Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek issued the orders on February 20 after a fallout between the Lord Mayor and the councillors which resulted in an impasse at the Port Vila Municipality that threatened to seriously impair the running of the council.

The orders provide by consent that any agents, supporters, friends or families of the Lord Mayor or the councillors are refrained from interfering in the running of the council, as the Port Vila Municipality is a public institution that must maintain its services to the public.

Daily Post was told that the councillors will give their response on Monday.

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