VANUATU CITIZENSHIP COMMISSION UNDER FIRE

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Disgraced honorary consul trying to renew passport causes concern

By Ricky Binihi PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 25, 2010) - The request for former Vanuatu Honorary consul to Thailand Mr. Amarendra Nath Ghosh to get his Vanuatu passport renewed has ignited concerns from the upper echelons of the Vanuatu government.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei and minister responsible for the Citizenship Commission wrote last Tuesday to the Citizenship Commission expressing his utter disappointment over their handling of the Ghosh issue.

Early this year the Commission chairman Mr. Joemelson Joseph wrote to Principal Passport Officer, Mr. Henri Tamashiro, advising him that Ghosh has not forfeited his Vanuatu passport, implying that the Immigration Department could renew Ghosh’s Vanuatu passport.

But Prime Minister Natapei has now revealed his concerns over how Joseph has dealt with the matter.

"As you may know, Ghosh had brought this country into financial disrepute in the past and your suspicious handling of his passport application undeniably calls into question the credibility of the Citizenship Commission.

"It is also alleged that this decision, and few others, were taken outside of the consent and concurrence of the members of the Commission," Prime Minister Natapei said in a letter to the Chairman of the Commission last week.

In an earlier interview with the Secretary General of the Commission, Mr. Eloi-Najap Leye, he too alleged the decision to request the Immigration Department to renew the passport of the man, who brought what he claimed to be a US$175 million ruby in 2000 so that it could be used as collateral in a deal that never materialized, was not a full Commission decision.

When Prime Minister Natapei appointed the members of the Commission in August last year he specifically told the members that if they suspect irregularities regarding the issuance of citizenship to naturalized citizens they should investigate.

According to the Vanuatu Constitution a foreigner may be eligible to be considered for citizenship if he lives in Vanuatu over 10 years. It is argued that Ghosh has not lived in Vanuatu for 10 years.

The Citizenship law (cap 112) states if a person who is found by a court to have obtained citizenship by any false representation, fraud or concealment of a material fact on his part shall cease to be a citizen 30 days after such finding unless the Prime Minister being satisfied that the offence was of minor nature and that revealing of the true facts would not have affected the grant of naturalization publishes a declaration confirming that person’s citizenship in the Vanuatu Gazette within such 30 days.

Section 20 of the Act which provides for Honorary citizenship states that the President may on the advice of the Prime Minister confer honorary citizenship on any person with such privileges or exemptions as may be prescribed.

And section 16 also states that the Prime Minister may deprive a citizenship by naturalization of his citizenship by declaration in the Vanuatu Gazette within 15 days of that person being sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more.

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