NEW ZEALAND SUSPENDS PASSPORT AID TO VANUATU

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Allegations of ‘legalized corruption’ prompted program cut

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 29, 2011) – The New Zealand government has suspended an aid project in Vanuatu that aimed to bring transparency to the issuing of passports.

Since last year New Zealand has been helping Vanuatu set up an office to produce biometric passports but former foreign minister, Joe Natuman, says recent changes made by the Vanuatu amount to legalized corruption.

Don Wiseman reports:

"Mr. Natuman’s claim comes after reports that the passport office has been directed to print diplomatic passports for five Chinese nationals. The Chinese had earlier got honorary citizenship after offering millions of vatu for the restoration of Parliament, but this money has never been accounted for. One intention of the changes was to stop government ministers selling Vanuatu passports to foreign nationals and Mr. Natuman brought in amendments earlier this year to the Passport Act to ensure this. But last month the coalition government of Prime Minister Sato Kilman amended the law to allow foreign nationals to hold diplomatic passports and to represent the country as diplomats. Mr. Natuman says through this move Vanuatu is legalizing corruption by selling its identity. In a statement the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs says the project has been suspended pending ongoing discussions with the Vanuatu Government."

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