New Vanuatu PM Faces Many Challenges

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Commentary

By Ricky Binihi

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, March 28, 2013) – Vanuatu Greens Confederation Party President, Moana Carcasses, has won nearly two thirds of the votes in Parliament to be Vanuatu Prime Minister but he would need the support of more than 34 MPs to be convinced he is capable of the task.

PM Carcasses has the benediction of former Vanuatu Prime Ministers Vanua’aku Pati President Edward Natapei and Union of Moderate Parties President Serge Vohor to be the country’s first naturalized citizen to be Vanuatu PM.

And has rallied the support of Vanuatu’s fastest growing party, the Graon mo Jastis Pati of President Ralph Regenvanu and current Minister of Lands to be Vanuatu’s Chief Executive Officer.

But the Vanuatu Prime Minister has more opponents other that the Opposition in Parliament that want him replaced because of alleged shady deals when he was Vanuatu Finance Minister.

For instance, when he was Finance Minister he told a Parliamentary Budget Committee he would obtain Vt700 Million [US$7.6 million] for a budget support from Asia but was not forthcoming and Finance had to borrow from the Reserve Bank.

And Carcasses was heavily attacked by the then Opposition of current Foreign Affairs Minister Natapei and Health Minister Vohor when he was the Finance Minister in the Kilman-led coalition and an ally, Gilles Daniel, was compensated Vt36 Million [US$390,000] after being illegally deported from Vanuatu.

On 20 July 2012 the Supreme Court had to grant a freezing order made exparte made by Sugden Lawyers that said "until further Order, neither the Minister of Finance and Economic Management nor any of his servants or agents shall pay any money to or to the benefits of Gilles Daniel."

Of that Vt36 Million that was paid from the public purse Mr Robert Sudgen as former Gilles Daniels lawyers was supposed to receive Vt30 Million [US$325,000] and Vt6 Million [US$65,000] to Mr Daniel but the Vt30 Million was never paid to the Mr Sugden according to information obtained by the Post.

However, the current Prime Minister Carcasses has his political and popular strengths. One is his unwavering support for the West Papua cause which happens to be close to the hearts of the people of Vanuatu before Independence.

As a member of Kilman’s Council of Ministers Carcasses put his feet down on the decision to have Indonesia mingle with Melanesians around the table of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The Council of Ministers overwhelmingly agreed that Vanuatu would not endorse the name of Indonesia to be an Observer at the MSG, but before the end of 2010, Vanuatu learned at the MSG Leaders Meeting attended by PM Kilman Indonesia was given MSG observer status.

Now that Carcasses is at the helm he would be expected to take immediate tough stand on the Cooperation of Development Agreement which Indonesia sealed with Vanuatu in the wake of domestic public condemnation of Indonesia’s access to MSG.

That agreement allegedly brought some assistance to the Vanuatu government as well as a political party.

Prime Minister Kilman’s government was brought down by the Opposition last Saturday over allegations of corruption and the controversial arrival of the mega boat Phocea last year July.

Daily Post understands that the person who told the Kilman government about the arrival of Phocea was bestowed with Vanuatu Roving Ambassador to Russia by former Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Carlot has been stripped of her official title by Carlot’s successor.

No decision has yet been made about the status of Vanuatu’s Honorary Consul to Vietnam, Pascal Anh Saken, the alleged owner of the pleasure boat Phocea, the Daily Post was told.

The new lands minister Regenvanu has promised to remove every stone in the land dealings the Department of Lands officials had with clients or themselves since the 2010 Council of Minister Decision to suspend sales of all government assets. And have the people prosecuted.

Now before three months in office or 100 days PM Carcasses has to answer the queries in the minds of ni-Vanuatu that he is capable of tackling the corruption charges leveled at Public Service - where civil servants expect a "tip" for government service delivery which they are already being paid by taxpayers to perform those functions.

PM Carcasses has the experiences of two former Prime Ministers and prominent politicians (Natapei and Vohor) and an aspiring young leader who grows his party by tackling corruption issues in Graon and Jastis Pati President, Regenvanu, to ensure he steers the government to serve the interests of the people first.

And PM Carcasses must be mindful too that in 2010 the Greens Confederation supported a motion of no trust on PM Natapei. Natapei and Vohor remained in Opposition until last Saturday when Carcasses decided to break the government ranks and toppled PM Kilman in a motion of no confidence.

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