3 Oct 2002

Vanuatu foreign affairs minister accuses Australian police of spying

11:52 am on 3 October 2002

The spokesperson for Vanuatu's deputy prime minister, Serge Vohor, says Australia has been spying on the country for years and the high commissioner needs to be removed.

Wendy Himford was speaking after Mr Vohor alleged that Australian federal police were tapping phones and attempting to destabilise the government.

She says they believe that some foreigners and foreign countries were behind an attempt to create civil war in the country with a split in the police force and the controversy over the appointment of a new police commissioner.

Ms Himford says they have verbally requested that the Australian government move the current high commissioner, Steve Waters, from the country.

"We wanted the minister for foreign affairs of Australia to call back the Australian high commissioner and they wouldn't do it. Serge Vohor who is the foreig affairs minister in Vanuatu is refusing to talk to the current high commisioner."

Wendy Himford.

The high commissioner rejects the allegation that Australian police are spying in Vanuatu.

Mr Waters says there are only three police in the country with one advising the senior police executive, another dealing with international crime and the third a training officer under a defense co-operation agreement.

He says the Australian police are working with the government, not against it

They are not engaged in any activity which is interference in the workings of the government of Vanuatu, nor are they spying on government officials or ministers as might have been alleged.

Mr Waters says he cannot make any further substantive comment on the matter because he is yet to see the allegations made by Mr Vohor.