Transparency International calls for prosecutions over Vanuatu passport debacle
Transparency International in Vanuatu is calling for the Ministry of Justice to publically release a report into controverisal selling of diplomatic passports over the past decade.
The head of Transparency International in Vanuatu is calling for the Ministry of Justice to publicly release a report into controversial selling of diplomatic passports over the past decade.
Marie-Noelle Patterson told Jenny Meyer the repeated incidents of diplomatic passports being wrongfully issued is something that needs to be stopped and the people deserve to know what's happened.
MARIE-NOELLE PATTERSON: This is use by the Vanuatu state of people wrongfully and criminally, and something should be done. We have also had issuing of wrongful citizenship here and it is the same thing. We hear about it, we know about it, and there's nothing done about it.
JENNY MEYER: Could you just outline for me what you consider to be the most serious of these allegations that the commission of enquiry have uncovered?
MNP: One of the most serious ones is that in December 2011, 33 diplomatic passports - as outlined by The Independent, who appear to have the report because they were quite detailed in the findings - 33 diplomatic passports were also issued and collected by the former private secretary to the minister of foreign affairs. These passports are valid through to 2014. There are also three diplomatic passports that have been collected by former diplomats residing in Vanuatu. Some have been found to be issued in 2011 [to those who] paid 500,000 vatu. So basically they seem to be very precise examples of the wrongdoing that has occurred and the possibility to actually identify them and prosecute them. Even the speaker of parliament himself collected nine Vanuatu diplomatic passports that he gave to some foreign investors. That came public some years ago because apparently these investors had promised to give some money to parliament, so actually the parliament was bought, too. So it's difficult to condemn the individual political secretary, individual former diplomats, individual people, and even parliament itself by the speaker who does the same thing.
JM: The allegations are very serious and it seems that what appears to be corruption is quite systemic throughout Vanuatu politically. What would Transparency International like to see happen in terms of action? You said it's time now for some action.
MNP: The prosecution is probably the most important part. Because if some people were brought to justice then they would be condemned, then they will get some kind of sentence, and having a sentence they could be also prohibited from occupying high positions, so they would be eliminated from the political system. So I think it's the example that we want to take place so that it doesn't occur.
JM: Are you willing to name who, in the current government, would be implicated with this and whether there would be any likely resignations of people in power?
MNP: We will try to get a copy of that report and hopefully then check with the police and the prosecutor what is being done so we can follow it up. So we will try and repeat our request in the newspaper and in the media so the government end up doing something. So it's also a request for the ombudsman to be doing that type of work - it is his work, too. But in the end they all appoint commission of inquiries. They know who has done wrong, they know the wrongdoing from each other, but they hide it from the public.
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