23 Oct 2002

Vanuatu government admits setting up civilian group to assist VMF

11:59 am on 23 October 2002

The Vanuatu government has admitted setting up a group to assist the para military police unit, the VMF, during a standoff in August when a number of police were charged with mutiny.

The Government spokesman, Daniel Bangtor, says young men living near the airport were employed and given training to assist the VMF from the time of the arrests.

Mr Bangtor says the group was not to be used in any 'forefront' activities, but it was to guard the VMF camp if needed.

He says they were paid an allowance of around 15 US dollars a day for a ten day period, after which the VMF was instructed to disband the group.

"They actually went up there and said okay your assistance is no longer required, it's better that you disperse....My understanding from personnel in the VMF is that in response, the fellows up there said no we will remain here voluntarily until the court hearing on the 19th of November."

Daniel Bangtor.

Eight officers will face mutiny and other charges on November 19th.

Two weeks ago the Government rejected reports that a militia had been formed.

And Mr Bangtor maintains that view, saying this group cannot be defined as a militia because it has not trained with or handled weapons.

Meanwhile the Opposition Leader Willie Jimmy says the Government's actions were unconstitutional.

they are acting illegally outside the constitution outside the laws passed by Parliament to maintain such a group and I think it is totally wrong for Government to be involved in such as activity