TIV advocates for educated and informed voting decisions in 2024 polls

Transparency Vanuatu is advocating for all Vanuatu citizens to know that Information is power. Access to correct and up to date information is a Right for all citizens. Taking part in voting during elections is exercising your individual power. That is the power to make changes for the better.

With easy access to the national radio, television, daily newspaper, Face-Book and other forms of social media, let us look, listen and understand how our present elected leaders are governing Vanuatu, our country. Are we happy? Are we happy with our leaders’ performance? Do we have FAIRNESS, CONSULTATIONS, HONESTY, INTEGRITY and TRANSPARENCY? Is the present governance benefiting the whole community or only selected few? Do we want to make changes for the better?

Know your present leaders and possible candidates for 2024 Polls as their names are announced in the coming days. Make your God-given decision on the best candidate and take part in the 2024 polls.

While Transparency International is a global organization dedicated to advising voters to vote for the most suitable political leaders to serve their voters in line with their political goals, TIV wishes to recommend to voters in Vanuatu ahead of 2024 General Elections, to shift their political interests to elect “God-fearing”, transparent and honest candidates, who are professionally qualified to lead their voters as their Members of Parliament.

Both TIV Chief Executive Officer Dr. Willie Tokon and TIV Advocate Douglas Tamara, say the best way forward towards 2024, is for our political leaders to start preparing to allocate Cabinet Portfolios to those possible successful candidates who are also academically qualified for their Portfolios.

In this way, it is going to be easier for the new Government immediately following 2024 polls, to work with ease after 42 years of political frictions some of which have landed decision makers in hot water and even convicted. TIV wants to remind the people of Vanuatu that the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) Report of 2021 showed that in the Pacific, the most corrupted institutions are the President or Prime Ministers’ Offices, Parliamentarians, Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Servants.

TIV is going to continue providing public awareness to voters in all Constituencies to vote for those candidates who have professional qualifications, are God fearing, transparent, honest, fair and are prepared to be the ‘servants of the people’.

At the beginning of this pandemic and in preparations for vaccinations, the Government signed an “Indemnity Agreement” with the Manufacturer of the vaccines. This Agreement is still a secret to many people. Therefore, many people do not know what help they can get when they have side effects or die. Is public condolences on the radio and television the only action taken? Or is there any compensation and in what form?

The CEO says the challenge is that in rural areas, voters have heavy respect for their leaders. “When a candidate gives a bag of rice or Vt5,000 cash to someone or his community, automatically they feel obliged to vote for him or her because of his or her generosity. “But this is wrong. Perhaps, another candidate may prove better candidate than him. This is why we stress the importance to take time to research each candidate thoroughly before choosing the most suitable candidate to vote for him or her”, he says.

A well-travelled medical professional by trade, Dr. Tokon worked for well over ten years in Micronesia (in Palau), a country with close ties with the United States of America.

Looking back at his travels, he says the island country’s Government including even nearby Fiji, members of their cabinets are academically qualified to occupy their portfolios. “This makes the work of the Minister easier because he or she knows the direction needed to provide accessible and quality service to the people through his or her Ministry”, he says.

“As a foreigner, serving as the Chief of Medical Staff of Palau National Hospital, I was privileged to be asked by the Executive responsible to present the Ministry of Health draft budget to the House of Delegates. This is the Lower House of the Parliament. I felt honored.

“The colleagues I met in those countries have been elevated to their current positions in line with their professions and we remain friends until today”.

For this reason Dr. Tokon says here in Vanuatu, instead of merely complaining, it is a time to “look, listen and learn and make better decisions” from our situations and prepare to make the right choices for the right candidates in 2024.

“Now is the right time to start talking to the most likely political candidates to understand if they are the right candidates to stand in 2024”, the CEO hints.

“If I vote for him, would he be different from the ones currently in power? Be self-critical and exhaust all your doubts to zero down to the right choice”.

He says currently there are allegations of MPs passing laws in Parliament then go ahead to break them and go unpunished while the small guys get penalised. “At Freshwater and Ohlen young people break the law and are fined Vt36,000 while the law makers are spared. Is this fair or not?” he asks.

At present the Leadership Code does not seem to be effectively enforced. Let us hope that the Electoral Commission screening of candidates for 2024 polls can improve the quality of leadership in our Parliament House.

“Look, we have the power to make the necessary changes in 2024. Let’s prepare now to make the changes at the right time”.
As an experienced medal doctor by trade, the CEO recalls, “Three months ago I was asked by a senior ni Vanuatu as to what medical equipment would be needed for the new facility now under construction behind Vila Central Hospital. I suggested to him tell the Prime Minister to ask the doctors at the VCH about what extra medical equipment they would need for the new facility before building the project.

“Based on the information, they would be in the best position to build the facility but it would not be advisable to complete the project then start looking around for the right equipment to equip the new building. You do not build a new hospital then try to list the items with which to fill it. It does not make sense to work “backwards”.

The CEO says he hopes that clinicians and allied health professionals have contributed towards this undertaking. The currently operating Japan-funded VCH Extension took about five years of planning and construction.

In order to step out of the current status of political confusion, he says the power to change is in the hands of the voters. He appeals to all voters to effect that change by electing the most suitable candidates who are most probably secondary and university graduates. These are the most qualified candidates to become Ministers of those portfolios in which they have graduated from their specific professional fields.

TIV veteran Advocate Douglas Tamara says the current crisis we find ourselves in, tell us that our current MPs who have been voted into Parliament are not holding positions that fits their professional and academic qualifications.

Public services are poor because of lack of direction, human and financial resources. Some services seem to benefit only some political supporters, leaders and their families. “In the present situation the voters in the communities are confused because the Government, Ministry and Director are saying different things while their voters seem to be expecting different outcomes”, says Tamara.

To help the Government allocate the qualified MPs to become Ministers, it must start with voters to vote in the most suitable candidates to become the thirteen Government Ministers.

The Advocate also agrees with the CEO that appointing a Minister to head a Ministry in line with his professional qualification makes all his political decisions fall in place because he is familiar with his portfolio be it Finance, Health, Education or Justice or any of the 13 Portfolios.

Photo caption: CEO Dr. Willie Tokon and Community Advocate Douglas Tamara call on voters to elect professionally qualified people in 2024 polls

TIV supports kindness in current COVID Crisis

Transparency Vanuatu thank all our Health Workers and frontline workers who dedicate their lives to keeping the people of Vanuatu safe from effects of the spreading COVID-19 virus.

This virus does not respect boundaries or social status. Yes, we have heard of allegations of preferential treatments given to some of our Leaders, allegations of some Leaders preaching quarantine protocols and allegations of breeches of basic human rights and so on.

While the Head of Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV), Dr. Willie Tokon, is a renowned medical doctor by trade, he says his spiritual faith has always played a leading role in all his decision making in his professional life. For this reason, he believes the global pandemic has been a catalyst for Christians to recognise the basic needs of their next door neighbours and show kindness to conform to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ in line with Christ’s teaching. Assistance in all forms from well-to-do Leaders, Chiefs, Community Leaders, Church Leaders and support from family leaders must be acknowledged. TIV congratulates all parents for bringing back Family Worship in the home.

TIV wishes to share its observations after its members of staff have discussed individual exchanges of how their neighbours are now sharing with each other in the current lockdown.

“One of the young men jumped off the bus in my community with 15-kilo bag of rice comprising one-kilo pre-packed plastic bags of rice on his back. While on his way to his door, he opened the bag and started handing out a kilo of rice each to families saying, ‘Cook this for supper”, TIV Advocate Douglas Tamara says.

“As men gather for their daily dose of kava at the kava bar in our community, everyone gets ready to go bottoms-up but this evening, the bar owner says, ‘Before we start drinking (our kava), may I ask one of you to bless the evening with a prayer to thank the Lord for being good to us’. We all paused. Someone prayed. This is the first time that anyone has cared to say a prayer before any kava drinking spree here!”

Tamara says the virus crisis has impacted his community with so much love and care that it seems everyone has realised the importance of putting God in front of everything.

Another member of staff says a senior public servant who used to be ‘in his own world’ has suddenly recognised the grassroot members of his community and now visits with greens and food supplies from the market.

Our TIV Media Officer says last week his family was surprised when a Bongo vehicle stopped at their gate and started unloading fresh agricultural produce at their gate. The food supply was so much that they went on to distribute it to 50 households. The recipients were assured that it was “all blessings from God”.

Speaking by mobile, the donor asked to remain anonymous saying she felt the urgency to buy all the food from Eton farmers then hired a truck to ask that the food be distributed to people in critical need for food at this time.

Then the latest incident impressed then shocked two mothers when they followed their church doctrine to “go to your family”. They took with them seven parcels of ‘namba 8 kato’ – 5 in each. They started distributing for free to the first family.  It immediately triggered fiery verbal exchanges between ‘mum and dad and son’ since the boy took more than one.

The father threatened the son with a piece of iron rod and the poor boy returned one of the two ‘kato’ he snatched. The mothers ended up leaving 15 ‘kato’ to ease the situation.

On hearing the sad report, TIV  suspects similar experiences in the grassroot communities where most likely the lockdown is already causing hardship as far as putting sufficient food on the table for every member of the family.

Fortunately for ni-Vanuatu, food sharing is an art and has sustained families and tribes for generations. Please keep the practice alive especially now in the current COVID-19 lockdown.

Let us continue to work together, share and support each other. Cut out the preferential treatments, bribery and corruption. And may God continue to keep Vanuatu in His bubble of Love, Care and Protection Always.

Boys ready to deliver parcels to each household
Food delivered for distribution to grass-root communities