Empty Tables, Empty Pockets

Market vendors selling the produce beside an empty market house.

A look at the current news on Mautoa Park, Freswota.

As of Monday 9 February, close to a thousand people in the biggest urban community in Port Vila have signed a petition to present to Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Joe Natuman.

An Unhappy Community

 Allegations of extortion, misappropriation and political propaganda have created
opposite feelings between the community of Freswota and the authorities
concerned over the community park and its assets.

Currently, the assets that now occupy this green space were built by the community on land that was registered to the National Housing Corporation (NHC). As a result, unhappy community members responded negatively to the transfer agreement that took place between the NHC and the government for the management of the Community Park and assets.

TIV is aware that the NHC have reportedly received nothing, thus prompting the intervention by the authorities.

Allegations of Corruption

The market income revenue are still not accounted for; there are no financial records of expenses and revenues. The former management committees have not yet presented any form of record to prove that they have managed the market.

TIV has been told that there may be other factors surrounding the current issue, TIV will continue to look into it, and to advocate against bad practices.

An Empty Community Market

As a result, the mothers who sell their produces at the community market have become the victims; they are now forced to sell their produce by the side of the road near the empty market, with no shelter from the rain or from the blistering heat of the sun.

The stalemate that is now in occurrence has left a space for urgent dialogues, urgent measures, community reactions, and surprisingly a community united front evolving around a community petition despite their differences in their political affiliations.

Community Petition

Signing the Petition

Despite comments from the general public that this petition would only represent a small ‘segment’ of the community the outcome was different; Transparency International Vanuatu was informed that on Saturday 7, by nightfall, there were over 500 signatures, by Monday 9 there were over 900 signatures with more coming in.

This means that on the third day of the petition almost 15 percent out of the approximately 7000 residents of Freswota had registered their support.

The Leader of the Opposition, Moana Caracasses, was also present at Mautoa Park, he strongly emphasized that the community park should be managed by the community, but it has to be with good management skills.

And on a political note, MP Moana added some pressure, “I hope that when this petition gets to the Honorable (PM) Joe Natuman, I challenge him, to make sure that this (Mautoa Park) does not get out,” challenged the Opposition Leader.

Accountability and Transparency

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) has a strong presence in the community of Freswota, TIV has observed in the two polling stations within the Freswota Ward in the two last elections and has reported to the electoral office some irregularities on the electoral roll that occurred in the area.

TIV has also engaged with Freswota Youth in Civic Education Workshops and plus training over 5 of the youth to take part in Vanuatu’s first ever Youth Parliament. In 2013 the International Anti-Corruption Day celebration was held at Mautoa Park with over 300 people attending the event.

It is important that all parties must work together to achieve accountability and transparency. Any management body that will be tasked with managing the park and its assets must be well defined in their roles, they must be transparent, accountable and committed to serving the welfare of the vendors, buyers, and those that just want to enjoy the privileges of having a green space.

Members of the community standing around the petition.
Members of the community standing around the petition.

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