The Mautoa Park Petition

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

The Prime Minister is expected to receive the Mautoa Park Petition on Friday 20.

The number of signatories recorded on the Mautoa Park petition has apparently increased to over 3,000 since the petition was launched almost 2 weeks ago, on 7 February, as reported to TIV.

What is a petition?

A petition is a formal written request, typically one signed by many people, appealing to the concerned authority with respect to a particular cause. Petitioning is a powerful tool, and a peaceful way of uniting different people from different backgrounds to stand up against a system, or an event that is regarded by the people as not productive, unhealthy, one sided, or corrupted.

For instance, in 2012, in the United Kingdom a local called Peter Jackson from Fife started a petition after the Fife Council announced the closure of Eden Park, which is a respite centre for children with special needs.

“Please support our petition to prevent Fife Council from closing Eden Park Children’s Respite Centre, The centre provides much needed respite to special needs children and their families,” petitioned the locals.

Fife Council had announced the closure of the centre without consultation with families or staff at the centre. The locals found out about the closure via the media.

They stated that the “action taken by the council is wrong and should be reversed. The children use Eden Park regularly…the children interact with other children in a safe and friendly environment that would not otherwise be afforded.”

In 2013 Peter Jackson reported success. “Thank you to everyone who signed and supported this petition. Fife Council have today sent letters to all the families associated with Eden Park informing them that the facility is remaining OPEN. Your continued support throughout this long and arduous process was greatly appreciated. Thank You.”


The Mautoa Park Petition

With over 3,000 signatories The Mautoa Park Petition carries a unified representation. Transparency International Vanuatu was told that during a meeting at Mautoa Park this week by the community, it was confirmed that the Prime Minister is expected to receive the petition today, Friday 19.

Despite the allegations of extortion and misappropriation over the management of Mautoa Park, it is interesting that the community have rallied together to “keep the green space along with its management, with the community”.

The Victims & Good Management

From a point of view, it is a rather complicated situation in its own terms, with exchanges of comments on social media and reported misunderstandings, confusions, and allegations.

As a fact, corruption within the community is as rotten as corruption at the national level, it is that idea of ‘knowing that it is wrong, but you do it anyway, and only a few will benefit from it’.

Consequently, the vendors, and the members of the community became the victims when the tables were over turned. Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) has always been advocating against bad practices and corruption, and through its Advocacy & Legal Advice Centre (ALAC), has spoken and followed up on cases on behalf of victims of corruption.

Empty Market House
Empty Market House

Apart from Mautoa Park TIV has also received complaints regarding the loud noise that were emitted by different groups at the AVL Stage at Freswota field, the sound from the speakers could be heard as far as the Ohlen Whitewood area, clearly this act was already in contrast with the law but nothing was done. The Pollution Control Act of 2013, Part 4, Section 19 states that the:

‘Discharge or emission of pollutants from premises (1) A person must not discharge or emit pollutants from any premises on or onto any land, body of water, foreshore or air so as to result in: (a) unreasonable interference with the health, welfare, or amenity of any other person; or (b) any adverse effect on the environment. (2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction: (a) if the person is an individual – by imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or a fine not exceeding VT4,000,000, or both; or (b) if the person is a body corporate – by a fine not exceeding VT8,000,000.

Therefore, if a person or group is causing discomfort to another person by way of emitting any of the pollutions mentioned above, they are breaking the law, thus they are punishable by imprisonment or a fine. Unfortunately, nothing has been done.

TIV would like to stress that good management of such community institutions must always be a priority. If the groups that had been tasked with managing the market or the AVL stage had not reached the expected expectations, then why did it take too long to intervene? Was there a possibility that the authorities could step in to run several management, and business programs with the community? If there was some form of mentoring program in place that would assist in upgrading management skills, would the story be different? Yes!

It would be interesting to see how the Prime Minister responds to the community petition, given the fact that his government is made of several coalitions, and that he is also the Chairman of the Council of Ministers who approved of the signing over of Mautoa Park and the Freswota Field.

Transparency International Vanuatu advocates against corruption, supports good decision making and promotes good governance in Vanuatu, TIV would like to encourage our leaders, nationally and at the community level, to prioritise the welfare of the people and to work towards a corrupt free, and good governing ideals that will benefit everyone and not only a few.

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