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Many Ni-Vanuatu workers in Australian prisons: Minister

Minister of Internal Affairs, Johnny Koanapo, has revealed that many Ni-Vanuatu citizens are currently in prisons in Australia for a wide range of offences, varying from what he described as “very serious” crimes to minor offences.

He made this revelation during a press conference this week.

Koanapo said that he became aware of this situation during his recent visit to Australia when he met with a Brazilian lawyer who is offering “pro bono” or free legal services to Ni-Vanuatu workers.

He stated that the lawyer is currently handling around 30 cases, which vary from very serious offences to minor ones.

The minister added that a lot of Ni-Vanuatu workers have faced many challenges. He admitted that when individuals leave Vanuatu to join the labour mobility program, they do not get briefed on the kinds of offences, for instance, some that are deemed okay in Vanuatu but considered offences under Australian law.

He explained that this is a main reason why many Vanuatu citizens end up in Australian jails.

He wants to see that this information are relayed to the workers during their pre-departure briefing.

Koanapo mentioned that some of them are serving lengthy prison terms due to the longer sentences they have received.

“Some of our citizens commit offences while under the influence of alcohol, and these offences were beyond what I can imagine,” the minister admitted.

According to him, the number of rape cases in Australia has also increased.

The Labour Minister said because of these issues, he wants to improve the governance system for labour mobility recruitment in these areas, ensuring that all individuals go through a single channel.

This approach would enable the government to monitor their departures and arrivals closely, ensuring that citizens that travel out to work are able to return home.

While Australia continues to enforce its laws, the Vanuatu government also has the responsibility of ensuring that Ni-Vanuatu individuals traveling there do not end up in prison. They should focus on their goals and return home.

In addressing these concerns, Minister Koanapo mentioned plans to send a team, possibly including the Minister’s First Political Advisor, a representative from the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a Labour representative, to Australia soon regarding the apprentice program proposed for implementation in Vanuatu

He also mentioned the a policy paper on the labour mobility issues, jointly signed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and himself, to be presented before the Council of Ministers, hopefully, today. Once the paper is being tabled, they aim to work the resolution of these issues outlined in the paper.

When asked to provide the exact number of Ni-Vanuatu citizens imprisoned in Australia, Minister Koanapo said the exact figure remains “unclear” to the Department of Labour, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and even the agents involved.

Koanapo clarified that currently the Labour Department oversees the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme, while agents are recruiting without restriction.

He acknowledged the absence of a system wherein the names of recruited workers are registered, preventing the government from accurately tracking the number of individuals traveling to Australia for work. He noted the need for such a system to enable the government to control skilled migration effectively, so that it would know citizens that are leaving and returning back to the country.

The Minister of Internal Affairs stressed that it is his intention to review the current system used by agents by mid-year, aiming to ensure that agents are aware when workers encounter issues or go to jail

Koanapo stated that during his recent trip to Australia, he enquired with workers about their communication with agents, and they reported instances where agents did not respond or turned off their phones.

There are also some agents that demanded extra money from workers upon their return to Vanuatu.

Minister Koanapo noted the need to coordinate efforts to prevent agents from exploiting workers and take additional payments from them.


The Shadow Minister for Police Johnson Wapunai has urged RPNGC Commissioner David Manning to seriously undertake barbaric crime in PNG and bring to justice those responsible.

Mr Wapunai made this call after numerous barbaric crime being committed in various parts of the country continued to be posted on social media outlets. There is no follow-ups or certainly if police are actively investigating or prosecuting those alleged to be involved in the barbaric crime.

Mr Wapunai said: "Just in the past week, an unverified video of three women being tortured and brutally assaulted by a pack of people somewhere in the Upper Highlands was circulated widely online.
Additionally, another video of a man being slashed, cut and hogtied, with men indicated on the video indicated that they must have burned the victim alive.

These barbaric acts against fellow human beings should be condemned and prosecuted to demonstrate that this country does not tolerate this obscene behaviour.

"Regardless of whatever nature of crime being committed, appropriate authorities should step in as soon as possible to establish law and order, and bring to justice those who are alleged to have committed the crime. Sad to emphasise that it is not happening this way in PNG.

"This country is currently over-taken by deadly cycles of manslaughter, rape, touture and barbaric acts, which has led to relatives, friends and families taking the matter in to their own hands for payback. The cycle continues to date because appropriate authorities do nothing but standby and look.

"I call on police commissioner to seriously address this law and order issues before it spiralled to next level.

Mr Wapunai also questioned the police hierarchies about the investigations into the Enga Massacres and many other killings, torture and rapes that have occurred in recent times.

"Part of the reason why many people are comfortably recording atrocious crimes and barbaric acts is because authorities are not dealing with the perpetrators and bystanders severely with harsh punishment.

"Any individual involved in tribal fights needs to be identified, prosecuted and sent to jail. We cannot have tribal war veterans and murderers walking our streets freely.

Mr Wapunai said week after week and month after month, social media in PNG is folded with videos of torture, killing, stabbing, rape and other gruesome videos, yet nothing aggressive is done by the authorities.

Hon. Wapunai stressed that people of PNG should wake up from slumber and demand justice for all.

"Where is our country heading to? It is obvious that our Prime Minister and his Police Minister are not at all have genuine concern for our people and their rights. The government should be protecting its citizens by all means and at all costs.



Referendum App to be launched tomorrow

The Vois Blong Yumi network, which comes under Movement Red, wants to support the government through the National Referendum Communications Committee by ensuring that information about the upcoming referendum reaches as many people as possible.

To achieve this, they have created a mobile application or app that will feature all the necessary information.

Vois Blong Yumi Spokesperson, Mike Esrom and Jerry Lini

The spokesperson for the Vois Blong Yumi network, Mike Esrom, confirmed that this App will be launched tomorrow.

He explained that all a person needs to do is download the app. Once they click on it, they will be able to access all the information conveyed through statements, videos, analysis, and photos regarding the proposed amendments and referendum.

An advantage of this app is that even if a person is in an area without Internet coverage, they can still access the information.

With just 33 days remaining until polling day, Mr. Esrom stressed that since almost everyone, even in the islands, has a mobile phone, this app can efficiently spread information.

Vanuatu and Russia reaffirm diplomatic ties after 37 years

Vanuatu and Russia have reaffirmed their diplomatic ties after more than three decades. 

President Nikenike Vurobaravu stated that diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Vanuatu were first established on June 30, 1987.

The presence of the Russian Ambassador, Dr Alexey Pavlovsky, at the State House yesterday morning to present his credentials testified to the commitment of both countries to advancing strong diplomatic ties.

He shared that the relationship between Vanuatu and the Russian Federation holds great potential for cooperation and collaboration across various fields. 

“As we stand at the dawn of a new era, it is imperative that we seize the opportunities presented to us to deepen our partnership for the mutual benefit of our people,” President Vurobaravu said.

“Vanuatu and Russia share a commitment to promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the global community.”

Through dialogue, understanding, and respect for each other's sovereignty, both countries can work together to address common challenges and pursue shared goals on the international stage.

“The Republic of Vanuatu values the friendship and support of the Russian Federation and is looking forward to exploring avenues for enhanced cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, education, culture, and technology,” he added. “By leveraging our respective strengths and resources, we can create new opportunities for economic growth and development that will benefit our citizens and contribute to the advancement of our societies.”

The Head of State noted that Vanuatu recognises the importance of people-to-people exchanges in strengthening the bonds of friendship between nations

The Russian Federation’s Ambassador based in Australia, Dr Pavlovsky, conveyed his honour and pleasure to visit Vanuatu, meet the President, and present his credentials. He mentioned their anticipation to work with Vanuatu in reaffirming the partnership between Vanuatu and Russia. Ambassador Pavlovsky noted the lesser-known culture of Vanuatu in Russia and expressed interest in introducing Vanuatu arts and culture to Russia.

President Nikenike affirmed his confidence that Dr Pavlovsky’s presence in Vanuatu will catalyse greater interaction and understanding between the people of Vanuatu and Russia, hoping that the visit will deepen the ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. 

“May this occasion mark the beginning of a new chapter in our bilateral relations, characterised by mutual respect, trust, and prosperity,” he said. 

Ambassador Pavlovsky arrived in Vanuatu on Tuesday this week. He will make several visits in Port Vila, including to the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, before returning to Australia, where he is based. 

He assumed his office as the Russian Federation Ambassador there in 2019, marking five years in this office this year. Ambassador Pavlovsky oversees five countries in the Pacific: Australia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Nauru, and Tuvalu. After presenting credentials to the President yesterday, the Russian representative is eager to strengthen Russia’s partnership with Vanuatu.


It's good that the powerful country on earth has respected a tiny island nation like PNG in the way it did. 

This is a great achievement for our country and a little bit of respect towards our citizens after what happened when Mr. Biden labeled us as cannibals.

Even though the president has not issued an official apology to date, this improvement in the regulation of visa is a significant upgrade in their foreign policy position towards us.

I think they have now realized how a bad and ruptured relation with PNG would be like for them in their quest for geopolitical hegemony in the region.

The good president's unwise action towards the most strategic country in the Indo-Pacific would do more harm than good; and the potential ripple effect it would have caused in its brand name as a champion advocate for acceptance, tolerance, peace, and democracy; and its leadership as the number one world supper power. 

The PNG government must now put its feet down and try to reconsider its own foreign policy assertion towards the US and the West.

This situation, on the other hand, is good for PNG. It creates a leverage for us when it comes to negotiation. 

We have the bargaining power due to that infamous "Biden slur." The US Embasy here in Port Moresby has not wasted time. The protest would paint a very negative picture of the US in the greater Pacific, and it would be very catastrophic for the West.

It is clearly inferred here from their press release being circulated and posted on their website that they wanted to make up for what Biden has done to our country. 

They indirectly acknowledged it even though they can not issue an apology on behalf of their president.

 In that way, they wanted to dilute the tension that was already brewing up here in the streets of Port Moresby for a possible protest.

The PM should be advised that he ought to know he's in an advantageous position to ask the US and the West to do something more than they have done to us.

O'Neill failed the Manus Asylum deal in 2013 because he didn't get anything tangible in return for PNG. 

Australia was at a very disadvantaged position due to internal political pressure from Australian citizens to vote out the government had they not kept the refugees out of Australian shores. 

So, the Australian government was forced to resettle the boat people in a third-party country, defying the wish of the refugees to resettle in Australia.

If the PM was then properly advised, he would have bargained for something more since Australia had no option. 

He would ask to seal the Highlands Highway from Lae City all the way to Kopiago in Hela Province, for instance.

May be he got a personal handshake under the table, we don't know.

But if it was because of ill-advice, it is definitely a win for PMJM now if he could negotiate for the same infrastructure development of Highlands Highway. 

It is a sad scenario that we do not get the end of our bargain when we are on the diplomatic negotiation table. We have given them way too much leeway. 

The US defense pact given on a golden platter without asking them in return something tangible is a big concern, for example. 

They have now realized their flaws, particularly when our citizens threatened for a protest. Do you know what that would trigger for the Pacific? It would have been catastrophic. 

It's an insult to all our black people. It's very degrading coming from the world's powerful leader. Our fellow Pacific Island people would certainly buy into it. They aren't happy at the moment, and they sympathize with us.

It's one of those mistakes a living president would have done without properly giving himslelf much thought on the values the powerful country was built upon in the first place, so to speak.