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Leta i go long PM long saed blong ol lis long State Land 

Olgeta -

Las wik mi bin sendem wan leta i go long PM blong askem Gavman blong no stopem kot kes agensem ol staf blong Dipatmen blong Land blong karembak ol lis we foma Minista Steven Kalsakau i bin givim long olgeta long 2012.  Mi mekem leta ia folem toktok blong niufala Minista Paul Telukluk se bae hemi stopem kot kes ia.  Mi kopi leta ia i go long evri MP blong Port Vila - inkludum Deputi Praem Minista Moana Carcasses mo Minista blong Faenans Willy Jimmy - mo tu long ol MP blong Luganville mo Lord Mayor blong tufala taon.  Ol media tu i risivim kopi blong leta ia mo oli bin stap askem long PM mo ol Minista blong givim eni ansa long leta blong mi, be nogat wan i givim eni ansa kasem tede.  Lord Mayor blong Port Vila nomo hemi givim ansa, mo hemi se bae hemi toktok wetem Gavman blong sapotem rikwes blong mi blong no stopem kot kes ia (Lord Mayor blong Port Vila hemi blong UMP we hemi part blong Gavman naoia).

Kopi blong leta we mi sendem i stap daon.

Ta, Ralph

10th July 2015.

Hon. Sato Kilman Livtunvanu
Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu
Office of the Prime Minister
PMB 9053
Port Vila.

Dear Hon. Prime Minister,

Issue of State Land leases granted to Department of Land staff:
Request to continue to pursue the court case to get the leases back

I am writing to you in my capacity as the MP for Port Vila to appeal to you and your Government to continue pursuing the court case to get back the state land leases issued to Department of Lands staff under former Minister Steven Kalsakau in 2012.

I am making this appeal because I have read media reports and received copies of correspondence which indicate that the new Minister of Lands intends to “strike out” the court case to allow the staff to register these state land leases in their own names.

Prime Minister, the State has already obtained Consent Orders from the court in the caseTransparency International Vanuatu (Inc.) v Minister of Lands & Ors; JRC 28 of 2012which state that the decision to issue these lease to staff at a 50% discount was unlawful and which quashes this decision, thereby nullifying all these leases.  However, the staff concerned have responded with further legal action against the State in the caseDepartment of Lands Staff v Transparency International Vanuatu (Inc.) & Ors; CAC No.9 of 2014, and as a result of that pending case the Consent Orders have been stayed.  The State is now in court defending the Consent Orders and, given the very thorough investigation report produced by the Public Service Commission on this affair, there is a very strong likelihood the State will defeat the action brought by the staff and the leases can finally be cancelled.

Prime Minister, it was under your leadership that the Public Service Commission initiated their extensive investigation into the issuing of these leases that resulted in the report that is now assisting to inform the court in its deliberations. That report shows that most of the leases were issued even contrary to the Minister’s instructions and that most staff have paid nothing or very little for them and not even the stated 50%.  I am attaching the full report for your consideration.

Prime Minister, if the State discontinues pursuing this case to get back these state land leases and the leases are registered, the following will happen:

1. some of the last remaining vacant state land areas located in the central parts of Port Vila and Luganville that are suitable for public purposes (such as new government offices, public toilets, tourism information centres, recreation areas, playgrounds, etc.) will be lost to the State.  Any plans for such public buildings in the central parts of the our two towns in future will require the State to acquire back these leases at great (and unnecessary) cost to the public purse

2. vacant land around the former State House, which is the largest vacant land in a prime position remaining in Port Vila, for which there have been expressions of interest as the site for a new State House building or a National Chapel or similar such important State buildings, will be lost to the State

3. parts of the land required for the new Hall of Justice on the former Court House site will no longer be available for this purpose

4. Millenium Park in Seaside (the former agriculture showground) will cease to exist, it will become covered in privately-held leases

5. the Seaside School will have to abandon plans to construct new classrooms on the land next to the school to allow for the school to offer years 9 to 12, thereby worsening an already acute problem with lack of places in schools in Port Vila – the school now already accommodates 376 students in years 1 to 8

6. the land between the cemetery and the Ex-FOL and APTC School that the Municipal Council was planning to use to expand the overcrowded cemetery will no longer be available for this purpose – it will be leased out

7. the green spaces maintained by the Bourgeois family for decades for the enjoyment of the public along the road between the USP roundabout and the Holiday Inn will be gone and will become covered in privately-held leases

8. the Luganville Municipal Council’s plans for beautification of our northern town including a tourism master plan that provides public access to the water via parks all along the canal seafront will no longer be possible – the area alongside the canal will become covered in privately-held leases

9. a number of government houses currently occupied by serving civil servants will be transferred to private individuals – the State will lose these valuable assets and the civil servants will need to move out and find housing on the market.

10. the Government will lose state assets (belonging to the people of Vanuatu) worth almost 1 billion vatu. The total value of leases over state land issued by Minister Kalsakau and based on an independent (non-Department of Lands) evaluation in Port Vila was approximately VT781,818,000 and for Luganville is VT181,054,000, a total of VT962,872,000. The state land leased in Port Vila and Luganville was 128,288 m2 was 67,205 m2 respectively. The public interest requirement associated with the leasing of state land should have ensured that the process to lease involved the competitive tendering for land and assets greater than VT5 million, in accordance with the Financial Services Act. These processes were not followed and resulted in a loss of substantial income to the public with most staff lesees paying premiums of less than 1 per cent of the independent value of the land.

Prime Minister, I think it is very clear to us all that every effort should be made by the State to hold onto these important parcels of land in our two towns in the interests of the public.  Should the Government wish to sell off some of these parcels in the future, it should be as part of a considered policy based on proper analysis and consultation.  For example, I understand that the National Housing Policy currently in development with the assistance of the World Bank may make some recommendations for selling off some of the stock of government housing.  Any such decision should require the State to recover the maximum market value for this valuable land again in the public interest.

Finally, it is part of our duties as elected MPs is to take decisions that are in the long term interest of the many, not those that are in the short term interest of the few. Our children and grand children will live in Port Vila and Luganville in the decades to come; surely it is our responsibility to bequeath them everything we can in the way of public facilities?  This will not be possible if we permit a wholesale selling off of what limited state land remains in the urban zones. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I hope your Government can continue to pursue the case to cancel these leases and get back our state land.

Yours sincerely,

Ralph Regenvanu
MP for Port Vila

- Hon. Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Commerce, and MP for Port Vila
- Hon. Willy Jimmy Tapangararua, Minister for Finance, and MP for Port Vila
- Hon. Nipake Edward Natapei, Leader of the Opposition, and MP for Port Vila
- Hon. Tony Wright, MP for Port Vila
- Hon. Jean Yves Chabod, MP for Port Vila
- Hon. George Wells, MP for Luganville
- Hon. Kalfau Moli, MP for Luganville
- Hon. Ulrich Sumptoh, Lord Mayor, Port Vila
- Town Clerk, Luganville Municipal Council
- Solicitor General, State Law Office
- CEO, Transparency International Vanuatu
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