First Ordinary Session Opens

President Lonsdale has put the spotlight on national security. Photo: Loic Teilemb

The Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) is understaffed and the officers are the lowest paid public employees in the country.

Head of State, President Baldwin Lonsdale made this statement in his official remarks, when he declared the First Ordinary Session of Parliament open yesterday morning.

But before delivering his statement, the Head of State first registered and joined Prime Minister Charlot Salwai in congratulating Vanuatu’s young heroes for their performance in the Under-20 Football World Cup, in South Korea.

He also thanked the Coach and the Technical Team, for training and assisting the players to a stage where they displayed professional football standards, which surprised the soccer world.

The Head of State then moved on to Vanuatu, as a Sovereign State, which exists within a global community.

He says limited resources have put the security of the nation in a vulnerable situation.

“When we talk about National Defence and National Security, we are talking about the VPF, which accommodates the Vanuatu Police Maritime Wing, Vanuatu Mobile Force and Police,” said President Lonsdale.

“Since 1980 to date, the VPF conducted 19 recruitments.

“As of this month, the three groups have around 639 personnel, after several received their retirement letters on May 22, 2015.

“At the end of 2017, the VPF is expected to retire 65 officers.

“This would further reduce the number of the Force to 574.”

He said it appears that over the past 37 years, national security was not a priority.

The Head of State noted with Vanuatu’s very vocal stand in international forums, it is time for the Vanuatu Government to strengthen the VPF and the VMF.

“Today, the population of Vanuatu is increasing to 300,000, but the number of people who are held responsible for national peace and security, is too small.

“The VPF is understaffed.”

He urged Parliament to ensure Vanuatu appreciates the latest technology and assist VPF personnel to adjust and operate with new knowledge and technology and using the latest inventions to develop Force strategies.

President Lonsdale further voiced his sympathy for the VPF officers.

“With the continuous high rate of the cost of living in Vanuatu, I sympathize with the VPF who continue to faithfully serve our nation with low salaries and at the same time struggle to survive wit their families,” he said.

“Any Government, that is concerned with peace, security, unity, law and order in a country will ensure that enforcement officers get what they deserve.

“I call on this Honorable House to see that the ministry responsible for Government Remuneration Tribunal (GRT) increases the benefits of the officers, if that has not been done yet.”

The Head of State also stressed the importance of ensuring adequate budgets for vehicles and the RVS Tukoro, so they can provide service to the people and surveillance as required.

In addition, President Lonsdale announced the 10 Bills listed for debate in the 1st Ordinary Session of Parliament: Bill for the Tax Administration, Bill for the Value Added Tax (Amendment), Bill for the Business Licence (Amendment), Bill for Import Duties (Consolidation) (Amendment), Bill for the Stamp Duties (Amendment), Bill for the Land Acquisition (Amendment), Bill for the Land Leases (Amendment), Bill for the Land Reform (Amendment), Bill for the Strata Titles (Amendment) and Bill for the Supplementary Appropriation (2017).

In response to the concerns raised on national security, Prime Minister Salwai says the Government sees security as a top priority and work is underway to close the gap on human resources in the VPF.

In terms of numbers in parliament, PM Salwai currently commands 46 of the 52 MPs.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament has adjourned the First Ordinary Session to Monday, June 5.

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