Torba Member of Parliament Christophe Emelee is still furious over the unilateral decision by Fisheries Department officers on Santo to confiscate the entire consignment of 200 coconut crabs from Torres
including some destined for raising funds to assist with medical treatment for one of their chiefs nearly two weeks ago.
He warned that the action could be tantamount to crime.
He said Government should not be blamed for such an example of blatant abuse of power and accused government technicians or public servants of “not doing their jobs to assist the people” but making government look bad. “It is an attitude problem.”
MP Emelee said: “If anything happens to the chief, it will be a crime and should not be blamed on the government.”
He related how a medical report for Chief Richmond Selwyn was sent from Toga Dispensary to Santo where it was deemed necessary for the chief to received immediate medical attention. Since the government did not have the money to get him to the hospital, MP Emelee said he paid the airfare for the chief and his wife to come to Port Vila where a private doctor in early January found that his prostate situation was very serious and an appointment was made for him at Noumea Hospital for January 31.
“The families in Torres talked about the situation and decided to help and waited for the Tegua Island community license for selling coconut crabs to be ready so they could send some crabs to help raise funds for the chief.
“So, we delayed the Noumea hospital appointment and on January 31, the Tegua Community paid Vt140,000 for the license to harvest the crabs, Vt20,000 for Torba Provincial Council and Vt20,000 for business license – a total of Vt180,000.
“The money was paid to the Government after the Department of Fisheries said everything in the application form was confirmed as in order and an invoice produced before payment was made.
“On February 2, the money was debited from the account after Fisheries Department said everything was okay, but they were waiting for the Director to sign.
“When the crabs arrived in Luganville on Santo on February 4, Fisheries staff on Santo confiscated the whole consignment that was destined for Port Vila under a license the community of Tegua had paid for and Government said everything was okay.
“The question is where has the community broken the law for Fisheries to confiscate the crabs,” the Torba MP asked.
Now family members of Chief Selwyn have lost the opportunity to assist the chief financially with his medical treatment in Noumea. MP Emelee said messages of support have reached him after the news of the chief’s plight first appeared in the Daily Post. He added that there are plenty of people in Torres who are sick and needing to come to Port Vila for medical assistance, but with such situations happening to the community, concerning their crabs they just don’t what to do now.