In 2015 Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with a Digital TV Service Provider of a Chinese private Company which was said to be specializing in Digital TV, the Guilin CEKE Communication Equipment Co Ltd, to jointly set up the company named Vanuamadia Digital Media and CEKE would have a 51 % share in the company and VBTC with 49% share.
At the time, VBTC celebrated 50 years anniversary of existing in Vanuatu. The new joint venture between VBTC and CEKE was officially inaugurated by the late President Fr Baldwin Lonsdale and the Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, coinciding with the celebrations of the VBTC 50th anniversary celebrations in 2016.
The joint venture promised to deliver 50 channels altogether to viewers in Port Vila, Luganville Santo and other major islands namely Malekula and Tanna. One of the hopeful outcome at the time was to see VBTC, through the Digital TV and Radio Vanuatu, provide full coverage of the South Pacific Mini Games that Vanuatu hosted last in 2017.
Around 2017, VANUAMADIA came under attack for what the VBTC Board at the time alleged that the Digital TV Company has breached the MoA, and was a liability to VBTC, according to the then VBTC Board Chairman Johnety Jeretty. The VBTC Board alleged that VANUAMADIA had, at the time, did not serve the purpose to salvage the operations of VBTC, but instead it had become a liability to the Company(VBTC), the then Board Chairman Johnety Jeretty, alleged then.
On April, 2016 the Daily Post carried an article “Missing Vt: 5 Million TV Fund probed”. The DP reported that police were investigating an alleged miss appropriation of Vt 5 Million belonging to VANUAMADIA Digital Media Limited, a joint venture company between Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) and CEKE Communications. The article stated that “according to Police, the complaint was lodged by a Chinese National who is understood to be working for the National Digital Television Project,” the article in the Daily Post stated. It was to become a start of twist of events that has led to a media battle between the VANUAMADIA and the VBTC in 2017 and leading on into 2018 with both joint venture partners leveling blames at one another as things begin to be unfold.
The new Manager of VANUAMADIA Zheng Wu Wei Victor, said that the technician of VANUAMADIA Jianjun Deng, was sent by CEKE to set up Santo project and take care of system for 2 years, unfortunately he was refused to be given a Special Category Visa within a month.
“Mr Deng was never forced to leave the country, he changed his visa from visitor’s visa to business visa which would allow him to work for three months but during this time he felt difficult to work with sleepless nights of thoughts he might be arrested so he finally decided to leave and return to China-he was never deported as alleged,” said new Vanuamadia Manager Zheng Wu Wei Victor.
Zheng Wu Wei Victor alleged that on March 13, the Prime Minister Charlot Salwai called a round table meeting at his office and asked for former VBTC GM Fred Vurobaravu to write a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue an extension of visa for Mr Deng. It was further alleged that the former GM of VBTC was advised by higher Government Officials to withdraw the letter on March 15. The reasons of this were stated in a letter to the Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yvon Basil, dated Thursday 16th March 2017 and signed by the then VBTC GM Fred Vurobaravu. In that letter, which headed ‘ Re: Extension of Visa of Mr. Jianjun Deng’, the then VBTC GM Fred Vurobaravu, outlined a six point reasons to withdraw his previous letter dated 14th March 2017.However, two days later, the then VTBC GM again, wrote to the Vanuatu Foreign Affairs Ministry recalling his letter of 14th March 2017. He stated in his letter to the Foreign Affairs that he was acting on an advice he has received.
The Director of Foreign Affairs and External Cooperation Yvon Basil, wrote to the then GM of VBTC Fred Vurobaravu, on 20th March 2017 advising him that since Vanuamadia was independently operating and collecting its own revenue through payment of Pay Digital TC, they see no need to facilitate the request by VBTC for extension of visa (Special Category) as per the Immigration Act, however he suggested that VBTC should liaise with the department of Immigration and Labor Office to seek advice on the processes for visa and work permit for foreign nationals operating in Vanuatu.
In his comment to the Daily Post yesterday, the former VBTC General Manager, Fred Vurobaravu, said he has left the VBTC over one year ago. However, Fred Vorobaravu, said at the time when he was the then GM of VBTC, he appreciated the Prime Minister's concern to see the VBTC moving to become less dependable on government financially and at the same time for VANUAMADIA to provide the digital TV services to all six Provinces of Vanuatu and if any Agreement between the two organizations was not met, then it should be reviewed so as to meet its objective, " said Vurobaravu. He added that VANUAMADIA was there to provide the services to the people of Vanuatu, but not for free as clients had to pay a fee for the services, said Vurobaravu.
"Whether the services of VANUAMADIA should continue or not is not is up to the new management and direction," said former VBTC GM Fred Vurobaravu.
In defending himself against what he called false accusations against him and VANUAMADIA by the past and present management of the VBTC, the present Manager of VANUAMADIA, Zheng Wu Wei Victor, alleged that the new VBTC Chief Executive Officer Francis Herman, once called him and told Victor that if VANUAMADIA wants to take legal action against VBTC for alleged breached of MoA, VANAUMADIA could go ahead and do that but Victor replied that VANUAMADIA does not intend to sue VBTC at great expense for alleged breach of contract.
It was alleged that the PM requested VANUAMADIA to ensure the project is set up in luganville and Santo as well as ensuring the Pacific Mini Games is well covered by Television Blong Vanuatu via the VANUAMADIA digital Network. The Daily Post could not get response from the VBTC CEO Francis Herman to confirm or deny the allegations by VANUAMADIA Zheng Wu Wei Victor.
The current VANUAMADIA Manager Zheng Wei Victor, alleged that at one point of time, the former VBTC Board Chairman Johnety Jeretty, allegedly emailed him and advised him (Victor) of a Board Meeting that was going to take place and that because that Board meeting was to deal with VANUAMADIA issues, VANUAMADIA was advised to pay for Board Members allowances of Vt: 5,000 per Board Member, email and other correspondences the Daily Post has copies of.
The latest claims by the current VANUAMADIA Manager Zheng Wu Wei Victor, is that while he was on leave in China, he alleged to have received information via his colleagues that the Vanuatu Government had deported him from Vanuatu. He went on to say that he decided to travel to Vanuatu, despite the rumors because, he had a joint venture project for the Vanuatu Government between CEKE and VBTC to accomplish within a given left over time frame that will see the project of Digital TV introduced in other major islands of Vanuatu.
In April, the Daily Post publish an article about VANUAMADIA closing its operations doors and advised its clients to pay monthly Digital TV rental at an Account Number with the Bred Bank. On his return, VANUAMADIA Manager Zheng Wu Wei Victor, claims he was away on leave in China, was back and opened up office operations for customers to pay monthly rental back at the office. But later the Daily Post learnt that Immigration Officials called on Zheng Wu Wei Victor and warned him to remain out of the VBTC areas and to stop working illegally, because the Daily Post understands and it was alleged Zheng Wu Wei Victor was on a visitor visa and working illegally. But, Victor claims he was working on a government project and therefore should be allowed to finish the project. The Daily Post could not obtain further comments from Government authorities, but understands, Victor remains outside the VANUMADIA Operations office and the VBTC compound.
In an interview with the Daily Post, VANUAMADIA Zheng Wu Wei Victor said when he arrived at the Port Vila international airport from China, he explained to the Immigration officials the reason for his return to Vanuatu and was granted a visitor visa and told to seek government approval for Special Visa so that could continue with the project.
Asked if the national government has given him a Special Visa and Permit so that he can go ahead and complete the joint-venture Digital TV between VANUAMADIA and the VBTC, Zheng Wu Wei Victor, replied that the VBTC had now taken legal actions against VANUAMADIA and that government authorities are listening to a one-sided story from the VBTC and would not listen to him, but that he is determined to bring the whole truth to the people of Vanuatu. He added that he understood the VBTC has set a date for a court hearing against VANUAMADIA for 21st May 2018, but that he had not received a formal court order pertaining to the alleged case.
The Daily Post has copies of correspondences from the VBTC to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and unsigned copy of letter by the former Chairman of the VBTC Board Johenty Jerethy, and email correspondences from Victor to the former Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office.
It remains to be seen what further steps the Vanuatu Government or the VBTC will take towards VANUAMADIA and the current Manager Zheng Wu Wei Victor or VANUAMADIA’s stand in the current situation.
VANUAMADIA Manager, Zheng Wu Wei Victor, claims the Company has injected $US 4.2 Million in Digital TV modern equipment on the joint venture project between CEKE and VBTC out of which Vt: 4.2 Million was spent on setting up equipment in Luganville, Santo.
The Daily Post understands that the Immigration Officials have advised Zheng Wu Wei Victor of the options he should consider. He alleged that the options are he had to leave the country voluntarily or if wish to remain in Vanuatu has to pay a sum of Vt:250,000 as required by the law to remain in the country on long term permit, he alleged.
He also alleged that all digital signals of VANUAMADIA have been switched off and that the 800 or more clients will no longer be able to access programs from the VANUAMDIA digital signals.
The Daily Post also understands that Zheng Wei Wu Victor has allegedly decided to leave the country on his own accord.
The Daily Post could not get comment from the Chairman of the VBTC Board as he is away at this time. The DP has approached the VBTC CEO several times for appointment and also by phone but could not get comment from the management.