Prime Minister Joe Natuman has re-emphasized Vanuatu’s continued strong support for New Caledonia and West Papua.

Addressing the opening session of the 5th Heads of Missions meeting at Piliura Village, Pele Island, off north Efate Monday (yesterday) the Prime Minister stressed Vanuatu’s strong commitment to assisting the two colonized Melanesian islands gain independence.

He asked Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Odo Tevi, to assist with Vanuatu’s position for New Caledonia’s self-determination by increasing leverage with the UN Committee of 24 in the lead up to the referendum for independence due in the French-held territory in three years’ time.

“Prime Minister Natuman and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Sato Kilman, re-emphasized Vanuatu’s continued strong backing for West Papua,” Public Relations Officer Kiery Manassah reported from Pele Island.

At the same time, both leaders stressed that while Vanuatu’s strong support for independence for West Papua has been there since independence, this did not mean Vanuatu should stop talking to Indonesia, as the two countries have bilateral relations that are guided by their diplomatic relations, Manassah added.

The Prime Minister told the country’s overseas Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consul Generals that they were Vanuatu’s eyes and ears overseas.

“Therefore, it is important that you are aware of the various aspects of the Government’s national policies so you can better represent the people of Vanuatu overseas.”

Natuman then announced a number of the Government’s policy priorities for 2015. In the productive sector, the Prime Minister said Government would increase allocation for fisheries, agriculture, forestry, livestock and quarantine in order to generate an export base to help boost revenue. Secondly, increase allocation to the industry sector, cooperatives, ni-Vanuatu business, and the department of tourism to boost relations between trade and tourism investment and promote other sectors in order to increase export capacity.

Thirdly, increase allocation of resources so lands through Vanuatu are registered in compliance with enforcement of the laws of the country.

In the Government’s social policy priorities – the Prime Minister announced government will increase allocation of resources to improve the country’s National Health Service to implement Vanuatu’s National Population Policy.

Secondly, he said the Government will maintain support for development of human resources, focusing on maximizing Vanuatu’s economic growth potentials. And the prime minister announced the commencement this year of a number of infrastructure development projects anticipated to be stimulus for the country’s economic growth priorities.

They are: the South Tanna and Malekula roads; main wharf at Luganville, Santo; Lapitasi multipurpose wharf at Star Wharf, Port Vila: Rural electrification projects for Malekula, Ambae and Sola, Vanualava; Port Vila Urban Development Project; and overlaying of Port Vila’s Bauerfield International Airport.

Before the opening address, there was a welcome ceremony on the beach by the village community, after which as part of the community activities, turtles were tagged and released back into the sea by the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs. Other turtles were to be tagged and released by other participants of the meeting that afternoon. After lunch, PM Natuman and DPM Kilman and the country’s diplomats overseas participated in sandalwood tree planting.

PRO Manassah reports that all of Vanuatu’s representatives overseas are at this year’s Heads of Mission’s meeting except Ambassador to the Brussels, Roy Micky Joy, who will join the meeting later on. Those present include Ambassador to Beijing Sela Molisa, Ambassador to the UN Odo Tevi, High Commissioner to Canberra Kalvau Kaloris, High Commissioner to Fiji Nikenike Vurobaravu, Consul General to New Zealand Meckenzie Kalotiti, Consul General to Noumea, New Caledonia Raymond Manuake, and Consul General to Shanghai Charlie Cheung.

The last Head of Missions meeting was held in Tafea in 2013, but none was held in 2014. The purpose of the meeting is to get on the mission heads to present their reports to the Government and to hear policy directives from the Government to assist them in their representation of Vanuatu with at the countries of their postings when discussing bilateral relations matters.

Following the opening the High Commissioner and the Ambassador to Beijing gave their reports in the afternoon.

The meeting which will close tomorrow (Wednesday), is being attended by about 50 people including Director Generals and Directors of Government departments.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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