Dear Editor,

This letter is in response to a recent post about me on the Vanua’aku Pati Facebook Page which was later incorporated into the Yumi Toktok Stret page. Since it was already in the public domain, I am now going to provide a response to this petite politicking.

Firstly, I would like to apologise to Port Vila MP, Kenneth Natapei. The posts have denigrated the legacy of your late father and have become too personal. My sincere apologies.

Secondly, to enlighten some of the critiques and haters on why I chose politics. I am currently undertaking a Masters Programme in Public Policy at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, thanks to Vanuatu’s strong bilateral relationship with Australia, through the Australia Awards Scholarship Programme.

My last employment was with the New Zealand High Commission where I worked as a Policy Adviser. Part of the role was to manage some community grants and through this, I was seeing before my very eyes the entrenched challenges which my fellow citizens, from the North to South in this beloved country of ours were confronted with. But through the political monitoring role, I was provided with a front row seat in witnessing the ongoing deterioration of my country’s leadership. I attended parliamentary sessions, monitored elections, and attending politically related court cases –especially the motion related cases. I did not accept what I was observing. I was personally challenged to put my hand up one day so I can contribute towards effective reforms that may transpire to effective development policies that can alleviate the challenges our citizenry is facing. That is the reason why I’m putting my hand up.

Furthermore, I accepted my communities’ request to contest because I respected my authorities. I was previously asked to contest in 2016 by members from my community but I declined. I declined because the most important thing in this life is the people. Our God in Long God Yumi Stanap sent his Only Son to die for the people. More than 270,000 of these people live in Vanuatu. If God gave His best for the people, so should we. If I want to serve them, I had to be well qualified. Therefore, if I want to get into politics, I needed to get a qualification in politics.

The FB post that made reference to me which has now become the object of some insinuating and derogatory remarks against myself and MP Natapei is in relation to a current procedural dispute of the Port Vila RCC decision during its recent Mini Congress. The dispute was pursued by the committee that represented me. The decision by my committee in seeking the National Executive’s decision was just through routine party process because my application to contest under the VP banner for GE2020 was rejected during congress and the committee is basically seeking the party leadership’s interpretation over the integrity of the RCC’s decision. In house matters basically!!!I do not have any issue with the committee’s option to dispute the RCC decision but I do condone the fact that a routine party process has been portrayed as an act of betrayal and arrogance. The Vanua’aku Pati has an established disputing mechanism which provides for such disputes. Instituting a disputing mechanism in a political party’s constitution reflects the fundamental characteristics of political parties in a vibrant democracy. Firstly, the disputing mechanism adduces the fact that politics is competitive in nature and in democracies, politics must be competitive. Our society’s diversity brings with it a smorgasbord of views and ideas so there will always be contestations. That is basic Public Policy and Politics 101. Otherwise, what we’re having is either an autocracy, a monarchy or maybe a condominium. I believe we’re still a democracy. Right??? Secondly, having a dispute mechanism means party matters can be resolved internally. Having the VP supreme body’s intervention also enables the restorative justice process to be transacted in the most transparent and diplomatic manner to maintain unity within the party. Yet so much for noble intentions!!

Putting my hand up for politics is just like applying for a job. Moreover, that’s the best place to get employed as a public policy person, in a policy making arena so there’s really nothing to hide for me. And like everyone who has ever applied for a job, you either get accepted, or you don’t. No harm done. In the last 16 years of my life, I have been a recipient of at least five job decline letters. If this dispute doesn’t favour me and VP upholds the RCC decision; that will be my sixth job application decline. Life goes on.

But the tone of the debate has been so humiliating, as if I had no right at all to participate in the politics of this sovereign state or even under the VP banner. Good grief. The slanderous debate which has ensued have been either disapproving of myself or the incumbent MP.

The vilification of people for political gain should not be tolerated in a society like Vanuatu. Name bashing individuals to establish one’s political supremacy is puerile and a reflection of political insanity. Vanuatu is better than that. I may have been purposely used as a scapegoat probably for someone else’s own egotistical pursuit, either within VP or externally. I guess time will tell. Well, congratulations because you have now ridiculed myself in the estimation of the right-thinking people. I guess it’s a strategy that you’ve must’ve employed in an attempt to eliminate your political threats. For real??? I still find it dumbfounding by the way some of you have undertaken your political pursuits.

The political situation in the country is too divisive. Politics should not be about provincial supremacy, island supremacy, family supremacy or personal supremacy but should always focus on the welfare of the people. Politics should basically come down to the simple contestations of policies. Policy supremacy should be the name of the political game instead of the current status quo of name bashing. By global standards, we are too small of a country to accommodate such a degraded style of politics that’s only dividing our society.

The National Congress is currently in session on Ambrym. If the committee’s dispute is accepted, this political ball keeps rolling for me. Otherwise, it stops for me. No harm done. But why publish an internal party matter in the public domain? Does it provide some self-gratification in seeing myself being publicly humiliated? The discussions on the FB pages are very divisive because they have name bashed either myself or VP’s MP for Port Vila. But it became more disconcerting to me when a relative and community member of the incumbent member came out to condemn it because it was disheartening and disrespectful not only for the MP but for them too.

Once again, my sincere apologies to the MP’s family and community. I apologise as well if any of this invective language is from my supporters as well. Those aren’t my views. Like I said, the dispute was lodged in accordance to standard VP procedures. Yet it has been supposedly utilised as a political weapon which has consequently precipitated a dog fight between our supporters whom have taken it upon themselves to discredit either of us. Unbelievable!!

I have informed my community that I was only going to put my hand up only once and they must decide long and hard on which GE they really wanted me to put my hand up to. They chose GE 2020 so this was it. I have raised my hand, but if my country through its own political mechanisms refuses my participation, so be it, I am going to accept it graciously because I am just one option out of the 270,000 plus people of this country. As I’ve said, life goes on because it’s only going to be my sixth job decline. Someone asked if the option to contest as an independent was on the cards. I said no because Vanuatu politics is already witnessing an independents plague. Besides, it would also defeat the whole purposes of sacrificing my life in Canberra’s freeze to study politics and go back and worsen the already decaying political situation back home.

My only appeal now is for everyone to let this matter rest and await the final decision from the party’s national executive. I also take this opportunity to forgive those that have berated myself with their comments in both pages.

Once again, my sincere apologies to MP Kenneth Natapei and may the legacy of your late father, a former Prime Minister, who was also a clergy in my parish of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu in Port Vila continue to live on and be an inspiration to the future young leaders of this country. My sincere apologies to your family and your community again. I will also extend this apology to the founding fathers of VP who have toiled hard to build the legacy of this party and apologies to the voters of VP too.

And finally, my apologies to my late mother, because the post which was predicated on a dispute attempt by my committee has placed into disrepute the integrity of the party she taught me to love and respect. This has never been my intention.

Long live the Republic of Vanuatu. AHI TAHOS!!!YEHOVA SAUPIA!!!

Joel Jonas

Canberra, Australia

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