1) Vanuatu legislation has made it an offence for resident expats to “interfere” in your domestic politics. This does not smack of what a lawyer would consider to be permissive of freedom of expression in the true sense of that cornerstone of a democratic society. At first blush it appears that the government does not want foreigners exposing the citizens of Vanuatu with troublesome ideas which might foment dissatisfaction with the government itself. I am not present in Vanuatu, so I cannot have a true sense of whether or not this legislation is in place to suppress only treasonous or seditious activity leading to violence, or whether it is in place to simply quell public dissent or anything which might lead to the defeat of the government in a general election.
2) The unbelievable continuum of motions of non confidence in the government, and the seemingly endless allegations of personal and governmental corruption, make Vanuatu appear to be a very unstable nation to the international community. Intelligence services world wide are reading all of your publications. When this is coupled with Vanuatu’s very active cultivation and encouragement of aid “gifts” from China, foreign intelligence services must be very worried indeed about where all of this is leading.
3) All of the above is amplified by Vanuatu’s militarily strategic location in the South Pacific and its lack of any credible military to protect itself against a serious physical assault upon it. China’s stated foreign policy is to expand and solidify its sphere of influence in all of the South Pacific. Vanuatu’s present foreign policy appears to be very welcoming of Chinese internal investment in its infrastructure. With this foreign policy in at least unofficial existence, how eager does Vanuatu think the South Pacific Forum will be to come to its protection if it allows China in its front door? From my remote vantage point, but as a fellow Commonwealth citizen, I do not see Australia or New Zealand running to bail out Vanuatu militarily from a situation which it initially and foolishly embraced as only a commercial “goodwill” program launched by China. I note that a sizeable portion of AUS/AID to USP was discontinued recently because of accounting deficiencies. Is there more to it than a simple dissatisfaction with the operation of the university in Vanuatu? I think Australia was saying much more than that.
4) Even in the face of its own internally placed obstacles and regulations surrounding foreign investment, no foreign businessman who has done his basic due diligence would remotely consider attempting to make a capital investment in Vanuatu in the political and cultural melieu which is presently extant in the nation...unless he has ulterior motives or is incredibly stupid.
My interest in Vanuatu springs from research I initiated while considering the possibility of teaching at USP Emalus. While that situation did not work out, my initial interest in the nation has continued. I am concerned that publication of my thoughts from a smug “cushy” chair in far away Canada will do nothing to be of assistance to Vanuatu and possibly cause more harm than good. I can assure you that I have spent my entire career in law, not as a person involved in political activism, but as a lawyer involved in ensuring, both as a former Judge and and prosecutor, as well as a criminal defence lawyer, that all of Canada’s democratic institutions are protected. I wish your nation only success and prosperity in your own and in the international community. This will not be achieved by deepening your relationship and reliance upon a nation, China, with the international reputation of bring the most constant and overt thief from other nations in modern history. They bring misery, not “unfettered gifts”, to all those they manage to get under their sway.
Perhaps my thoughts may be of more value to Vanuatu expressing them privately in this way to an independent public institution rather than throwing them out for consumption by a public which may misinterpret my true intent. I am not there to defend them, even if I legally could. In other words, perhaps you, as a newspaper, will choose to expose what is really at stake in the nation’s development in these times of national need for a sound perspective on the consequences of its intended actions and its own internal governance.
In any event, I am happy to share my thoughts with your editorial board. You may or may not find them useful. I look forward to reading your posts on the internet.
Yours very truly,
Francis X. Fay