This press statement is in response to the Editorial Opinion by Daily Post Media Director – Dan McGarry which appeared on page 5 of the above issue of the Daily Post.
First of all the Office of the Prime Minister would like to thank Mr. McGarry for drawing attention to this issue and some of the problems encountered in just trying to get a solution for what is a very important issue.
However, it is obvious to the Office of the Prime Minister that Dan McGarry has slanted his article in such a way so as to make the issue a political issue and try to further the aims of the Opposition of getting into Government.
The problem of the airport runway has been outstanding for a long time and if the truth be known, there was a proposition from the World Bank several years ago to fix the airport.
Nothing happened with that World Bank proposition for a few years and when Sato Kilman came in as Prime Minister in 2011, so arrangements were made with a Chinese group — Shanghai Construction Corporation to prepare a feasibility study. Shanghai Construction Corporation which is one of the largest construction companies in China and the world presented their report to Government in collaboration and cooperation with Airports Vanuatu Limited and Civil Aviation Authority after several months of study and assessment.
Prime Minister Kilman is of the same opinion as former Prime Minister Natuman that repairs to the current airport was needed before the Government could look at a new international airport.
Before the government could proceed with the Shanghai Construction Group proposition, the government changed and that effort was shelved and instead the Government of former Prime Minister Moana Carcasses and former Deputy Prime Minister Edward Nipake Natapei signed up a deal with the Singaporean company for the Greenfield project which required a sovereign guarantee of US$350 million without prior approval of Council of Ministers and without taking it first to Parliament for endorsement as was required by law.
This and other things led to the downfall of the Carcasses Government after which Natuman was elected as Prime Minister. After Natuman was elected as Prime Minister and during his term, discussions were had again with the World Bank and an amount initially of around US$15 million was the considered to be required for the repairs.
Former Finance Minister Maki Simelum under former Prime Minister Natuman, proceeded to sign a deal with World Bank for about US$15 million again without the prior approval of Council of Ministers.
Concerns continued to be raised with this agreement as the signing of the agreement had not followed proper procedural channels and COM finally approved a funding facility of US$48.5 million with US$33 million budgeted for the runway repairs and turning bay alone and US$5 million for contingencies. However the final figure discussed was around US$59 million — an increase of over twenty percent.
Based on these concerns, former Minister of Finance – Willie Jimmy Tapangararua cancelled the World Bank loan on his own initiative as Vanuatu’s Minister of Finance.
Since then, there has been enormous pressure put on the Prime Minister for the Government to take up the World Bank offer.
It is a fact that the Greenfield Project which required a sovereign guarantee of US$350 million was signed and executed by Moana Carcasses of Green Confederation and his deputy – late Edward Nipake Natapei.
It is a fact that the estimate for the surfacing of the runway was originally estimated at US$15 million so why has the cost ballooned to almost US$59 million.
With the urgency of the matter, it is also questionable as to whether World Bank can complete their preparatory work and the lengthy and tedious tender process in time to suit the Nation’s need for a repaired runway.
Whilst Mr. McGarry was within his rights to write an editorial opinion, he should have as is in accordance with proper journalist ethics, contacted Prime Minister Kilman and first checked his facts before printing that editorial, especially in the current post election period of discussions to form a future government.
The Office of the Prime Minister feels that the editorial opinion is using a very serious issue to clearly attempt to bring disrepute on the current caretaker Prime Minister – Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu and promote former Prime Minister Natuman with misleading half-truths and innuendos.
The Office of the Prime Minister agrees with Mr McGarry that the matter of the airport runway is an important, urgent and serious technical matter and the government is working to find an urgent and viable solution to the problem.
Incorrect reporting and misguided editorial opinions from politically biased newspapers will not help.
The Daily Post should stop trying to play politics and leave it to the politicians. They should stick to reporting the truth and only the truth.
Office of the Prime Minister