The decision by the Labour Commissioner to officially refuse and revoke the work permit of Dan McGarry as Media Director of the Vanuatu’s largest private media company, quite clearly raises real concerns over who is advising Labour as they need to check their facts.
Trading Post Ltd is 100% locally owned and employs over 50 staff. We are being blatantly forced to localize a very senior expatriate position in our 100% Ni Vanuatu owned company. This is direct government interference in the running of a private company in direct competition to their own VBTC and makes a mockery of private sector led growth. This action will clearly compromise our ability to develop our company as we wish and will be perceived as a direct attack on media freedom.
The government will say this is simply an administrative decision by Labour to localize the position after four years and that the Media Director’s job can be handled by our female newspaper editor. It cannot as the roles are totally different.
The Media Director is answerable to the directors only and is responsible for the development of print editions of Daily Post, The Vanuatu Business Review and Life and Style monthly magazines, the management and development of five web sites, four social media platforms and a growing digital signage media. The position also requires a detailed knowledge of radio broadcast technology for our radio station development, media law, human resources management, etc. Suffice to say we would localize this position if we could as with the ever increasing work permit fees we would save money.
We believe the real reason for government cancelling McGarry’s work permit is because they are not happy with some of his news items. It has nothing to do with localization. We know Minister Emelee, Napuat and the Prime Minister have all criticized McGarry.
We stand 100% behind concerns he wrote about China sending in people to arrest and deport Chinese residing here with Vanuatu passports without following the laws of this country and not allowing them access to lawyers is perfectly valid and if the same thing had happened in the developed world, the media reaction would have been far more vocal.
Similarly, this country needs more intelligent analysis of economics, business and Acts passed by parliament that McGarry has a reputation for handling in a professional way. He also has written for the UK Guardian newspaper which is proof of his credentials.
The private sector would be foolish to not support more localization but only if we have the local resources to do so. Government decisions like this may help the government in the six month run in to elections with it’s localization policy but with an economy in free fall according to many long term investors, new VIPA applications down, unemployment rising and investor confidence low, decisions like this will only create further problems as a free media not interfered with by any government is absolutely integral to democracy.
We urge this government to not use this Work Permit Amendment Act to get rid of expatriates they do not like and as this precedent is dangerous and opens up the doors to abuse.
We ask that Minister Napuat uses his power to reverse this decision on Appeal.