This is the extract of the speech delivered by the Minister of Justice, Esmon Saemon, when the New Zealand High Commissioner Jonathan Swass paid a courtesy visit to the ministry this morning.
On behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Community Services and especially the members of my new cabinet that I lead since 20th of April, 2020, I wish to extend a word of warm welcome to your Excellency, Mr. Jonathan SWASS, and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu. Thank you for being the first member of the Diplomatic Corps in Vanuatu to visit the Office since my appointment here.
• The Ministry of Justice and Community Services wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the partnership between the Government of New Zealand and the Government of Vanuatu in the Law and Justice sector over the last 15 years.
• The ministry is keen to continue our cooperation and partnership in implementing the objectives under the Society Pillar 5 on Security, Peace and Justice especially in the areas of technical capacity support, promoting safety and access to Justice in rural and remote Vanuatu, Infrastructural support and operational budgetary support for Justice and Community Sector wide initiatives.
• We are very grateful for the continuous support provided to the operations of the Department of Corrections since its establishment and welcome the ongoing talks for potential support beyond the Exit Phase.
Key Issues facing Corrections
1. Vanuatu’s correctional infrastructure in Port Vila remains very bad:
a. The current Correctional Centres in Port Vila are unsafe and overcrowded as the number of detainees continues to rise
b. The two Centres have been condemned by engineers since 2000
c. Fear of COVID spreading in the Centres has resulted in detainee and officer unrest including talk of mass escape
2. There is no correctional facility outside of Santo or Port Vila.
Update on Vanuatu Correctional Services Project
1. The New Zealand support for correctional infrastructure through the Small Infrastructure Program (2017-2020) has been very successful. For example, the Department suffered little damage to its infrastructure in Santo after TC Harold, as most of the buildings have been upgraded and repaired using funding from the Small Infrastructure Program
2. New Zealand also funded the 180 MVT Mauria Correctional Centre in Santo in 2015-2017. TC Harold was the first test of the Centre in a cyclone, and there was no damage except through flying debris hitting fences and a tree falling on a fare
3. The one major bit of “unfinished business” is a new Correctional Centre in Port Vila. In 2019, COM agreed to redevelop the Stade site for this purpose. Attached are:
a. The COM decision
b. The concept drawing for the redevelopment.
4. The Australian Law and Justice program has begun to show interest in co-funding this new Correctional Centre, as part of their COVID response in the Pacific
5. Vanuatu Government has now met all its commitments under the Vanuatu Correctional Centre Partnership, with 40 MVT funding allocated to a Santo Juvenile Correctional Centre in 2020. Construction is due to start in July.
Funding Request to New Zealand Government
1. Additional funding for the Small Infrastructure Program to:
a. Fund urgent construction of a male and female Medical Unit in Port Vila. This is already included in the concept drawing attached
b. Fund urgent construction of a Medical Unit in Luganville
c. These Medical Units is will allow the Department to isolate and manage COVID cases in the Correctional Centres, and will ease detainee fears of infection
d. Redevelop Correctional Centres in Tanna and Malekula
2. New Zealand to commit to funding the new Port Vila Correctional Centre, possibly in a co-funding arrangement with Australia and the Vanuatu Government. Phased development of this Centre has already begun with the Female Unit under construction.
GENDER AND PROTECTION
• We are grateful for the funding support from New Zealand Government bilaterally as well as under Pacific Partnership project towards addressing Gender and Family Violence within the Department of Women’s Affairs.
• As you are aware, the COM’s decision of Thursday 09th April, 2020 placing Protection of Families against Violence in Vanuatu will benefit greatly from this funding. We acknowledge the work of the NZ Police Advisers to the Vanuatu Police Force in ensuring the technical support is provided as required to ensure continuous Peace, Law and Order in our communities.
• The promise of promoting Women in decision making at all levels of Government is one of this Government’s priorities. We look forward to your continuous support to institutions that play a prominent role in achieving electoral reform and thereby allowing visibility of women in political development agenda of this country such as the Parliament, Electoral Office and the Department of Local Authorities.
• The greater role and visibility played by the Gender and Protection Cluster in mainstreaming gender and social inclusion in other cluster have been possible with your financial support especially in the national response operations during TC Hola and Ambae Lobenben Volcano eruptions and more so now in our national response to COVID 19 and TC Harold under the leadership of the Department of Women’s Affairs.
• We are grateful to the Government of New Zealand for continuous funding support for Judges to the Supreme Court of Vanuatu.
• We acknowledge the funding and opportunity to be partners in the Hall of
Justice project and we look forward to our collaborations as this project develops throughout this year and in the next two years.
• We confirm our support to continue Capacity development through Regional programmes such as Pacific Islands Legal Officers Network (PILON).
• The Government acknowledges the great support by New Zealand Government to the office of Public Prosecutor and Vanuatu Police Force in the Commission of Inquiry cases of Air Vanuatu, VNPF and the 9th EDF. Because of the large volume of evidence and the sheer size of the possible criminality into these cases, we are seeking for further assistance to the Office on the Public Prosecutor in completing the investigations into VNPF and the 9th EDF.
• The Access to Justice Model is one of the priority initiative of this ministry of this year 2020 and with Stretem Rod blong Justice Project and Ministry of Internal Affairs through it Community Policing Program, will require extra operational budget for personnel, visits, awareness raising and infrastructure. Source: NZHicom