Public report on the improper interference with a land lease by the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Amos Bangabiti - March 19, 1997 - Emalus Campus
Mr. Kevin Henderson, acting on a power of attorney granted by his father, Mr. Frances Henderson obtained a court order on April 1, 1996 to evict tenants from land in Santo that was leased to his father. The Hendersons had been occupied the land before the Santo uprising in 1980 but since that time two ni Vanuatu families had been residing on the land for some time with the permission of the Hendersons. However, they had refused to leave when asked to do so. The eviction order resulted from the Hendersonís wish to return to Vanuatu to develop the land that they had occupied before the Santo uprising in 1980.
The evicted families who were UMP party supporters complained about the court order to UMP Government ministers. With the assistance of the Minister of Lands, Mr. Edgell and the Prime Minister, Mr. Korman, an agreement was reached whereby the tenants were alloted another block of land in an adjacent subdivision and given 30 days to move. However, this arrangement did not resolve the issue in the minds of the tenants.
On July 15, 1996, the Luganville UMP Executive Committee wrote to all UMP Government Ministers complaining about Hendersonís actions toward the tenants. The committee requested that Hendersonsí residency permits be cancelled. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Amos Bangabiti on July 25, 1996 wrote to Mr Henderson advising that he was unhappy with the eviction order and threatening to deport Hendersons when their residency permits expired. This prompted a complaint to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman engaged in correspondence with Mr. Bangabiti which raised the relevance of the residency permits and the question of political interference with the effect of a lawful court order. The Ombudsman found that Mr. Bangabiti had acted contrary to law in attempting to subvert the court order. This also amounted to a breach of the Leadership Code in that Mr. Bangabitiís actions were in conflict of interest, demeaned his office and called into question the his integrity.
∑ That Mr. Bangabiti apologize to Mr. Henderson.
∑ That Mr. Bangabiti not deal with matters outside his jurisdiction.
∑ That all members of Parliament and citizens respect a personís fundamental rights under the Constitution and court orders.
∑ That Government Ministers and all members of Parliament should not obey the orders of their political parties as the Government belongs to the people not the parties.
Written by Edward R. Hill
UNDP Governance and Accountability Project
© Ombudsman of Vanuatu
Published here by University of the South Pacific, School of Law Web Site - www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj