[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]
On Tuesday the Daily Post published a Pacific News Service article about the Project Wickenby debacle, in which Vanuatu-based members of the Australian Federal Police raided four local financial institutions for evidence of misdeeds by Vanuatu citizen Robert Agius.
The raids raised a storm of controversy concerning the right of the AFP to conduct such operations on Vanuatu soil, and raised questions concerning their treatment of a Vanuatu citizen.
Politicians, chiefs and private citizens all expressed dismay at what they perceived as an assault on Vanuatu sovereignty by a ‘bullying’ Australia, who some claimed abused its status as a primary aid donor to leverage the complicity of the Vanuatu government.
The PNS story largely recapitulates these much-discussed events. But it’s noteworthy because it contains the first public response from the commander of the Vanuatu detachment of the AFP’s transnational crime unit in Port Vila.
These comments demonstrate a fundamental failure to understand the dynamics of the situation in Vanuatu. Worse, due to unfortunate phrasing, they appear to hold community values and approaches in low regard.
Some will take this as a reason to remain silent on contentious issues. A more appropriate response to this would be more, not less, communication.