[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]
The 1990s were a time that many in Vanuatu might prefer to forget. Internecine political disputes resulted in a government more changeable than the weather. Senior ministers fought a running legal and ideological battle with Ombudsman Marie-Noelle Patterson. They were so distracted that they utterly ignored the business of governing. Failure to table a budget in 1996 led the VMF to abduct President Lenelcau in order to force payment of nearly 100 million vatu in outstanding allowances. The gutting of the National Provident Fund by politicians and senior government officials brought angry rioters into the streets and resulted in widespread damage.
This culminated in a tragicomedy of errors involving huckster Amarendra Nath Ghosh, a bogus ‘world’s largest ruby’, and the issuance of illegal bonds that would have beggared the nation. The gemstone is the only thing of enduring value. It serves as a paperweight in the Ministry of Finance.
To the casual outsider, it beggars imagination that most of the people responsible for this ungodly mess still enjoy broad voter support. To many ni-Vanuatu, though, the question doesn’t even bear asking.