A Window of Opportunity

This editorial piece was published in today’s Vanuatu Daily Post newspaper.

Members of the Vanuatu Mobile Force deliver ballot boxes from Vanuatu’s outer islands to the electoral office. Credit: Matt Temar

On Friday last week, RVS Tukoro arrived in Port Vila harbor and delivered its cargo of ballot boxes from the outer islands at Port Vila’s electoral office. Numerous (and sometimes contradictory) anecdotal voting results have already reached the public, but it’s clear that the official numbers could be released before the week is out. Assuming, that is, that there aren’t any signs of systematic malfeasance.

Be that as it may, one thing seems perfectly clear: None of the old guard political parties has a distinct advantage over the others. Neither have the insurgent parties managed to establish more than a foothold.

Speculation is rife about what this means for Vanuatu’s political future. Some have worried publicly about another hodge-podge government, ruled by maverick MPs jumping from side to side of the government fence, chasing the sweetest deals.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s a lot to ask, but let’s ignore for the moment the personalities involved and just look at the numbers. Assuming the unofficial results are at least ballpark-accurate, the combination of numbers from the first post-independence parties gets very close to the notional 26 needed to form a working government. If the VP, NUP and UMP parties were able, even for a while, to suspend their mistrust of one another and limit their individual ambitions, they could put themselves in a position where they could cobble together a working government.

(Note that I’m excluding Sato Kilman’s PPP from this equation for the moment, first because spokesman John Shing has been publicly stating that Sato’s intention is to reform his old cabinet, and because it’s inconceivable that, having betrayed him so recently, Kilman could reconcile with Natapei without significant loss of status. I know I said we should try to forget the personalities involved, but this one’s just too big to ignore.)

Doling out roles and responsibilities wouldn’t be an easy task. Serge Vohor’s now-famous portrayal of the Council of Ministers as one big PM and a dozen small PMs likely remains accurate. But the alternative – a crazy quilt of individuals and smaller parties – is much, much worse.

There are a few good reasons why the major parties might actually be able to achieve an understanding. The biggest is that the ‘cowboys’ are mostly gone. Both VP and UMP have seen their most rebellious members leave their respective parties, leaving a smaller but potentially more cohesive group behind. Secondly, their diminished numbers are a clear statement that they need to look to the future if they’re going to survive.

Achieving a working compromise would involve some pretty high-stakes horse-trading, and it’s likely that some involved would find it hard to resist the urge to derive maximum profit from such negotiations. But if somehow Natapei, Vohor and Lini were able to forge an understanding, they could create the one thing Vanuatu needs more than anything else: A buyer’s market for positions on the government side.

During the political spasms that led to Edward Natapei’s ouster as Prime Minister and the eventual elevation of Sato Kilman, one frustrated minister was reported to have complained that the price of a single MP’s support in a confidence vote had reached unprecedented heights (5 million vatu, according to the report). But with a cohesive core of MPs, and the ability to play the smaller blocks and individual MPs against each other, a NUP/UMP/VP government would be better positioned to resist such extortionist tactics.

The question then, becomes one of whether the leaders can hold their own parties together, whether they can moderate their own desire for primacy and, uncharacteristically, whether they can play a longer game in order to buy time to engage properly in party-building.

It’s a tragic/comic circumstance that we find ourselves working so hard just to conceive of a government capable of lasting more than a few months. This necessary fixation with numbers completely ignores questions that are fundamental to good governance: How capable are the ministerial candidates? What policies (if any) do they propose? What common policy ground can be found among such a motley collection of perspectives and personalities?

But we can’t afford to let cynicism rule our thoughts. Not now. An increasing number of Ni Vanuatu have expressed the fear that we are rapidly approaching a divide. Either we descend, perhaps irreversibly, into a chaotic system in which each MP looks no further than his own stable of supporters and funders, or we begin the painful, patient process of party-building, of charting a course towards a more national vision.

USP professor Howard Van Trease has written extensively about Vanuatu’s political history. In one paper, he detailed the Vanua’aku Pati’s significant grassroots network in the early days of the Republic. Though they are but a remnant of what they once were, they do still possess a more or less national structure (albeit heavily weighted toward the South). They’ve also made it party policy that party President Natapei will step down after this term.

NUP still needs to develop a succession plan. One option available to them is to consider a reunion with VP. NUP president Ham Lini was reportedly a reluctant candidate this time around, and a return to his family’s political roots might be one way not only to smooth his transition to elder statesman status; it would go a long way to providing him with an enduring legacy as a force for unity and stability in Vanuatu.

Serge Vohor’s UMP have historically been on the other side of the political fence, but on examination, there’s not much in their party policies to distinguish them from the other two. And in fairness, they have proved themselves useful (if somewhat mercurial) coalition partners in the past.

Couple these factors with the rise of newer, more vision-based parties such as populist Ralph Regenvanu’s Graon mo Jastis pati – who have already publicly stated their willingness to work with VP – and we find ourselves with the broad-strokes picture of a government that could actually present a common vision for development for Vanuatu.

Realistically, there’s only a small chance that all this will come about, and perhaps even less that individual ‘small PMs’ will be able to restrain their short-term impulses, but simply put, it’s the best chance we’ve got.

Warring Stories

[Note: Tim Bray is conducting an interesting exercise in public debate over on Google+, testing its commenting capabilities to see how it fares in civil discourse on contentious political topics. His efforts are well worth following. I’m re-posting one of my comments below for posterity – as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s.]

There seems to be a nearly universal preference for narrative over fact in most (if not all) of the US debate over economic policy. People invest the issue with their own biases (a common propensity) then construct or defend the most closely aligned story.

In short, people have been led to believe that the whole situation:

a) makes sense;
b) can be simply expressed; and
c) has a straightforward solution, if only the rest of the world can be made to see it.

This explains not only the refusal even to grant that a debt policy must of necessity consider revenue generation AND reduced spending, but also the tendency to draw the Hayek/Keynes/Friedman debate as a zero-sum argument.

Government, at the best of times, is more a clusterfuck than anything else. It requires a level of opportunism and ideological/ethical/moral compromise that few of us can stomach. Tragically, it breeds people who can stomach it far too easily.

Human society requires narrative in order to make sense of this otherwise senseless situation. (We can’t all be Sartre or Clauswitz – and really, who wants to be?) But its desire for narrative has been cynically abused so consistently and for so long by propaganda that the possibility for civic (not to say civil) discourse has been reduced nearly to zero.

The increasingly (irretrievably?) fictional rhetoric driven by the various camps within the anarchic village that is Washington has made mutual understanding (and therefore compromise) impossible. We can, in other words, no longer talk usefully amongst ourselves.

Governance and Goodness

[This column was originally published in the Weekend edition of the Vanuatu Daily Post.]

Just yesterday, Minister Regenvanu was kind enough to respond to my column of last week, in which I expressed more than a little impatience at his silence over the March 4 attack on Marc Neil-Jones. He thanked me for my views and asked, “But who’s done more for good governance and transparency in Vanuatu: you or me?

It’s a fair question –more than fair, actually– one that bears serious consideration.

My first instinct was to reply, “Your colleague beat the crap out of my friend. I said something about it; you didn’t.” That has the benefit of the truth, and it’s a fairly good summation of how I felt at the time I was composing the column.

But it’s not at all satisfying, nor does it do anything to further the goals that I know Minister Regenvanu shares with me and with an ever-increasing number of voters.

More importantly, tit-for-tat point-scoring rhetoric only contributes to the decline of political dialogue, making enemies and sowing confusion in the very places where clarity and unity should be most easily achieved.

So let’s dig a little deeper and see what more we all could be doing to make things better.

First off, let me state that any man of principle who embarks on a career in politics is a better man than I. (Any woman of principle who does so is probably a better man than any of us.) From the very first step, compromises must be made. As I said in last week’s column, the calculus of power is byzantine and counter-factual.

If you’re looking for easy answers to anything, look elsewhere. If someone promises you easy answers, don’t trust them. They’re either naive or they’re deceiving you. To his credit, Minister Regenvanu made a point of not promising anything but the sweat of his own brow during his election campaign.

In my afternoon convos over kava, I’ve often said that politics is a muddy road, so throwing out a politician for having soiled his feet is silly and wrong. It’s the ones who roll around in the middle of it like pigs in a slough – these are the ones we should be objecting to.

It’s easy for someone like me, who won’t even qualify for citizenship for another two and a half years, to sit on the sidelines and imagine that I could outplay those on the field. So it’s healthy to consider from time to time what things look like from the ground, to understand the pressures and exigencies that impose themselves from minute to minute.

The price is a heavy one. It’s impossible, in politics at least, to have friends without having adversaries. If you don’t have any rivals, that’s because you don’t have any power yet. So every choice, every compromise comes laden with the knowledge that, even if you’ve pleased some people, you’ve upset a few others. Victories are measured in inches and the goal line is often miles away.

The question then –the impossible question– is this: When do you stand and when do you sidestep? Which are the battles that must be fought, and at what cost?

Conventional wisdom has it that, following MP Iauko’s assault on Daily Post publisher Marc Neil-Jones, PM Kilman was handcuffed by the fact that removing Iauko from his portfolio would effectively topple the government. So, like it or not, this marriage of inconvenience had to continue.

To make matters worse, the prospect of a successful prosecution was vanishingly small. There was nothing to indicate that the Public Prosecutor and the Police wouldn’t be just as ineffectual in this instance as they’d been on countless occasions in the past. Not only would a powerful man be given grounds for vengeance, he’d likely have the means and opportunity to exact it, too.

Better, then, to bide one’s time and wait for an opportunity further down the line. Iauko’s rather incendiary rise has not made him a lot of lasting friendships, and anyway, his countless pre-election promises would soon be coming home to roost. Why fight an overt battle, possibly at significant cost, to achieve something that Iauko seemed to be perfectly capable of doing to himself?

Viewed through the lens of political calculus, there’s some merit to this line of reasoning. One could even be so bold as to argue that the baroque architecture of parliamentary rules and precedents that govern behaviour in other nations using the Westminster form of government are neither appropriate nor desirable here in Vanuatu.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s consider what might happen if things played out differently.

What if PM Kilman had required his Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities to resign his portfolio, pending a police investigation? He’s shown he’s capable of moving inconvenient Ministers out of the way. At the same time as the Iauko scandal was unfolding, he manoeuvred the Labour party out of power. This in retaliation for having signed an Opposition confidence motion.

In that case, the immediate goal was to remain in power, to live another day in order to achieve the policy goals that comprise the very reasons for governing in the first place.
Let’s apply the same logic to the Iauko debacle.

On the one hand, sharing power with people who care nothing for policy and are willing to fight every minute of every day for a bigger piece of the pie, people who, more to the point, are willing to stop at nothing… well, you have to ask yourself: Are you making things better or worse? On the other hand, you can’t get into government without them, and they know it. More to the point, perhaps it’s better to have them using these tactics against others than against you.

As the author of the Godfather famously put it, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

The problem with this equation is that it allows the worst excesses to continue unchecked. In other words, there will never be a better calibre of MP in this country, because the others either drag them down or elbow them aside. You either learn how to scrap or you don’t play at all.

So how do we improve governance, then? The only way to maintain one’s integrity is to be able to exert enough power over the other players to force them to play nice. And there’s no way to gather that much power, because of the disunity and distrust that’s endemic in Vanuatu’s political landscape.

It would take a grand, unifying goal, something about which the entire population of Vanuatu could agree, to achieve –even momentarily– the kind of unity of purpose and energy that Fr. Walter Lini managed during the first days of the Republic.

What if taking a stand, even allowing a government to fall, were enough to galvanise such a movement? What if it could be made clear to voters that there are certain kinds of behaviour that simply cannot be tolerated, and that this behaviour is the cause of so many of Vanuatu’s afflictions?

That’s not an easy task. Many voters don’t think in terms of policy and long-term reward. Some are willing to choose self-gratification over nation-building every time. Given Vanuatu’s voting districts, you don’t need more than a few hundred of these to get yourself in the running. Pony up a bit of cash to run some stalking-horse candidates and you can split the vote small enough to get in with the support of a single village.

So the risk, then, is that you take a principled stand, try to galvanise the electorate into an unprecedented level of support, only to find yourself standing on the sidelines, come Election Day plus one.

Worse, you could actually succeed in garnering an unprecedented level of the vote, only to discover that you’d been equaled by, and forced to share power with, the very kind of candidate you were elected to turf out.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I’ll say this again, in all sincerity: A principled man who’s willing to walk that muddy road is a better man than I, because I would always take that principled stand, keep my conscience clear, and fail entirely as a politician.

That may sound back-handed to some. It’s not. Life is a complex and messy thing; there are no simple answers. And sometimes staying pure and principled means staying powerless.

For my part I’m willing to abdicate that power, because once in a while things need to be said at any cost.

It’s easy for me to say this, but I don’t say it lightly. I say it because others can’t:

If a Government Minister resorts to political violence and coercion and the government takes no action to remedy this, that government deserves to fall.

Forget Fear

[Originally published in the weekend edition of the Vanuatu Daily Post]

My name is Dan McGarry. I’ve been using the nom de plume of Graham Crumb since 1995, but today I have decided to draw aside the literary veil. I do so in solidarity with Marc Neil-Jones, publisher of the Daily Post, in order to make it clear that violence and threats have no power to silence the media.

In past columns I’ve dealt with fairly complex topics: technology, society, politics, culture and history. Today’s, however, is a simple one. It can be summed up in a single sentence:

Violence and intimidation only work when we let them.

For reasons that remain unfathomable to me, politics and power always seem to attract those who are most willing to take advantage of others. Vanuatu is no exception. Over the years, we’ve seen a long succession of Ministers and MPs who seem to value personal indulgence over everything else. We’ve seen thievery, deception, coercion and violence used so widely and so often that it’s hard to perceive what moral compass –if any– guides our political leadership.

So when a particularly unscrupulous character such as Harry Iauko arrives on the scene, it’s hard for our political leaders to know what to do. In fairness to the MP, he’s only slightly further beyond the pale than MPs Korman or Vohor, to name only a couple. As a group, it seems our leaders really have come to believe that the rule of law, respect and kastom are nothing more than useful tools, to be picked up and cast aside as convenience dictates.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: There won’t be any criminal prosecution for what Iauko did. There may yet be retribution, but it will be that special political kind that avoids doing any actual harm to anyone.

Iauko will not be punished for doing wrong; he’ll be pushed aside because he’s given his rivals an opening. In political terms, his fault is not that he’s broken the law; his mistake will have been that he overstepped and so exposed himself.

And that is why I find politics both fascinating and repugnant at the same time.

So, unlike some, I’m not going to demand action from this government. I’m simply going to do what journalists do: I’m going to bear witness.

It may be that MPs feel they have some special exemption from the law and kastom. But it is equally true that in a free society, everyone has the right to form –and to state– their own opinion. And the best way that we can do that is to remain informed, to encourage a public dialogue, to confront people with the facts.

Let the MPs think what they want; we retain the right to think what we like about them, and to say so publicly. And these days, it’s not going to be very flattering.

Violence and unlawful conduct don’t persist merely because our politicians do nothing to stop them. They persist because we allow them to. They persist because we’ve accepted the fact that the only time we ever hear police sirens is when some dignitary is being ushered around town. They persist because we allow politicians to separate themselves from us. Because we allow them to seduce us with paltry gifts and promises.

But most of all, it’s because we all –white and black alike– love to have access to the corridors of power.

No sooner are we given a glimpse of this separate, special world than we begin to fall prey to its allure. Witness how even principled members of government like the PM and Minister Regenvanu have suddenly, inexplicably, found themselves at a loss for words.

In the face of a torrent of international condemnation, the best PM Kilman was able to muster was a statement by his spokesman he would let the courts decide Iauko’s fate. No mention of the fact that in most parliamentary democracies, any minister under investigation immediately steps down – at least until the issue is resolved.

From Ralph Regenvanu? Not a peep. This from the man whose election slogan was ‘Inaf!’ Maybe he’ll amend it next time to ‘Klosap inaf. Wet smol.’

In a canny bit of manoeuvring, however, the PM pulled his Minister out of the fire just days later by shuffling him from Lands to Justice, thus enforcing his silence. No matter that this is his third portfolio in about as many months. No matter that actually governing is near-impossible while the Cabinet is playing musical chairs. No matter that, despite all these portfolio changes and all the problems he’s caused, Iauko remains at his post.

And what of the Opposition, whose job it is to challenge and question? Even Iauko’s VP arch-rivals Natapei and Molisa have yet to say a word.

Let’s forget the politicians, then. They’re obviously powerless to act, except according to the byzantine, counter-factual logic of power.

They don’t matter, anyway. They can bluster all they like, but as we’ve seen in recent months, they can’t dominate and control us all the time. Inevitably, the people win. Throughout North Africa and across the Arabian Peninsula, people have demonstrated that strong governments which rely on coercion to enforce their will can be rendered fragile as paper in the wind.

All it takes is for people to leave their fear behind them.

It’s almost comical to see how quickly bullies like Iauko can be deflated when people cease to fear them, or conversely, how police and other state officials can be rendered worse than useless when they allow their fear to cow them.

The staff at the Daily Post –and Marc Neil-Jones in particular– learned years ago that they were free to tell the truth once they left their fear behind. It’s a small act, and a fairly simple one, too. But its effects are immense.

I remember visiting the Daily Post offices a couple of days after Police Commissioner Joshua Bong had sent his thugs around to give Marc a thumping. In spite of the bashed-in nose, cracked ribs and bloody lip, Marc managed a quirky smile and a chuckle when I voiced my concern. “I’ve been deported, jailed and beaten up before,” he said. “This isn’t the worst I’ve seen.

I am getting a bit old for this, though,” he added wryly.

I would have thought our ministers of state had matured beyond these schoolyard bully tactics too, but apparently they’re not too old for tantrums.

We should all learn from Marc’s example: We have only to free ourselves from fear and the power of these bullies evaporates in an instant.

My name is Dan McGarry. If you don’t like what I’ve got to say, I’m okay with that. I’m not afraid.

ACTA Without an Audience

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

News has leaked out in dribs and drabs over the last several months about a US-led drive to negotiate an international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Conducted under a veil of secrecy, these negotiations have been the source of considerable speculation and not a little alarm among advocates of online freedom.

Part of the reason for the alarm is the utter lack of publicly verifiable information concerning the content of the treaty. When US organisations attempted to gain access to a copy of the draft, their government withheld them, citing national security, of all things.

Intellectual Property expert professor Michael Geist writes, “The United States has drafted the chapter under enormous secrecy, with selected groups granted access under strict non-disclosure agreements and other countries (including Canada) given physical, watermarked copies designed to guard against leaks.”

In spite of their best efforts, however, details of the online enforcement aspects of the treaty leaked out last week, following a negotiating round in Seoul, South Korea.

The details don’t look good.

Continue reading

Two Solitudes?

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

I grew up in a border town, in a border generation. One side of the river was majority French, the other English. My elders held tight to decidedly parochial views about their respective cultures. The English felt the ascendancy of their language (and subsequent control over business, government and education) was an inevitable and unavoidable result of their conquest of French Canada in 1760. The French, on the other hand, used their language as a cultural badge of courage, an undying assertion that they had never been conquered in spirit.

During the 1960s and 1970s an intense and occasionally violent cultural revival swept the French-speaking province of Quebec. Language became a weapon, leveraging access to public and private services.

Many of these reforms were necessary, long past due. Pierre Trudeau, the bi-cultural, bilingual Prime Minister at the time, had agitated for social justice in his youth. He was, nonetheless, a strong federalist, and opposed growing cries for Quebec’s secession from the Canadian confederation of provinces.

Vanuatu and Canada’s respective histories reveal more than a few parallels. Though different in detail, many common themes emerge. In Vanuatu, French and English camps were pitted against one another in the run-up to Independence, with the largely English Lini camp charging full-blown toward freedom and numerous, largely French-speaking, elements advocating a go-slowly (or not at all) approach.

Continue reading

Open Season

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

With the recent passage of a new telecommunications Act (awkwardly titled the TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND RADIOCOMMUNICATION REGULATION ACT), Vanuatu has taken another important step in ensuring continued success in building openness and fairness into the business of communications.

Parts of the Act, currently awaiting the President’s signature, validate and give force of law to terms and conditions already included in the licenses issued to our two incumbent telcos. It also provides an overall framework for continued growth, expansion and innovation. Most importantly, it makes permanent the office of the Telecommunications Regulator.

(Before I go on, I should make it clear that the text of the Bill was under discussion until shortly before it was voted on. The version I was able to view was not the official text. That will only become available once the Clerk of Parliament receives the signed Act from the President. That said, I’m pretty confident that those parts of the Act discussed here are unchanged.)

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this new legislation is the delegation of the right to issue telecoms licenses to the Regulator. Until the Act takes effect, this power is retained by the Minister.

John Crook, the Interim Telecommunications Regulator, has made it clear that he wants to see the process of obtaining what’s termed a Telecommunications Operator License to be as simple and direct as possible. All that should be required to start a new Internet Service Provider is to demonstrate that you have the right to operate such a business in Vanuatu, that you have the means to do so and that you’re willing to play by the rules.

Continue reading

Gift Economy – Ctd.

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

Last week’s column on the relationship between chiefs, politicians and public servants provoked a good deal of discussion at the nakamal over the course of the week. Nobody contested the idea that we need to stop treating core government services as gifts to be doled out to political supporters. But there was some divergence of opinion regarding what changes, if any, were required.

Perhaps most interesting of all, nobody questioned the involvement of cabinet ministers in ensuring service delivery. The question was not whether the Minister should get involved in service delivery, but how he should do so.

Students of government from overseas might find themselves squirming at the very thought of such a question. The strong separation of politics and administration is one of the basic principles of the Westminster tradition. Many – if not most – of the major scandals in Vanuatu politics since Independence have been the result of the politicisation of roles and responsibilities in public service delivery.

Continue reading

Gift Economy

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

The chief sat down, massaged his swollen hand in its cast and regaled me with the story of how he got the road cleaned up.

Numerous neighbourhoods in Port Vila are notorious for the condition of their roads. Some become impassably muddy, some become lakes when it rains, some are worn down to rocky tracks suitable only for goats. In a few cases, the road should never have been constructed where it was. In others, years of neglect have worn away what little engineering might have gone into them in the first place.

This chief was not the first – and will certainly not be the last – individual to wage a personal campaign to see conditions improved in his neighbourhood. His approach was typical, too. He worked his way through a network of brokers, often smoothing the conversation with kava, cigarettes and other blandishments, until he finally got the ear of the Minister. A brief, impassioned appeal to the big man, accompanied by a review of voter numbers and allegiance, was greeted in the end by the assurance that something would be done.

Sure enough, within a few days, the Minister is striding through the department offices, commandeering trucks, equipment and men to the site in question and ordering them to clean things up right quick.

The chief was rightly proud of what he’d achieved on behalf of his community. I must say I admire him, too, for his patience and commitment. Others would have given up or walked away long before.

The cast on his arm, you see, was the product of a confrontation between the chief and a drunken lout who, following a public chastisement, attacked him with a club, breaking his arm in two places. That might have been enough to make a smaller person turn his back on his community.

I fear I am a smaller person than he.

Continue reading

A Biddable Man

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

I met a clear-eyed and intelligent woman once. Her work was demanding and she took pride in doing it well. Her strength of will and ambition put her at odds with many more traditional types, so when she decided it was time to marry, she chose someone who wouldn’t attempt to clip her wings.

Her marriage amounted to the safest of bets.

The man she chose was nice enough, unfailingly smiling and courteous, but I found it difficult to respect him. He was one of those individuals who completely subordinated himself to others. Whatever his wife did was fine by him. I might have liked them both better if she hadn’t taken advantage of the situation and treated him like baggage.

Now, before we judge this woman too harshly, let’s recognise that this recipe is precisely the kind of match that many men in Vanuatu consider most desirable. If some consider a biddable wife to be a wise choice, why not accept that what’s good for the gander is good for the goose?

It makes us cringe because we know in our heart that it’s wrong. No matter who dominates, male or female, the inherent inequality of the relationship can’t be healthy.

Marriage – or any other relationship, for that matter – should be predicated on respect between equals. It should challenge us to be better. It should require us to be more than we already are. We derive strength and support from it, but we should be required to provide the same.

Many of the most capable and interesting men and women in Vanuatu have singularly benefited from their spouse’s sacrifice and support. Their advice and counsel may go unremarked by others, but it’s always there. Their consistency and moral guidance push their partner to greater heights than they might have achieved alone.

Notwithstanding the protestations of certain members of Vanuatu’s Electoral College, the role of the President is closer to this silent supporting role than that of any other leader.

Continue reading