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Vanuatu Member of Parliament for TAFEA Outer Islands, Tomker Netvunei, has criticised Foreign Affairs officials for their handling of an operation that could see Aneityum island losing out on new classrooms and renovation to its dispensary.
MP Netvunei has called for the issue of Matthew and Hunter not to be used as a bargaining tool in such circumstances where it involves assistance to a secondary school whose infrastructure development has been ignored by successive governments since its establishment.
French Navy vessel, (B2M) D'Entrecasteaux was not allowed to anchor at Aneityum this week by Foreign Affairs with building materials that would be used to build and renovate a whole permanent classroom complex for Teruja Secondary School and the clinic on Aneityum.
The project was worth around Vt130 million (US$1.1 million).
Students and Teachers of Teruja Bilingual Secondary School had prepared for the project and are currently using tents and make-shift shelters on the lawn to use as classrooms after relocating to make way for the huge renovation under Operation Castor.
Operation Castor, which began in 2002, is an operation that involves the French Armed Forces based in New Caledonia, members of the United States Marine and Vanuatu Mobile Force Engineering Platoon.
Last year the same operation renovated a classroom on Vao island on Malekula.
(B2M) D'Entrecasteaux was in Vanuatu in January this year where both the Vanuatu Prime Minister and President boarded the vessel.
French Embassy's Chargée d'Affaires, Elisabeth Rosa-Laloy told Daily Post under diplomatic process a note must be received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow the vessel to enter Vanuatu and carry out the project.
Rosa-Laloy said a request was submitted to Vanuatu's Foreign Affairs Ministry on May 7, 2019.
The response from the Vanuatu Foreign Affairs was received on 05 June and it was a negative due to issues that were on the table and are yet to be resolved.
The project had a duration of one month beginning on 08 June until July when the completed buildings would be handed over.
Meanwhile, MP Netvunei says the secondary school currently has buildings that were built entirely by the community of Aneityum and some assistance from himself but very little input from the national government.
“Today the children of TAFEA Province and other provinces are studying under leaked roofs as the government has not built a permanent building there.
“Government after government promised to renovate the school but up to today nothing has been done.
“To say that the navy ship will come and we will never get back Matthew and Hunter, i don't think that should have a bearing on this school's development.
“As the MP of the people and with the chiefs' backing, we say the priority of any government and any community is education for the children.
“I am disappointed because the students have moved out of the school to a temporary location to await the arrival of the vessel but it never arrived.
“I think it would have been proper for officials of Foreign Affairs to have consulted the community or the committee and chairman of the school in advance.
“Today it is a sad day for the community of Aneityum to see that the government has not recognised their need.
“As MP for TAFEA Outer Islands, i am not happy about what the officials did and i don't know what their intention was but i don't think Matthew and Hunter should be an issue in the renovation of a school,"” Netvunei said.
Daily Post had contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and questioned whether the refusal of entry was over Matthew and Hunter but no response was received before going to press.
However, the Director of Education Services at the Ministry of Education and Training, Samuel Katipa said the ministry was well aware of the maintenance of Teruja Junior Secondary School which comes under that French Project and were looking forward to the completion of the project in July 2019.
The Ministry of Education and Training was not aware of the incident where the French Navy ship carrying the building materials was sent away and it will do its best to deal with the situation in the coming days and ensure an understanding is reached between all parties involved.
The French Embassy says it had advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the French Navy ship had other missions around the Pacific under similar projects and this was the time allocated for the project on Aneityum.
When Daily Post Interviewed Charge d'Affairs of the French Embassy, Rosa-Laloy, she said the project was not going ahead.
She expressed disappointment because the project was for the children on Aneityum.
In the middle of the interview she received a phone call and asked Daily Post to leave the room.
She later informed the newspaper the call came from Foreign Affairs confirming that negotiations have re-opened for the project to proceed but the date is not clear yet.
SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST/PACNEWS
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