OVER A YEAR AGO, The Campaign for Justice (C4J) completed its investigation into the illegal logging in the Vatthe Conservation area in Santo for the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation (DEPC). Does the lack of onward action suggest that the some Government are making good money from the ongoing flouting of its laws? And have no intention to protect the environment of Vanuatu? Why else would the Government obfuscate, delay, and tarry? The integrity of the Department of Environmental Protection and Environment and the Prime Minster are brought into question.
Mindful of the Environmental Protection and Conservation Act [CAP 283], 2002, C4J has provided evidence and drafted legal opinion about the ongoing illegal activity in the conservation area.
The lack of follow up action from DEPC through the courts suggests it doesn’t have full capacity to implement its own Act, and is de facto encouraging deforestation and growing extinctions of plants and the 48 species of land and fresh water birds. Who will our future generation blame for the destruction we are passing over for them to inherit? Charlot Salwai….? Matai Seremaiah who was once the Minister of Agriculture who put up a ban that stop the cutting of Rosewood trees but then the ban was removed by his predecessor Hosea Nevu. Who will they blame?
Campaign for Justice will not stop until justice is served to the people of Santo to protect the beautiful environment that has been passed down from generation to generation.
The Vatthe Conservation Area covers an area of 2720 hectares and it is believed to contain the only extensive alluvial and limestone forest left in all of Vanuatu. There are 265 species of plants (trees, shrubs, palms and vines) with traditional uses have been identified in this area. Not only that, the conservation area is the home of 48 species of land and freshwater birds out of the total 78 species of land and freshwater birds recorded for Vanuatu by the Royal Forest and Bird Society of New Zealand on a survey done in 1993. Vatthe Conservation has significantly holding bird species of a richness and diversity unlikely to be exceeded elsewhere in Vanuatu.
The Mission of C4J is…”established as a watch dog to Confront and Expose the injustice that is happening here in the country…”
C4J is disappointed because the Instrument of Appointment of C4J Investigators was drafted and signed by the Director of the DEPC, Mrs. Donna Kalfatakmoli on the 12th day of August, 2018 giving it only 19 days to complete the investigation. The Case was completed on the 31st August, 2018 and submitted to the Director of the DEPC on the 4th day of September, 2018. After a year DEPC has not taken up the initiative to focus on the case. The State Law Office have considered and given their legal opinion on the case, advising that the case should be sent to the Public Prosecutor for prosecution. The case was unnecessarily withheld by the DEPC for unknown reasons.
The Public Prosecutor requested the legal opinion of the DEPC which both teams assisted each other in drafting.
From March to September, 2019, for unknown reasons, the case has been unnecessarily sitting in that office without any further action. This delay in bringing the case before the courts in reasonable time has resulted in further and on-going illegal activities inside the Conservation area. People put their trust on the Government. What is the purpose of that trust when the people in the higher office don’t take it a priority to solve issues affecting them?.