Vanuatu airport crisis: Daily Post hits back on safety

Bauerfield runway at Port Vila ... repairs contract awarded. Image: Dan McGarry/VDP

Vanuatu Daily Post editorial today in response to the Vanuatu government attack over the newspaper exposing Port Vila’s international airport safety issue.


By Dan McGarry

The [Vanuatu] Prime Minister’s Office has wrongly accused the Daily Post of calling Sato Kilman’s name into disrepute, and of partisan bias. These allegations cannot go unanswered.

Editorial: 30 January 2016
Editorial: 30 January 2016

We thank Prime Minister Sato Kilman and his team for their contribution to this nationally important dialogue. We regret that it took the publication of our editorial to get a response, but any kind of talk—no matter how heated—is preferable to the silence that preceded it.

The PM’s response adds useful context to the conversation. We spent over a thousand words detailing the most recent chapter in what he rightly notes is a series of failures that has spanned a decade.

But the PM helped to pull the timeline further back, and to show how even the World Bank plan—which we described as having “warts”—was flawed in important ways. This is useful context, and we are better off for it.

But the accusation that we have somehow politicised the issue is simply false. The entire piece is an argument against politicising this topic.

Yes, Mr Kilman’s government is hardly the only one guilty of playing political football with the lives of our travellers. We agree on that point. The key point in the editorial was:

Three different governments, three different plans. That’s no way to run a country.”

Back to 2008
We can extend the blame all the way back to 2008, when a runway resurfacing plan should have been started.

Publisher Marc Neil-Jones and media director Dan McGarry ... "the Daily Post has never sided and will never side with any political party to try and get them into government". Image: Del Abcede/PMC
Publisher Marc Neil-Jones and media director Dan McGarry … “the Daily Post has never sided and will never side with any political party to try and get them into government”. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Daily Post publisher Marc Neil-Jones asks, “why didn’t Mr Kilman demand that something be done during his term as Prime Minister when it was well known that the situation was getting critical? At the end of the day, the decision to stop flights landing at Bauerfield has come directly under Mr Kilman’s watch as Prime Minister.

“In politics someone else is always at fault and we accept that in the case of Bauerfield runway, there have clearly been errors made by successive governments that have culminated in the current situation which will be catastrophic for the economy in Vanuatu.

“We hope that the arguments over who is responsible do not detract from the real questions demanding urgent answers. When is the runway going to be fixed? When will Air New Zealand and Virgin flights resume? When will Qantas resume its code share?”

The World Bank confirmed [on Friday] it had just received a letter from the government of Vanuatu, asking them to continue their work on this critical task. The government has clearly come to the same conclusion that we advocated in the first place:

“Why the World Bank plan? Because it’s the one we have. It’s got warts, sure, but it’s the one plan that has the shortest time to completion, and the only one that’s survived a proper and public due diligence. This isn’t about partisanship; it’s about pragmatism.”

Bias accusation rejected
Finally, concerning the accusation that the Daily Post is guilty of political bias: We reject that accusation.

Marc Neil-Jones: “We can assure you that Daily Post has never sided and will never side with any political party to try and get them into government.

“We know that it is a sensitive time after elections but do not accept the comment that ‘Daily Post is using a very serious issue to clearly attempt to bring disrepute to the current caretaker Prime Minister’. We would simply say that the 14 MPs, including ministers in this government, who were jailed on bribery and corruption charges, have already brought your government into disrepute well before news of the cancellation of flights to Bauerfield.”

That said, my door is always open. Email me at Call me at 55 44 602. Drop by our office.

Note: Some have said that the Daily Post has traditionally leaned away from the Moderate and toward the Nationalist political agenda. I suspect that this perception is the colonial legacy of French and English rivalry rearing its ugly head. I can only respond that, having grown up in Québec, I sympathise deeply. I firmly believe we should cast off this last vestige of colonialism and quit fighting Europe’s cultural wars.

Venez me voir. Je vous écouterai, et j’espère qu’on s’entendra.

Caretaker PM slams Vanuatu Daily Post

Full Office of PM letter

‘The price of politics’ editorial

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