THE number of registered firearms in Vanuatu is less than 6,000.
Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Maoh revealed this, during Parliament debate on the principle of the Bill for the Firearms (Amendment) Act no. of 2017 this week.
The Bill amends the Firearms Act [CAP 198] primarily to give effect to Vanuatu’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan to meet FATF recommendations.
“This is a very short but very important amendment,” said minister Maoh.”
“It comes as the conclusions of the bills debated since last week. When we talk about penalties, we will refer to the Penal Code (Amendment), which was tabled by the Minister of Justice on Monday.
Amendments have been made to the definition of ‘firearms’ and ‘ammunitions’.
New definitions for the terms ‘components’ and ‘ammunition’ have been inserted into the Firearms Act.
In addition, the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill of 2017 further creates the offence of illicit firearms trafficking, which relies on these new definitions.
MP for Ambrym, Albert William supported the bill, however he asked the minister to give an update on around Vt129 million (US$1.1 million) outstanding, in relation to firearms issues.
“What has the Ministry of Internal Affairs done to date and what are the measures in place to control the licensing of firearms?” he asked.
In response, Minister Maoh admitted that there are many unregistered firearms.
“It is true. There are many unregistered firearms,” he said.
“The Central Firearms Registry is responsible for the collection and registration of firearms.”
Equipped with the record, he mentioned that many of his colleague MPs need to go and register their firearms as well, for accurate records and revenue purposes, before he enlightened parliament on the following registered firearms, in the six provinces:
- Torba Province — 134
- Sanma Province — 1,054
- Penama Provnce — 966
- Malampa Province — 1,271
- Shefa Province — 1,979
- Tafea Province- 479
This brings the total registered firearms to over 5,880.
This is an increase of less than 2,000 because in October 2015, the Assistant Revenue Manager of the Department of Finance informed Daily Post that after the (incomplete) firearms census in 2012, there were around 4,000 registered firearms in the country.
Minister Maoh told Parliament that the figures he presented may be incorrect but these are the figures on record.
“These are the figures, according to the Central Firearms Registry,” he said.
“I appeal to all MPs, to ensure our community is safe at all times. We must lead the way and register our firearms before our people can follow the example to register theirs.
“It will then reflect in our revenue collection.”
Minister Maoh further confirmed that there are only four firearms dealers in Vanuatu-three in Port Vila and one in Luganville.
“If there are other dealers which I am not aware of, please report it so we can scrutinize those responsible for distribution,” he said.
On the issue of a firearms census, the minister said a group undertook the issue of registration in the past but it was incomplete.
“Torba missed out and registration in Sanma, Malampa, Shefa, and Tafea was incomplete,” he said.
“I will work to ensure we have accurate figures in the Firearms Registry. Related issues with our workers at the RSE and SWP have been addressed and police have confiscated all ammunition, which came into the country via joint efforts with the Police, Customs and Immigration.”
Minister Maoh has called for collaboration from his colleague MPs in the 11th Legislature.
“I call on all MPs to work with the Vanuatu Police Force to complete the Firearms census and Firearms registration because it has become a threat to our country,” he said.
“I urge all members to take up this responsibility, collectively to protect our people.”
Torba MP Christophe Emelee, who also spoke in support of the Bill, previously questioned the minister on the possibility of introducing amnesty on political arms.
The motion for the Bill for the Firearms (Amendment) Act no. of 2017 to be carried the second time and to pass in parliament was carried unanimously.
In 2012, a mass firearm census was funded by the Australian Police under its partnership with the Vanuatu Police.
But it was short-lived, after the deportation of the AFP officers, by the Vanuatu Government.