THIS is a bitter-sweet moment for WW as this is his last column, as retirement beckons. The website will cease to be updated from today and, after 45 years in journalism, it is time for a new direction.
WW will work on his second book of crime non-fiction and at some stage take the plunge into the dizzy world of fiction. Yes, WW knows there are some journalists already operating in that domain. Travel is also back on the agenda and WW plans to build on the 83 countries already visited, starting with Alaska mid-year.
The past nine years have been very enjoyable ones, with The Independent weekly newspaper and more recently (since April 2016) the website, both of which have made WW very proud.
But the highlight in Vanuatu has been teaching journalism for eight years, with classes full of exiting young Ni Vanuatu talent. Francis Herman and his team at VBTC are on the right path and are the only media to follow from now. (This would not have anything to do with the fact that 11 young journalists at VBTC are former students of WW and She Who Must Be Obeyed.)
Vanuatu is a complex place in which to live, with massive highs and lows, like permanently being on a roller coaster. In many ways it has grown up since we arrived here in 2010, but in others it has just totally regressed. The worst of that is an anti-white/expat attitude that has grown among some politicians and, more noticeably, public servants. It is even now being reflected in some legislation and is something that could cause a serious divide. The main offenders seem to be civil servants with offshore degrees who have decided we expats are superfluous to requirements. They have the impression that we are trying to run everything and are only here for profit-based reasons. Sure, there will always be some expats that fit this description, but the majority of us respect the Ni Vanuatu and the fact that this is their country.
WW contends that Vanuatu faces two major obstacles to its future – climate change and China. One is virtually out of our control and the other can be controlled if our leaders are strong enough. Whatever, both will need to be closely monitored.
THIS is my last chance to gloat, so I will, and it is a classic ‘I told you so.’ Back in 2015 while the Convention Centre was being built, WW wrote that it would be an absolute white elephant and an eyesore and the government would not be able to maintain it; nor did it have any expertise in running such an enterprise. Now the PM has come out publicly and said the government has no money to maintain the eyesore and that it owes millions of vatu to UNELCO alone.
Mr Salwai went further and said the interior design was for a theatre crowd rather than a conference group and organisations preferred to book other venues for their conferences in Port Vila. So the government has handed it over a Chinese company that is expected to, presumably, maintain and run it. That is a classic Pontius Pilate approach. The Chinese company in question is now running a restaurant and take away business from the nation’s national convention centre (please note media philistines the correct spelling of centre). Maybe next we can try a lap lap stall in the foyer of the parliament building. The profits could go to helping maintain the government and fill its coffers.
WW can now tell a true story – that a previous PM asked him to help convince the Chinese Ambassador of the day that a convention centre was not needed or wanted in Port Vila. WW duly did as he was bid and an angry ambassador basically said his masters in China could not be expected to change plans every time the government changed in Vanuatu. At that time a government change was about every 12 months, so it was a fair point.
WW copped a fair bit of criticism over his stance, which wasn’t unusual as the truth often hurts. But the bimbos who supported the convention centre and who were as sharp as bowling balls, mostly disappeared over time. Now the same remaining muppets are supporting the demise of the eyesore – that is the classic stance of bandwagon jumpers.
The convention centre is clearly on a premium site that was once wonderful green space, used for festivals, Independence Day celebrations and the like, so tearing it down has to be a really strong option. But before that WW thinks it would be worthwhile involving a team of architects to see if the building could be adapted to some other use, such as government offices which are desperately needed. If not then ‘Jericho’ it and the Vila skyline will look like a Pacific city again.
THIS week 25 senior government people, from the PM down, went to Noumea to sign a MOU setting out the intention to sign a Cooperation Agreement which updates the Co-op Agreement dated March 3, 2017. WW believes that no one in their wildest imagination could justify such a large party for this event.
WW also notes there were also quite a few private sector people who were there trying to get exclusive arrangements with their New Caledonia suppliers/buyers because there will be a big opening of trade between the two jurisdictions, which will compete with and challenge existing exclusive supply agreements. And more power to them for creating employment and upskilling in this country.
THE following headline was in Thursday’s edition of The Express daily newspaper in London.
Cyclone Oma aerial photos: Eye of MONSTER vortex revealed in shock satellite images
Talk about over the top… and it wasn’t even a slow news day in the UK. But then you know what some dailies are like.
And finally, WW just wants to thank the thousands of readers who have enjoyed this column over the years. Also for all the news tips and gossip over the journey. Hopefully, if health allows, WW and SWMBO will remain a fixture at our beloved Havannah Harbour.
AND that’s (the final) Wilson’s Word