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Vanuatu's Labour Commissioner says refusal of a work permit for a newspaper publisher is about localisation of employment positions.
The Daily Post's media director, Dan McGarry, has had his work permit renewal application turned down by the Labour Department.
A Canadian who has lived in Vanuatu for 16 years, McGarry claims the refusal was due to his paper's coverage of the government.
But the commissioner, Muriel Meltenoven, told Johnny Blades that the refusal was because it's time that McGarry was succeeded by a ni-Vanuatu.
Muriel Meltenoven: The decision to refuse his work permit is nothing to do with any instruction coming from the office of the Prime Minister, the office of the Minister of Internal Affairs. The decision was based on the fact that as the Commissioner of Labour, we want to promote the localisation of employment across Vanuatu. So having looked through Dan McGarry's file with us, he has been with Daily Post Limited since 2015. And in the application of his work permit, I saw the name his local counterpart by the name of Jane Joshua. So I personally think that it is it is about time that we need to localise that position and given that there are so many capable ni-Vanuatu people serving for that company for so many years, it's good and we encourage Daily Post Limited to promote those people into the position of managing director.
Johnny Blades: What's the rule? There has to be a successor designated?
Muriel Meltenoven: We have the amendment to the Work Permit Act which came into effect at the beginning of this year. And in the work permit act, it says that foreigners who are coming to work in Vanuatu, they need to train a local counterpart and in the application of the work permit to my office, I need to see a training plan, a succession plan for about four years. But I must acknowledge that in very technical positions such as maybe engineers, pilots or whatsoever we may name it, there is need to train more local counterparts in order to achieve those positions. Because it's provided in the form. The application form that Jane Joshua is the local counterpart that will work alongside Dan McGarry. But in his file, there's no training or succession plan provided to the Department of Labour to convince that training has been in place.
Johnny Blades: Daily Post obviously is a very important newspaper in Vanuatu. And it's got its own team. So isn't it up to them to work out when that (succession) happens? I mean, there's a problem, isn't there, when you interfere with media. This will disrupt the team, and would be unhelpful to the Daily Post's own process of eventually getting ni-Vanuatu in charge. I mean, you know, this is disrupting Daily Post's work.
Muriel Meltenoven: From my personal view, I think it's about time that we need to trust our local people, because as you can see in many Daily Post articles, it is written by local people. And so I think, I believe in our human resource I believe in our human resource, I believe in ni-Vanuatu people that are capable to take up this position. And again, I reiterate that there is nothing political in my decision. I just comply with what the law says. And there is a process of appealing should Dan McGarry or Daily Post not be happy with my decision. They have seven days to lodge their appeal to the appeal committee and the appeal committee will have 30 days to look into their appeal, and if my decision is wrong, they can uplift my decision and recommend my office to issue a work permit to Dan McGarry.
Johnny Blades: What about his family? He has a family who are ni-Vanuatu. Vanuatu is his home. This (the refusal) is going to cause trouble for that.
Muriel Meltenoven: I choose not to say anything on those. I'm just I'm just applying or I'm just doing my my job as the Commissioner of Labour. Anything personal to his life, that doesn't concern me.
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media