Sunday June 16, 2013 - 11:53 pm | Login

Kalpokas and Vurobaravu eyed to head mission in Fiji

The government is eyeing former Prime Minister and diplomat, Donald Kalpokas, and former head of the United Nations Economic and Social Cooperation for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Nikenike Vurobaravu for the diplomatic position of Vanuatu High Commissioner to Fiji.

Government is expected to finalize the appointment next month.

Fiji as one of our closest neighbor with only over an hour flight away from Port Vila has been without a High Commissioner since the country opened an office here in 2011. It comes as a surprise that with the majority of Vanuatu students studying here in Fiji – which has now become an important trading partner for Vanuatu under the Melanesian Spearhead Group – that the government cannot commit enough resources to run the Chancery as a full High Commission with the services that are expected of such a high office.

The fact that there is a trade imbalance between Fiji and Vanuatu is that Fiji has diplomatic representatives with their government’s full mandate to negotiate and open up new trade and services opportunities with Vanuatu. Vanuatu on the other hand does not have a full office presence to be able to aggressively negotiate and find markets for Vanuatu products here in Fiji.

Fijian export producers and distributors can do a lot to help indigenous business and provide competition on retail goods but without a trade coordinator based at the office here in Suva, only Asian supermarkets and retail and wholesalers in Port Vila are tapping the market here in Fiji. When they import goods, they inflate and fix prices so that the consumer ends up paying much more than the food item is really worth.

There is a need through the ni-Vanuatu Business sector of the department of Trades to organize cooperatives that can import Fiji made products so that the retail price the consumer pays is a true value of the products.

These are some of the issues, Vanuatu’s first High Commissioner to Fiji must be able to address.

Both candidates are Vanua’aku Pati nominees with years of experience serving Vanuatu locally as civil servants, politicians, government leaders and diplomatically in the regional and international arena.

Nikenike Vurobaravu has a long and decorated record diplomatically, serving as Vanuatu’s first roving ambassador during the nation’s formative years under Prime Minister Fr. Walter Lini. He also headed the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) until he was called by his country to coordinate the Comprehensive Reform Program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He is qualified with tons of experience that can help boost trade with Fiji and be able to exploit the centrality of Fiji in terms of air traffic links to increase and open new potential markets in Asia. He was also one of the technical people behind the birth of the concept to establish a Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Donald Kalpokas is also qualified as one of the longest serving leaders in Vanuatu. He was recently retired from his diplomatic post at the United Nation in New York and has served on many occasions as a government minister, a deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister on several occasions. He is a founding member of the independence movement and a faithful servant of the nation. However, he has reached retirement age and this could be a factor in the final selection.

However, the premature termination of his contract as Vanuatu’s ambassador to the United Nations by former Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Carlot may also play in his favor. The government must pay the remainder of his contract. But with the current shortage of liquidity in the government treasury, it may be wise to negotiate an agreement where he serves the remainder of his contract here in Fiji.
The diplomatic office is currently manned by a second Charge D’Affaire Richard Olul after Wilson Kanam was recalled after his one year contract expired last year.

Vanuatu established diplomatic relations with Fiji in 1980.