Well, it would appear that Australian lawyer and senior Australian Litigation Advisor to the Attorney-General of Vanuatu Ari Jenshel has been a very naughty boy! So naughty indeed, that he was expelled from Vanuatu by its government after it accused him of espionage.
Mr. Jenshel was made to leave after the Australian government was warned he faced imminent arrest over his activities as senior adviser in the office of the Attorney-General in Port Vila.
Mr. Jenshel has rejected the accusations, saying they are all politics and a smear campaign.
Among claims being investigated by the police in Vanuatu are that sensitive government documents have been copied and sent to the Australian government in Canberra.
Mr. Jenshel, who is a former Australian Defence Force lawyer seconded to Vanuatu five years ago as part of an AusAID program, says any adverse findings against him by the Vanuatu police will be based on fabrications.
Some of the documents allegedly copied relate to talks between leaders of Pacific countries, including Vanuatu, aimed at developing a closer working relationship with Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
Bainimarama seized power from an elected government in a 2006 bloodless coup. He has pledged to hold elections in 2014, when he says reforms to pave the way for democracy will be complete.
But international critics, particularly Australia, continue to push for an earlier poll and the hardline position is at odds with the views of Pacific leaders who acknowledge his “roadmap” for change and democracy.
The other documents Mr Jenshel is suspected of accessing, coping and sending to Canberra, are confidential Vanuatu government business and legal affairs, relating taxation policy.
Could these documents relate to Project Wickenby? Project Wickenby is a cooperative partnership between the ATO, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, with support from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Australian Government Solicitor and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Project Wickenby was established in 2006 with the express aim of protecting the integrity of Australia’s financial and regulatory systems by preventing people promoting or participating in the abusive use of secrecy havens.
Within the context of Australia’s ‘benign’ meddling with the internal affairs of our Pacific neighbours it is worth noting that the Prime Minister of Vanuatu narrowly survived a no confidence motion brought by the opposition on 20th May, 2011.
Prime Minister Sato Kilman received 26 votes to retain power.
The Prime Minister had been expected to win by 27 votes, but the speaker Maxime Carlot Korman suspended the Justice Minister Ralph Regenvanu from parliament, reportedly because of an email he had written criticising the speaker.
The Prime Minister won with the support of two MPs who recently crossed the floor, Willie Reuben Abel from the Vanuaku Party and Steven Kalsakau from the Union of Moderate Parties.
“The margin is very narrow and the opposition may continue to look for a niche to lodge another motion but to tell you the truth the people of this country are tired of listening and reading about motions of no confidence. They’re all tired and they want to move on.”
I wonder if the Australian Federal Police are interfering, yet again, in the affairs of one of our near neighbours. If so, this would make Fiji, PNG, Timor-Leste, The Solomon’s and now Vanuatu victims of Australian Federal Police political machinations.
One of the major problems with the Australian Federal Police meddling with the affairs of foreign states, apart from the obvious implications for the ‘rule of law’ in those states, is that, based on my personal experience and the experience of many of my friends and collegues, the Australian Federal Police are racist; racist to the point of refusing to take or action complaints made by black people against white people. How can Australia’s pacific neighbors justify allowing a racist foreign police service to operate within its sovereign boarders?
Whether or not the Australian Federal Police are involved in the Jenshel scandal, one thing is certain, Australia has once again put its neo-colonial interests above both the ‘rule of law’ and the interests of the sovereign and independent states of the Pacific.