VANUATU'S Ombudsman Pasa Tosusu has recommended the termination of members of the Citizenship Commission.He found that they breached the Citizenship Act when they granted a citizenship certificate to Latvian expat Juris Gulbis, who has only resided in Vanuatu for less than a year.
“Of such, are the members of the Citizenship Commission who miserably failed and breached the supreme law of this country to grant naturalised citizenship to Mr Gulbis who was not even eligible to apply for one, “ said Mr Tosusu.
In his report, Mr Tosusu advised that the Citizenship Act (CAP 112) does not recognise adult adoption 'yet Mr Gulbis'application was granted based on documents indicating that he was adopted by the Nagriamel Movement in Vanuatu and was given the name Juris Gulbis Saken, and that another grounds for such approval include his occupation as a lawyer, and an investor.”
However, a source close to the paramount chief of Fanafo, chief Tari Buluk of the Nagriamel Movement said that they know nothing about Juris Gulbis's adoption by the movment. The source said this is wrong and untrue.
According to Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu; a national of a foreign state may apply to be naturalised citizen of Vanuatu if he has lived continuously in Vanuatu for at least ten years immediately before the date of the application.
Mr Gulbis became a Vanuatu resident in December 2009 and then he was granted naturalised citizenship on November 5, 2010..
The Ombudsman has recommended that the Citizenship Act be amended if not repealed and replaced.
He said any amendement should include penalising individual members of the Commission who makes decisions outside established laws of Vanuatu.
Adult adoption should not be recognised as a ground for which naturalised citizenship will be granted because it is open to being abused, he said.
In addition, his rteport said that legal advice must always be sought from the State Law Office before a final decision is made on a certain applicant's file as clearly seen in this case where no advice was sought and the Commission's decision breached the Constitution and the Citizenship Act.
Mr Tosusu recommended that the Prime Minister terminates the current members of the Citizenship Commission and appoint new members as their unlawful decision to grant Mr Gulbis citizenship already indicated the level of corruption in that institution.
In his recommendations, the Ombudsman asked that the Citizenship Act (CAP 112) be reviewed - especially Section 12.
He said currently there are loopholes that make certain individuals by-pass the 10 year requirement under the Constitution and the Citizenship Act as clearly shown in this report.
Any such amendements should include penalising individual members of the Commission who make decisions outside of established laws of Vanuatu; that the Review should see the repeal of sectons 19 and 20 of the Citizenship Act.
Mr Tosusu said allowing the Prime Minister and the President to respectively issue a Certificate of Citizenship status and conferring an honorary citizenship leaves room for abuse and corruption.
He said a repeal would ensure that all appplications are processed through the Citizenship Commission instead of having some applications being processed by a Prime Minister and/or President of Vanuatu.
He said in the short term , if an honorary citizenship is being considered, the Prime Mnister or President should liaise or consult the Citizenship Commission for appropraite scrutiny and analysis of the proposed applicants' information and documents against the set criteria.
Mr Tosusu said honorary citizenship should contain proper conditions as to privileges or exemptions, not just a citizenship status.
He said and that the Prime Minister and the Citizenship Commission should urgently to increase application fees for naturalised citizenship from VT 16,000 to VT 500,000.
The Independent found in its investigation that the post of the secretary general of the Citizenship Commission which is a public servant responsibility, often creates an obstacle to the chairman of the Commission who is usually appointed by the Prime Minister.
The Independent also found that on many occasions, decisions made by the Citizenship Commission chairman are final and cannot be challenged by other members of the commission.
And the investigation uncovered that many times, decisions granting a citizenship were made outside the office of the commission.
The Independent has tried several times to contact Chairman Joemelson Joseph but could not be reached.
The Independent understands that recommendations to amend the Citizenship Act has been made by the outgoing secretary general of the Citizenship Commission Eloi Leye and submitted to the President of the Republic Iolu Abbil for a review.
In a talkback show program this week through the Capital FM 107, most callers have expressed their grave concerns over the unlawful actions taken by the current Citizenship Commission under the chairmanship of Joemelson Joseph Arnahambat.
They called on the government and the Prime Minister following the Ombudsman's report, to amend or to repeal the current Citizenship Act. They also called for the termination of current members of the commission and for an auditor and or a Commission of Enquiry to investigate the Citizenship Commission.
In 19 May 1999, the then Ombudsman, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux Patterson, the current president of Transparency International (TI) had released a public report which stated that the Citizenship Act was 'illegal and unconstitutional discrimatory'.
After 12 years, nothing yet has been done over the Act.
The then ombudsman found that the Citizenship Act and the corresponding practices used for granting citizenship were defective, illegal and unconstitutional; they discriminate on the basis of sex by providing unequal entilements to women and men.
They therefore also violate fundamental rights set out in Article five of the national Constitution and in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimnation Against Women (Ratification) Act. (CEDAW).
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