17 Mar 2010

VMF actions could spark Vanuatu crisis, warns academic

2:44 pm on 17 March 2010

An academic who's been closely involved in constitutional and electoral matters in the Pacific says Vanuatu could face a major crisis if an investigation into the paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile force is not tackled properly.

Dr Andrew Ladley's comments come after the Vanuatu Coroner, Justice Nevin Dawson, was scathing in his criticism of the VMF in a report into the death of a man in custody.

Justice Dawson said the VMF had an unacceptable culture of violence, regarded itself above the law, frequently resorted to intimidation of opponents, and he said the Government needed to rein the police agency in.

Dr Ladley, who's an adjunct professor at Wellington's Victoria University, says without a properly run investigation, the VMF belief it can act with no account will only get worse.

He says politicians contemplating taking action will be well aware of the VMF's ability to intimidate.

"I would imagine, including from reading this report, that it's perfectly plain that that kind of pre-emptive intimidation will be very high on the minds of the people most likely to be called to account. Which is why the situation is so dangerous. This is potentially a very big crisis looming for Vanuatu, if it isn't tackled properly."

Andrew Ladley of Wellington's Victoria University