SPIES IN THE PACIFIC
March 2003 - 52 mins
REPORTER: Mark Davis
It's party time in Vanuatu. The Melanesian Arts and Musical Festival is coming to an end. But, behind the celebrations, it's been a trying month for this country and particularly for its leader. Prime Minister Edward Natapei. Natapei is facing a virtual police rebellion. Three weeks before, the police arrested his Attorney-General and 14 other officials over what they saw as a conspiracy of foreigners to control government appointments and policies here. The courts released all 15, but now it's rumoured that the police are planning more arrests, including Natapei himself when the music festival finishes in a few days time. To make matters worse, an indigenous nationalist movement is growing in influence by the day. A movement which portrays Natapei as being under the spell of tax haven investors and Australian intelligence. They're the executive of the National Right Wing Movement or Freedom Fighters. They're more left wing than right, but they like the panache of their chosen name. Many of them are veterans of the 1970s independence struggle and they believe their hour is coming again to fight new foreign forces, Australia in particular.
JEFF JOEL, FREEDOM FIGHTER (Translation): We must ask Australia to take back all of their Federal Police and advisers. They must go back.
To these men, Vanuatu is under threat by an invasion of Australian intelligence. Defence Force personnel stationed here as advisers to the Vanuatu army and Australian Federal Police supposed liaising on international criminal matters. They suspect that the real task of the Australians is to undermine the sovereignty of the Vanuatu government and the independence of its police force.
JEFF JOEL, FREEDOM FIGHTER (Translation): All these rubbish ones must go back, especially Australia. We ask the Australian embassy, please take back your police advisers, the AFP, your advisers that are misleading us. Take them out safely. We won't want to touch them. We want them to go home.
EDWARD NATAPEI, PRIME MINISTER: It's very important that they have the right information before they can make any move. I feel that most of the moves that they've taken up until now have been based on rumours and information that were not entirely correct.
It's tempting to dismiss the opinions of this group as an expression of nationalist paranoia. But, in just a few weeks, through the events documented in this film, their views will move from the fringe of politics to the very centre. In this recent interview, Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Serge Vohor makes an astounding claim. His views apparently transformed through recent dramas in this country.
SERGE VOHOR, FOREIGN MINISTER: We have to make a decision to safeguard our sovereignty and to safeguard our political stability and to safeguard our economy and we need to take some actions. It's not helping our government to have these Australian Federal Police spies in our country.
REPORTER: Spies. Well, the reason they say they're there is for, as you say, to monitor international drug traffic or money laundering. Have they gone beyond what that agreement is? Have they stepped beyond their policing role?
SERGE VOHOR: Oh, yeah, miles. They went on miles away from the real issue.
It's late August and Jeff Joel, the group's spokesman, reiterates an earlier public demand that the AFP leave Vanuatu, a deadline which will end when the music festival finishes.
JEFF JOEL (Translation): And now the celebrations are finishing, I say this to you - people in town are now ready to march with you to the Prime Minister's office to tell them and the Ministry of Foreign affairs, "They must go."
If today's ceremony is anything to go by, Edward Natapei is no Australian lackey.
EDWARD NATAPEI, PRIME MINISTER:Vanuatu is ready to take up the cause of the people of West Papua. It's a reconciliation with the West Papuans, a kind of apology for ignoring or obstructing their cause in the past.
Both Natapei and his deputy and Foreign Minister Serge Vohor would know that announcing support for the separatists in West Papua will hardly win them any friends in Canberra. Nevertheless, this government has had a good relationship with Australia and there's been no signs of any outward tension to date. Serge Vohor is given the honour of formalising today's proceedings.
SERGE VOHOR (Translation): This pig here we will kill and its blood will run to wash away the heavy things that have been in your hearts and in ours.
There'll be a lot more bad blood to be washed away before the week is out. (SERGE VOHOR BEATS PIG)
Tuesday morning and the army has taken over the main street of Port Vila. Fully armed and in battle gear, the Vanuatu Mobile Force, the VMF, have surrounded the police station and are trying to arrest 27 senior police officers. There's a stunned silence on the street as civilians start pouring in around the army.
REPORTER: So what's going on?
MAN: It involves many issues, but the basic one is that the Police Commissioner.
SOLDIER: Can you just take out your camera for me.
REPORTER: Where do I go?
SOLDIER:You're not allowed to take your camera. It's not your problem.
REPORTER: I'll go wherever you want me to go.
SOLDIER: You just fuck off from here.
MAN: This is Natapei's work.
REPORTER: These guys wouldn't act on their own?
MAN: No, they would not act outside the law. I don't think so.
Jeff Joel has heard that Australian defence advisers had been seen with the VMF the previous day as they were preparing themselves for this attack. He tries to gather information about who was behind this assault.
JEFF JOEL (Translation): Don't film.
REPORTER : He says don't film. OK.
The police have weapons of their own and are refusing to come out. There's little doubt that a single spark on this crowded street would create a blood bath.
REPORTER: You could have ended up with a gunbattle on the streets of Port Vila. Why was it necessary to arrest the police leadership?
EDWARD NATAPEI: Well, I think it's important that, at the end of the day, government is seen to be on top of and in control of things and that the force is totally loyal to the government of the day.
As the crowd grows and the police dig in, the army retreat.
ERIC PAKOA, POLICE COMMANDER (Translation) I'm disappointed to see guns in the street, in public, in broad daylight.
Eric Pakoa, the police commander of this region. Eric Pakoa, was one of those who led the arrests against the Attorney-General and others, an act for which he is totally unrepentant.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): I will stay here. If they want to shoot me dead, they can shoot me dead on the place where I have served the people of Vanuatu for the last 22 years.
But, for the Prime Minister, the service that Pakoa is providing is dangerously on the verge of subverting a democratically elected government.
EDWARD NATAPEI: There was information going round that there were going to be a further 35 members to be arrested from either leaders of the government or civil society, so it was important that we took that action before those things took place and caused further deterioration to law and order in the country.
Exactly who the police were planning on arresting and who encouraged the army to step in become the key questions as the week unfolds. Jeff Joel has little doubt who the prime suspects are and, ever vigilant, he sees one of them on the street outside. An AFP officer observing events from the outskirts of the police station.
AFP OFFICER: No comment.
REPORTER: We're from SBS TV. I mean, some of the people here are accusing Australia of being overly involved in police activities and army activities here. Do you have any comment on that? Sir? Do you have any comment?
AFP OFFICER: The Australian High Commissioner represents the Australian Government here. Speak to him.
REPORTER: And you represent the AFP. But the problem seems to be, the complaint seems to be about the AFP, not necessarily the High Comm? People are accusing AFP of using intelligence to favour one side or the other in a very tense standoff.
AFP OFFICER: No comment.
The Australian High Commission had a similar response. No comment on or off camera.
JEFF JOEL: He planned it.
REPORTER: He planned it?
JEFF JOEL: He planned it.
REPORTER: Planned what?
JEFF JOEL: He planned this issue.
REPORTER: The VMF coming here?
JEFF JOEL: Yeah.
JEFF JOEL: He's advancing it.
The suspicion here is that Australian Federal Police have been involving themselves in local politics, leaking inside information about the police they work with and that they and the Australian defence advisers suggested and helped prepare the plan of attack against the police.
ERIC PAKOA: OK, cooks, go and make the food. We'll eat here. We'll stay here until we've straightened out this business. I'll talk with our chiefs and see if they can make some approach to straighten out this business in our fashion. So stay around, don't do anything until I come back.
Outside, the traditional chiefs of Vanuatu begin to gather to deal with the crisis. And with them is Jeff Joel.
REPORTER: What's happening?
JEFF JOEL: We walk to the Nakamal to see the chiefs.
REPORTER: This is the chiefs?
JEFF JOEL: Yeah, to discuss with the chief representative of the council of chiefs. Then we'll discuss with the government.
REPORTER: All right. Can I come up with you?
JEFF JOEL: Yes, sure, please.
REPORTER: Thank you.
The chiefs head up the hill to their traditional meeting house, the chiefs' Nakamal. There's a constitutional crisis unfolding and a gunbattle looming, but a solution must wait for a while at least. A cruise ship has just arrived in town and it's on the itinerary that they'll receive a chiefly greeting.
CHIEF TALKING TO TOURISTS: The President of the National Council of Chiefs of Vanuatu. The chiefs are separate from the government, so we are like the watchdog. And that is why peace remains in Vanuatu.
The chiefs take their role as peacemakers and enforcers very seriously. It's the primary source of the high respect that they're given here.
CHIEF (Translation): It is a big worry for us. When there is trouble in another country, our soldiers go wearing the image of a chief as their emblem. They bring peace. They don't bring guns.
They can demand that all feuding parties come to sit before them and all Ni-Vanuatu - police, soldiers, even prime ministers - would take that demand very seriously.
CHIEF (Translation): This country belongs to the chiefs, not to them.
It's a sign of the growing power of the Right Wing Movement that Jeff Joel is playing such a prominent role in chiefs' business. It will give him and his group considerable influence in events this week and beyond.
At the police station, Eric and his force are settling in for the long haul. Seven officers who were at home this morning were arrested there. The others fear a similar fate if they leave and that the army would then move in to take over the station. To Eric Pakoa, the Prime Minister would then achieve his objective - finishing off Eric's ongoing conspiracy investigation.
REPORTER: So you're saying you want to go ahead with the investigation?
ERIC PAKOA: No, it's not a rebellion. It's not a rebellion. He is trying to disturb the legal process of this conspiracy case that is going before the court.
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, go ahead.
REPORTER: What does that mean? That means further arrests as far as you're concerned?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, further arrests and prosecution.
REPORTER: Who do you believe should be arrested and prosecuted?
ERIC PAKOA: There are anumber of people, some inside and some outside the government.
To the Prime Minister, the police action was sparked by thwarted ambitions within the service over the government's attempt to appoint an outsider into the position of Police Commissioner. But the issues that Eric constantly hints at seem bigger than that.
ERIC PAKOA: They are mixed, mixed of groups. Some foreigners and some local people, some inside politics and some crooks.
As the Pacific's prime tax haven, Vanuatu has attracted a colourful cast of characters. Although Eric will not name who he calls the conspirators, it is the talk of Port Vila and the Right Wing Movemment that there are big fish who pay for and promote parties that will maintain the tax and banking status quo, against intense international pressure to close them down. The Prime Minister concedes that business donations are made in Vanuatu, but that there's nothing untoward in that.
EDWARD NATAPEI: There is some truth in this matter that, you know, there are some business houses in Vanuatu who generally supported political parties in the hope that they will be able to provide the stability that is needed in the country. I do not see them as supporting political parties to get their own agenda.
To the Right Wing Movemment, both the Australian Federal Police and a group of foreign businessmen should be arrested and thrown out of the country for manipulating politics and policies here. It's strongly rumoured that it was members of these two groups that were on the police list to be arrested.
REPORTER: And you would have arrested more people?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, we would have arrested more people.
But Eric will not be drawn on the identities.
ERIC PAKOA: We are looking at 10 or more.
The next morning, the seven officers arrested at home are presented to court to be charged with mutiny. The other 20 are still awaiting their summons at the police station. But it's the inclusion on today's list of two officers from the naval division of the police that raises a disturbing prospect. This naval vessel is controlled by the police to protect Vanuatu waters and it's heavily armed.
REPORTER: Mark Davis from Australian television, Sir. How are you? I've just come to find out what's happened here yesterday on this ship.
MARINE OFFICER: Oh, yes, the police, the VMF came down to arrest two of our senior officers.
REPORTER: Yeah? Are there weapons on this boat?
MARINE OFFICER: Yes. We have weapons on board.
REPORTER: I heard this morning that police had come to take those weapons.
MARINE OFFICER: Yes.
REPORTER: They have, have they?
MARINE OFFICER: Yeah.
REPORTER: When did they do that?
MARINE OFFICER: On Monday.
REPORTER: On Monday, before the VMF came?
MARINE OFFICER: Yes.
REPORTER: So, before the VMF came, the police got the machine guns off this boat?
MARINE OFFICER: Yeah.
ERIC PAKOA: I don't know what, what these people are talking about.
REPORTER: And where have they taken them?
MARINE OFFICER: I don't know. I have no idea.
REPORTER: How many weapons were on the boat?
MARINE OFFICER: We've got two 50 calibre machine guns and maybe nine or 10 SLR.
REPORTER: So they've been put into storage?
MARINE OFFICER: Yes.
REPORTER: In case things get worse.
MARINE OFFICER: That's right.
REPORTER: So that's rather escalating the events, isn't it?
ERIC PAKOA: If that is done, if that is so, I have the right, I have the right. I have, I have, if I have little instruments to remove those, just for the protection of this building and for the protection of law enforcement, I will do whatever I can do.
REPORTER: So you've got the right to take those weapons?
ERIC PAKOA: I've got the rights.
REPORTER: Are you saying you have them or you don't have them?
ERIC PAKOA: I cannot say anything about it.
REPORTER: No comment?
ERIC PAKOA: No comment.
REPORTER: But, if the VMF turn up here with shotguns and machine guns again, you'll be prepared?
ERIC PAKOA: I am prepared to negotiate.
At the chiefs' Nakamal, the chiefs have decided that a formal reconciliation ceremony is in order. The tension must be finished whether the parties are willing or not.
CHIEF AT NAKAMAL (Translation): Then we tell them it's tomorrow or whatever and then we'll all come. People will bring mats, the pigs, the kava and then we'll sort them out.
JEFF JOEL (Translation): I want to give a pig to the Nakamal. It's for the chiefs to kill. It's not for me to kill it.
The chiefs are now demanding that the police, the army and the Prime Minister apologise and reconcile in the chiefs' Nakamal. A fine plan, assuming that the Prime Minister has any intention of dropping the mutiny charges or that Eric will drop the conspiracy investigation.
CHIEF AT NAKAMAL (Translation): He said we don't want a reconciliation to take place if it cuts out the process of the law and justice. That was Eric's opinion. He didn't want a reconciliation that we might make if that blocks the legal road.
The pigs, kava and mats will now be put in place. Striking a deal with the PM, Eric and the army will the chiefs' task tomorrow.
Thursday morning at the police station and Eric Pakoa is bunkered down with his closest advisers, while the chiefs wait.
CHIEF (Translation): I'm sorry we didn't come quickly. We were having a meeting. From this meeting came our invitation asking you to meet with your senior officers and us around the table at the Nakamal. We'll go to the PM and give the same invitation and to the VMF.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): I've got one problem. I've already received a suspension letter.
ERIC PAKOA: Me. Now any plans that we had have hit a wall. If they don't revoke it, I will continue. That's it. I can't accept the custom reconciliation that you make.
CHIEF (Translation): While the problem is happening, the suspensions should not be given. That is wrong.
ERIC PAKOA: The interests of a few people here already control many places. Now they want to control the police force. I cannot accept them taking over the police. I can't accept it. The only way is if they revoke this. They must revoke it. That's it. It's my only condition. We could do the reconciliation tomorrow. The big question now is what are they frightened of in the conspiracy case? We are not fighting with the Vanuaku Party or against any political party. The Government is clean. There is a Prime Minister surrounded by associates that the people of Vanuatu know nothing about. Where do they come from? They are manipulating the office of the PM.
CHIEF (Translation): We must take talk to the PM now. I can see that they may take advantage by using us to cool down our people, while the real plan remains to carry out the mission. This is my concern.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): I will not leave this office. If I leave, I'm representing you here, the chiefs and the people of Vanuatu. If I leave this place, we are finished.
CHIEF (Translation): Yes.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): So they must tell him. They revoke it and we can go to custom reconciliation. If they don't revoke it, then they can expect something to happen.
CHIEF: OK. (CHIEFS THEN SAY GOODBYE AND LEAVE)
CHIEF SPEAKS TO REPORTER: Um, they said they probably not allow you journalist to get in. But maybe you can wait after having meeting with us, there'll be a round-table meeting with what we just call hand over the invitation.
REPORTER: So, from here, you'll go to the President, or the Prime Minister.
CHIEF: Yes, the Prime Minister.
REPORTER: So we should wait here for you?
CHIEF: Probably, yeah. That would be the best option.
With 27 police officers now refusing to accept their suspensions, the chiefs shuttle between the army, police and Prime Minister, exchanging offers and counter-offers.
REPORTER: How did the VMF go? How did you go at the VMF?
CHIEF: We'll speak to you later.
It's agreed that the Deputy Prime Minister will come to deal with police that afternoon and Pakoa readies his troops.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): But we will not end the conspiracy case. I will not stop the conspiracy case. The conspiracy case is valid and it will remain. So we will win. We will win. Wait until 3.00.
There's been a virtual media blackout on events occurring here and civilians continually gather to get their news direct about the perceived threats to their country.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): If some of them come from other countries, then go home. Mess up your own place. Edward Natapei is Prime Minister, Edward Natapei alone. Not the other hanging around him.
The Deputy Prime Minister arrives for the 3:00 meeting. With him is Joe Natuman, Minister for Interior. Holi Simon is one of the officers who've been charged with mutiny and he leads the police demands.
HOLI SIMON, OFFICER (Translation): There is a fear between you and me which is causing mistrust. That the police force down here will strike against the army and spark a crisis.
That fear is based on the heavy weapons that the police have secured from the naval vessel. A weapons handover is now a central issue. In return, the police want the suspensions dropped and an undertaking that the army will not attempt to arrest any more police officers.
CHIEF (Translation): About the arrests, we've just come from seeing the PM. He says that he has already instructed the public prosecutor to tell (Commander) Arthur Coulton that there will be no more arrests. We mentioned to him and the army that you need this in writing.
SERGE VOHOR (Translation): We will talk to the Prime Minister about this. But he doesn't know if the people of Vanuatu will understand this situation.
CHIEF: Shall we make a time to meet again tomorrow?
SERGE VOHOR: What about 9:00? Or do you have a meeting? I think maybe 11:00 , because the Chinese want to give some money to me. I'll be signing at 10:00. Let's say a quarter to 11:00. That's time for me to put my signature. 500 million.
MAN (Translation) If you are investigating the Prime Minister and the President, isn't that like a coup?
ERIC PAKOA: It's a coup if you do it illegally. If you want to take over purely for self-interest. But here we are not trying to take him out. We'll let the court take him out. If a child stones your mangoes, he is beaten. If the big man stones the mangoes, he should be beaten.
Eric is wise not to portray his Prime Minister as a mango stealer, but perhaps someone who just damages the fruit. Edward Natapei is widely regarded as a man of impeccable honesty, an opinion which Eric himself seems to share.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): The decisions coming from the office of the Prime Minister are not from the Prime Minister. There are men using the Prime Minister. Because the Prime Minister is a good, humble man, he can't say no. So all along, different people are using him, just a few. Neither the Vanuaku Party or the Government are involved. But there is a big thing hidden behind them and they are frightened that we will find it out. That's why they want to cut us off. But we can't stop. We will go on.
To the public, the identity of the foreign investors suspected of meddling here is still open to speculation. But, as to the identity of the foreign advisers, there's little doubt here at least that they are Australian.
REPORTER: That's what people are saying, yeah?
MAN IN STREET: That's what people are saying .
SECOND MAN IN STREET: Australia's being a big spy.
SECOND MAN IN STREET: Yeah, spies on the Pacific. They tap every phone, every fax and everything.
THIRD MAN IN STREET: Most of our advisers, they came from Australia so, within the systems of the government who are now running the country, it's almost the colonial system. We are now republican. We're a independent country.
SECOND MAN IN STREET: All the changes of the government have been initiated by the Australian government.
This level of distrust for Australia is not just a street opinion. The Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Serge Vohor was unavailable for comment during this crisis but, in recent days,' he agreed to be interviewed, to clarify the apparent anti-Australian mood.
SERGE VOHOR: Our people love the Australians. The reaction of our people in Vanuatu is regarding the Australian Federal Police spies in our country. They've become a threat to our political stability in our country.
REPORTER: The AFP are meant to be there on international criminal matters, but you believe they are spying, that the accusation is correct?
SERGE VOHOR: Yes, the reliable sources given by the our security sources in Vanuatu. They are spying, through tapping the telephone calls and they keep misleading people, leaders and people of Vanuatu and they try to make a choice of leadership in our country.
Vohor's tapping and surveillance allegation carries particular weight, as he also holds the telecommunications portfolio in his government.
SERGE VOHOR: They've become a threat to our security, our national security.
But it's an accusation that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs denies.
SERGE VOHOR: They've become a threat to our political stability in our country.
In a written response, Australian foreign affairs also deny that AFP officers have acted in any way beyond their role as liaision officers monitoring transnational criminal matters. They also deny that Australians recommended or planned the army action against the police but maintain that "AFP and defence personnel were engaged in routine duties with the Vanuatu police and Mobile Forces up until the day the VFM surrounded the police station," but that, on the day in question, "the VMF's Australian training adviser was asked by VMF officers to take the day off and he did so."
REPORTER: Have you been home yet are have you stopped here the whole time?
ERIC PAKOA: This is my home.
REPORTER: This is your home?
ERIC PAKOA: This is my home.
REPORTER: Four days now.
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, four days, yeah.
REPORTER: And how many of your men are sleeping here too?
ERIC PAKOA: About 180 or so.
REPORTER: They're all staying here?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, they're staying here.
REPORTER: What about your desire to continue with the conspiracy investigation? Will that still go on?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, it will still go on. It still goes on.
REPORTER: That's not going to stop?
ERIC PAKOA: No, no, that's not going to stop. That's one of our conditions.
REPORTER: And you'll start arresting again?
ERIC PAKOA: Yep.
REPORTER: So what do you want to do with them?
ERIC PAKOA: Half them, enforce justice and then half of them deported back to their places. We have one arrested and he will be arriving here at the airport. He's going to one of the islands and he'll be arriving here. As soon as he arrives here, we will lock him up.
REPORTER: Yeah? When will that be?
ERIC PAKOA: This afternoon, 2:00.
REPORTER: This afternoon, 2 o'clock? Can I come with you?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, no problem. You can come.
Serge Vohor arrives with bad news from the Prime Minister. The suspensions have not been lifted.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): I think we should go back to square one. If the Prime Minister doesn't revoke the suspension letter, we must take our next option, we must challenge the case in court. And, if we go into that, then we don't really need a reconciliation to take place.
SERGE VOHOR (Translation): The PM could just revoke it and then we would need some kind of agreement or understanding here.
HOLI SIMON (Translation): In the meantime, the line of command between the army and the Prime Minister should be dismantled to allow a negotiating team to carry out its work until the Prime Minister responds to the complaint about his conflict of interest. Any other points Eric?
ERIC PAKOA: Our worry, excuse me Deputy PM, is that we don't want a reconciliation which covers everything up but the dirt is still there.
SERGE VOHOR: On the matter we are discussing, the Prime Minister agrees, in principle, to revoke them. And we can have an agreement on the conspiracy issue. It can go on. But in this context we need to agree that you won't make any arrests. Just make inquiries, but no arrests. That's the understanding.
A fine understanding but, as the meeting finishes, it's getting close to 2 o'clock, and Eric, suspended or not, has another appointment to keep.
REPORTER: Where are we going?
ERIC PAKOA: We're heading to the airport.
Eric has heard that the army are gathering at the airport, where his men have gone to arrest a businessman who he believes has influential friends in the government.
REPORTER: So they'll be at the airport too to meet him?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, they're at the airport, so we'll see who gets him first.
This will be the first time that the army and police have come head-to-head since their confrontation at the police station.
ERIC PAKOA (Translation): We've come to arrest a man. Gilles. Gilles Daniel.
SOLDIER (Translation): Gilles. Are you going to arrest him? OK, arrest him then go.
ERIC PAKOA: Right on, brother.
SOLDIER: Thank you, Sir.
It would seem that four days of chiefly intervention between the police and army have improved relationships considerably.
REPORTER: VMF? Friendly or hostile?
ERIC PAKOA: Oh, they're my brothers.
This French businessman is charged with an alleged fraud over misuse of funds from a public project. But, if the rumours are correct, it could well have been AFP officers being bundled into a truck today on conspiracy or spying charges and they still might be.
SERGE VOHOR: We have to make it clear it to the Australian Government, if they are not understanding, then have to arrest them and put them in prison.
REPORTER: Arrest the AFP?
SERGE VOHOR: Yes, because it has come to clear disturbance of the processes in our country, then we have no choice. Government has to take some decision.
There'll be some disappointment when the businessman is bailed that night, but the police will receive other news to buoy their spirits. The Government has agreed to lift the suspensions and a reconciliation ceremony can now go ahead at the chiefs' Nakamal the next day.
REPORTER: Is the Prime Minister coming today?
JEFF JOEL: Yes, we hope everyone is coming, the Deputy Prime Minister and there should be some ministers are around now.
REPORTER: This is difficult for the Prime Minister. I mean, the word is he's one of the people they want to arrest. It's hard for him to reconcile today, I guess?
JEFF JOEL: In this, in this, I must admit I am, I don't know.
REPORTER: You don't know?
JEFF JOEL: Thank you.
Will this solve it, do you think
POLICE OFFICER: Of course, this is our custom so it'll solve it.
REPORTER: It'll stop the guns do you think?
POLICE OFFICER: Yeah it will stop everything. Everybody will come back to normal and continue with their normal duties.
It takes a few hours to kick off, but the army arrives, the police are there. The Deputy PM turns up, other senior ministers close to the Prime Minister. Everything is working to plan.
REPORTER: Eric, all fixed now?
ERIC PAKOA: Not yet, not yet.
REPORTER: Still some trouble, huh?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, some things to sort out.
REPORTER: The suspensions or what?
ERIC PAKOA: We'll discuss this after our discussions.
REPORTER: But will it go ahead today, the reconciliation?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, of course.
REPORTER: But there's still some trouble?
ERIC PAKOA: Little, small things, yes.
REPORTER: Whether you can continue the arrests or not? This would be an issue, I guess?
ERIC PAKOA: Yeah, maybe, that's part of it.
For more than an hour, the chiefs negotiate a written agreement, but the Prime Minister has not arrived.
MAN UNDER TREE: We just need to sign for all this to be scrapped and everybody goes back for Natapei. We're just waiting for this agreement for him to come and finish off with his signature.
Four hours later, there's still no PM to seal the deal.
ERIC PAKOA: Where are they?
MAN: The Prime Minister must come! The Prime Minister, we want him here.
MAN UNDER TREE: If he doesn't come, maybe there is still something haging on his backside, you know. Maybe something...too much baggage. Very heavy burden you know. Just here. If the PM doesn't come, maybe, there's still something on his backside, you know? Maybe something...too much baggage. Yeah, very heavy burden, you know.
ERIC PAKOA: I'm not sure where he is.
REPORTER: So, will the ceremony go ahead?
ERIC PAKOA: There is another option that, if this thing cannot be solved on a round-table discussion, then we will have the chiefs deal with this matter. Everything. Have the VMF here, have these people here and then we conduct a custom court.
REPORTER: But no government. It is between VMF and the police?
ERIC PAKOA: The Government will be prosecuted.
MAN UNDER TREE: The chiefs won't walk away just like that. They'll come to a conclusion that they'll have a good answer from the Prime Minister himself.
REPORTER: Otherwise, the pigs go free?
MAN UNDER TREE: Otherwise, they will release the pig on bail. We'll just relax and tie one leg. Waiting for the Prime Minister.
REPORTER: Just for a short time. Free for a short time.
The tension begins to lift late in the afternoon, when a pick-up arrives from the Prime Minister's office loaded with kava and a fine pig. The Prime Minister won't be far behind. The deal is sealed. The suspensions are lifted. The weapons will be handed over and the army agrees not to arrest any more police, if the police agree to cooperate if served with legal summons. With the paperwork concluded, the real reconciliation begins.
RIGHT WING REPRESENTATIVE (Translation): The Freedom Fighters initiated, with the chiefs, this reconciliation. The Vanuatu National Freedom Fighters and the National Right Wing Movement give this pig to the chief of the National Council of Chiefs of Vanuatu. Thank you.
ARTHUR COULTON, ARMY: Firstly, I want to apologise for what happened. If the actions of the VMF and the police have scared the people of Port Vila, especially the children and their mothers, we give a big apology from the force to them.
SIMON HOLI: I want to first say on behalf of all of us today, on behalf of all the families of the police force, our deepest apologies to you and the government. Sorry if our actions, words and attitudes have been improper.
EDWARD NATAPEI: I took the decision, as Prime Minister of this country, and I accept full responsibility for it. The members of the army made a wise decision not to fire the rifles. At this difficult time, the members of the police also made a wise decision not to fire their rifles. It was a very responsible decision which the police force took. And I want to congratulate you on this. If this has affected you or your families, I want to apologise. And to members of the VMF, anything that has affected you, your children or your families, I apologise. I'm sorry that this has affected the whole of Vanuatu at this time. I will kill this pig, so that there'll be a reconciliation and things can go back to normal. (PIG BEATING TAKES PLACE)
Since this ceremony, the Government has reactivated the mutiny charges against 27 police, including Eric Pakoa. Undeterred, Eric is vowing to continue his conspiracy investigation. At least things will be settled in court. Whether there are matters to be settled with the Australian Government is yet to be seen. Perhaps they should have been here today.
In the aftermath of the Bali bombing, Australia pledged greater intelligence gathering in its new anti-terror plans. However, if such intelligence gathering threatens the autonomy of democratically elected governments, should it really go ahead with its plans?