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Deportation Order Backfires

22 January 2001

PORT VILA (Pacnews) ---- A decision to deport the expatriate publisher of Vanuatu's twice weekly newspaper, Trading Post, has backfired on the Vanuatu Government, reports Pacnews.

Marc Neil-Jones who was deported to Australian of Friday (Jan 19), is back in Port Vila after the Acting Chief Justice, Vincent Lunabek, issued a court order nullifying the deportation order.

Trading Post's news editor, Len Garae, told PACNEWS the order effectively allowed Neil-Jones back into the country until the case is heard on February 9. It also ordered the government to issue Neil-Jones free access to enter the country and pursue his deportation order.

"He was only given an hour on Friday morning to leave the country after an order was issued by the Interior Minister, Barnabas Tabi," Garae told PACNEWS.

An elated Neil-Jones told PACNEWS from his office that he was happy to be around his colleagues but it was just the beginning of a challenge against the government on his deportation.

"I am disappointed with the way they treated me. I was not even allowed phone call to my lawyer. I feel that my basic human rights were violated by the police and immigration authorities."

"I was not even explained why I was being forced out of the country. It was only after I was on the plane that I was informed that I was instigating instability in the country through reports in my newspaper," Neil-Jones said.

Neil-Jones, a British citizen, has been in Port Vila for 11 years and runs the twice-weekly Trading Post newspaper, which in recent months has been running controversial stories on government dealings.

A statement later issued by the Prime Minister's office said the deportation order followed numerous investigations against the publisher of the newspaper.

"Our information has revealed that the Trading Post publisher has some sources in government providing him state secret. He seemed to be getting access to confidential reports and continues to publish these reports despite being labelled 'state secret," the Vanuatu Government

"His permit does not allow him to be involved in Vanuatu's internal politics of which, he has been heavily involved, not only during this government. His unbalanced and negative reporting continues to instigate instability and is detrimental to investor confidence in Vanuatu," the government statement said.

"He seemed not to appreciate that Vanuatu's culture must be respected even in media freedom."

"This government has been very lenient. However, when warnings are ignored, this government must act to protect its interest and sovereignty."

Opposition leader, Edward Natapei condemned as 'dictatorial' the action of the government.

"The deportation would be seen by the people of Vanuatu and the international donor community as 'illegal and undemocratic," Natapei said...PNS



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