Report – By Alex Perrottet in Port Vila
The rift between Vanuatu and Australia over the treatment of Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman in Sydney last month is yet to be healed, and the incident has prompted further criticism of Australia’s diplomatic faux pas.
The Acting Director of Vanuatu’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Johnny Koanapo, said the treatment of ministers in Asia and the rest of the world was far better than the way they are received in Australia.
“I was travelling with the Minister of Foreign Affairs through Sydney and he was patted down. I told them this man is a state minister and they didn’t want to know about it,” he said.
“In London, in Paris, no problem at all.”
Koanapo said the Prime Minister on his current trip to Japan, travelled through New Zealand instead.
He said he hoped the row between the countries would be resolved.
“We will always be close, we are neighbours and we will always be neighbours,” he said.
“But there is a thing called respect.”
Last month, Prime Minister Kilman was made to complete immigration forms and pass through customs while transiting through Sydney en route to Israel.
The Australian Federal Police were on hand to arrest Kilman’s Secretary Clarence Marae, on tax fraud charges moments later.
As soon as Kilman returned to Vanuatu, he expelled the Australian Federal Police and their families, and requested an apology from Australia.
The latest news from Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr was that he had asked the AFP for answers, but no official response had been received by Vanuatu.
Alex Perrottet is contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch and has been in Vanuatu over the past week for a research project.