Chiko Farm owner’s visa cancelled
Vanuatu’s Immigration Department has cancelled the visa of the Australian owner of the Chiko Poultry Farm Limited in Port Vila, Ken Thode, due to allegations of threatening behaviour.
Jeffrey Markson, the Immigration Department Director, says the department has received complaints alleging misconduct by Mr Thode since last year.
“It is alleged he has been threatening to shoot his workers with a gun and had fired shots on site at Chiko Farm,” Director Markson said.
He says the department has held several meetings with Chiko Farm workers following safety complaints.
Mr Markson says the department has been closely monitoring the situation and decided to cancel Mr Thode’s visa in June this year.
Chiko Farm worker, Joseph Pakoa, is one of those who alleges he witnessed Mr Thode firing shots.
“I was at my house the night of the shooting. I ran towards the sound of a bullet being fired and families were running with their heads bent because they said, a bullet had gone through a barbed-wire fence and through roofing sheets and just missed them,” Mr Pakoa said.
“They ran away as if they had stayed, they might have been hit by a bullet.”
Mr Thode has denied the allegations and is contesting the cancellation of his visa in court.
“I am devastated with the cancellation of my visa. This has not been investigated and it needs to be,” Mr Thode told VBTC.
“I want those people making allegations to stand up and go public if they believe this is true. I want them to go to the police with their allegations, why haven’t the police come to investigate me?
“I want this story to go public because it isn’t true.”
Mr Thode believes he may be the victim of a personal vendetta as he said he did issue one threat to people who were smoking marijuana and had threatened him, with a witness present.
“People that I have problems with and I have to admit, there’s only one threat I have made, it was with some people who were smoking marijuana, who said they would come and burn my farm down,” he said.
Mr Thode defended his record as an investor who had helped Vanuatu for over a decade.
“I am a big investor here. I came here to help the country 11 years ago and I have been running a business for nine years. Everything I have done, seven days a week, was to help the country. I didn’t come here for the profit, I can prove that,” he said.
Thompson Pakoa, a political advisor at the Ministry of Trade, says he believes the Immigration Department has acted legally, but he is concerned about the future of the poultry industry in Vanuatu with the action being taken.
“The ministry is concerned that we are not in a normal situation and it is a time when the Minister wants us to protect the small number of industries that we have,” Mr Pakoa said.
“During this COVID-19 crisis the Government must try as much as possible to protect this [poultry]industry.”
The Immigration Department Director, Jeffrey Markson, says, “The law provides the opportunity to the person concerned, for him to be able to appeal to the minister and the minister will decide whether to uphold the decision I have made to cancel the investors visa or whether to give back the person’s visa.”
The Department of Immigration says it cancelled Mr Thode’s visa in accordance with Vanuatu’s Immigration Act 2010.