INVOLVEMENT by United States not-for-profit organisations in politics around the world is not new. The Pacific region is not excerpted.
In this case, Winrock’s involvement on Malaita is not the first for American NGOs. Winrock has offices in Little Rock, Arkansas and Washington DC. It now has one in Honiara and Auki on Malaita.
In 1980 soon after Vanuatu got its independence from France and the United Kingdom, a man by the name of Jimmy Stevens (1916-24 February 1994), known as Moses, a NI-Vanuatu nationalist and politician started a rebellion with funding support from an NGO in the United States.
Promises of cargo coming from the United States to support the cause were also made, although there was little on record about delivery of the promised support.
Stevens died of stomach cancer in 1994. He started the conservative Nagriamel movement, declaring independence for the island of Espiritu Santo as the “State of Vemerana” in June 1980. He referred to himself as “prime minister”.
At Stevens’ trial, it was revealed that Stevens and Nagriamel received US$250,000 from the American-based Phoenix Foundation, a libertarian group that previously attempted to establish an independent tax-haven state in Abaco Island, the Bahamas in 1973.
Published report said Stevens was convicted and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. In September 1982, Stevens escaped from prison but was recaptured just two days after his escape. Stevens was released from prison on 14 August 1991.
Stevens was of part-European, part-Melanesian, and part-Polynesian descent. He claimed that his father was Scottish and that his mother was Tongan. He reportedly had 23 wives and fathered four dozen children. He died in Espiritu Santo of stomach cancer.
By Alfred Sasako