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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (May 19, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Donald Kalpokas, has called the boycott of Monday's opening of the first ordinary session of the new Parliament by opposition members "irresponsible."

In an interview on Radio Vanuatu, he said this sitting was important because of the need to urgently debate key legislation crucial to the implementation of the country's Comprehensive Reform Program.

The bills include the appropriations bill and a bill to amend the constitution.

The boycott led to the cancellation of the sitting, which has been postponed to Friday, because of the lack of a quorum.

Opposition Leader Serge Vohor said in an interview with Radio Vanuatu that they decided to boycott the sitting because the government had not consulted them about the timetable for discussions of the bills, especially the constitutional amendment bill. But the Prime Minister rejected this, noting that all the many consultation stages pertaining to the reform program had been accomplished when Vohor was Prime Minister. In addition, Kalpokas said, most of the bills now before Parliament had been submitted to the last Parliament by Vohor's government, and he could not claim that he was not aware of the bills.

Prime Minister Kalpokas said it was "irresponsible" for the opposition MPs to boycott Parliament and hold the country ransom, while the people of Vanuatu spend over 400,000 vatu ($US 3,200) to pay the legislators' subsistence allowances for the three days they will not be in Parliament.

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