Committee Tasked With Reunifying Vanuatu Political Parties

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Group composed of Vanua’aku, National United members

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Nov. 19, 2013) – A committee, launched yesterday, has been tasked with the reunification of the Vanua’aku Pati (VP) and the National United Party (NUP) following the reconciliation ceremony between the leadership of the two parties on Sunday, November 3.

The Reunification Joint Committee (RC) of the VP and NUP was jointly launched by the vice president of the VP, Joe Natuman, and the president of the NUP, Ham Lini, in front of a handful of supporters including VP Secretary General Sela Molisa and NUP Secretary General James Bule, at the Moorings Hotel, Melcoffee, in Port Vila.

Natuman, the MP for Tanna, stood in for the VP president and deputy prime minister and minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Natapei, who is with Prime Minister Moana Carcasses’ delegation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka.

The objectives of the RC are three-fold: to deliberate on and recommend to the two political parties concerned a road map for political reunification, and strategies for strengthening and maintaining stable parliamentary government in the future so as to foster national unity, peaceful co-existence and contribute to national development.

The Reunification Committee is composed of a minimum of six members, three from the VP - to be headed by the party’s vice president Natuman - and three from the NUP - to be led by the secretary general of the party, MP for Ambae James Bule in the absence of the vice president of NUP. Additionally, there will be six alternative members who will replace any committee member who is absent.

The chairmanship of the RC will initially be rotated between the two parties. The VP will chair the first meeting, which is expected to be sometime next week, and the second meeting will be chaired by the NUP.

Speaking before launching the Reunification Joint Committee, President of the NUP Ham Lini paid tribute to the leadership of the VP for the work done following the reconciliation ceremony up to Friday's committee launch. He said there was much work for the reunification committee to do which, he admitted, would take time to complete.

"Many of our people do not understand what we, the leadership of the VP and the NUP, are doing. Some of them will want us to go back to the past, which we do not want to do. But we are going forward to the future," said Lini in reference to the leadership row of 1991 that led to the split and the formation of the NUP. He appealed to the two parties to continue to work collaboratively towards future reunification.

Natuman also thanked the NUP leadership for their cooperation and then he went on to read out the objectives, membership, and the terms of reference of the reunification committee.

Under its terms of reference, the reunification committee, based on the express desires of the leaders of the two parties, "will have to identify what is the rationale for such a move in order to convince the rank and file of the parties that they and their leaders can all move forward together with this new initiative."

In this respect, the RC is expected to define what are the core shared visions, values, and goals of the two political parties which could be achieved more easily by working together. The RC will also be required to explore the reasons for the current political instabilities and recommend measures to strengthen parliamentary government, including coalition government.

The RC has been tasked to discuss and recommend "a realistic reunification road map and modalities for achieving this, including any transitional arrangement."

The recommended reunification road map "must be submitted to the Executive Councils of the VP and the NUP and eventually their congresses for approval": to the VP at its annual congress in Port Vila in May 2014 and to the NUP at its 2014 congress at Olal, North Ambrym, in August.

The reunification committee’s terms of reference also require it to submit three-monthly reports to the respective political parties, with the final report to be submitted before the end of December 2014.

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