Vanuatu Opposition Opposes Constitutional Amendments Without Referendum

MPs vow to boycott session of Parliament if government proceeds

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 8, 2016) – The Opposition Bloc vehemently opposes the Government’s proposed amendments to the Constitution and has vowed for fireworks in Parliament or a boycott if it commands the same number of MPs when Parliament sits on Friday.

Chapter 14 (86) of the Constitution stipulates that a bill for an amendment of a provision of the Constitution regarding the status of Bislama, English and French, the electoral system, or the parliamentary system, passed by Parliament under Article 85, shall not come into effect unless it has been supported in a national referendum.

On the procedure for passing Constitutional Amendments, Article 85 in the Constitution states: “A bill for an amendment of the Constitution shall not come into effect unless it is supported by the votes of no less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament at a special sitting of Parliament at which three-quarters of the members are present. If there is no such quorum at the first sitting, Parliament may meet and make a decision by the same majority a week later even if only two-thirds of the members are present”.

Never one to mince words, Leader of Opposition and seasoned lawyer, Ishmael Kalsakau, made the Bloc’s stand clear yesterday.

“The Government needs to consult the people before bringing any amendments to the Constitution, to Parliament,” he said.

“We are seriously disappointed with the inability of the current Government to take issues that concern the livelihood of the people back to them for prior consultation.

“We do not believe that an amendment to the Constitution that comes to Parliament then goes to the people is one that can be accepted as the norm.

“We will boycott the session…and will fight tooth and nail to make sure the needs of the people are addressed inside Parliament because the government’s performance on the aspect of consultation has been less than poor.”

Deputy Leader of Opposition Sato Kilman said, “The process to amend the Constitution is quite clear, what the government is doing is bring the amendment to Parliament before a Referendum.

“Under the Constitution, the amendment of separate provisions require a referendum. If the special Parliament Sitting does not proceed then it is a waste of funds, we need to conduct a referendum then we bring it to Parliament to legislate it.”

The Special Sitting to amend the Constitution is provided for by the Constitution itself which requires the Government to have 38-plus members for Parliament to proceed.

With one vacant seat, the Opposition bloc currently commands 14 MPs and the Government with 37 MPs as the Graon mo Jastis Pati’s Gillion William will be sworn in the upcoming Parliament Session.

“We do not believe the Government has the numbers for Parliament to proceed with its business which means that we, the 14 MPs in the Opposition will be boycotting the session on Friday, if, our numbers remain,” said MP Kalsakau.

“This is simply because of the fact that we consider that Constitutional Amendments need to be presented to the people because it is their livelihoods that are at stake.

“The reasons for this quick sitting of Parliament are poorly founded. They do not reflect the aspirations of the people. The amendments are merely to serve politics more than to address the concerns of the people of this country.”

He said the different aspects of the Constitution need to be dealt with separately.

“Where it deals with custom then the nakamals around Vanuatu need to have their say on these issues.

“This country is also founded on Christian principles but have not been consulted. Nowhere in these amendments do we see proper consideration given in effect to this.”

Vanuatu Daily Post
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