Vanuatu PM Promises Reform Committee, Referendum On Constitutional Changes

Salwai responds to Opposition’s boycott of Parliamentary session

By Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 10, 2016) – The Government will deposit a motion to establish a Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) today or Monday, who will then set the ball rolling on a referendum so each citizen can understand and participate to give their views on specific provisions in the proposed Constitutional amendment.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai who revealed the above says political stability is the security and guarantee for economic development in Vanuatu as he acknowledged the Opposition Bloc’s (OB) right to boycott Parliament.

He said this in the aftermaths of a short-lived Special Parliament Sitting yesterday, where the Government’s 35 Members of Parliament (including Speaker MP Esmon Saimon) did not meet the required quorum to proceed with the Amendments to the Constitution as it anticipated.

With one of the 52 seats vacant in Parliament, 35 government MPs were present with the exception of MP Ian Wilson who was ill.

“What happened today (Thursday, June 9) is in accordance with the summon issued by the Speaker on the 19th for the Special Parliament sitting as provided for under the Constitution to amend the Constitution,” said acting Clerk of Parliament Leon Teter.

“The first day of this special sitting requires a quorum constituted of three quarter of the MPs.

“Parliament could not proceed today because it did not have the required quorum, which is 39 MPs.

“Parliament is adjourned, according to Article 86 in the Constitution to re-convene a week from today which falls on Thursday, June 16 and will require a quorum of two-thirds or 34 MPs.”

The OB, true to its vow to boycott Parliament if it commands 14 MPs when Parliament convened yesterday and adamant in its stand to see the government conduct a referendum to consult the people before bringing the proposed Constitutional amendments to Parliament, was somewhat successful on both targets.

It had 14 MPs yesterday and the head of the government confirmed that the people will have a say in the proposed Constitutional amendments.

“It is imperative that the people have their say …it is the people who will decide,” said PM Salwai.

“Initially the government planned to bring the amendments to the Constitution to Parliament, then the specific provisions which require a referendum will go through a national referendum, as stipulated under article 86 in the Constitution.

“Tomorrow (today) or Monday, the government will deposit a motion to establish a Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC), who will get the document and conduct nationwide consultations.

“The Constitution is the Supreme Law and it is good to have consultations, not only with political parties but the society and villages so their people can give their views.

“When we address the issue of sovereignty and stability, it is important and fundamental that the people of Vanuatu understand the proposals so they can participate and give their views.

“The issue of instability is included (in the amendments) because it is an important one and an outstanding issue.

“History shows that there were attempts to address this issue in 1994, then 2004 , other legislatures attempted to bring it to parliament but were challenged for its constitutionality and was the cause of political instability , which not only affects the government but the whole country- private sector, provinces, municipalities, villages and each citizen.

“The government welcomes the need for a consultation so each individual is consulted.”

Meanwhile the OB convened a press conference immediately after parliament was adjourned, reiterated their solidarity and stand and also questioned the authority of the Speaker to open the Special Sitting in the absence of a quorum.

While the Chief Justice was present in Parliament yesterday morning, the lack of quorum resulted in Graon mo Jastis Pati’s Member of Parliament for Efate Rural, Gillion Williams’ swearing in delayed to next week.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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