Vanuatu Government's Constitutional Amendment Push Stymied By Opposition

Opposition Bloc withdraws support from Parliamentary committee for Constitution review

Compiled by Jane Joshua

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 2, 2016) – The Government’s bid to push political reforms through certain amendments to the Constitution is in doubt, as the Opposition Bloc retracted its support.

The support of two-thirds majority of the 52 MPs, is required when the proposed reforms goes before Parliament, for the 2nd reading, which is scheduled for December 12.

The Government currently commands only 33 MPs, more than enough to defeat a motion of no confidence but not enough to advance with the proposed changes to the Constitution.

The proposed amendments include regulating the occurrence of motions of no-confidence against the Prime Minister and providing specific “grace periods” where a motion of no confidence must not be considered by Parliament within 12 months after a general election, within 12 months after a new Prime minister has been elected and 12 months before the term of Parliament expires.

It will also extend the life of parliament from four to five years and has a provision for a requirement of two-thirds of the 52 members of Parliament, to approve a motion to dissolve Parliament.

Both the Leader of Opposition Ishmael Kalsakau and Port Vila MP Ephraim Kalsakau, who represents the workers in Parliament, resigned from the Ad Hoc Committee, which was established to oversee the review to Vanuatu’s Supreme Law, yesterday.

The other Opposition MPs are expected to follow suit.

In the meantime, Leader of Opposition has explained the main reason behind his resignation, saying the amendment to the Constitution should be done meticulously and there should not be any political motivation.

“We consider this to be obvious and see the move by the government to rush with the amendments to the Constitution,” he said.

“We do not see ourselves as being of important use to this committee if at the end of the day, the objective, intention or motive of the government is to rush this to parliament, without proper consultation.

“Take this to the people of Vanuatu, let them have their say and then proceed to parliament.”

MP Ephraim Kalsakau says his experience during the debate over the last few days when debating certain bills, has convinced him to resign.

“My view is that the bills we talked about, were not debated in the interest of the people of Vanuatu,” he said.

“Now that they want us to change the Constitution, I believe we should allow the people to speak first before an Ad Hoc Committee can in some ways, influence the people before they are consulted.”

When asked to elaborate on the specific amendments, he used the proposal to have a senior public servant as the Speaker of Parliament as an example.

“A more important point is where you have to be part of a bigger political party to contest in a general election,” he said.

“As far as I am concern, this is undemocratic.”

In terms of numbers, he said the Bloc now has 20 MPs.

“A special meeting to amend the Constitution, requires a bigger quorum,” he said. “This is also where the Opposition does not believe that Vanuatu needs these changes now.

“We must try and consult with all the people. There is talk of a referendum and that is what would have happened, a referendum that will include everyone from the age of 18 and above.”

Both parliamentarians confirmed their resignations, in separate interviews with Vanuatu Nightly News’ Kizzy Kalsakau.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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