Vanua’aku Pati against proposed review to Vanuatu Chief Justice’s tenure


Vanua’aku Pati (VP) has taken its stand not to support the recommendation to review the tenure of the Vanuatu Chief Justice (CJ) tenure to a five-year term.

This change is among a list of proposed amendments under the Bill for the Constitution (Eighth) Amendment that is expected to be presented before the Parliament Special sitting Friday.

The spokesperson for VP executive, Fred Vurobaravu confirmed the party’s executive, which is chaired by Prime Minister Bob Loughman, met this week and affirmed their position on this proposed amendment.

These amendments are recommended based on the analysis and interests of a country that is developing and growing.

Vanuatu being a democratic country is governed under three main pillars, the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary.

VP maintained that it would not be proper to allow the government to control the judiciary. Their position is to allow the CJ to hold onto the position until retirement age. But he would be removed only if he commits an offence contrary to the law.

VP would also want to see independence maintained in the Office of the CJ, and not give room for this important position to be politicised or be influenced by other parties.

CJ Vincent Lunabek is the first and only Ni-Vanuatu to have occupied this position. He became Acting CJ from 1996 until 2001 when he was appointed the CJ.

He still occupies this important position today. Daily Post has been informed that the CJ’s term will end when he reaches retirement age.

Meanwhile, the Reunification Movement of Change (RMC) political party has maintained it does not support the proposed Constitutional Amendment expected to be presented in Parliament tomorrow.

RMC President, Charlot Salwai has informed the Government caucus through its bloc of Members of Parliament (MPs) that they will abstain during the vote.

Salwai told Daily Post that RMC is adamant that any amendment of the Constitution must come from a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) and the civil society must be consulted.

He said RMC is surprised that both Prime Minister Bob Loughman and Deputy Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau were opposing the Constitutional Amendment proposed by the CRC during his reign as Prime Minister, and now they want to amend it.

“You cannot just pull a paper from a rubbish bin and bring it to Parliament for approval because you are dealing with Vanuatu’s Constitution,” Salwai said.

“Regardless of whether it is a major or minor amendment, it must be proposed by a CRC and the people must be consulted.”

Salwai said so far, Loughman and Kalsakau have yet to explain why they are in hurry to bring the proposed amendment to parliament.

The RMC President stressed their current stand is simply because the people have not been consulted on the amendments, and it has nothing to do with the allegations of RMC claiming ministerial portfolios.

“The allocation of ministerial portfolios is a different business, it is not related to the Constitutional amendment,” said Salwai.

Last week, DPM Kalsakau told Radio Vanuatu that the amendment is for the government’s stability. The current proposed amendment includes the plan to increase government ministries from 13 to 17, and the extension of the term of the government to 5 years.

The National Parliament office said the 8th Constitutional Amendment will only obtain the approval of Parliament tomorrow if it has two-thirds majority support.

Vanuatu Parliament News reported that Article 85 under Chapter 14 of the National Constitution stipulates clearly that an amendment of the Constitution cannot have effect, if it is not supported by the required quorum. Last Friday, Speaker of Parliament, Simeon Seoule, adjourned the special sitting of parliament because there was no quorum, that is 3/4 of the 52 MPs. Only 31 MPs were present.

At the time, the government had 31 MPs, including the support of two RMC MPs. The RMC duo who were present at the time were MP Marcelino Telukluk, the Secretary General and the Vice President of the party, MP Christophe Emelee.

However, Salwai said all nine RMC MPS will abstain from voting in parliament tomorrow.

Last Friday, two government MPs, namely the newly appointed leader of the Union of Moderate Parties in Parliament, MP Anatole Hymak and the former Minister of Lands who is a lawyer by profession, Edward Nalyal, were not present.

The report from parliament indicated that MP Hymak provided a sick leave for his absence on Friday, but the reason behind MP Nalyal’s absence is still unclear.

Nalyal, a Vanua’aku Pati MP, was recently removed as Minister of Lands by PM Loughman and replaced by the only Nagriamel Movement MP, Joshua Pikioune.

However, even if both Nalyal and Hymak were present last Friday, the number of MPs is still not enough to meet the required quorum.

Political observers say PM Loughman currently has the support of 41 MPs, and the onus to maintain this number and get the Constitutional amendment approved by Parliament is on him.