Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai

Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai is urging all eligible citizens to exercise their constitutional rights by participating in the national Referendum and voting Wednesday.

Salwai made this call Monday during the government’s final press conference on the referendum.

“Your vote matters, and this referendum is a chance to shape the future of our nation. It is also an historical moment as this is the first time Vanuatu holds a referendum,” the PM stressed in his remark.

He called on all eligible voters to come together as one people and make their voices on tomorrow.

During the press conference, the head of the government took the opportunity to express the government’s satisfaction following the outcome of the Supreme court decision which saw the dismissal the two Constitutional challenge to the Constitution (Eight) amendment Act No 21 of 2023, allowing the referendum proceed as scheduled.

He stressed that the decision affirmed the constitutionality of the Constitution (Eighth) amendment Act No. 21 of 2023.

The PM added that this decision has cleared a lot of uncertainties in the minds of voters but, people should now be rest assured and vote tomorrow.

PM Salwai confirmed that deployment of ballot boxes and security officials locally have commenced and are progressing smoothly.

For overseas, polling officers have commenced travelling to overseas polling stations with ballot boxes for the approved polling stations. These polling officials will be supported by appointed officers from overseas to manage voting in various polling stations.

On the situation for New Caledonia, the PM advised that the Electoral Commission is expected to meet again to make a decision on voting there. He noted that this has been a difficult situation, but, it is their prayer that the situation returns to normal so voting can be organised.

Salwai also announced that at least 74 observers from both local and international organisations have been confirmed and briefed and will be part of the referendum polling day.

Salwai called on all media outlets to support and encourage all eligible citizens throughout the country and abroad to vote. “Vanuatu expects responsible reporting and I urge that responsible reporting is applied in the days before, during and after the referendum.”

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission explained the voting process as follows:

*Each voter will receive two sets of ballot papers: one set labeled 17A (green and red) and another set labeled 17B (green and red), along with one ballot envelope.

*The voter selects one ballot paper, either green or red, from set 17A, and one ballot paper, either red or green, from set 17B. The voter has the option to vote on only one question if they choose.

*They can vote either Yes on both 17A and 17B, No on both 17A and 17B, or Yes on 17A and No on 17B, or vice versa.

Kaltamat clarified that both articles address a similar issue.

All State ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) currently in Port Vila, who are unable to travel to their constituencies due to transportation issues with Air Vanuatu, will be voting at the designated polling station at Town Hall, which will open at 7:30am.

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Edward Kaltamat, is calling on all eligible citizens to exercise their rights tomorrow and cast their votes. He reiterated that tomorrow has been declared a public holiday for this event.

Therefore, eligible citizens are encouraged to use this time appropriately and ensure they go out and vote.

PM Salwai also took the opportunity to thank everyone for their tireless effort efforts in making arrangement possible for the referendum day.

He made mention of the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Electoral Commission and officials, Office of the Attorney General, other supporting officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Finance officials, and authorities in the provinces, and the High Commissions in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

He also extended his appreciation to the National Eminent Persons Group, MPs, the Communications and Media Outlets, including the Social media who have covered news and provided information on the Referendum.

He also thanked the government officials, Area Administrator, Area Secretaries, youth, Churches, chiefs and all women and men who have supported this referendum by disseminating information.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu Electoral Commission (EC) and Vanuatu Electoral Office (VEO) have registered over 75 National, International, Media Observers and Special Guests to observe the National Referendum tomorrow (Wednesday, 29 May 2024).

The Electoral authorities had invited national observer groups, international groups or organisations and media to deploy long term or short-term electoral observers for the campaign, polling and post-polling period.

In response to this invitation observers and special guests from Pacific Island Forum (PIF), Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Transparency International Vanuatu (TIP), Diplomatic Missions of Australia, New Zealand, France and Britain, Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) and Vanuatu Daily Post applied for the accreditation.

On Monday, the EC and VEO arranged a briefing for the observers and also distributed accreditation cards to the observers.

Briefing the observers, Chairman of the EC, Edward Kaltamat said that the EC and VEO believed in ensuring transparency of the referendum electoral process.

“The Observers’ role is critical in detecting any infractions in the electoral process, providing concerned bodies with recommendations on the progress of the electoral process and areas of improvement,” he said.

Kaltamat said that all efforts have been made to guarantee the right to franchise of Ni-Vanuatu people and ensure people were able to use their right to vote as they wished.

The Chairman briefed the observers about the Referendum Regulations, process for the conduct of voting and rights and obligations of the observers.

The observation group of the PIF is led by Solomon Island’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Joseph Ma’ahanua. In his remarks Ma’ahanua offered his best wishes to people of Vanuatu and the electoral authorities for successful conduct of the Referendum.