The caretaker Prime Minister has given Radio Vanuatu listeners his views regarding the caretaker Opposition trying to obtain copies of correspondence between the Council of Ministers and State House concerning the dissolution of Parliament which they (Opposition) oppose. The Prime Minister said he had agreed that the Opposition had a right to the information decided upon by the CoM on the day in question (not specified). However, PM Kilman took exception to the Opposition’s Regenvanu seeking further information in the matter directly from State House. Kilman made his anger at such an action quite clear in early morning and noon VBTC bulletins today.
Daily Post has simply reported that the dissolution question is still a matter being challenged. It also has an interesting review item dealing with the 24 Prime Ministers we have had to have in the last 24 years, following the breakdown of the Walter Lini majority VP Government.
Post also records the re-launched Vanuatu Cooperative Federation receiving its first shipment of cargo – one thousand bags of rice from Thailand. After three decades VCF is importing to supply 424 continuing cooperative societies.
State Office has gone out of its way to respond to the rumours that the Head of State will pardon former MPs. It is the lead item in today’s Daily Post. The matter of pardons for the 14 convicted has not even been considered by President Baldwin Lonsdale and there is no committee formed by Parliament to consider such a matter. The Office of the President will ensure that it accords the respect to the judicial systems at all times and those convicted will serve their time in gaol unless proven by medical grounds or other viable reasons that would allow for pardoning from their sentences.
Post also features John Malon Taleo being appointed Acting Police Commissioner, on page 1 today. Vake Rakau has been removed as Commissioner. Reasons have not been made clear.
The Digest reported yesterday that a case had been filed with the Supreme Court concerning the Opposition allegations that the Council of Ministers (COM) had requested the President to dissolve Parliament a week before many ministers were convicted on the bribery charges. The matter was not filed yesterday. However, it is understood that efforts are being made to have it filed today.
Dalsie Baniala has been appointed the first ni-Vanuatu ICT and Telecoms Regulator. She is the fourth such regulator and holds a much respected educational record and business background. (Daily Post)
The Opposition has evidence that the decision of the Council of Ministers to request the President to dissolve Parliament was made on 15 October in an urgent meeting. This was one week before most Government ministers were convicted of bribery and imprisoned. The Opposition has filed its case with the Supreme Court. Read more about the matter in tomorrow’s Daily Post.
The Opposition’s challenge to both the Head of State and Council of Ministers in a clearly minority government, when both have decided for dissolution, will be tested in the courts – and sooner rather than later. This has meant the adjournment of Constitutional Case 691 of the Opposition to which the elected but not sworn MP Kenneth Natapei was a party. The Opposition is, however, determined that, as the President has said, the rule of law is for everyone and must be obeyed. The Digest will bring further information to its readers when it is made available.
Caretaker Prime Minister Kilman, Radio Vanuatu reported this morning saying that now with Parliament dissolved there has to be a general election after 30 days and before 60 days. He was recorded yesterday before the Opposition’s lawyers were heard in chambers at the Supreme Court.
Nothing to do with the dissolution’s complications, and even though it is claimed the Electoral Office already has funding for the national elections required for next year, the registration of voters would be severely disrupted owing to the loss by many voters of their electoral cards from bush materials houses swept away in cyclone Pam. And for Port Vila voters there is a particular problem in that the election which saw Kenneth Natapei recently voted a Port Vila MP, their red cards became filled and needing replacement "between January and March 2016," voters were told by the Electoral Office officials.
Daily Post reports today the new Caretaker Minister of Justice, Robert Bohn, ordering his DG to move the 14 MPs detained on bribery convictions and housed in the ‘medium risk’ facility to the Women’s Detention Centre. He would not give reasons. Bohn was one of the few who escaped a conviction and sentence in the matter which has imprisoned the 14 others.
Daily Post today reports the loss of a lease to Tassiriki beachfront land at Erakor Lagoon by Kalo Sandy in an Appeal Court case brought by the Vanuatu Rowing Association. The lease was allowed by former Lands Minister Stephen Kalsakau for VT 500,000 when a premium value had been established at VT 15,400,000 in the established way. Kalo’s rent to Government was established at only VT 15,000. This lease and others to Kalo by the same minister are said to be likely to be subject matter for Ombudsman investigation.
Radio New Zealand International says the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu has given approval for the Bank South Pacific to operate in Vanuatu from July next year. Radio Vanuatu added that the approval was given this week. The BSP plan was to take over Westpac operations earlier this year as it has done elsewhere in the region, but cyclone Pam interfered with the smooth transition planned.
The Vanuatu Opposition will have its day in court – possibly Friday. Various legal difficulties concerning Constitutional matters such as the powers of the President, those of the Council of Ministers of the minority Government, and the decision of the Deputy Speaker concerning a Parliament sitting scheduled for 14 December are all likely to be raised. Further information will be covered in Daily Post tomorrow morning.
From Radio NZ International
A specialist in Vanuatu governance issues says the president’s decision to dissolve the country’s parliament comes as little surprise.
Baldwin Lonsdale made the announcement and called a snap election last night, saying it was in the best interests of Vanuatu.
The government and the opposition have been trying to resolve a political impasse which began after 14 government MPs were last month jailed for bribery, with no success.
The Australian National University’s Siobhan McDonnell, who was an advisor to a former Vanautu government, says the announcement is dramatic, but not unexpected.
SIOBHAN MCDONNEL: The president has always been holding this card and he has been hoping that the government and opposition can find a way to govern but at the end of the day he has obviously decided that, that is not looking likely in the near future and he has decided to dissolve parliament.
JAMIE TAHANA: Was that the best decision for Vanuatu though? SM: Look that is a very interesting question, the opposition has been very keen to govern they are incredibly concerned about the passing of the budget for next year so that all of the government services continue to function and also Vanuatu is currently in the midst of a drought and it looks like those conditions are worsening and these are potentially going to create disaster like conditions because many people have not recovered gardens from the cyclone earlier this year. So for those reasons the opposition was very keen to get in and govern.
JT: The budget has not yet been passed it is due to be in the second session which now there is no parliament it can’t happen can it? So what does this mean for passing the budget or funding drought relief programs and all that?
SM: Well essentially this government is now in caretaker mode it is not really functioning because so many cabinet ministers and so many members of parliament in the current government are in jail and lost their appeal on Friday. So there is already reports of certain services not being funded but really it was about putting everything in place for next year by making sure that current servicing continues into 2016. So caretaker mode allows for some of that provisional funding to be allocated but really all of the 2016 funding has to come out of that next budget.
JT: So this could really hold back funding at a critical time for Vanuatu? SM: That is the concern of the opposition, I mean treasury is working very hard to get out the money post cyclone Pam. But there is really critical disaster relief issues that seem to be coming to the fore now in Vanuatu. So the drought has been particularly extreme I have just come back from Efate where the land is incredibly dry. People’s gardens have nothing in them and there are households that don’t have food. This is a really critical time to really be governing well in Vanuatu I think.
JT: We don’t have a date for an election yet but now we go into a sort of election campaign mode, can we expect this to be very different because now there is electorates who don’t have incumbent MP’s any more?
SM: Yes and the other thing is that there was a lot of discussion around the need for constitutional reform and reform of parliamentary processes as well. So there were a lot of things that the political parties had on the table that they were looking at in terms of broad scale political reform that would have meant had they been able to hold off on a election that perhaps some of that agreement might have been in place. So agreement around stability of future government but because none of those have been finalised we are essentially looking at an election where we have got 14 by elections running and in those large scale by elections you could have a whole series of new candidates coming up. So it is hard to predict what the new parliament will look like.
JT: At the same time this could also be the opportunity for a clean out too? SM: Yes that is the hope, I mean it is really interesting how profound the impact of these judicial decisions have been. So at the grassroots in Vanuatu there are many more people who are now more hopeful than they have been and there is a sense that it might not be business as usual in terms of the amount of money that was changing hands amongst members of parliament but look all of that remains to be seen.
The full text of the dissolution of Parliament by President Baldwin Lonsdale was given last night by VBTC and is printed today in Daily Post.
The Head of State says his deadline of last Sunday for the Government and Opposition to reach an amicable solution, a month after 14 MPs were committed to Correctional Services, had passed. Neither side has sufficient numbers to serve the people of Vanuatu, he says: climate change and sea level rise are affecting the people of Vanuatu and there is the likelihood of more cyclones this cyclone season. With "service delivery to our people slow and not effective" and with the man-made disaster of political instability, the President is following the advice of the Council of Ministers and dissolving Parliament. He says this advice he withheld until yesterday. President Lonsdale speaks of the dissolution as a last resort.
The Head of State says he is making his decision in knowledge of the call for a Parliament sitting on 14 December and in awareness of the urgent Constitutional application which will be heard this afternoon.
President Lonsdale has been advised the Electoral Office has funds to run the general election.
He reminded his listeners that dissolution is a last resort. to "return the integrity of our nation and safeguard sovereignty of our country, and allow the country not to go through continued political instability." He observes that there have been four prime ministers since Parliament was elected in 2012.