Constitutions vital to health of Melanesian democracies, conference learns

Scan of the original Preamble to the Vanuatu Constitution

Scan of the original Preamble to the Vanuatu Constitution

Nine countries were represented at the Pacific Constitutions Research Network which began a searching conference in Port Via this morning. It is the inaugural conference and workshop, bringing legal minds together. Vanuatu has had a great many changes to its Constitution, as we know. But PNG has had even more: many more, as Dr Eric Kwa of the PNG Law Reform Commission told constitutional legislators this morning after the conference was opened by our Ombudsman and former Head of State, Kalkot Mataskelekele. However, Dr Kwa was pleased to point out that the PNG Constitution had held that country together despite the many languages and cultures, political persuasions and various corrupt practices. PNG has had so much need of protection of its core values and the Constitution has provided this. Constitutions are extremely important in Melanesian countries, as we are for ever seeing in Vanuatu. They define the democratic foundations and institutions of countries in the region, having started out out as a reflection of the former colonisers’ structures and values. All sorts of socio-political challenges then emerge. The meeting will be looking closely at these.

Vanuatu will be mindful of the rule of law today when Parliament resumes. It will be necessary to see whether a number of Government and Opposition representatives have returned from overseas travel to establish whether a quorum is possible for the second extraordinary sitting of Parliament after two adjournments. The Opposition was absent to a man yesterday and the Government did not have the number or quorum to proceed, despite having 44 of the 53 seats.

The Fishermen’s Association new executive has become more vocal. They are demanding a claim of 1.5 billion vatu. They are maintaining a stand in front of Parliament. They have been dealt a poor blow and everyone wishes them well.