Vanuatu PM fails to push through constitutional changes – again

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No quorum in Vanuatu Parliament
No quorum in Vanuatu Parliament ... only 31 MPs turned up yesterday; 34 are needed to pass controversial constitutional amendments. Image: Vanuatu Daily Post

RNZ Pacific

The Vanuatu Prime Minister has again failed to push through controversial constitutional changes.

These include extending the term of Parliament, changing the definition of a Vanuatu citizen, and increasing the size of cabinet by nearly a third.

A second session of Parliament yesterday was adjourned because of a lack of MPs.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman
Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman … facing opposition – even from his own Vanua’aku Pati – over proposed constitutional amendments. Image: RNZ

Prime Minister Bob Loughman wants to push through at least 15 constitutional changes which the opposition and some MPs in both his coalition and his own Vanua’aku Pati oppose.

On Friday there were only 31 of the 52 MPs present.

For a constitutional change a minimum of 34 MPs is needed.

On Thursday, lawyers in Port Vila published a statement strongly criticising one of the planned constitutional amendments.

They say the government’s plan to put the Chief Justice’s position on a fixed-term contract undermines the credibility of that judicial office.

Costly process
The adjournment of the Vanuatu Parliament over the seven days to Friday cost the country’s taxpayers more than 3.7 million vatu (US$32,000).

This is because MPs and cabinet ministers each get daily allowances when the Parliament is in session.

But on Friday a week ago the session was adjourned because many MPs had boycotted over government plans to push through the sweeping constitutional changes.

Ati George Sokomanu, who was the country’s first president, is calling for more communication among the leaders and respect for the procedures required under the constitution to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

The Vanuatu Parliament in Port Vila
The Vanuatu Parliament in Port Vila … many MPs have boycotted the house over government plans to push through the sweeping constitutional changes. Image: Sally Round/RNZ
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