Vanuatu’s chief justice orders change over dissolution of parliament plea

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Vanuatu's Supreme Court
Vanuatu's Supreme Court ... application by 27 opposition MPs who were signatories to a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Bob Loughman earlier this month. Image: Jamie Tahana/RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific

The Chief Justice of Vanuatu has ordered the amendment of a constitutional application against the dissolution of Parliament to exclude the president of the republic from the case.

The application, which was heard in the Supreme Court today in Port Vila, was brought by 27 opposition MPs who were signatories to a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Bob Loughman earlier this month.

On the motion being tabled in Parliament, the House was dissolved by President Nikenike Vurobaravu at the request of Loughman and his council of ministers.

Vanuatu lawyer Wilson Thompson is the assistant deputy Private Secretary to Vanuatu’s Head of State and was in court today for the proceedings. He said the court found the constitutional application too broad in its scope.

“The Chief Justice, who is the one presiding over the matter, has advised the applicant’s lawyers to amend the constitutional application and make it as an ordinary civil matter,” Thompson said.

He said the core difficulty in the original application was that it named the President as first respondent in the case but he could not be challenged because of the powers accorded to him by the Constitution.

“Because article 28 (3) of the Constitution does provide for the President to dissolve Parliament if he receives a council of ministers’ decision. And that provision does not provide for any other authority, whether from the opposition or whether from the leader of the opposition, for the President to consult before making a dissolution [of Parliament] ”

Vanuatu opposition MPs outside parliament chamber on Tuesday morning
Vanuatu opposition MPs outside the Parliament chamber on Tuesday morning after a government boycott thwarted their plans to move a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Bob Loughman. Image: Hilaire Bule/RNZ Pacific

Thompson said the constitution also did not require the President to base his decision on any specific criteria.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek has given until the close of business tomorrow for the application to be amended to exclude the President and until Friday for the Attorney-General to prepare a response.

RNZ Pacific understands the new case is now being built around challenging Loughman and his council of ministers’ decision to request a dissolution of Parliament despite a date having been set by the Speaker of Parliament for the motion of no confidence to be heard.

The entire matter will be back in court on September 2 to see if there is a case to answer.

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

Vanuatu PM before dissolution Bob Loughman
Bob Loughman … his dissolution of Parliament challenged. Image: Vanuatu govt
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