By Hilaire Bule in Port Vila
Power has transitioned from Vanuatu’s government to the opposition in Parliament during the Fifth Extraordinary Session convened to debate a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Sato Kilman.
The opposition held 26 MPs against the government’s 24 with only two government MPs, — Esmon Saimon from the Vanua’aku Pati (VP) representing Malekula, and Wesley Rasu from Malo constituency — present during the extraordinary session on Monday.
The remaining 22 government MPs boycotted the session, denying a quorum.
Parliamentary Speaker Seoule Simeon suspended the session until this Friday for the no-confidence motion debate and the election of a new prime minister.
Kilman lost two ministers within a single week — Minister of Sports and National United Party (NUP) John Still Tari Qetu and Minister of Trade, Commerce Samson Samsen (MP for Santo).
Samsen’s presence with the opposition in Parliament confirmed previous allegations of his defection.
The two ministerial positions are now vacant due to the resignations, and an attempt to replace Qetu with Bruno Leingkone, president of NUP and MP of Ambrym constituency, lasted only two days before his seat was declared vacant by the Speaker due to three consecutive absences.
Challenged in court
Leingkone challenged this decision in court but the Supreme Court ruled against him.
The Supreme Court also dismissed Leingkone’s application to stay the Speaker’s announcement on the vacation of his seat. He indicated yesterday that he would appeal against the judgment of the Supreme Court.
With these defections and the vacation of Leingkone’s seat, Kilman lost support within a week, reducing government MPs to 23 compared to the previous 25, while the opposition increased from 25 to 26 MPs.
The opposition now holds an absolute majority of 26 out of 51 MPs. Additionally, a motion to suspend the current Deputy Speaker, Gracia Shadrack, is expected to further reduce Kilman’s support due to the threatening statement he made during a parliamentary session.
The leader of the opposition bloc, MP Charlot Salwai (a former prime minister), told a press conference that Shadrack had publicly threatened to burn down the Parliament House on 16 August 2023 during the Third Extraordinary Session when the Speaker refused to grant permission for Leingkone to vote virtually while he was hospitalised in South Korea.
The opposition said Shadrack’s action had put in question the safety of Parliament and its workers.
MP Salwai expressed confidence in the opposition’s 26 solid votes to remove Kilman as PM.
Kilman had been elected as Prime Minister on September 4, 2023, during a motion of no confidence against then PM Ishmael Kalsakau, just 10 months into his term.
Kalsakau’s removal was secured with an absolute majority of 26 votes out of 51 MPs present, a definition set by the Vanuatu High Court of Appeal upon the application of the current PM.
Kilman is now expected to face the same fate on Friday, as the opposition maintains its support of 26 votes.
Republished from the Vanuatu Daily Post with permission.