Special Sitting of Parliament introduces Bill to amend Constitution – amicably

Vanuatu Special Sitting of Parliament, Thursday June 16, 2016. Photo: John Salong

This morning’s Special Sitting of Parliament. Photo: John Salong/Facebook

The Special Sitting of Parliament ended in Port Vila today with Prime Minister Charlot Salwai introducing the 25 Constitutional changes required by the meeting which was boycotted by the Opposition last Thursday. Fifty MPs were present today, well over the required quorum of two-thirds of MPs. The sitting is entirely legal.

There is one Bill to cover the amendments dealing with the registration of political parties, provision of reserved seats for women, requirement that naturalized citizens be ineligible for election, a legal extension to the life of Parliament, rules governing dissolution and caretaker governments, numbers and manner of no confidence votes, gender-neutral terminology referring to leaders and many other things.

Leader of the Opposition Kalsakau saw the Bill as a mockery of the Constitution, dealing as it does with matters like land, immigration and citizenship. “Kastom and Church should have discussed the issues first of all,” he said.

Lands Minister Regenvanu was a passionate speaker in favour of the Bill. He emphasized the instability of government in the last four years which have seen three different prime ministers. He gave a history of constitutional amendments which have failed to meet the legal requirements since 1984 when a vacation of seats Act was blocked. In addition there have been recommendations of various Constitutional Review Committees for changes to the Constitution which have never been implemented, often because of the instability of government. Crossing the floor and a budgetary crisis were two of the stumbling blocks experienced.

The final word in the matter of 2016’s changes to the Constitution was maturely handled by MPs all agreeing in unity to take all the issues to a committee of the whole House from whence those items requiring a referendum should be able to proceed to that stage.

The sitting ended just before lunch today.