Former parliamentary Speaker suspended

The Vanuatu Parliament suspended the former speaker of Parliament, Gracia Shadrack on Tuesday.

The Vanuatu Government had requested a motion for the suspension and the majority of the members voted for it with 29 votes in support during day two of the Vanuatu Parliament’s Second Ordinary Session.

Mr Shadrack is now suspended from attending a Parliamentary sitting for two years.

The Vanuatu Government says the former speaker had not followed the law when he announced the vacation of the seats of 19 members of parliament in June this year based on what he had ruled was their non-attendance at subsequent sessions of Parliament.

The Government passed the motion despite many apologies from the Opposition and from MP Shadrack himself, with the Prime Minister saying the motion was in accordance with the Vanuatu Constitution, Article 21, on the rights of Parliament to suspend an MP.

“It is the Parliament that makes its own rules to come up with the motion which requires a majority vote. If the majority of the MPs had not voted for the motion, the motion would not be effective,” Prime Minister Loughman said.

“So the Parliament is following normal procedures.”

However, the Leader of Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu, claims the Government has acted on a former standing order which has been revised to move the suspension power.

“It is a new section that came about due to MP suspensions in past legislatures that the court had found unconstitutional. The standing committee revised this section so it would not happen again in the future, so you cannot suspend a member for any length of time just because you are not happy about him . Now it is tabu and is in the standing order that the suspension must be for a very short period,” Mr Regenvanu said.

The former Speaker says he will take the decision to court.

Mr Shadrack says the Court of Appeal had concluded that the constitutional dispute over his actions had shown the importance of practical democracy.

“This is the reason why we are elected into Parliament, to apply the law,” he said.

The Deputy Clerk of Parliament, Leon Teter, says Mr Shadrack will no longer attend Parliament sittings but will still get his entitlements as a Member of Parliament.

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