PM, deputy PM and 17 MPs told to vacate their seats

The Vanuatu Speaker of Parliament this morning ordered the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and another 17 Members of Parliament to vacate their seats.

The speaker, Gracia Shadrack, made the call following what he said was the MPs’ absence at three consecutive sittings of Parliament.

Mr Shadrack says the MPs were absent at sittings between the first and third of June.

But, Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, claims all 19 MPs have attended Parliament on these three days.

He says the Government will challenge the speaker’s ruling in court.

The speaker claims the MP’s absences without his permission at three consecutive sittings violated Parliamentary Standing Orders and had disturbed the business of the house.

He said the MPs’ actions had infringed the rights of the constitutional voters who elected them under article 4 (1) of the Constitution and constituted contempt of Parliament under section 2(d) of the Members of Parliament Vacation of Seats Act [CAP 174].

Mr Shadrack also said article 22 (2) in the Constitution stated that the Speaker of Parliament has the right to preside in parliamentary sittings and maintain order.

The 19 members whose seats were vacated were: Bob Loughman, the PM and an MP for Tanna; Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau, the Deputy PM and an MP for Port Vila; Johnny Koanapo Raso, the Minister of Finance and an MP for Tanna; Jay Ngwele, the Minister of Infrastructures and an MP for Ambae; Simeon Seule, the Minister of Education and an MP for Epi; Willie Daniel, the Minister of Agriculture and an MP for Tongoa; Bruno Tau Leingkone, the Minister of Climate Change and an MP for Ambrym; Samson Samsen and Leonard Joshua Pikioune, MPs for Santo Rural; Edward Nalyal Molou, an MP for Tafea Outer Islands; Nako Ianatom Natuman and Xavier Emanuel Harry, MPs for Tanna; Mark Melsul, an MP for Pentecost; Edmond Julun, an MP for Malekula; Harry Anthony, an MP for Port Vila; James Bule, an MP for Ambae; Willie Pakoa Satearoto, an MP for Shepherds Outer Islands; Mark Athy, an MP for Luganville; and Silas Bule, an MP for Pentecost.

Prime Minister Loughman says the MPs believe the speaker does not have the right to vacate their seats without a court ruling.

He says only the seats of 19 MPs have been vacated but a parliamentary minute records 28 MPs did not attend the three consecutive sittings.

“The Government will take this ruling to court for a legal judgement,” the Prime Minister said.

“We will wait until the court gives its ruling.”

Prime Minister Loughman says he strongly believes the court ruling will see all those stood down back in Parliament.

Mr Shadrack has adjourned the parliamentary sitting until this Friday, 18 June at 8:30 am.

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