25 Oct 2004

Vanuatu Opposition defends its support for sweeping constitutional change

8:42 pm on 25 October 2004

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu, Edward Natapei, says sweeping changes to the constitution, passed unanimously last week, are needed to bring stability to the country.

The changes include grace periods when votes of no confidence cannot be brought and rules restricting the times when MPs can switch their party allegiance.

It also allows for Cabinet to include a third of the MPs and plans for wage increases for members.

NGOs say the moves are about the MPs looking after themselves, but Mr Natapei says the Opposition backed the changes to bring stability.

"we are trying to create some stable situation for the government to carry out its programme. If we do not do that then we are just going to continue to change the government almost every -- well, in this case it could have happened two or three weeks after the election of the Prime Minister"

Mr Natapei says the people will have the final say with the changes to be put to a referendum next year.

However the Government spokesman, Kal Moli, says they intend implementing the changes immediately.