Suspension of Vanuatu opposition could ensure stability
A Vanuatu-based academic sees a successful motion to suspend 16 opposition MPs by the Prime Minister as a move to ensure stability.
A Vanuatu-based academic sees a successful motion to suspend 16 opposition MPs by the Prime Minister as a move to ensure stability
Joe Natuman moved the motion, alleging the MPs contravened the Leadership Code in accepting monetary offers from the opposition leader Moana Carcasses.
Tess Newton Cain, who is a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, told Koro Vaka'uta the move has history.
TESS NEWTON CAIN: It's not the first time that a suspension, a motion of suspension of this type has been used but we haven't seen it for quite a long time. The last time was during the 1980s when the opposition, as led by the UMP, there was a motion of suspension passed then. It doesn't set a precedent but it's not usual in the course of the last 20 years.
KORO VAKA'UTA: And how does it fit in with the style of the existing government?
TNC: Well, I think the government which is currently led by the Vanua'aku Pati is the biggest party in government with Joe Natuman heading it up as Prime Minister, I think this is in keeping in as much as there as has been very much a focus on trying to achieve and maintain some form of stability. That is obviously, to my mind, would be the main driver for having taken this approach. Although it's something of a surprise, in terms of the actual methodology that's being used, it's not a surprise in terms of what the Prime Minister has expressed as being very important to him. I interviewed the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago and when I asked him, what is the one thing you want your government to have achieved before the 2016 elections, it was political stability that was very much at the forefront of his mind.
KV: What will happen now, or what could happen now?
TNC: I think there is definitely a possibility that the leader of the opposition and the opposition bloc will seek to have this decision, the passing of that motion reviewed by the Supreme Court. As you are possibly aware, Vanuatu has a very well established tradition of constitutional challenges, of rulings by the Speaker in the courts. The courts have dealt with those in a very robust and independent way at both the level of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal and what is most significant in terms of Vanuatu governance is that on every occasion that the court has made a ruling either in favour or against what the Speaker's decided to do or how parliament has exercised its powers, those decisions have then been followed by all members of parliament. And hopefully that's something that we would expect to see happen again, if there is a court case arising.
KV: How long does that sort of process take?
TNC: In previous occasions it's all happened very quickly. We've had situations where the court's convened in the afternoon with a view to overturning things and those decisions have been handed down very quickly and followed up on very quickly. So I would expect if the opposition seeks this option, that it will all happen in a matter of days or weeks.
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