28 Oct 2015

Vanuatu Opposition renews plea for PM to go

1:45 pm on 28 October 2015

The Vanuatu Opposition Deputy Leader, Ham Lini, is maintaining his call for the Prime Minister Sato Kilman to step down.

Mr Lini wants to form a Government of National Unity after the jailing of 14 MPs.

Mr Kilman's is now a minority government and he has managed to fill just nine of the 13 cabinet portfolios.

In a statement, he says the President Baldwin Lonsdale, should dissolve Parliament and call a new election.

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Vanuatu Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Walter Zweifel

The opposition grouping is against an early election, citing the cost to the country.

President Lonsdale earlier set November 6th as the deadline to resolve the political crisis.

War of words heats up between Vanuatu parties

Mr Lini's statement comes a day after his opposition leader Joe Natuman repeated an earlier call for Sato Kilman to resign.

Mr Natuman said Mr Kilman was to blame for any constitutional crisis that emerges.

Vanuatu Foreign Minister Sato Kilman

Sato Kilman Photo: UN.org

A court has refused their application for bail while they wait for an appeal, meaning that half of Mr Kilman's government remains in jail.

Mr Kilman has refused to step down, stressing that the convicted MPs have 14 days to appeal during which they remain Members of Parliament.

He even went as far as questioning the country's justice system, asking whether justice was being done for everybody.

In his first public statement since the saga erupted earlier this month, Mr Kilman alleged cover-ups and interference by former leaders in cases ranging from an alleged rape, a fatal car accident and mutiny in the police and mobile force.

Mr Kilman's office has also alleged some opposition members have admitted receiving bribes but have never been investigated.

But the opposition leader, Joe Natuman, says Mr Kilman is unashamedly holding on to power in defiance of public opinion and international norms.

Ousted Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman

Vanuatu's Opposition leader, Joe Natuman. Photo: RNZI / Kim Baker-Wilson

This past week, he has appointed three new MPs as cabinet ministers.

However, Mr Natuman says the government remains a minority one, and Mr Kilman has two options.

"One is to work with the prime minister providing he step down, and we form a new government, and the other one is if he continues to refuse then we will come up with the numbers to remove him as prime minister."

The president, Baldwin Lonsdale, has the power to dissolve parliament and call a snap election.

Mr Lonsdale is expected to chair a meeting with Mr Kilman and Mr Natuman to try and reach a solution later this week.

Probe closed

The police say there are no more investigations underway into MPs over alleged bribery.

Radio Vanuatu has reported police are starting investigations into three MPs who were given immunity from prosecution for their testimony in the recent bribery case.

A spokesman for the police Chief of Staff Kalshem Bongran says this is not the true and the reports are speculation.

The broadcaster reports the Prime Minister's Office as saying there are still MPs whose cases must go to court despite their immunity under the Prosecutions Act for giving testimony in the recent bribery case.

Crowds gather to witness the convicted MP's inside the escorted Police Vehicle in front of the Correctional facility that they will serve their jail term

Crowds gather to witness the convicted MP's inside the escorted Police Vehicle in front of the Correctional facility that they will serve their jail term Photo: SUPPLIED / Transparency International Vanuatu

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