20 Sep 2017

Vanuatu govt MPs defect to the Opposition

3:00 pm on 20 September 2017

Two government MPs in Vanuatu have defected to the opposition group.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the defection of MPs Ephraim Kalsakau and Fred Tasso of the Workers Party for Vanuatu Development brings the opposition numbers up to 10.

Speaking to the paper about the move Mr Tasso claimed Prime Minister Charlot Salwai failed to honour a promise to grant the party a parliamentary secretary position in the Labour department.

He said they also did not want to be part of any attempt to increase MP salaries, while the ordinary citizens of the country struggled to make ends meet.

A statement from the Opposition however claimed the two MPs defected to the Opposition because of alleged spending of unbudgeted funds on maintaining the unity of the government coalition.

Vanuatu parliament building in the capital Port Vila.

Vanuatu parliament building in the capital Port Vila. Photo: RNZI/ Walter Zweifel

The two MPs also said they were opposed to the signing of the PACER Plus trade agreement, which they said was done prematurely and without sufficient consultation.

Commenting on the defection, a government spokesperson Hilaire Bule, said the MPs had joined government from the Opposition of their own accord and it was well within their democratic right to return to it.

However he said the reasons cited for their defection were unfounded and untrue.

Mr Bule said the Salwai government still commanded the majority, with 42 MPs, and will continue to focus on its policy priorities and delivering on its promises for development.