Vanuatu Supreme Court to determine validity of no confidence motion

The Vanuatu Supreme Court building in Port Vila. Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

PORT VILA, 28 NOVEMBER 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – Vanuatu Supreme Court will hear the Opposition bloc’s urgent constitutional application Thursday, to determine whether or not the motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister was in order.

The court will also determine whether or not the calling of an extraordinary session was in order.

After the Supreme Court conference Tuesday, Justice Dudley Aru ordered Leader of Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau to file notice of cease to act and Robin Tom Kapapa to file his beginning to act by close of business Tuesday.

He also ordered the applicants to file and served an amended Constitutional Application as well as any further sworn statements with their written submissions no later than 4.30pm Tuesday.

The Supreme Court judge also asked the first respondent which is the Speaker of the Parliament to file and serve his response by today.

He said that the second respondent which is the Republic of Vanuatu will also file their submissions by close of business today.

State Law has withdrawn from acting on behalf of the Speaker and he has to find a lawyer to represent him tomorrow.

The Opposition is challenging the decision of the Speaker to declare their motion not in order on November 22, 2018 claiming 12 have retracted their signatures.

MP Kalsakau said that section 21 (2) of the of the Constitution confirmed that the ‘Parliament may meet in extraordinary session at the request of the majority of its members, the Speaker or the Prime Minister’.

His application is based on section 43 (2) that talks about the ‘Collective responsibility of Ministers and votes of no confidence’.

He said the section stated the ‘Parliament may pass a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. At least one week’s notice of such a motion shall be given to the Speaker and the motion must be signed by one-sixth of the members of Parliament. If it is supported by an absolute majority of the members of Parliament, the Prime Minister and other Ministers shall cease to hold office forthwith but shall continue to exercise their functions until a new Prime Minister is elected’.

He claimed that on November 22, 2018, 30 MPs served the Speaker a request for Parliament to meet within seven days to debate a motion of non-confidence in the Prime Minister.

MP Kalsakau noted the request was accompanied by notice of motion and actual motion of no-confidence both on the same date.

He said the same section of the Constitution (21 (2)) was used by the government to request the calling of extraordinary session and ordinary session on October 11, 2018.

He said the Speaker granted the government’s request on November 2, 2018 and Parliament was summoned on November 5, 2018 to convene for its second extraordinary session from November 23, 2018 to December 7, 2018.

In addition the Parliament has been summoned to convene for its second ordinary session of 2018, from December 10 to 19, 2018.

The Speaker of Parliament said all MPs have been issued with summons for both sessions and his office had received letters from 12 MPs who had withdrawn their signatures from the said notice.

Taking these into consideration, he said the notice no longer had the support of the legally required majority as provided for under Article 21 (2) of the Constitution and he therefore ruled out the notice.

Kalsakau said the Speaker said he had sought advice from the Attorney General on the matter.

He said the Applicants served the office of the Clerk at 10.30am on November 22 and the Speaker responded at around 6pm the same day.

The Speaker received the withdrawals of the resignation of the 12 MPs at around 3 to 4pm.

The Opposition group say there is an infringement of their rights under Article 21 (2) and 43 (2) of the Constitution by ruling their request for the calling of an extraordinary session as not in order.

Kalsakau said the Speaker was only required to view the motion and check if section 21 (2) has been met, not undertake an enquiry as to who had actually signed the motion.

He said the timing of the motion suggested that the Speaker conducted an enquiry so the MPs withdrew from the request.

He said it is immaterial to the considerations of the Speaker of Parliament whether there is a notice already called when a majority of the MPs made a request under Article 21 (2) for the summoning of Parliament.

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