01 DECEMBER 2009 PORT VILA (RNZI) ----- Transparency Vanuatu has voiced concern at the cost to the taxpayer from a ruling by the speaker to strip the Prime Minister Edward Natapei of his seat in parliament.
Mr Natapei missed three consecutive sittings without submitting an authorised written explanation for his absence. Under Vanuatu’s law, this means he must forfeit his seat. In the meantime, Mr Natapei remains the Prime Minister.
Mr Natapei’s lawyers have challenged the speaker’s decision in the Supreme Court which is due to make a ruling before parliament resumes next week. But Transparency’s Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson said the ruling was another costly example of standing orders of Vanuatu’s parliament being manipulated against the interests of democracy.
“New election, another cost; new choice of a Prime Minister, which means likely to have ministers change; new dismissal of ministers who are going to all be paid compensation. We changed three ministers last month or this month and it cost us almost thirty-five million [vatu].
If we change more, then we’re going to be in the hundreds of millions. You go to the islands and people are suffering and these guys [politicians] are spending their time only thinking of themselves, their revenge... it is sickening.”
Meanwhile, a Vanuatu coalition government MP said there was little hope that the Prime Minister’s appeal against a ruling by parliament’s speaker to strip him of his seat as an MP would be successful. An MP with the Alliance grouping, Ralph Regenvanu, said there was a precedent for this case.
“In 1988, the entire Union of Moderate Parties MPs, all 18 of their MPs, lost their seats as a result of exactly the same law, missing three consecutive sittings. And one of the people to lose their seats in 1988 was the current speaker, Korman, so he actually knows this law very well.
The UMP in 1988 took their case to court and the Court of Appeal backed up the speaker’s decision.”….PNS (ENDS)