Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau confirmed Opposition Leader

Leader of Opposition Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau (2nd from l) flanked by Deputy Opposition Leader Sato Kilman (l), Opposition Whip Christophe Emelee (r)

It’s been confirmed, Member of Parliament for Port Vila Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau is the Leader of the Opposition in this new Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu.

The confirmation came at a press conference held by the Opposition Bloc at Parliament House in Port Vila Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking on behalf of the Opposition Bloc, the Leader of the Opposition also confirmed the names of its other office bearers.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is Sato Kilman, former Prime Minister and MP for Malekula. Opposition Whip is Christophe Emelee, MP for Torres. And the Opposition’s nominee for the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee is Hosea Nevu, MP for Santo.

Leader of the Opposition Kalsakau also announced the appointment of the Office of the Opposition’s technical personnel: 1. Levi Tarosa – Private Adviser to the Leader of the Opposition; 2. John Shing – Political Adviser Coordination; 3. Richard Kaltonga – Political Adviser Liaison; 4. Georgio Calo – Political Adviser General; and 5. Xavier Kasso Andre – Office Supervisor.

The groupings within the opposition comprise the following: 1. Union of Moderate Parties; 2. Iauko Group; 3. Peoples Progressive Party; 4. Vanuatu National Development Party; 5. Vanuatu Leba Pati; and 6. U Bloc, altogether totaling 18 Members of Parliament.

“The entire group shares a common resolution based upon trust and mutual understanding, reconciliation, consultation and respect that is rooted in customary values, Christian principles and faith in God,” Kalsakau said.

“The journey forward must be based upon these “stamba tingting” that founded our nation if we are to ensure a future that is mutually beneficial. The priority focus for the group is based on the empowerment of people.”

“The theme for the group whilst in opposition is to focus our initial energy upon driving issues geared towards attainment for, with respect to what we consider to be, the forgotten places and people of Vanuatu. The people of Vanuatu deserve effective and efficient representation on issues that are critical to important in their daily livelihood and it is the aspiration of the Group that this will be attained by having a robust and ever vibrant voice for the people in and outside of the chambers of Parliament,” he said.

Seated alongside him the three other office bearer, Kalsakau said the Opposition congratulated the Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas on his election as Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu.

“No doubt it is testament to the voice of the people as a result of the snap elections of late that a leadership of Vanuatu, this time round should be one that is demonstrably one that is moderate by design. It must be emphasized that the polls have returned a result evincing a majority of 35 “likeminded” members of parliament by our count to the remaining 17 conservatives,” he continued.

He added that when considered with the resolution of the Opposition it was never a difficulty for them not to nominate a candidate to contest against one who hails from their “sense of persuasion, regardless of the anomaly of numbers”.

The Leader of the Opposition signaled that this is understandably nerve racking for the conservative members in Government.

“But when one does the numbers it is a necessary design of the people willed by them through the democratic process.”

“It will be something that will haunt them for the entire life of this legislature, one which, it will be our pleasure to provide them constant reminder. It is for them to create a path to accommodate themselves to this constant “heat” in their political lives this period of Parliament,” he added.

Having said this, on behalf of the Opposition, Kalsakau flagged the following issues for the newly elected Government to contemplate and address:

1. What Now.

“The Opposition notes it is now midweek and yet the Government has yet to relay to the public a mission statement of its governance for the next 4 years. The Opposition reminds the Government that this country is still recovering from the effects tropical cyclone PAM as well as there being little sign the effects of Nino are ceasing as the greater pert of Vanuatu is facing shortages of water and food.”

Kalsakau said the announcement of a 100 day plan has the bearing features of déjà vu whereby the people were showered with promises yet to be fulfilled. The Government must be seen to be envisioned with plans for the people and be ready to pragmatise their stance to its people.

Such laxity must not be encouraged in the face of the disaster and hardship being faced by people and communities around the main urban centres to the remotest of islands and villages.

2. Budget. The Opposition says the Government needed no reminder that the deadline for the passage of the country’s annual appropriation for its administration is bordering crisis stage. And it added that the people require the Government to come out immediately than later with its intentions, requiring the annual appropriation.

“The Government is reminded that the Members of Parliament require adequate notice for the appropriation bill to be scrutinised prior to debate inside the Chambers.

3. Course of Justice. The Opposition is concerned that there is presently before the Court a pending criminal trial involving the Deputy Prime Minister, Joe Natuman.

“The Office of the Opposition echoes calls made in the previous legislature by the said Deputy Prime Minister when he himself, a member of that legislature referring to previous Ministers implicated in such manner to stand aside from the governance of the nation pending the completion of the criminal trial.

“The Opposition holds him to his words and honour and calls upon him to resign from office and if not, urges the Prime Minister to remove him from office pending completion of the criminal trial.”

The Opposition says this is to ensure that the Government is not perceived to be tampering with the cause of justice.

“No doubt the fact that the media has published a camp at Pele Island prior to the lead up to the formation of Government and the fact of the present Prime Minister’s nomination by the said Deputy Prime Minister could potentially be viewed as an attempt by the said Deputy Prime Minister to interfere with the impartiality of the proceedings,” Mr Kalsakau alleged.

4. Port Vila Municipal Council. “The Opposition is called upon to commission an Inquiry to investigate allegations regarding the conduct of the Lord Mayor concerning the Council’s purse. The Opposition wishes to have clarified allegations that a vehicle was purchased for the benefit of a Councilor to secure the re-election of the Lord Mayor. In addition the Opposition wants investigated allegations that the Lord Mayor advanced monies in the amount of the Vt 1 million from the Council’s purse at the time of based upon an alleged inflated insurance claim for assault upon the manager of the market haos.

“The Council must also be investigated for disrupting the beautification program for Port Vila because an investor has been allegedly authorised by the Lord Mayor to erect a building to replace the Shanghai farea.

“The Opposition reminds that the funds of Council belong to the people of Port Vila and must not be the subject of underhandedness if alleged to be correct. If true the persons concerned must be prosecuted as well as reimburse to the Council’s full account.”

Finally, the Leader of the Opposition announced that (a) The Opposition will be reorganizing itself by ensuring there is coverage on issues affecting the portfolios of governance of Vanuatu. To this end, at the next press relay the Opposition will announce its line-up of shadow portfolio spokesperson who will address issues relating to portfolios of governance each as, when and if they arise.

“This is designed to ensure the people are properly informed as to an occurrence at any given time the opposition feels it is necessary to have people informed of and where the Opposition feels the government must address with the right sort of attitude.”

(b) The Opposition wishes to inform it is aware there are reports of the conduct of state Ministers that have surfaced that are of some concern. “Whilst it is acknowledged that that there may be certain privileges of becoming state officers that such privileges come with responsibilities. It is important that incoming Ministers walk the line required of them by the people.”

(c) The Opposition is aware that there are members of Parliament who have sided with Government because of intentions to profit personally therefrom.

The Opposition reminds the Government that public funds of the Government and all its entities and subsidiaries remain monies that require to be accounted for and that any political favouring for the sake of stability must not at any time involve the expenditure of monies belonging to the people.

(d) The Opposition is aware of the movement by a Green Confederation Member of Parliament also from the Opposition to the Government to join ranks with his colleague. “Where this is so it is merely to reinforce the kava exchange between the Prime Minister and the Members of the Opposition,” the Leader of the Opposition stressed.

(e) In the next two weeks the Office of the Opposition will be devoting the entire weeks to the conduct of courtesy visits in order to identify what services are available to it therefrom to enable it to effectively discharge its duties to the Republic

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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