The supreme court of Vanuatu will hear the constitutional case filed by President Obed Moses Tallis over the Bill for Constitution (Seventh) Amendment No.1 of 2019, at 11am today.
Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek has asked both counsels, Ridgeway Blake representing President Ps. Obed Tallis and the Attorney General representing the respondent, the Speaker of Parliament Esmon Saemon to the hearing scheduled as mentioned above.
The latest development on the contentious bill came about after the president indicated last month that he will be seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court over the recent Constitutional amendment endorsed by parliament, which saw parliament voting 41-7 to formalize the role of the Parliamentary Secretaries (PS) in the Constitution, and to set a maximum number equal to two-thirds of the number of ministers. Three reasons have been cited for this consideration.
The first is the Bill provides for the insertion of a new Article 46A in the Constitution to provide as follows:
46A. Appointment and removal of PS (1) The Prime Minister (PM) may appoint PS from among the MPs. (2) The number of PS must not exceed two-thirds of the number of ministers. (3) The PM is to assign responsibilities for the conduct of government to the PS. (4) The PM may remove the PS from office.
Secondly, the Bill purports to amend the Constitution regarding the parliamentary system by increasing the number of persons with responsibility for the conduct of Government from a maximum of 13 ministers and the PM to 13 ministers, the PM and up to a further 8 PS.
The third is the amendment to the Constitution regarding the parliamentary system without the support of a national referendum, may be inconsistent with the provisions of Article 86 of the Constitution.
These are the main areas that the Head of State is seeking the Court’s opinion on.
After the first conference recently Chief Justice Lunabek said there is a case to answer and scheduled the hearing on the 17 May at 2pm.
But yesterday around 3pm, chief justice Lunabek has rescheduled the hearing date to today 15 May.