The Head of State, President Baldwin Lonsdale, has repeated his call on members of the Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu to provide political and constitutional reforms that will help improve service delivery to the people.

He made the calls in the Parliament Chamber in Port Vila in a lengthy address covering a wide range of subjects to the members of 11th legislature of the Vanuatu Parliament elected in the snap election in January this year Monday morning, in which he opened the First Ordinary session for the year.

President Lonsdale congratulated the newly-elected MPs including the Speaker, Esmon Saimon, the Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai and the Leader of the Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau on their election to their respective offices.

“The snap General Election of January 22, 2016 showed that the people of Vanuatu wanted ‘change’ as a result of issues the country was facing when more than 60% of those elected were young and well educated people who held key positions in the government and private sector for many years.”

“With the experiences of the newly-elected young and highly qualified leaders from the public and private sectors, I am fully confident in this Parliament leading Vanuatu in a new direction with new visions for Vanuatu as envisioned in the new National Development Plan (NSDP4) in future,” the President added.

With that background in mind, he emphasized his earlier call made last year to the Parliament for political and constitutional reforms.

He said that as Vanuatu progressed toward a better future, Parliament and government through political reform would take necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that that the ‘stability’ of the nation must be paramount to the Government and the Parliament of the country. He suggested that political reform must tackle corruption and improve service delivery to the population of Vanuatu “but not just to benefit politicians.”

“Secondly, political reform must address ‘Motions of No Confidence’. It was so unfortunate that over the years we have seen motions after motions of no confidence in governments that did not at all reflect the interest of the nation, but the interest of individual political groupings and parties over the people and the nations who became victims of those political games.”

Other areas of concern covered by the Head of State in his call for political reform were: Crossing of Parliamentary Floors by Members of Parliament; Registration of Political Parties; Reform in the Mentality of the Leaders; Constitutional Reform; and Structural Reform to stimulate economic growth.

His suggestion for constitutional reform emphasizing his earlier calls covered four main areas: I. Amendment to Chapter 1 Article 4 Sub-article (3) for more provisions to allow for reduction in the number of political partiers because he considered there were too many parties as seen in the last general election. II. Amendment to Chapter 6 Article 34 sub-article (1) as he felt that Parliament needed to include some leaders from organizations “who can be part of their elected Head of State” such as the Lord Mayor, President of Malvatumauri, Chairman of the Vanuatu Christian Council, President of the Vanuatu National Council of Women, and President of the National Youth Council;  III. Amendment to Chapter 6 Article 37, sub-article (1) so that the position of Acting President stayed with a ‘neutral person’ instead of a ‘politician’; and IV. Amendment to Chapter 6, Article 37, in addition to which he is calling on Parliament to urgently appoint a Committee to assist the Head of State look at the issue of pardoning and reducing of sentences of people in correction centers with members of the committee to constitutional position and not from political parties.

In his speech the President also touched on climate change and said it is a global issues and the country witnessing a proactive interplay between donors and Vanuatu and he called on the government to work more closely with donor partners to address issues impacting the people in the sectors of environment, the economy and social areas.

There are 12 Bills on the list for this First Ordinary Session of Parliament to discuss. They are: Bill for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act; Bill for the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act; Bill for the International Companies (Amendment) Act; Bill for the Stamp Duties (Amendment) Act; Bill for the Commercial Government Business Enterprise Act; Bill for the Land Leader Act (Amendment) Act; Bill for the Utilities Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Act; Bill for the Penal Code (Amendment) Act; Bill for the Supplementary Appropriations (2016) Act; Bill for the Paris Agreement (Ratification) Act; Bill for Right to Information Act; and Bill for International Tax Cooperation Act.

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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