The State Office is seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court over the recent Constitutional amendment endorsed by parliament.
The State Office received the draft bill to legalise the position of Parliamentary Secretaries on March 5, 2019 and a copy of the bill was provided to the Head of State on April 9, 2019.
This came about after parliament voted 41-7 to formalise the role of the Parliamentary Secretary in the Constitution, and to set a maximum number equal to two-thirds of the number of ministers on Friday, March 29 2019.
Daily Post was told that the State Office wrote to the Office of the Attorney General to obtain his consent before the matter is referred before the Supreme Court for hearing.
The State Office confirmed that the consent to involve a private lawyer in the matter was obtained yesterday afternoon and they recommended Ridgeway Blake Lawyers to deal with the case.
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to the State House Yan Dapang told Daily Post that section 22 of the State Law Office Act [CAP 242] provides for the President to consult with the Attorney General for his consent before taking any Constitutional issue to the court.
Section 22 states; “Duty to consult with Attorney General; (1) In all legal matters concerning the State or Government, the President, and Government, must consult the Attorney General.
(2) The President or Government will not instruct a private legal practitioner in matters of State without the prior written approval of the Attorney General.
(3) The Attorney General may when he or she considers it prudent or when the circumstances warrant, engage a private legal practitioner to undertake legal work on behalf of the Office.”
Mr Dapang also stated that if the President has any issue concerning a bill, he has 14 days to refer the matter to the court after obtaining the Attorney General’s consent to seek a private lawyer to act on his behalf.
The Acting CEO said that they have served the Attorney General and have send a reminder again last week and they responded yesterday.
Mr Dapang said the President has no negative comments on the bill but the office just felt that it was better to seek the court’s opinion.
Nevertheless, article 86 in chapter 14 of the Constitution states: “Amendments requiring support of referendums:
“A bill for an amendment of a provision of the Constitution regarding the status of Bislama, English and French, the electoral system, or the parliamentary system, passed by Parliament under Article 85, shall not come into effect unless it has been supported in a national referendum.”
Mr Dapang said this section is circumstantial by itself and it is safer for the State to seek the court’s opinion on the issue before legalizing the PS positions.
He said the State Office’s role is to uphold and defend the Constitution of this nation.
Acting CEO Dapang said the State Office will make sure all amendments in the bill undergo a thorough scrutiny for the sake of the people of the Republic of Vanuatu.