New Health Minister

Leaders Party of Vanuatu (LPV) Member of Parliament, Gracia Shadrach’s rule as Minister of Health came to an abrupt end yesterday morning — 24 days after he was appointed as Minister of Health.

This is arguably the shortest term for a Minister of Health in Vanuatu’s political history; but is touted as necessary to maintain political stability.

MP Shadrack’s termination and the subsequent appointment of another new Minister of Health, by Prime Minister (PM), Charlot Salwai comes as the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Bloc of four MPs, defected from the Opposition and joined the Government.

Union of Moderate Parties (UMP) MP for Efate Rural, Norris Kalmet has made a comeback through his alliance with the PPP bloc, succeeding MP Shadrack as the new Minister of Health.

This is not his first ministerial portfolio – he was appointed as the Minister of Sports and Youth Development in June 2016, a portfolio he held for a mere five months before PM Salwai removed him, after he signed a motion of no-confidence in PM Salwai’s leadership.

A major factor which contributed to the delay in addressing chronic issues raised by doctors and nurses which plagued the Ministry of Health over the years, is the absence of longevity-a new minister is appointed almost every year.

This is obvious after Willie Rueben took the portfolio of the Ministry of Health in the 9th Legislature, followed by Serge Vohor (March 23, 2013 — May 15, 2014); George Wells (May 15, 2014 – June 11, 2015); Daniel Toara (February 11 — November 23, 2016); Jerome Ludvaune (November 23, 2016 – December 19, 2017), Gracia Shadrack (December 19,2017 – January 12, 2018) and now Norris Kalmet (January 12, 2018 -?).

While more changes to the political composition of the cabinet are inevitable, Prime minister Salwai has left the country on an overseas trip yesterday.

It is unclear how the LPV is reacting to the reshuffle at this stage, especially as both the LPV and the Graon mo Jastis Pati (GJP) acquired an additional ministerial portfolio each, after the last reshuffle in December when the National United Party (NUP) and the Union of Moderate Parties relinquished the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health.

Both former ministers were given Parliamentary Secretary positions.

Nevertheless, the NUP bloc has tripled its numbers in the last six days, signing solidarity agreements with other political groupings to support the incumbent government, until the end of its term.

The GJP is another major partner in the current coalition government. Currently, all GJP MPs are attending the GJP National Caucus on Akhamb Island, south Malekula.

Deputy Prime Minister, Joe Natuman is the acting PM in PM Salwai’s absence.

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