The new members of the 11th Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu elected in the January 22, 2016 snap general election are meeting for the first time at 8.30 this morning at the Parliament House in Port Vila.

This first sitting is only ceremonial, states Acting Clerk of Parliament, Leon Teter, who issued the summon for the sitting after the Electoral Commission officially declared the names of the 52 winning candidates on February 1 for them to meet today.

The summon went to all candidates declared elected by the Electoral Commission as representatives of their respective constituencies to the Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu in accordance with Rule 21 (2) of Schedule 5 of the Representation of the People’s Act.

It stated that “In accordance with Standing Order 2 of the Standing Orders of Parliament of 1982, I hereby give notice that the First Sitting of the Eleventh Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu shall take place in Port Vila, Parliament House on Thursday, the Eleventh Day of February, 2016 at 8.30 Ante Meridiem.”

There are four items on the Order of Proceedings for the 11th Legislature to perform at this sitting: 1. Taking of Oaths by the new Members of Parliament; 2. Election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers of Parliament; 3. Signing of the Roll of Members of Parliament; and 4. Election of Prime Minister.

The Acting Clerk Teter, will perform the function of chair in the first item of the proceedings, which is the calling of the meeting to order, making the roll call of members and getting them to take their Oaths of Members of Parliament. This will be administered by Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek in accordance with an Act of Parliament, the Oaths Act (CAP 37).

Following that the sitting will proceed to elect the Speaker when the oldest member, who Teter has been informed by the Electoral Commission, is Esmon Saimon, representative for Malekula, will chair this process.

“After taking his Oath of Office and Oath of Allegiance, the elected Speaker will chair the election of Deputy Speakers. The number of Deputy Speakers will depend, the last legislature had 4 Deputy Speakers,” Teter said. Finally, the proceeding will elect the Prime Minister. Both the Speaker and Deputy Speakers and the Prime Minister will take their oaths of Office and Allegiance to be administered by the Attorney General as required also in accordance with the Oaths Act (CAP 37).

Following this the Speaker will close the sitting, after which as is the practice, Members will gather at the pig’s task area of the Parliament complex where they will be joined by members of the public to witness the Prime Minister appoint members of his cabinet.

“It is also possible that the new Prime Minister may choose to perform this function at some other location such as the Office of the Prime Minister and at some other time. That is entirely up to the Prime Minister because Parliament’s business ends with election of the Prime Minister,” Acting Clerk Teter explained.

Newly introduced for the first time for today’s sitting will be a formal welcome for the elected members at the pig’s tusk area by the Acting Clerk and all the staff where the Sergeant-at-Arms will give the command before they proceed after the Acting Clerk to the Chamber to take up their seats.

Additionally, also newly introduced for the first time, on the table of each members today will be the returned writ from the Electoral Commission following the holding of the election for the new parliament, which is the official declaration of the result and list of all the elected members of Parliament.

Meanwhile, all arrangements are ready for the sitting today with the Parliament complex cleaned, floors scrubbed and polished, all documentation completed and ready including ballot papers for elections, and oaths for the members, speakers and the prime minister.

“The Ssound system and cameras are ready for live broadcast of the proceedings by the radio and Televisen blong Vanuatu, and it will be streamed “live” on the web on http/www.parliament.gov.vu,” Teter continued.

“We will ensure the sitting is held in a peaceful manner with no disturbance,” he stated adding that arrangements have been completed with the Vanuatu Police Force for full security to be in place at the Parliament House.

There have been two blocs of members competing for numbers over the past week to form government and in a few hours after today’s sitting the country will know if it will be the bloc with the backing of the Caretaker government or the former Opposition bloc of the VP, NUP, GJP and supporters.

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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