The leader of the Commonwealth Team here for the Vanuatu Dialogue on Political Reform taking place at the Parliament Chamber, Albert Mariner, has assured the Government and participants that the Commonwealth is not here with any preconceived notions for political and constitutional reform.
“This issue (of deciding on the type of political reform for Vanuatu), is complex and only you, the political leaders, and the citizens of Vanuatu, are able to explore and come up with possible solutions to address the challenges at hand,” Mariner, the Head of the Caribbean and Pacific Section, Political Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat said at the opening of the 2-day dialogue Wednesday.
He said the charter of the Commonwealth recognizes that governments, political parties, and civil society are responsible for “upholding and promoting democratic culture and practices, and are accountable to the public in this regard.”
“Our presence here in supporting this dialogue follows an official request from the Hon. Prime Minister to the Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, and their subsequent bilateral discussions in Apria during the UN SIDS (Small Island Developing States) Summit in September 2014.”
Following that request the Commonwealth recommended the Prime Minister, Joe Natuman, convene a conversation between all political parties “on this critical issue of importance to Vanuatu’s democracy, and in pursuit of national development objectives.”
Mariner said they were also aware that the Leader of the Opposition (Moana Carcasses) during his tenure as Prime Minister convened a similar conversation between the Political Parties.
“From these meetings we have had since arrival, and from previous visits, it is obvious that there is a strong desire amongst the political leaders to address political instability in Vanuatu’s current governance arrangements.”
Since 1991, political instability has impacted Vanuatu’s economic growth and national development. This process of political reform, therefore, aims to deepen Vanuatu’s democracy and developing a better process of Government to pursue development, and to improve the lives of the people of Vanuatu.
The issues being discussed in this two-day process are critical to Vanuatu’s proposed political reform, said Mariner. And that “the program for this process may not cover all the issues the honorable members may wish to discuss.”
“In recognition of the recent conversations between the political parties that were convened by the Prime Minister, we hope that this two day dialogue process will focus on some of the key issues that arose from those recent conversations, and could lead to clear and tangible outcomes on the way forward,” Albert Mariner said.
The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Speaker of Parliament in their addresses at the opening session all expressed their support for the dialogue process to assist with finding a solution to political instability through political reform.
Speaker Philip Boedoro said the initiative for political reform began during the Prime Ministership of Edward Natapei “when his government engaged the services of Professor Don Patterson to come up with a Policy Framework for Political Party Integrity Legislation which the professor did.” The paper is a resource material at this dialogue process.
“This process of advocating political reform for Vanuatu continued under the Government of former Prime Minister Moana Carcassess and for which he is acknowledged,” Boedoro added, “And this process continues under the current Prime Minister, Joe Natuman.”
All three leaders expressed the appreciation of a grateful nation to the Commonwealth and particularly the Secretary General for agreeing to support Vanuatu’s political reform.