Vanuatu’s first ever referendum — scheduled for the 4th of June 2019 — has been deferred.
The Chairman of the Task Force on the Constitutional Review, Minister Ralph Regenvanu explained that the decision to postpone it is simply because it has not been tabled and voted in parliament yet.
The Task Force embarked on a targeted consultation in January this year, as it was supposed to be tabled in parliament in March.
But the Government led by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai summoned a special parliament sitting and debated the Bill for the Constitution (Seventh) Amendment No.1 of 2019 on the 29th of March.
Following the constitutional bill, all consultations on the proposed political reform have been paused.
“We are hopeful that the referendum will take place yet but it will no longer take place on 4 June,” Minister Regenvanu said.
“We still want the referendum but the bill must first be tabled in parliament and must have 2/3 of votes supporting the bill, which means 35 members of parliament voting in favor. If the vote meets this required number, there will be no referendum.”
Meanwhile the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is questioning the Government’s high coverage of the so-called referendum saga.
“June the fourth is fast approaching but the alleged plans for constitutions and national mass awareness seems to have obliterated into thin air,” a statement from the Opposition Leader’s office expressed.
“And to top it off the projected budget of Vt90 million seems to be untouched or gathering interest in some bank vaults.”
The political reform package consists of one new law, an amendment to the Constitution, and amendments to two existing laws.
The four proposed Bills are: (1) A new law — the Bill for the Political Parties (Regulation) Act (2) An amendment to the Constitution, The Constitution (Seventh)(Amendment) Act (3) Bill for the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act and; (4) Bill for the Charitable Association (Incorporation)(Amendment) Act.