“Our state’s sovereignty is our independence and power,” said President Obed Moses Tallis. Photo: File/Godwin Ligo

Constitutional protection given to citizens and their status have been challenged when the Vanuatu Citizenship Program was established in 2017. 

Head of State, Pastor Obed Moses Tallis, made this clear when he highlighted the challenges that have confronted the nation by those who carry the mantle from God-fearing founders of the Constitution.

“Our state’s sovereignty is our independence and power,” said President Tallis.

“This independent power becomes our great responsibility to exist and rule. That is why the celebration of this Constitution day is of such significance.

“Despite this challenge, we must protect the state and her sovereignty.”

The President conveyed that Constitutional protection given to the Parliamentary system have been challenged when leaders want to change it to suit their political policies but omitting other constitutional processes as evident in the recent supreme court and court of appeal lawsuits between the Speaker of Parliament, Head of State, Leader of Opposition and the Government.

“To make things worse, other leaders take advantage of this Constitutional challenge to advance their political interest and governance,” he said.

“Despite this challenge, we must protect the Parliamentary system of our Government and Sovereign state.”

Another challenge depicted in the President’s official speech was the Constitutional protection given to citizens and their status which have been challenged with the establishment of the Vanuatu Citizenship Program.

“In the era of Colonialism, we have been slaves to Britain and France. In the era of Blackbirding we have been slaves to Australia. In this era of Independence, we sell our status for money and we ourselves have become slaves to money.

“Record showed that since June 2019, 4,000 passports have been sold under the Citizenship Program to foreigners who have no interest to invest in Vanuatu, thus diminishing our economic development and destroying the very status that has been given to our people by the framers of the Constitution.

“The sale of passports undermines the unity, freedom and protections embraced by our God-fearing founders of the Constitution and our state.

“Despite this challenge, we must ‘come back’ to the foundation and protect our people and their status otherwise we will become stateless in our own land.”

Furthermore, the Head of State said the Constitutional protection given to chiefs have been challenged when chiefs themselves disputed their chiefly titles and status in the court of law thus affecting their roles and reputation in the society.

“These chiefly disputes show that chiefs do not know their identity, genealogies and roles thus preservation of our customs, culture and traditions will be at stake.

“Chiefs, you must know your identity and solve your dispute in accordance with your custom, traditions and culture and embrace the constitutional protection bestowed on you.”

Finally, Constitutional protection given to land and fundamental rights of individuals has also been challenged when too many land disputes brought before the Courts of Law against each other, Government and foreigners.

“These disputes about ownership and leases hinders protection of our people and their resources.

“That Constitutional protection to land becomes a challenge when customary institutions’ decisions gave ownership rights to non-indigenous citizens.

“Customary institutions must understand that only indigenous citizens of the Republic of Vanuatu have right to perpetual ownership of the land.

“It is also a challenge when the Government use the customary land without formalising their use by way of lease or compulsory acquisition.”

The President concluded that despite these challenges, “we must embrace the constitutional protections guaranteed in the Constitution for the good of our citizens and their resources as mandated by our God-fearing framers of the Constitution”.

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