The 19 Vanuatu Government MPs whose terms in Parliament are hanging on a thread have learnt their fate.
They will live to fight another day despite losing an important appeal case against the then Speaker of Parliament Gracia Shadrack’s decision to declare their seats vacant.
However it is feared that losing the appeal weakens their fight to reclaim their seats.
In early June, Mr Shadrack declared the 19 seats, including that of Prime Minister Bob Loughman, vacant because the MPs had been absent from parliament for three consecutive days.
Following the declaration, Vanuatu’s Supreme Court upheld the Speaker’s decision despite the MPs’ argument that only the Supreme Court had the power to declare vacancy in Parliament seats.
ABC Radio Australia reported that the Vanuatu Court of Appeal on Friday set aside a Supreme Court decision, which concluded that the MPs had vacated their seats.
The MPs claimed that Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Saksak, erred by dismissing their constitutional application.
Their lawyer, Ari Jenshel, said the Supreme Court judge went further than he should have gone.
“He decided a question that wasn’t before him and to that extent today, we were entirely successful,” Jenshel said.
The MPs filed proceedings in the Supreme Court, arguing that they didn’t vacate their seats because they were not absent from Parliament for three consecutive days.
A new court hearing date is expected in the days to come.
Dumped Vanuatu MPs learn their fate
The 19 Vanuatu parliamentarians who have appealed a decision declaring their seats vacant will know their fate this Friday.
Former Speaker Gracia Shadrack declared the government MPs’ seats vacant on June 8 because they skipped Parliament for three days.
Supreme Court Judge Oliver Saksak dismissed their July 5 constitutional application which claimed that the Speaker had no power to declare a seat vacant. They claimed only the Supreme Court had this power.
Friday’s ruling would see the Court of Appeal determining whether the Speaker had the right to declare the vacancy and announce whether the Supreme Court was right to dismiss the MPs’ appeal.
The applicants’ submissions were filed by their legal counsels, Ari Jenshel and Sakiusa Kalsakau.