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Vanuatu

Parliament dissolved as legal battle looms

Vanuatu now has a caretaker government headed by Bob Loughman after the parliament was dissolved leaving many members unemployed.

The president of Vanuatu Nikenike Vurobaravu dissolved the country’s parliament just over halfway through the current four-year-term.

Mr Vurobaravu signed the instrument for the dissolution of parliament on Thursday afternoon and in doing so has given Mr Loughman a political lifeline.

Many had expected this to happen as Mr Vurobaravu was nominated by Mr Loughman’s administration.

The Friday session of the parliament would have been where a proposed motion of no confidence in the prime minister was tabled.

The opposition had filed the motion of no confidence giving five reasons for the removal of the prime minister and signatures collected from the members of parliament showed an overwhelmingly majority signalling the end of Mr Loughman’s administration.

However, Mr Loughman made a visit to Mr Vurobaravu on Sunday asking him to dissolve the parliament because the political instability was impacting the nation’s economy.

This was followed by a boycott of the parliamentary sitting on Monday by Mr Loughman’s government resulting in the parliament not having a quorum to proceed with the motion of no confidence, and the matter was adjourned to Friday.

On Wednesday, Mr Loughman asked the speaker of the House Simeon Seoule to step down. Following this he made a statement that he would not be stepping down and his position was of neutrality.

The dissolution of parliament means that the nation is headed towards fresh elections after two months.

Ralph Regenvaru (L) will be challenging the dissolution of parliament. Picture: Ralph Regenvanu Facebook

Ralph Regenvanu who was opposition leader said they will be challenging the decision of the president in court.

He said the courts will have to look at this as an urgent action. It is believed that legal papers are being prepared to file in the court at the earliest possible time.

Meanwhile, Mr Loughman has asked the people of Vanuatu to respect the decision of the president. All is not well in Vanuatu as the general reaction to dissolution has been one of surprise.

A correspondent from Vanuatu said that if general elections were to take place, Mr Loughman may not win.

Nation on the political brink – 17 August 2022

Political uncertainty has gripped Vanuatu and its recovering economy could be headed for turbulent times as the motion to throw out prime minister Bob Loughman has gathered momentum despite a parliamentary hiccup.

A motion of no confidence, which was to take place on Tuesday, did not eventuate as the government side boycotted the parliament seating resulting in a lack of quorum. A two third majority is required for a parliamentary sitting.

Mr Loughman also made a request to head of state Nikenike Vurobaravu to dissolve parliament because the political instability was impacting the nation’s economic recovery. He stated that the economy could not support frequent instability.

Speaker of Parliament Simeon Seoule adjourned the extraordinary session to meet on Friday, while leader of the opposition, Ralph Regengenavu is adamant that Mr Loughman will be voted out on Friday and a new leader elected.

He said the boycott was a ploy to keep Mr Loughman in power but on Friday things will change.

There is indication that the head of state, president Mr Vurobaravu could favour the option sought by Mr Loughman, given he was the choice of the current administration for the role.

Local media reported that as many as 27 members of parliament have supported the motion of no confidence. It is believed that there are five key reasons why the motion was filed in parliament.

These include Mr Loughman’s attempts to change the democratic system and key constitutional positions which provide checks and balances within Vanuatu’s governance system.

Political uncertainty has gripped Vanuatu and its recovering economy could be headed for turbulent times as the motion to throw out prime minister Bob Loughman has gathered momentum despite a parliamentary hiccup. Picture: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

The decision to make the proposed changes has been labelled as dictatorial.

The ministers are also not happy with Mr Loughman’s decision to suspend top civil servants from the Ministry of Health on full pay during the height of the pandemic and then reinstate them after allegations of gross misconduct.

Other decisions made regarding the civil service have also been noted as reasons.

The ministers are also alleging that there was a failure to observe the legal tender process in the contract awarded for the construction of the new hospital facility at Vila Central Hospital.

Mr Loughman has also been accused of gross mismanagement of the Citizenship Program. Under this program European Union allows Vanuatu a visa waiver and this contributes significantly towards remittances.

The ministers argued that Mr Loughman could have ended this. There are also allegations that there has been a gross mismanagement of scholarships under Mr Loughman’s administration.

The government has been accused of failing to properly implement and manage the Vanuatu Government scholarships and Vanuatu National Provident Fund student loan allowances for hundreds of Ni-Vanuatu students.

Which country’s leader might be kicked out? – 12 August 2022

A motion of no confidence has been filed against a Pacific nation’s prime minister while he’s been out of the country.

The motion is against Vanuatu’s prime minister Bob Loughman and has been lodged while he is away in Saudi Arabia.

There is an indication that the motion has support from Mr Loughman’s own coalition partners as well as from the opposition.

The prime minister left the country early this week for Saudi Arabia. A government statement said this was to discuss further trade after an earlier visit by the Saudi tourism minister.

Local media reported that as many as 27 members of parliament have supported the motion of no confidence. If these numbers are accurate Mr Loughman’s days are numbered as there only 52 seats in the Vanuatu parliament.

It is believed that there are five key reasons why the motion was filed in parliament.

These include Mr Loughman’s attempts to change the democratic systems and key constitutional positions which provide checks and balances within Vanuatu’s governance system.

Vanuatu PM Bob Loughman (R) with Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama. A motion of no confidence has been filed against Vanuatu’s prime minister Bob Loughman and has been lodged while he is away. Picture: Fijian Government

The decision to make the proposed changes had been labelled as dictatorial.

The ministers are also not happy with Mr Loughman’s decision to suspend top civil servants from the Ministry of Health on full pay during the height of the pandemic and then reinstate them after allegations of gross misconduct.

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Other decisions made regarding the civil service have also been noted as reasons.

The ministers are also alleging that there was a failure to observe the legal tender process in the contract awarded for the construction of the new hospital facility at Vila Central Hospital.

The National Parliament of The Republic of Vanuatu. A motion of no confidence has been filed against Vanuatu’s prime minister Bob Loughman and has been lodged while he is away in Saudi Arabia. Picture: Parliament of Vanuatu

Mr Loughman has also been accused of gross mismanagement of the Citizenship Program. Under this program European Union allows Vanuatu a visa waiver and this contributes significantly towards remittances.

The ministers argued that Mr Loughman could have ended this.

There are also allegations that there has been a gross mismanagement of scholarships under Mr Loughman’s administration.

The government has been accused of failing to properly implement and manage the Vanuatu Government scholarships and Vanuatu National Provident Fund student loan allowances for hundreds of Ni-Vanuatu students.

A few months ago, a similar motion was filed but was defeated in parliament. There is no guarantee that when the motion is put to vote the signatories to the motion will remain steadfast or succumb to political pressure.

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