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Carsasses’ out, Natuman’s in

I t had all the guile and secrecy of a commando raid. And as much impact. This was the demise of Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Carcasses after 14 months in the top job. He entered parliament on May 15 confident he had the numbers to survive his fourth motion of no confidence. He had reason to be confident as only the day before he had stood shoulder to shoulder with his Deputy Prime Minister Edward Natapei at a press conference and listened as the wily former PM pledged his support and that of the Vanua’aku Pati he leads with its 17 MPs.

Another senior Minister Ralph Regenvanu had also given the unequivocal support of himself and his Groan Mo Jastis Pati with its three MPs. And both Natapei and Regenvanu had been the architects of Carcasses’ ascension to power in March 2013. Jaws then dropped as all the MPs from these two parties plus two others joined the 17 Opposition MPs and, in one fell swoop, the reign of PM Carcasses was over. Natapei abstained from voting for a new PM in an ersatz show of loyalty or shift in power in his own party. But 40 MPs gave their support to the new Prime Minister Joe Natuman in one of the biggest political coups in Vanuatu’s short history.

Natuman, 61, is the first person from the volcanic island of Tanna, renowned for its warrior like men, to be elected Prime Minister. Secretary general of the Vanua’aku Pati, he is the tenth Prime Minister since Independence (although some predecessors have served multiple terms). He graduated from the University of the South Pacific in the 1980s and joined the civil service, rising to the position of First Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office from 1987 to 1991 during the time of the nation’s first Prime Minister Walter Lini. He then worked as Assistant Registrar at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, until 1995.

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