Seven Vanuatu Opposition MPs defect to Govt side

Ishmael Kalsakau and Bob Loughman (July 2021)

Vanuatu leader of Opposition, Bob Loughman, has confirmed that the President of the Rural Development Party (RDP), Jay Ngwele, and six Party members are no longer members of the Opposition bloc.

This follows on their decision to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to defect and join the coalition Government led by Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau on Tuesday this week.

Loughman said the Opposition bloc met on Wednesday and reasserted the group’s defection from the Opposition. He said the bloc also decided to replace them from the various positions they held in Parliament such as chairman and members of various parliamentary committees.

“The government will offer them new positions, and I wish them good luck,” the Opposition Leader said.

However, Clerk of Parliament, Raymond Manuake told Daily Post that the office of the Speaker of Parliament has not received any formal correspondent regarding an eventual change of the position held by MP Ngwele and his group.

Manuake said as of yesterday — Thursday December 15, MP Ngwele is still the Deputy Leader of Opposition. He said those who hold the chairman of parliamentary committees are still chairmen until such time the parliament convenes and elects their replacements as proposed by the Opposition.

After MP Ngwele and his grouping’s decision to sign an MoU and join the Kalsakau-led government, the government’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Joe Harry, clarified there is no MoU between the government and Ngwele’s group as the MoU is within the group itself.

If they are no longer Opposition MPs and the government denies their request, it is likely the the seven MPs will sit in the center of Parliament chambers during the next parliament sitting.

Ngwele’s move now places Loughman with 15 MPs, compared to 22 MPs during the first sitting of the 13th Legislature.

A government supporter refuted the MPs’ statement that they want to join the government to maintain stability.

“The stability of the current coalition has remained intact since day one at the Aquana Resort,” the supporter said.

“There is no instability to necessitate this group’s move to support the government,” the supporter said.

Political observers see the defection from the Opposition as an attempt to avert alleged breaches of Vanuatu laws and misuse of public funds in the 12th Legislature.

Vanuatu’s Court of Appeal (CoA) had recently allowed the appeal of former Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU), Harrison Luen, and former Director of the Public Works Department (PWD), Allen Faerua.

The Public Service Commission had terminated their contracts after a complaint lodged by MP Ngwele in his capacity as the Minister responsible for MIPU.

In the lead-up to the formation of the new regime, the new government MPs had publicly assured at the Aquana Camp that they will investigate alleged breaches of Vanuatu laws during the 12th Legislature, including questionable contracts.

Meanwhile, the President of the Reunification of Movement for Change (RMC) in the Port Vila region, Joseph Malau, maintained that the party’s supporters have remained with RMC.

Malau said RMC MP Ulrich Sumptoh decided to sign an MOU with Ngwele to join the government, but he is an RMC MP, not a RDP MP.