The Vanuatu Parliament has elected Seule Simeon as the new speaker just hours after Gracia Shadrack resigned from the position.
To stand as candidate for speaker, Simeon resigned his education portfolio in the government led by Bob Loughman.
Simeon was elected with 32 votes against 16 votes for the opposition’s Ephraim Boereve.
Shadrack had been locked in a dispute with the government after he last week declared 19 seats vacant, including the one held by the prime minister.
Shadrack’s resignation came amid the hearing of a constitutional challenge over the government motion seeking to remove him.
Tomorrow the court is to hear the motion challenging Shadrack’s ruling that the 19 seats had become vacant.
If the government challenge fails, the 19 MPs will lose their seats, and a new government will have to be formed and a new speaker will have to be chosen.
Explaining why he resigned, Shadrack said: There has been unrelenting challenge by the Government side against my ability to hold office as the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu.”
“This is a role I have held in earnest with dedication to ensuring the proper discharge of my Constitutional duties under Article 22(2) and ensuring adherence to the Standing Orders of Parliament.
“Given the current climate in Parliament and controlling Government majority who hold hostility against myself, it is no longer tenable to carry out these duties without detracting from the substantial business of Parliament to transact affairs for the people of Vanuatu.
“I am privy to the allegations made against me in exercise of my role as Speaker and refute all suggestions of bias and conflict. The Parliament Minutes and recordings of live broadcast will show that on 28 May 2021, a Motion of No Confidence was deposited against myself as Speaker of the House. Mover of the Motion sought to have it moved prematurely and relied on the incorrect Standing Order.
“I so advised and ruled on 01 June 2021 that the Motion be listed on the date it matures (08 June 2021) giving notice that the Standing Order relied upon was incorrect and needed amending. This ruling was challenged by the Government in Constitutional Case 1761 of 2021.
The Court upheld my ruling that the motion must be brought under Standing Order 44 and would mature on 08 June 2021. On 08 June 2021, the Motion had matured but the Mover had failed to amend the Standing Order to correctly reflect the appropriate originating powers of the Motion.
“I so advised providing an opportunity to amend the Motion and return it for debate. The Mover acknowledged and accepted this. Parliament was accordingly adjourned and amendment of the Motion occurred on 11 June 2021 at which stage I listed the Motion for Wednesday 16 June 2021.
“Thereafter there has been increased vigour to remove me from the position of Speaker. I have in all instances acted to primarily uphold the functions of the office and would not otherwise avoid a validly constituted motion against me.
“I have resolved, after much deliberation and sound counsel, to humbly resign from the role as Speaker of Parliament. This decision was not made lightly and is made with all the intentions of preserving the integrity of Constitutional Case 21/1872. I stand by my actions which has given rise to that Constitutional challenge.
“I trust that the mechanisms and tactics adopted by the Government majority to attempt to remove me from my position will not be equally applied in Parliament to undermine the ongoing Constitutional Case challenging vacancy of seats.
“I would like to remind the members of Parliament, regardless of affiliation, that we are elected here by our constituents to represent them faithfully and honourably.”