12 Vanuatu government bills for debate

Charlot Salwai (Photo: ITU)

Amid mounting allegations of another potential motion of no confidence, Vanuatu’s Office of the Speaker of Parliament confirmed to the Vanuatu Daily Post that no motion of no confidence has been officially submitted.

The Speaker’s office also confirmed that there are 12 Government bills scheduled for debate during the second Ordinary Session of Parliament, which commenced today.

There are allegations that a group of Members of Parliament (MPs) is currently in discussions, negotiations, and preparations for a motion of no confidence against the newly elected Prime Minister (PM), Charlot Salwai. It is alleged that this group of MPs comprises both current members of the opposition and some government MPs.

A Vanuatu citizen residing in the capital informed the Vanuatu Daily Post that a relative who is currently studying in a nearby Pacific country witnessed meetings over coffee between Opposition and Government MPs. He also mentioned having knowledge of similar meetings between the opposition and some government MPs held locally.

In the span of just one year within the current legislature, Vanuatu has already witnessed two motions of no confidence, resulting in changes of the government. After the snap election in 2022, Parliament elected MP Ishmael Kalsakau, President of the Union of Moderate Parties (UMP), as the new PM following a memorandum signed at the Aquana Resort between eight political parties.

At that time, Kalsakau stressed the importance of solidarity and trust as key to maintaining a stable government.

On 26 May 2023, Kalsakau made a major change in his government by removing Sato Kilman as Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Lands, appointing Jotham Napat, the President of the Leaders Party of Vanuatu (LPV), in his place.

On 04 September 2023, Kilman retaliated by toppling Kalsakau, becoming the new Prime minister. However, his tenure as the head of the government was short-lived, lasting only 34 days. On September 25, Salwai deposited a motion of no confidence against him, assuming the position of PM on 6 October 2023.

If the current allegations of another motion of no confidence occur, Vanuatu will witness its fourth PM within a single year of this legislature.

Kalsakau, the current First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, stated during a previous media press conference amidst the motion of no confidence against Kilman that they intend to remain in government until the next general election in 2026, with no intention to dissolve the parliament.

Political observers suggest that if these allegations prove true, it might be in the country’s best interest for Salwai, through the Council of Ministers (COM), to request the dissolution of the parliament and allow the people to choose new MPs. They argue that the ongoing political crisis provides a valid reason for the current government to make such a request to the President of the Republic of Vanuatu, Nikenike Vurobaravu.

Another group of political observers said that one more motion of no confidence and dissolution of the parliament would compound the challenges posed by recent natural disasters, including Tropical Cyclone (TC) Lola last Wednesday and the twin cyclones, TCs Judy and Kevin at the beginning of this year, labelling it as “man-made disasters on top of natural disasters”.

They contend that changing the government and dissolving the parliament is inappropriate at a time when people are still recovering from these calamities. Since the start of this legislature, many MPs elected in the islands have been spending more of their time in Port Vila, exercising their constitutional rights to formulate motions of confidence.