Vanuatu elects Sato Kilman as prime minister, names new Cabinet

Sato Kilman (Photo: Ministry of the Prime Minister Vanuatu)

Vanuatu’s parliament elected Sato Kilman as the nation’s new prime minister Monday after a court upheld a vote of no-confidence in the nation’s former leader and amid China-U.S. rivalry in Pacific Islands.

Kilman, a former prime minister and leader of the People’s Progressive Party, was elected prime minister 27/23 in a secret ballot by MPs.

“First and foremost I want to say a big thank you to the members of parliament and the political parties that supported the change in government. Thank you.

“But thank you even more for standing your ground and for ensuring that democracy prevails in Vanuatu,” Kilman said.

Vanuatu was plunged into political crisis last month when opposition parties lodged a no-confidence petition criticising then leader Ishmael Kalsakau Kalsakau for actions including signing a security pact with Australia.

Opposition MPs said the security pact with Australia compromised Vanuatu’s “neutral” status and could jeopardise development assistance from China, its biggest external creditor.

Vanuatu has been at the centre of a strategic rivalry between China and Western countries in the region. The United States and its allies are seeking to dissuade Pacific Islands nations from establishing security ties with China, after it signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.

A police commissioner before entering politics, Kilman served as deputy prime minister in Kalsakau’s government until May, when he was removed from cabinet.

He has previously served four stints as prime minister.

Meanwhile, Sato Kilman has appointed his new Cabinet Ministers after sworn in as Prime Minister Monday.

Former PM Bob Loughman is the new deputy PM and Minister for Lands, Geology, Mines, Energy and Water Resources.

Marc Ati is the new Vanuatu foreign Minister.

Johnny Kuanapo is the Finance Minister and Economic Managament.

Jay Nwele is the Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities and Telecommunication.

Sam Kalpoiler is the Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity.  James Bule Minister for Justice and Community Services, Silas Bule, Minister for Education, Anthony Iaris Harry Minister for Internal Affairs, John Tari Qetu Minister for Youth Development, Training and Sports and Ulrich Sumptoh Minister of Planning and Climate Change Adaptation.