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Vanuatu in grip of political stalemate

Monday 2 November 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT VILA – Vanuatu is facing the possibility of a delay in the release of its 2016 budget.

As the political stalemate drags on with two sides vying to lead the country a commentator says time is running out to prepare for the budget.

The Prime Minister Sato Kilman is pushing for a dissolution of parliament and a re-election while the opposition, led by Ham Lini, which has the backing of 25 MPs, wants to form a government of national unity.

But the author of the DevPolicy blog, Tess Newton Cain, says if the delay continues the implications will be significant, not only for the recovery from Cyclone Pam and current drought but the new budget could be delayed.

“The deadline by which parliament has to have sat is December 19. The budget bill needs to be circulated to all MPs 30 days ahead of it being read and debated in parliament. So that time is shortening quite rapidly and with each passing day we are faced with the fear that there may not be a budget for next year.”

The Vanuatu Daily Post reports that the opposition leader, Ham Lini and leaders of the other political groups in the opposition met with the Head of State, Baldwin Lonsdale yesterday afternoon.

President of the Graon mo Jastis Pati, Ralph Regenvanu confirmed the meeting but could not comment on the agenda or the discussion the ensued.

Reliable sources informed the Daily Post that it was also likely that Prime Minister Sato Kilman and Government MPs had met the Head of State over the weekend as well.

The president’s office could not be reached for comment but the Daily Post was informed that the Head of State was expected to address the nation concerning the discussions he has had with national leaders.

The meeting with both sides was planned by the president earlier this week but was later postponed to allow negotiations and a way forward for the current political situation.

Earlier this week, Lonsdale’s private secretary told Daily Post that the it was the president’s intention to have dialogue with both sides of parliament.

While no formal statement has been issued by the State Office concerning the much discussed option of the dissolution of parliament, it is a power that is vested in the president alone.

So far, while the Sato-led coalition continues to fill in the vacant ministerial portfolios, they are likely to go for the option of parliament dissolution.

On the other hand,the opposition have laid out their cards advocating for a “Government of National Unity”, only on the condition that the prime minister steps down.

The Daily Post has also reported the 14 members of parliament currently in the Medium Risk Correctional Services facility are being treated fairly.

They are being accorded the same rights and privileges as any other detainees under the Correctional Services Act.

The MPs are being detained in the correctional facility pending their appeal applications.

Family, friends and supporters have expressed sorrow and concern for their welfare, the Daily Post reports.

Concerns about the detainees are intensified because of their age and health.

Some of them have medical ailments, and many bear a burden of responsibility for the welfare of their families and constituents.

All detainees are entitled to clean bedding, washing facilities, access to clean drinking water and food, artificial light, shaving facilities, clean clothing and access to visitors, under Division 2, 22 (2) of the Correctional Services Act.

Correctional Services authorities confirmed mobile phones are not allowed, however the authorities facilitate phone calls on the request of detainees to families and lawyers.

Concerning visits to the centres, Correctional Services is reminding members of the public that visitation forms must be filled out prior to a visit. - PNC