1 Apr 2004

Vanuatu chiefs seek role in presidetinal election

4:00 pm on 1 April 2004

The National Council of Chiefs in Vanuatu has called on the government to give it more say in next week's election of the next president.

The Council's interim secretary, Selwyn Garu, says the constitution makes it clear that the head of state has to be a neutral person who represents peace and unity.

Mr Garu says for this reason the custom chiefs are the most suitable leaders to be included in the process to elect as they are directly above the people.

He says for political leaders to elect the president is to defeat the purpose because whoever is elected will be aligned with a political party or grouping.

The Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, says while the government can see the logic behind the chiefs' stand, the constitution would need to be amended to provide for the chiefs to take part in the election of the head of state.

Eight candidates have been nominated so far to contest the presidency.

The successor to Father John Bani will be chosen in a week by the 52 members of parliament and six provincial presidents.