16 Sep 2004

Vanuatu PM official says high stakes in Supreme Court case

6:21 am on 16 September 2004

The Vanuatu Prime Minister's spokesman, Kal Moli, is describing an anticipated Supreme Court hearing tomorrow as a reckoning, on the survival of democracy in the country.

Prime Minister Serge Vohor is to appear to answer a contempt charge after he made disparaging comments in Parliament about the chief justice Vincent Lunabeck.

Koro Vakauta reports:

"The Prime Minister, speaking after Parliament was ordered by the Supreme Court to allow a vote of no confidence, had accused the courts of bowing to foreign influence."

He also called Mr Lunabeck a Picaninny blong white man or the white man's child.

The Deputy Public Prosecutor, Johnwilliam Timakata, says the Prime Minister has been summoned to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt.

But Kal Moli says the critical issue is the right of MPs to speak freely on the floor of Parliament and a threat against this privilege undermines democracy.