19 Nov 2012

Naturalised Vanuatu MP says planned constitutional amendment based on fear

9:16 am on 19 November 2012

One of the new MPs for Epi in Vanuatu says a call by the Nagriamel movement for constitutional change to prevent naturalised citizens contesting general elections is based on unfounded fear of a "takeover" by foreigners.

The call follows last month's success of American-born Robert Bohn in becoming the first naturalised Vanuatu citizen to win a seat in parliament.

The Nagriamel secretary general Jeff Patunvanu says naturalised citizens don't understand the Melanesian values that Vanuatu's constitution is based on.

But Mr Bohn, who has lived in Vanuatu since before independence, believes he has a general understanding of Melanesian values.

"Are we going to as a country accept naturalised citizens but somehow relegate them to a second class status? I somewhat disagree that our constitution is based solely on Melanesian values. Certainly they are there and certainly they need to be respected, but there are democratic values, there are lots of other values that need to be thought about and brought into play."