1 Aug 2013

Tuvalu opposition claims country in crisis

6:21 pm on 1 August 2013

The opposition in Tuvalu says the country is in a constitutional crisis after the Speaker, Kamuta Latasi, adjourned parliament until a by-election is held to find a replacement for Health minister, Taom Tanukale, who resigned on Tuesday.

The six week adjournment came earlier on Wednesday, the second day of the first session of parliament this year - one only called after the prime minister, Willie Telavi, was ordered to do so by the governor general.

The government lost its majority in the 15 seat parliament last month when the opposition candidate Elisala Pita won a by-election that Mr Telavi had refused to hold for almost six months until a poll was ordered by the High Court.

The Opposition planned for a vote of no confidence but its spokesman, Taukelina Finikaso, says Mr Latasi disregarded the law.

TAUKELINA FINIKASO: The speaker has adjourned the parliament because he mentioned that since one of the ministers resigned in yesterday's sitting that a replacement must first be elected since the minister resigned his post as a minister and also as a member of parliament, before parliament can re-sit.

DON WISEMAN: As we know from the previous by-election that's a very very long process isn't it so there's a degree of deja vu here?

TF: It is and we from the opposition are very disappointed with this ruling because in our constitution it clearly says that despite this the proceedings of parliament can still go ahead. And on the table was our motion of no-confidence and despite also the advice from the Attorney General who is the advisor to parliament, that parliament can still proceed, the Speaker nevertheless adjourned parliament till we get a replacement for this minister who resigned yesterday.

DW: You could be talking six months here, you could be talking next year?

TF: Yes, definitely.

DW: Are the opposition going to let it rest there?

TF: No, we are exploring options where we can look into the situation because this is clearly a constitutional crises. We have now on the government four ministers plus the Speaker and there's eight members of the opposition and surely the government cannot be run by these four ministers only and on top of that the Speaker has deliberately and intentionally not agreed to abide by the rulings and the advice of the Attorney General who is the legal advisor to parliament.

DW: Do you anticipate a change of mind then that some of these key people like prime minister Telavi may change their minds?

TF: Well we certainly hope so because in the interests of the good governance of Tuvalu and for Tuvalu to proceed on because we fear that there might be some dissatisfaction among people from the people of the community. Clearly the Speaker has blatantly disregarded the law and he has elected by himself to do what he wishes to be done and this is not what we expected of our leaders, we expect our leaders to follow the law and do what is right but as it is now he has blatantly disregarded all of this.

Meanwhile, a short time ago, the speaker, Kamuta Latasi, defended the adjournment saying the constitution does not allow for a no confidence vote if a constituency lacks a representative.

KAMUTA LATASI: If he is removed from Parliament he is removed by a two-thirds majority of the total membership. I have already acted on the advice of the Governor-General. The Governor-General has ordered that Parliament sit on the 30th of this month, which we sat yesterday. That order has been carried out by the Speaker of Parliament.