15 Jun 2021

Legal cases in Vanuatu political fracas to be heard this week

10:43 am on 15 June 2021

Two government constitutional applications related to Vanuatu's latest political crisis will be heard by the Supreme Court this week.

The Vanuatu Supreme Court building in Port Vila.

The Vanuatu Supreme Court building in Port Vila. Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

This came after meetings yesterday between lawyers of the government and the Speaker of Parliament, Gracia Shadrack, the two parties at odds in a political fracas that could unseat the administration of Prime Minister Bob Loughman.

The court is to hear an urgent government application this afternoon to remove Shadrak as speaker of Parliament and to elect a new speaker.

The motion to remove the speaker was already a subject of a constitutional application after the speaker declared that a motion against him couldn't be debated in parliament because it was not in order.

The government had deposited its motion on 28 May, and sought to have it debated in parliament on 1 June, only to be told by the speaker that the motion had to "mature".

A motion to remove the speaker or the prime minister requires a space of 7 days before being debated. The Court ruled that speaker was right.

A government attempt to re-introduce the motion on 8 June became overshadowed by the speaker's declaration that 19 members of parliament, including the prime minister, should lost their seats in the parliament.

Shadrack declared the seats vacant because the MPs had been absent during 3 consecutive sitting days the previous week when they boyoctted parliament in protest over the speaker's actions.

That declaration was subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court.

Regarding its new motion to remove him in the parliament, the speaker said government had to reword the content of the motion.

The Loughman government reworded its motion and redeposited it last Friday during a brief sitting before parliament was adjourned.

Yesterday the government filed an urgent constitutional application asking the court to debate it as soon as possible - the court is set to hear the application this afternoon.

The other constitutional application is the government challenging the speaker's decision that the 19 MPs' seats are vacant - the members claimed that the action of Shadrack was in breach of their constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court will hear that application this Friday.

If the court upholds the speaker's declaration of vacancy in the MPs' seats, it would mean the collapse of Bob Loughman's government.