12 Jul 2021

Court decision on Vanuatu's vacated MPs' seats this Friday

9:12 pm on 12 July 2021

A legal ruling on whether the Speaker of the Vanuatu Parliament had the right to declare 19 seats vacant is due to be delivered this Friday.

The Vanuatu Court of Appeal will announce its judgement on whether the Supreme Court was right to dismiss an appeal by the 19 MPs.

On 8th June the speaker at the time, Gracia Shadrack, declared that 19 seats, held by government MPs, were vacant, because the MPs had been absent from parliament for three consecutive days.

Vanuatu parliament

Vanuatu parliament Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

This was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

But the MPs affected claim that Supreme Court Judge, Oliver Saksak, erred by dismissing their constitutional application.

The MPs had contended that only the Supreme Court itself could declare seats vacant and had not done so.

The lawyers for the 19 MPs, Ari Jenshel and Sakiusa Kalsakau, argued in the Appeal Court today that it's the Speaker's role is to start proceedings in the Supreme Court when he believes there is evidence to show the seats were vacant, but it is for the Court to then decide whether this evidence is established.