Part 4: Statelessness To Freedom (Choosing The Right People)

ONE OF VANUATU’S founding fathers who had put a lot of time, commitment and effort into drafting the constitution, is calling on the people of Vanuatu to choose the right people into the parliament.

Mr. Ati Geoge Sokomanu said that independence from the colonial powers in 1980 meant everything for the new Republic of Vanuatu. Not only did it allow us to claim back our rights to our ancestral lands, but it also gave us the right to establish our own laws through the parliament.

This right is stated clearly in chapter four of Vanuatu’s national constitution. That is why our independence leaders had to “put in plenty time and effort to ensure everybody is happy and satisfied with the constitution,” Mr. Sokomanu said.

Today we have the Vanuatu parliament, and as citizens of Vanuatu we have the power to elect candidates to become Members of the Parliament.

However, Mr. Sokomanu cautions that “we must think carefully and choose the right people into the parliament”.

Today we have the parliament where leaders can raise their people’s concerns in a more formal place, discuss and debate bills as well as pass legislation’s.

Youth Parliamentarians of 2013 debating a Bill
Youth Parliamentarians of 2013 debating a Bill in Parliament

For the voters that are residing in Port Vila, the by-election in October will be an opportunity to exercise their rights to vote. And as Mr. Sokomanu explained, it is important to vote wisely. Think carefully. And when you think that you have chosen the right candidate, think again.

As a democratic state, Vanuatu’s national governance structure is held up firmly by the power of the people. Since 1980 governments have come and gone, politicians in tight knit black suits that have sworn to serve Vanuatu to the full have come and gone but the people remain. Therefore, your vote counts. Your vote is the one vote that makes a thousand votes possible, therefore “think carefully” as Mr. Sokomanu said.

Once a candidate is elected into parliament, he or she will have the power and the duty to debate and accept new laws once he or she confirms that the law being debated is of national interest.

Chapter four of the constitution enshrines this powers;

The Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Vanuatu, the Parliament shall make laws by passing bills introduced either by one or more members or by the Prime Minister or a Minister; When a bill has been passed by Parliament it shall be presented to the President of the Republic who shall assent to it within two (2) weeks.

If the President considers that the bill is inconsistent with a provision of the Constitution he shall refer it to the Supreme Court for its opinion. The bill shall not be promulgated if the Supreme Court considers it inconsistent with a provision of the Constitution.

The article also states that citizens will exercise their right to vote by electing members of the parliament under their preference of political party. The number of chairs each political hold in the parliament will depend on citizen’s choice.

Many of the discussions surrounding the ideas for the constitution were held at Mr. Sokomanu’s house at Mele Village code named the ‘Blue House’.

“The letter that was sent to the UN as part of the call for Independence during that time was discussed and drafted in the ‘Blue House’,” Mr. Sokomanu said.

The reasons why we have chapter five (Our rights and duties) in our constitution will be published in the Transparency page next week.

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