Strengthening Political Integrity Is A Must

POLITICAL INTEGRITY IN VANUATU must be strengthened to implement political stability. The expected constitutional change in Vanuatu’s National Constitution is on the right course to achieving political stability, the only other ingredient needed to complete this process is political will, and this is where public interest must be represented and not personal interests.

Now that the Special Parliamentary Sitting has been adjourned to Thursday next week, the entire country has been blessed with time to allow for more discussions between the country’s law makers and the people that they represent.

Whilst traveling around the islands Vanuatu TIV Officers continue to hear the peoples wish for political stability and integrity, and recently while conducting Civic Education awareness on the central part of Tanna Island a chief spoke up again instability, “all we need here is agricultural services and support from the government, if we can have that then we will have nothing more to worry about in terms of development.”

“But if we continue to experience political instability,” he stressed, “then it is harder to develop because when a new Minister goes in everything changes, when a new government is formed out of nowhere then everything suddenly changes for us.”

Some of the constitutional amendments expected to be presented in next weeks adjourned Special Parliamentary Sitting intends to uphold political stability and strengthen political integrity, this is very positive news, and this is the side of the coin that Transparency International Vanuatu has been advocating for over the past 15 years, and now we are just one week away from filling that gap.

In 2015 Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) published a report on Vanuatu’s History of No Confidence Motions, the report outlined a string of motions since 1985 that had ripped off from the public millions of vatu and left a history of political instability. But soon, if the law makers adhere to the people’s wishes, a change can be made to better alter the course of Vanuatu’s political future.

Regulating the occurrences of motions against the Prime Minister had been a talked-about solution for a while now. From meetings, ‘storians’, to radio talkback shows citizens have continuously raised this option as a means to ending the political instability in Vanuatu.

Eventually the law making body of Vanuatu, the Parliament, must endorse a twelve (12) month ‘grace period’ to allow time for one government to do more than just hold on to power. If it goes through then the news should come as a much needed guarantee, for stability, to a nation that really needs it to progress.

Another mechanism that will see further tightening’s is the increase in the number of MP’s that can sign a no confidence motion. If the proposed constitutional amendment goes through then the number of signatories will increase from eight (8) to seventeen (17), and to make it stricter all the signings have to be made at the same time and in the presence of the Speaker of Parliament.

Furthermore, giving the power to the parliament to regulate political parties is a significant step to tightening slack screws. In a research report published by TIV a while ago on the integrity of political parties it was concluded that the political party institution in Vanuatu lacked laws that require disclosure of financial information, and provisions that require political parties to maintain records on their finances and report on them.

Furthermore, in order to further address these issues the following options should be considered by the body set up to publicly develop political integrity laws and regulations:

a) For a motion of no confidence to be in order, requiring that it needs to be justified on the basis of political reasons (such as breaches in MOU or breaches of Leadership Code Act).

b) Introducing penalties for those who sign an unjustified motion of no confidence (such as a deduction from MPs salaries or losing one’s seat and requiring a by-election).

c) Developing a party discipline system, including penalties for members who cross the floor without justifiable reason.

d) Part of the development of a stronger party system may include funding parties, rather than individual MPs (via the MP allocation), with a discipline mechanism being to be cut off from party funding if the floor is crossed.

Transparency International Vanuatu has advocated a lot against instability since its establishment in Vanuatu more than a decade ago. Strengthening political integrity and putting tighter restrictions on motions of no confidence obviously will systematically implement each other for the better.

Politically stability was a big reason why people turned up to vote in the 2016 Snap Election, it is therefore demandable that because these constitutional amendments will look to strengthen political stability and integrity, then it must be passed and implemented accordingly.

Law makers must always represent the interests of the people, and when we begin to prevent instability from happening then we are slowly cutting away at the potholes that allow for corruption to exist with the political structure.

And lastly, if further parliamentary proceedings dictate that there has to be a nation-wide referendum done to gather factual public opinion then it must be done to ensure that everything is done in the interest of the whole nation.



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