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Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 07:25 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 23 Aug 2017 | 07:25 | SYDNEY

Natapei sorry for not sending apologies

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30 November 2009 11:51

Commonwealth Heads of Government have been meeting  in Trinidad and Tobago to advance an international agreement on climate change. Although Pacific Islands have a central interest in climate change and the voice of Pacific Island leaders needed to be heard at the Commonwealth meeting, not all leaders had an opportunity to attend. Fiji's Frank Bainimarama was barred due to Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth, and Nauru's President could not attend because Nauru had not paid its membership dues. 

But spare a thought for the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Edward Natapei. While he was en route to the Caribbean, the Speaker of Parliament in Vanuatu, Maxime Carlot Korman, declared the Prime Minister's seat vacant, forcing Natapei to retreat from the Caribbean.

The Speaker made use of the Members of Parliament (Vacation of Seats) Act, ironically used against Korman himself in 1988, to declare the PM's seat vacant after he missed three consecutive meetings of parliament without seeking the permission of the Speaker. Natapei's staff had neglected to send the formulaic request to the Speaker before he departed for the Commonwealth meeting.

Although he applied the letter of the law, Korman appeared to have revenge in mind. On 18 November Natapei sacked his coalition partners (one of which was Korman's Vanuatu Republican Party) and replaced them with members of the opposition parties to avert a planned no-confidence motion. While Korman retained his position as Speaker, it was possible he could have been rolled next week, so he may have been protecting his own position.

Parliament will meet next week and elect a new Prime Minister. It is not yet clear whether the 2010 budget, due to be debated next week, can be passed with a caretaker government in place. An expensive by-election for Natapei's seat in the multi-member constituency of Port Vila will now be held. 

Vanuatu has seen impressive economic growth and better governance in recent years, thanks in large part to an extended period of political stability. A return to the days of constant changes of government and political instability that plagued the country in the 1990s and hindered development will not inspire either business confidence or public trust in politicians.

Photo by Flickr user I like, used under a Creative Commons license.

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