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More MPs defect to opposition ahead of leadership challenge in Vanuatu

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The opposition group in Vanuatu appears to have secured the support of more MPs than the government.

An extraordinary parliament sitting was called on Monday to debate a vote of no-confidence in the recently installed Prime Minister, Sato Kilman.

On the opposition side 26 MPs turned up but only two government MPs showed face; Vanua’aku Party MP for Malekula, Esmon Sae, and his counterpart from Malo constituency, Wesley Rasu.

The other 22 MPs loyal to government boycotted the session forcing an adjournment until Friday due to the lack of a quorum.

Kilman losing support

Sato Kilman started losing support just three weeks after he was installed having himself defected from former prime minister Ishmael Kalsakau.

Last week the Minister of Sports, John Tari Qetu, quit and signed the motion-of-no-confidence that was deposited by the opposition.

Sato Kilman promptly replaced Mr Qetu with the MP for Ambrym, Bruno Leingkone.

A day later the Speaker of Parliament, Seoule Simeon, declared Mr Leingkone’s parliamentary seat vacant because he had missed three consecutive Parliament sittings without a leave of absence.

Bruno Leingkone mounted a legal challenge to his dismissal but the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the speaker’s decision and denied an application by Mr Leingkone’s counsel to stay proceedings. The now former MP has indicated he would be appealing the Supreme Court’s decision.

Also on Monday in parliament the Minister of Trade, Commerce and Tourism, Samson Samsen was seen sitting with the opposition group.

This Friday prime minister Sato Kilman may see his support base reduced even further with a motion in place to suspend another of his MPs the current Deputy Speaker for Parliament, Gracia Shadrack.

The opposition is accusing the MP for Malekula of making a threatening statement during a parliament sitting last month.

They allege Mr Shadrack threatened to burn Parliament down, when the Speaker refused to grant permission for Bruno Leingkone, who was admitted in a South Korean hospital at the time, to vote via virtual link on a no-confidence-motion against then Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsaku.

Sato Kilman Photo: RNZ Pacific/Hilaire Bule

Opposition confident for Friday’s motion

Opposition leader Charlot Salwai said that Shadrack’s actions put the safety of Parliament and everyone who works in the building at risk.

In a press conference on Monday Charlot Salwai said his 26 MPs were ‘solid’ and ready to topple prime minister Sato Kilman.

If the opposition numbers hold until Friday then Sato Kilman could be ousted by a very similar margin to the one his side registered against the former prime minister Ishmael Kalsakau in August.

The status quo in Vanuatu will likely continue up until 4 November – marking a year in the life of the current parliament – which is when the council of ministers will again be allowed to request the President of the Republic of Vanuatu to dissolve parliament in the face of ongoing instability or a political impasse.

Source: RNZ

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