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Vanuatu Government Reshuffle Promotes Unity and Collaboration

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By Glenda Willie

The appointment of Member of Parliament (MP) for Tanna Constituency and Secretary General (SG) of Vanua’aku Pati (VP), Johnny Koanapo, as the new Minister of Internal Affairs was sanctioned by the VP national executive council .

This simply means the Internal Affairs ministerial portfolio in the current coalition Government led by Prime Minister (PM) Charlot Salwai belongs to VP, not an individual MP.

Minister Koanapo made this clear following his appointment by PM Salwai yesterday, replacing MP Rick Tchamako Mahe of the Reunification Movement for Change (RMC) in a strategic move to foster unity within the government.

The reshuffle occurred in response to the PM’s letter addressing stability issues in the government. The letter focused on the importance of political parties striving for unity and aligning their approaches.

According to the letter, PM Salwai is extending ministerial portfolios to political parties not yet part of the Government of National Unity (GNU), subject to individual consultations and negotiations. The letter also noted that if other political parties wish to change their ministers, it is within their discretion.

Minister Koanapo expressed gratitude to the PM for VP’s appointment and the confidence given upon them. He also acknowledged the ongoing connection with the PM, despite political differences, as they recognise a common destiny.

“I am pleased that we have collaborated on ideas with PM Salwai and the Head of State, leading to this point where the PM is initiating these commitments. The position I hold as the Minister of Internal Affairs belongs to VP, and I believe we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to stabilising the country,” Minister Koanapo said.

“We may have reached a stage where both sides of the government converge on decisions, prioritising bills that everyone will support.”

The new Internal Affairs Minister commented on the historical significance of both sides of Parliament reaching a consensus on bills, particularly the Constitutional amendment scheduled for a special sitting on Tuesday next week.

“We, the Vanua’aku Pati, are proud in presenting on both sides to pass the bills that the people of Vanuatu have been eagerly awaiting. We will continue to work towards achieving our planned objectives during the parliamentary sessions,” he concluded.

PM Salwai said the initiative began in 2008, 2009, and 2016 when the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) made recommendations. Unfortunately, there has been no opportunity to pass and regulate political parties.

“We need all political parties to be involved, adhering to the commitments we made in front of the President of the Republic of Vanuatu. Additionally, there is a commitment in Parliament that both the Government and the Opposition made when withdrawing motions, with the aim of working on how every political party can participate,” he said.

“Currently, there is only one party that has not yet joined the government side. However, I believe the others are already present in the government. While this may not accurately reflect the numbers, it is a starting point to ensure there are enough votes to pass the Constitutional amendment and the Political Parties Registration bill.

“This will impact municipalities, decentralisation, and charitable organisations. At the same time, it will limit the timeframe for motions. After the election of a Prime Minister, we propose allowing a 12-month period before a motion can be lodged.”

The PM said allowing the elected government time to plan and implement is crucial. However, this has not happened yet, as often the motivation behind motions is more about someone aspiring to become a minister rather than reflecting a genuine evaluation of the government’s work.

“This afternoon, I am glad. Last week, we had discussions with the Rural Development Party and other parties, and today it is Vanua’aku Pati’s turn. We have been working on this issue since then, even though they are on the Opposition side. Nevertheless, we persist, especially now with the Minister of Internal Affairs. We have put in effort to work on this so that we can find a way forward to address political instability,” PM Salwai said.

“I would like to acknowledge the President of Vanua’aku Pati, Bob Loughman, and his executive for the decision of the national executive council to join the government. VP is a political party that started the walk to our independence in 1980 and I trust that their coming will help to work and address the political stability of the country since it is a party that started in the beginning and remains alive today.

“It’s just the beginning, but I promise to keep working to better represent the political party’s members. First and foremost, though, we wanted to include everyone in the government so that we could solve issues that impact the whole nation.”

It is said to be the first time in the history of VP since Vanuatu’s independence that the VP President does not have a ministerial portfolio.

VP President and Leader of Opposition, Bob Loughman, told Vanuatu Daily Post yesterday that the appointment of Minister Koanapo is part of ongoing discussions for Vanuatu to have a GNU, and the reason why MP Koanapo become a Minister was because that was his (Loughman’s) choice.

It remains to be seen how many VP MPs will be sitting on the Opposition side when Parliament convenes for the 7th Extraordinary Session at 8.30am today.

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