NEW STATE MINISTERS, a majority Government, a solid Opposition bloc, and a nation in relief from several major events that had left a deep impact. And now, with the current calm we wonder where will the next step take us to?
Immediately after the formation of the new government, political silence seemed to have briefly engulfed the nation while our political leaders familiarized themselves with their new working environments.
Even so, political instability remained a heartbroken threat to a stable future. “But the person that was nominated to be the Prime Minister was candidate that we had shared kava with…and it is because in honour of that kava ceremony the Opposition decided not to nominate a candidate but that the result of the vote will show that both sides of the House support a Prime Minister” assures the new Leader of the Opposition Honourable Ishmael Kalsakau, briefly referencing the kava ceremony where they pledged their like-minded support for Charlot Salwai as the next Prime Minister of Vanuatu.
The new Opposition Leader was speaking at a press conference that was organised by the Opposition Group around 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon. The press conference was held at the Parliament House in front of the media, and a mixed crowd of political bearers and a dozen members of the public.
Speaking from behind a blue covered table the Opposition Leader laid out his Office’s future plans. Behind him his younger brother, who was also elected into Parliament, sat quietly while fellow MP’s Sato Kilman, Hosea Nevu and Christopher Emelee flanked his older brother on both sides. Newly elected MP for Luganville McCarthy Ati was also present for his first official appearance.
In his speech the Opposition Leader reminded the Government “that this country is still recovering from the effects of Tropical cyclone PAM as well as there being little sign the effects of Nino are ceasing as the greater part of Vanuatu is facing shortage of water and food.”
“The Opposition notes it is now midweek and yet the Government has yet to relay to the public a mission statement of its governance for the next 4 years” the Opposition Leader said.
The Opposition voiced further concerns of maladministration within the Port Vila Municipal Council and called for a commission of inquiry to investigate “allegations regarding the conduct of the Lord Mayor concerning the Council’s purse.”
In general, what stood out from the Opposition’s mission statement is the vision to expand the Opposition Office equivalent to a fully operational department or Ministry. That fully staffed office should be able to cater for all members of the Opposition and hopefully minimize the risks of members switching sides, a trend of which is common in Vanuatu politics and is an emotional headache for its citizens.
Furthermore, the Opposition plans to introduce new roles within its grouping to equip the Opposition so that it can be more effective in its service to the people. A Shadow Cabinet will be formed by the Opposition consisting of shadow portfolio spokespersons who will voice matters directly to their counterparts in the government. For example, the Opposition Leader will appoint a Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs whose role will be to comment and raise issues on matters surrounding the work of the Government’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Once finalized this will be a significant leap forward not only for the Office of the Opposition but for good governance and a hopeful stability for Vanuatu.
Transparency International Vanuatu once asked a veteran politician why MP’s continuously switch from one grouping to the other, is it because of our political system?
His response was simple and clear, “our system is fine, it is the people who run it that are not fully utilizing it. We have not yet fully utilized a hundred percent of this system because we have continued to spent most our time running for political power rather than spend that time to focus, develop, and to effectively contribute to the development of the political system that we are using.”
Having a Shadow Cabinet in place is most definitely a percent towards that hundred percent.
Historically, the first ever Shadow Cabinet was established by the Opposition Leader of the United Kingdom in 1951 to oppose the policies of the Winston Churchill government. Other nations followed suit to establish their own Shadow Cabinets including Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific.
The Shadow Cabinet can be seen to have three main roles, the first one is to organise the parliamentary tactics of the Opposition. The second is to assist the Opposition’s position to the alternative government, and the third role is to provide experience and training for potential future ministers.
The Press Conference organised by the Opposition came to a close at around 4 o’clock.