MPs Must Practice Constituency Consultation

“THIS IS THE FIRST TIME that a team has come to inform us, and consult with us, on new laws that are to go to parliament,” confessed a chief who looks after the community of Vureas Bay on Vanua Lava. His revelation brings to light an important question; are your MP’s consulting with you before and after they had participated at a parliamentary sitting? What are the roles of our MP’s?

Unfortunately, there is no specific law in Vanuatu that clearly illustrates the role of an MP. However, there are guided procedures and codes of conducts that provide a guide to what the role of an MP should, and must be.

Read below what the Parliament of Vanuatu has to say about the role of a Member of Parliament; (All details are outlined in the Parliament website)

“What Members of Parliament do? Most Members can thus be viewed as having three roles that of parliamentarian, constituency representative, and party member.”

Furthermore, when “Parliament is sitting (meeting), MPs generally spend their time working in the Parliament. This can include raising issues affecting their constituents, attending debates and voting on new laws.”

“Most MPs are also members of committees, which look at issues in detail, from government policy and new laws, to wider topics like human rights.”

The Parliament website continues to explain that when working in their constituency “Members (MP) provide a direct link between their constituents and the Parliament. In their constituency, MPs often visit their people, where local people can come along to discuss any matters that concern them.”

Again, the Parliament states exactly and clearly what citizens should discuss with their MPs, the people can discuss ‘any matters that concern them’ including laws, community projects, social conflicts, economical activities, opinions, and the list goes on.

Therefore, if your MP visits you to consult, and to gather your opinion, on new laws that are to be discussed in parliament then that is a great job well done, but if your MP is not visiting you to talk about new laws and other matters then you, the voter, must demand it from your MP otherwise you are missing out on an important democratic process.

Reportedly, according to information received from the Parliament the national consultation process could soon be made much easier owing to the rapid advances in Vanuatu’s telecommunication industry. This development would see to it that the Bills listed for debate would be digitally send directly to the MP’s computer, phone, or tablet. This will make it easier for the MP to distribute the Bill to his constituents easier and faster as well as receive the people’s opinion through the same manner.

The Parliament also states that “MPs also attend functions, visit schools and communities and generally try to meet as many people as possible. This gives MPs further insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to Parliament.”

This information is very important, it explains that MPs must try to meet as many people as possible during their term if office. They are Representatives who must debate and discuss in the interest of those that they represent.

“It is the constituents who pass judgment on the performance of Members of Parliament at each election. Members must prove themselves fit for the task of being their parliamentary representative. All Members who wish to make a long-term commitment to improving the governance of Vanuatu need to be dedicated to serving the interests of their electorates and proving themselves worthy of re-election.”

The Parliament of Vanuatu also provides to each MP a copy of the Vanuatu Parliamentary Handbook. The Handbook outlines the role of a MP among other functions.

The Handbook is a resourceful guide to how things are run in the Parliament. A statement from the Parliament Handbooks explains that the Handbook “is designed to introduce new Parliamentarians, and people planning to be candidates for election to Parliament, to the most fundamental aspects of the job”.

Throughout the awareness tours that were conducted by Transparency International Vanuatu one thing was certain during the discussion of laws and national development; the people want their MPs to do more than just an occasional visit, they want explanation on laws, they need to know how they are governed, and how new laws will affect them.

A Statesman from the Philippines once commented on changes in politics and the need for proper consultation with the people, he said that “our political system needs changing. It needs to move away from personalities and patronage to a system of party programs and consultation with the people.”

Simply, if a single MP cannot do it by himself, then the party that he is affiliated with has to support him to implement a constituency consultation program.

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RTI Awareness At Vanua Lava

WHEN OFFICERS FROM Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) arrived on Sola on the island of Vanua Lava the island was buzzing with Super League football. They brought with them a blue plastic container that had been filled with Bislama Vanuatu Constitution books, Right To Information (RTI) brochures and posters, and loads of information to share with the people in Vanuatu’s farthest province.

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“Just because the RTI Bill did not make it through the First Ordinary Session of Parliament it does not mean that we have to slow down on our RTI community awareness program” explains Mr. Douglas Tamara who is the TIV Civic Education Officer, “however, it only pushes us to do more awareness because there is now more time to consult with the people and to encourage people to talk with their parliamentary representatives on where they should stand on the RTI Bill.”

The TIV team left on their first morning there and travelled south west to the community of Vureas Bay. Before talking with the community the team first visited Sanlang Primary School and talked with the teachers and before leaving the TIV team left several Vanuatu Constitution books at the school library for the students and teachers to have access to.

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At the community meeting house over 70 villagers patiently listened on as the team presented to the people a summary of what is inside the RTI Bill plus several examples on how the RTI Bill can effectively work in a rural community setting.

When asked if whether they wanted their Member of Parliament to support the RTI Bill or not the unified answer was a clear and loud ‘Yes’.

“This is good news that you have brought us today” conveyed a villager elder “and thank Vanua Lava 7you very much to the government for trying to push this Bill. With accurate information we can make development happen, this Bill should also be explained and consulted through the radio so that it can at least get a wider consultation.”

Later, the TIV team travelled down to the village of Kerebeta and held a brief awareness with the people in the community.

Mr. Elton Worus is a community leader at the Kerebeta village and looks after the community cooperative. After the awareness session he pointed out an interesting advantage of the RTI Bill, he explained that “a lot of people here are shy, they are just not comfortable to go and ask information at public offices face-to-face.”

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Mr. Elton said that “the (RTI) Bill is really good because it will make life much easier for people (who are shy) to ask for information because information requests could also be made through phone calls.”

The team later met up with Pastor Fred Abraham from Wesilat village and provided him some Vanuatu Constitution books and RTI brochures to distribute at his community, “these days information is important, much more important for us in the farthest parts of the country” he acknowledged.

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Transparency International Vanuatu also agrees with Pastor Fred, today information is Vanua Lava 6powerful and should be used for good development. Information should also be shared to those that are less privileged just because there are no roads to their houses, or there is no airport or a proper wharf on their island. Information should be accessible wherever you are.

TIV will continue to advocate on these issues because they matter to the people of Vanuatu, and if anyone from the public wishes to learn more about the Right To Information please contact us at Tel: 25715, Email: transparency@vanuatu.com.vu, or you can drop us a message on facebook.Vanua Lava 3Vanua Lava 8

WATCH: What does it take to be an anti-corruption hero?

Wider Radio Coverage Is The Peoples Interest

Picture this; in a rural community somewhere in Vanuatu an elder walks to a small home-store and buys two new batteries for his small Panasonic red radio. Back at home he places the batteries into the battery slots, and then at the end of the radio antenna he ties the end of a copper wire, the copper wire is then firmly tightened around a long bamboo pole nailed onto the side of a mango tree by his son.

The other end of the wire is then expanded as an extension of the radio antenna from the bamboo pole, it reaches high into the air trying to capture every bit of radio transmission.

He turns on his faithful old radio that has been informing him for the past several years, and begins to tune in to the national radio station. But he is not the only one tuning in, across the country hundreds, or if not thousands of radios, are turned on and are tuning into the same station.

They are all listening to another Ordinary Session of the Vanuatu Parliament, because in a democratic state like Vanuatu everyone has the right to be informed of the laws that are being discussed in parliament. Listening to an ongoing session of parliament also provides the incentive for voters to check on the participatory efforts of their parliamentary representatives: Are they speaking up? Are they representing our views? Or are they doing otherwise?

The recent blackout from the national broadcasting service did more than deny the people their right to listen to what was being discussed inside the parliament, but it also revealed years of operating under a heavy load of financial burden.

The right to access accurate information is a fundamental interest that is now being promoted more than ever in Vanuatu. And with new communication devices being introduced in the country people are now getting connected more than ever in the history of Vanuatu. It this therefore important that all public assets that are dedicated to disbursing information to must be at their best at this time to ensure that the people know what is happening around them, and why they are happening.

Clearly, years of vying for political positions and power has made it difficult for many public companies to operate without facing some sort of financial or organizational challenge.

With radio there are still a lot of challenges; the main one is of course radio coverage which has, unfortunately, limited range. On some islands it is limited to only certain hours of the day or night.

“I have not listened to the radio for quite a long time now,” explains Tommy, a young man originally from Ureparapara but currently living in Sola on the island of Vanua Lava in Banks group. “The only times for radio to have a good reception is in the afternoon. In the mornings it is impossible to receive radio transmissions.”

“I now go on facebook for information rather than try to listen to the radio, I just have no more time to listen to the radio because there is no access here” expresses another youth from Vanua Lava.

Recent statements from the national broadcasting service explains that soon the whole of Vanuatu will be able to listen to the national radio, this is definitely a great news that will be welcomed by people from all over the country when it happens.

It will be an important development for Vanuatu; likewise it is also important that financial debts be accounted for otherwise we will continue to face an uncertain future.

A team from Transparency International Vanuatu recently visited Big Bay on the island of Santo, the Big Bay area is considered to be among the remotest places in Vanuatu, a return trip from Luganville could cost more than 40,000 vatu. While talking with the people there they expressed their disappointment over the radio’s limited coverage, “we only get connected during certain times, all the other time there is nothing, no coverage,  nothing,” reported a villager from Tsureviu, Big Bay.

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Similar scenarios can be found in other places around Vanuatu, “we only listen to FM Stations here” was the response the TIV team received while touring the north western part of Malekula early this year.

An American television host once said “if you miss the news for a day, then you miss everything,” if there are people in Vanuatu that are missing out on receiving daily information then we could just imagine the worth of information that has been missed by thousands of people over the years.

With time, and with the right management, we must all look forward to become more engaged and effective in the media industry. Transparency International Vanuatu, as an NGO, has been utilizing the media for years and therefore acknowledges the great work that has been accomplished by our multi-tasked media outlets, but there is still a lot of ground yet to cover and there are still a lot of ears out there that needs accurate information to make the right decisions.

The people’s interest must always come first, political interest must not influence the way we think and act when it comes to important mediums like the radio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being A Proactive Citizen

LAST WEEKS weather was perfect for Provincial Super League football in Vanuatu’s farthest province – TORBA. Six teams from the leagues of Sola, Motalava, and Mota challenged each other for the top spot.

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Watched by fans from the different islands of TORBA province the participating teams committed themselves to the games at hand, tirelessly pushing the ball forward and determined to place it where it should be – inside the opponent’s goal mouth.

Two teams with the most wins, or most goals, would represent the province in the Super League which will happen in Sola later this year.

Among the match officials was a newcomer in the TORBA football community, her name is Delvin Grace and she is a Year 12 student at Arep Junior Secondary School.Delvin Grace

A few minutes after officiating in her first match in Super League football she was asked if it was her first match to officiate, she responded with confidence saying that this was not her first time as a match official, “I had officiated in previous matches this year including in school games” she added.

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“I attended a referee training course in Sola before I was certified to officiate in football matches as an Assistant Referee” she explains, and with that she raced to the football field to officiate in her second match of the day.

The Mama Law of Vanuatu encourages initiative individuals like Delvin, and it promotes the idea of being a proactive citizen, and to do that you have to make use of opportunities to up-skill yourself, the Mama Law states that;

“to recognize that he (/she) can fully develop his (/her) abilities and advance his (/her) true interests only by active participation in the development of the national community.”

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Transparency International Vanuatu, through its Civic Education Program, advocates on these matters on topics surrounding the Mama Law and how it relates to everyday life and personal perseverance.

Delvin is said to be the first female from TORBA province to be actively involved in football as a match official.

 

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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.

 

 

Transparency International Says Stop The Violence And Protect Civil Society In PNG

THE 10TH TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S WALK AGAINST CORRUPTION SCHEDULED FOR 12 JUNE IS POSTPONED TO 19 JUNE.


GIVEN THE TENSE SITUATION in Port Moresby, the 10th Transparency International Papua New Guinea’s Walk against Corruption, scheduled for 12 June in Port Moresby, Kokopo and Lae is postponed to 19 June. The new date allows us to better ensure the safety of our participants by monitoring the situation so that walkers, who include families with children, students and teams from both public and private sectors, can proceed safely.

Transparency International and its chapter in Papua New Guinea are joined by 13 TI national chapters across the Asia Pacific region calling on the government of Papua New Guinea to guarantee the safety of anti-corruption activists and citizens and strongly condemns the shooting by the police of unarmed student protesters.

The government must launch an impartial and independent investigation into the violence against demonstrating students this week where shots were fired injuring many. The investigations must be done with a promise that the recommended actions will be implemented.

“The government has obstructed and interfered  with investigations into alleged government corruption. This needs to stop. The government must initiate a credible, effective and independent investigation on all corruption allegations. Citizens have the right protest peacefully and to call on their government for transparency and accountability. The government has the obligation to protect its citizens and ensure their safety,” said Srirak Plipat, Transparency International’s Regional Director for Asia Pacific.

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Efforts to fight corruption in Papua New Guinea have been hindered by the government’s refusal to answer questions related to alleged corruption by the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. In May Transparency International PNG raised concerns about the Police Commissioner’s action to disband the National Fraud & Anti-Corruption Directorate following the Directorate’s investigation into senior police officers.TI_PNG_LOGO

“The situation in PNG is very worrying. Citizens are angry that their government is not pursuing corruption allegations and instead are attacking the very institutions charged with investigating and prosecuting corruption cases,” said Lawrence Stephens, chair of TI-PNG.

On June 19 Transparency International PNG is planning to hold the 10th annual Walk against Corruption. This walk unites people of all ages and background in a community effort to underscore the importance of fighting corruption. In the past this has attracted as many as 4000 people who walk both to raise awareness about the fight against corruption and to raise money for the work carried out by Transparency International PNG.

This year the walk will be postponed until there is a calm atmosphere where the spirit of unity and joint purpose can be expressed without fears of violence.

This call is also supported by TI Australia, TI Bangladesh, TI Cambodia, TI Fiji, TI Indonesia, TI Malaysia, TI Nepal, TI New Zealand, TI Pakistan, TI Solomon Islands, TI Sri Lanka, Transparency Vanuatu and Towards Transparency Vietnam.

Transparency International Press Release

Press contact(s):

Berlin
Chris Sanders
T: +49 30 34 38 20 666
E: press@transparency.org

Port Moresby
T: (+675) 3202188
E: comstipng@gmail.com

Picture Source:

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