Tighter Control On G-Vehicles Is Great News

FINALLY, SOMETHING CONCRETE is going to be done to tighten the use of government vehicles. Transparency International Vanuatu has, for a long time, voiced concerns over the misuse of government vehicles which has caused humongous unnecessary spending’s.

It is, without doubt, that the misuse of government vehicles is currently one of the most common forms of corruption that is practiced daily. Sadly, it has become so familiar that it has somehow become an acceptable behavior, yet it continuous to drain out public funds.

Evidently, the purchase and maintenance of new government vehicles has continued to go over the budgeted funds. Millions and millions of vatu has been spend on unbudgeted government vehicles and fuel, thus pulling out financial resources that could be spend where they are needed the most.

The Vanuatu Public Service Manual describes clearly examples of the misuse government vehicle; these are just a few of the activities that are regarded as offences and are liable for punishment; using government vehicles for shopping without permission from authorities, using government vehicles to go drink kava and several more.

Furthermore, there is an application form that public servants can use to request to use vehicles. However, if the vehicle is spotted at a location not stated in the application form then it must be reported to the Public Service Commission and to be dealt with accordingly.

According to the Public Service Manual a public officer must not use a vehicle belonging to the Government without appropriate authority, anyone who commits this act without appropriate authority may be; a) issued with a penalty notice by the Commission of up to 20,000; b) convicted of an offence in Court with a penalty of up to 20,000 VT; c) disciplined by the Commission (which may include dismissal for cause if the Commission considers that it constitutes serious misconduct).

Transparency International Vanuatu wishes to congratulate Minister Jotham Napat for this very important initiative, it is definitely positive news for everyone. Once implemented it would be a breakthrough for transparency and accountability with regards to the use of government vehicles in Vanuatu.

 

 

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A Look At The ‘Reserved Seats’ Context In Vanuatu

MINISTER OF JUTICE Ronald Warsal surprised everyone when he announced last week that the Council of Ministers had approved a constitutional amendment to allow for reserved seats for women in the National Parliament.

In light of this major revelation we all should be aware that work towards achieving this new development did not just happen last week, it had been in the making quite a few years back. In this report we look at a few facts, discussions, and the ideas surrounding having Reserved Seats.

Decline in Women Representations

Reserving seats for female representatives has been an ongoing notion talked about for a couples of years now. Since 2002, the percentage of women standing for election has increased by 1% per election period. In spite of this increased presence in the polls, female representation has continued to decline from its peak of two (2) representatives in 2004, to one (1) in 2008, and back to zero representation in 2012. And in this 10th legislature there is still no women parliamentarians.

In 2006, there were fewer than 3.8% women in Vanuatu’s Parliament – the lowest in the world. Only 17% of women held positions of authority in the public service. Men hold most jobs in both the private and public sector while women make up 83% of full-time home makers in Vanuatu’s urban centers. (Andrina Komala Lini Thomas and Maria Humphries, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand October, 2012)

Unsuccessful Elections

In the election of 30th October 2012, of the 17 female candidates standing for election, none were elected. And of those 17 female candidates, not only were they unelected, but they scored incredibly low in terms of voter numbers in general. The total votes for women represent only 1.98% of the total valid votes.

In a post-election interview, one of the five women who contested stated that “we didn’t get the support from the community, especially the women of Vanuatu. This is a big blow for women, especially in Vanuatu.”

Another candidate for the Labour Party, who also contested in the Port Vila Constituency, said she was disappointed with the reluctance to back new female faces.

Port Vila constituency was the most highly represented constituency with 5 candidates standing out of 49, however in spite of having a 10% chance of gaining one of the 6 seats on offer, all 5 female candidates scored in the bottom 15, with none achieving more than 96 votes.

It is a general consensus among voting women that while they would like to see more female representation at higher level; they continue to vote for male candidates as they do not have faith in the leadership abilities of those women standing for election.

Whilst many of those who contested the election hold positions of power within their respective communities/organizations, they have been labelled as notoriously unreliable, confrontational and do not demand a level of trust and reliability expected of a national leader.

One must ask what the future for women in politics will be now that again, their foothold has been lost to a patriarchal Government.

Vanuatu in the Global Gender Gap Report

The Global Gender Gap Report (2010) published by the World Economic Forum highlights Vanuatu’s on-going lack of gender equality in economic participation and opportunity and outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment; in educational attainment and outcomes on access to basic and higher level education; in political empowerment and outcomes on representation in decision-making structures; in health and survival and outcomes on life expectancy and in sex ratios that disadvantage women in all aspects of organization.

Implementation of Reserved Seats

In 2013, the Vanuatu Government mandated that within the Port Vila Municipal Council, 5 reserved seats were allocated to women. This mandate increased the number of seats within the Port Vila Municipal Council,

Female candidates can either stand for election to one of these seats, or they could stand within the regular election process. Gradually, today we have five female Port Vila Councilors who won their seats through the reserved seats category, and currently one them holds the position of the Deputy Lady Mayor.

In 2015, passed amendment of the Municipalities Act to reserve one seat in every ward for women was implemented accordingly during the Luganville Municipal Election in 2015. Four (4) seats were reserved for women.

However, given the successful introduction of reserved seats in the two major urban centers, records on how well it is being implemented according to individual performance and working achievements is yet to be made, as far as we are aware of.

Youth discussions on Reserved Seats

In 2014, Transparency International Vanuatu, in partnership with the Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP), implemented a Youth Parliament Program. The program involved youth from around Vanuatu who held a parliament-type session at the Le Lagon Convention Centre in Port Vila to discuss and debate on certain issues and find solutions.  The young people who took part in the activity were also participated in the first ever Vanuatu National Youth Parliament that took place in 2013.

One of the matters discussed in the parliamentary-oriented activity that time was reserved seats for women in Parliament.

The Youth Parliamentarians found out that the issue of reserving seats specifically for women is not a new notion. Thus, decided to look into the matter, debate the impacts and find a solution to it;


Cons

  • Quotas are against the principle of equal opportunity for all, since women are given preference;
  • Political representation should be a choice between ideas and party platforms, not between social categories;
  • Quotas are undemocratic, because voters should be able to decide who is elected;
  • Quotas imply that politicians are elected because of their gender, not because of their qualifications, and that better-qualified candidates are pushed aside;
  • Many women do not want to get elected just because they are women;
  • Introducing quotas creates significant conflicts within the party organization;
  • Quotas for women will be followed by demands for quotas for other groups, which will result in a politics of sheer group-interest representation.

Pros

  • Quotas for women do not discriminate, but compensate for actual barriers that prevent women from their fair share of the political seats;
  • Quotas imply that there are several women together in a committee or assembly, thus minimizing the stress often experienced by the token women;
  • Women have the right as citizens to equal representation.
  • Women’s experience is needed in political life;
  • Men cannot represent the interest of women. Only many women can represent the diversity of women;
  • Election is about representation, not educational qualifications;
  • Women are just as qualified as men, but women’s qualifications are downgraded and minimized in a male-dominated political system;
  • Quotas do not discriminate against individual men. Rather quota rules limit the tendency of political parties to nominate only men. For the voters, the opportunities are expanded, since it now becomes possible to vote for women candidates;
  • Introducing quotas may cause conflicts, but only temporarily;
  • Several internationally recognized conventions on gender equality have set targets for women’s political representation; including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which 179 countries are now party to, as well as the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action;
  • How can it be justified that men occupy more than 80% of the parliamentary seats in the world?

Constitutional Amendment – Youth Parliamentary Activity

As part of their parliamentary activity, they amended the Constitution and allowed for eight reserved seats for women MPs. Each seat is reserved for the six Provinces of the Republic of Vanuatu as well as the two urban centers of Port Vila and Luganville.

This will comprise of one (1) reserved seat per province as well as one (1) seat for a representative from the nation’s capital, Port Vila constituency and one (1) seat for a candidate standing from Luganville, the nation’s second major urban centre.

Of course there was opposition to the amendments by the Youth Opposition grouping who argued that that there were several implications to this proposal, as the amendment is not intended to add an additional 8 MP’s seats to Parliament. However, during the course of the debate it was identified that there will be implications on MP’s allocation, as funding for additional MP’s would have to come out of the same available funding for currently serving MP’s and not allocated from other budgets.

The amendments also raised constitutional concerns, as well as issues which may arise in terms of proportional representation, constituency representation and amendments to the electoral rules.

The Pacific Regions Reserved Seats

Looking outward at the regional community the idea for reserved seats for women has been introduced in some countries, some through other processes. Papua New Guinea introduced the Equality & Participation Act which provided for reserved seats for one female candidate from each province, of which there are 21, plus one for the National Capital District, 22 in total within a Parliament of 111 members.

However, it could not be implemented since the Constitutional amendment required to enforce this Act did not pass in parliament.

In 2014, MP’s from the Solomon Islands begun to lobby for the introduction of 10 Reserved Seats for Women within National Parliament.

In 2012 in Fiji, the National Women’s Forum Outcome Statement called for a 50% quota for women in any future legislature, or at the least, a 50% quota within each political party.

In March 2012, the Samoa Government tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill 2012 in Parliament. The Bill seeks to introduce a 10% quota of women representatives into the national Legislative Assembly. The system proposes a “floating” five reserved seats for women.


Some Examples of countries that reserve seats for women are as follows;

  • In Djibouti, 10% of seats are reserved;
  • In India, 33% of seats in all local bodies (panchayats and municipalities) are reserved;
  • In Jordan, 6 of the 110 (5%) seats in the House of Deputies are reserved;
  • In Pakistan, 60 of 342 National Assembly seats (17.5%) are to be allocated to women;
  • In Tanzania, 20% of the seats in parliament are reserved;
  • In Uganda, at least one woman from each of the 54 districts is guaranteed a seat (out of 304 seats)

Finally, given the fastness of the government’s plan to table the Reserved Seats in Parliament Transparency International Vanuatu thinks it is a responsibility for the 52 Members of Parliament to spend the time between now and the June parliament sitting to discuss with their constituents, gather opinions, and analyze them so that they can be fully equipped to represent their constituents.

Cover Photo: A Youth Parliamentarian speaking at the National Youth Parliament in 2013.

 

 

 

Anti-Corruption Day Observed In Vanuatu

THE VANUATU GOVERNMENT in partnership with Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) hosted this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day down at the Port Vila Seafront.

International Anti Corruption Day is held every year as an opportunity for the community to rally support of the work being undertaken to combat corruption in all its forms. The event was scheduled to be held on the 9th of December 2015, but was postponed to this year.

Programs of that day included a public parade against corruption from Chantilly’s to the Seafront space next to the Port Vila Market House. The VMF Brass band led the parade followed by government leaders, NGO’s and members of the public.

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At the Seafront there were a few speeches, awareness programs, and drama performances 17by the Rainbow Disability Theater Group who created and performed the widely showcased drama – Pikinini Blong Seaview.

And to conclude the half day program Stan & the Earth Force soothingly closed of the activities with some of their hard hitting songs about the reality of life in Vanuatu.

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At a quarter past nine the Honorable Prime Minister Charlot Salwai gave his speech, in his speech he emphasized his government’s commitment towards fighting corruption in Vanuatu.

Vanuatu, as a member state of the UN, is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2011. Therefore it is by obligation that Vanuatu must have in place mechanisms that implement and enforce this UNCAC.

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A statement from the Ministry of Justice earlier that week explained that Vanuatu “has 12been working to strengthen the institutions and laws needed to address corruption. A 2013 review of Vanuatu’s progress to implement UNCAC found that some significant progress has been made, acknowledging work particularly in the areas of ant-money laundering, international cooperation and initiative in Correction Services.”

And because Vanuatu acceded to the UNCAC therefore it is important to have an Anti-Corruption Day so that government and civil society leaders can prioritize that day as a time to report back to the whole country on what they have done specifically in the areas of anti-corruption.

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Those who also provided statements on anti-corruption today were the Director General for the Ministry of Justice Mark Bebe, the Ombudsman Kalkot Mataskelekele, and Transparency International Vanuatu Board Secretary Mr Joe Kalo.

The Ministry of Justice and the Office the Prime Minister were the main offices behind the observation of anti-corruption days, and Transparency International Vanuatu, as a civil society organization has been privileged to have worked in collaboration with the said offices during the past weeks and months towards the event.

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The theme for this years celebration of the Anti Corruption Day in Vanuatu was “Fight Corruption. Use the Right Information. Enough Hearsay.”

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A media release from the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MOJCS) this week elaborated more on the reasons behind hosting the Anti-Corruption Day.

The statement says that the theme reflects a key strategy “which the government is implementing to lead a more open and transparent administration”.

The statement also recognized Transparency International Vanuatu’s assistance towards the raising public awareness on the Right To Information (RTI) Bill. The statement from the MOJCS further explained that the theme for anti-corruption day was developed earlier this year, and Transparency International Vanuatu has been using it to conduct awareness programs on the Right to Information (RTI) Bill around the islands of Vanuatu.

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Right To Information (RTI) is a Bill that is still in the drafting process yet to be passed in 10parliament which will give free access to the right information needed in this country.

The statement explained that in 2014 “the Government launched the Right To information (RTI) Policy which when fully implemented will mean that each agency will publish information on its organization, policies, activities and expenditure.

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RTI will also mean that any person will be entitled to ask for any information held by the Government, and the Government will be required to provide that information, with limited exemptions to protect such things as personal privacy, national security, health and safety and legal privilege. An RTI Unit to oversee implementation of RTI has been established within the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer.”

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“The Ministry of Justice and Community Services is leading a review of the Ombudsman 5and Leadership Code Acts to make sure that the laws reflect community standard and are strong enough to fight corruption in our public institutions. Other work to combat corruption in the private and not government sectors has also occurring.”

Over the years advocacies after advocacies have been implemented to combat corruption at all levels of society, yet no law has been tabled in Parliament that would evidently fight corruption effectively across all levels. It is about time now that Vanuatu move forward to enforce in such laws, and the Right To information is one of them.

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During Transparency International Vanuatu community awareness programs on the RTI around Vanuatu a hundred percent of the people that were talked to wanted the RTI Bill to be passed and to become law, and though some people were careful on their opinions they eventually expressed support to have such a law place.

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It was during the RTI Toksave on Malekula when a Chief from the North West emphasized13
that “this is God’s plan, everything comes in a timely manner. This RTI Bill must become law. With human nature and Gods divine power anything is possible.”

It was also during another RTI Toksave on West Ambae when an elder from Vilakala village shed tears of joy. After listening to the RTI awareness the elder expressed that “Vanuatu will be free at last.”

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He explained that “when I heard of the Right to Information Bill, I knew that Vanuatu will be free at last because despite our independence we are still not free yet, because the information that we want is not readily available to us citizens.”

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The right to information originates as a national fundamental right, and is expressed in 23
Vanuatu’s National Constitution under article five.

At the moment there is no RTI Law that will give legal effect to this fundamental right however preparations have already been made and an RTI policy was launched in 2014, and until it becomes law TIV will continue to advocate for the RTI in Vanuatu.

The RTI is important because it is a symbol of an open democracy and a key to governance. The RTI promotes transparency and accountability in the public sector. It supports and protects human rights and it strengthens the foundations of democracy, and most importantly it fights against corruption.

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Thus the theme – Fight Corruption. Use The Right Information. Enough Hearsay. In Bislama it translates as “Faetem Korapsen. Yusum Raet Infomeisen. Inaf Blong Harem Se.”

As Transparency International Vanuatu continues to face further cuts on organizational funding we would like to continue to encourage us to be strong against corruption, corruption is everyone’s business. We have witnessed first-hand tears of hopelessness that were shed because of corruption, expressionless faces with eyes filled with pain. But we have also seen tears of joy, faces filled with energy and eyes filled with hope because corruption was defeated and removed as a parasite, an unwanted obstacle, towards achieving better living standards, a better future, and fair justice.

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For more information relating to any topics in our work please do contact us at transparency@vanuatu.com.vu or you call us at: 25715.

 

 

Government Needs To Strengthen Statutory Bodies

OBVIOUSLY, CHALLENGES TO PROPER MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES and unlawful actions continue to affect the economical state of our country today.

As a developing country that largely depends on tourism for income Vanuatu has suffered unavoidable, and preventable, economical loses since 2015. TC Pam was unavoidable, but an unmaintained airport runaway is , very much, preventable..

Earlier this year, three Australian and New Zealand Airlines cancelled their services to Vanuatu, blaming the poor conditions of the Bauerfield International Airport.

Researchers from the Lowy Institute’s Melanesia Program and the Development Policy Centre based in Australia recently published an article a couple of weeks ago on the airport issue. They estimated that an amount of $40,752,772 (equivalent to around VT4, 308,380,000) may have been lost due to the decline in tourist numbers to Vanuatu since 2015, and from that amount an estimated $33,873,016 (which is equivalent to around VT3, 581,060,000) was revenue lost from air visitor arrivals alone. The estimation was calculated on a 2007 baseline study.

The Bauerfield International airport is evidently a major source of income for Vanuatu. It is therefore rather unfortunate that we now have this national income generating mechanism labeled as unsafe, it reflects the fact that proper foresight into its maintenance had been overlooked and that the management’s priorities had been allocated elsewhere.

According to the article by the research institutes mentioned earlier, the “Bauerfield airport, the country’s main international airport, has been in need of repair and rehabilitation for years. Airports Vanuatu Limited, which is responsible for management of the airport, has been unable to fund major airport works using the (insufficient) fees it collects — in part due to its management of several other (loss-making) airports in Vanuatu. Poor management and a politicised board have also been a problem at various times. As a result, Airports Vanuatu Limited has been reliant on government funds (or donor funds negotiated by government) for major rehabilitation work.”

“Poor management and a politicized board,” this phrase should ring a bell somewhere loud enough to bring more attention to this long time delinquent that desperately needs to be fixed for economics sake.

This is not the first time that the management of the airport has been described to being of such a state. When summoned by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2015 the management of the Airports Vanuatu Limited showed up with no proper financial and audited reports. The AVL financial reports were well overdue since 2012, “it is a disgrace” commented the PAC. (Read more: “You Have Failed.”)

The deadline for the submission of those long overdue financial reports were rescheduled at the end of June after which the Office of the Auditor General had to report back to the PAC on the financial reports progress and contents. However, by the end of June last year the government then, having been tightly tied up by political movements including the bribery saga, further investigations into the overdue financial reports by the PAC ceased to proceed.

Transparency International Vanuatu understands that the Salwai Government has committed the repair of the Bauerfield Airport in its short term 100 day plan and long term plans as well. The government of the day should learn from past actions, adjust their strategies, and make better informed decisions as to better lead Vanuatu’s vital revenue generating institutions forward.

We should also be cautious that there have been in the past several fabricated starts to rebuilding or rehabilitating Vanuatu’s airport. Each new government appeared to have its own opinion on what should be done. Unfortunately, none of those ‘opinions’ have actually materialized that we are aware of.

Talking about ‘fabricated starts’, an example is the 2013 deal with the Singapore-based company called the Vanuatu Trade Development, which surprisingly had no aviation experience. The deal was estimated to cost around US$350 million. Gradually, after a successful motion of no confidence the new government made sure that the deal was discarded and a loan agreement of US$59.5 million was arranged with the World Bank, but that deal was also discarded when a new government took power after another successful motion of no confidence.

And yet again another ‘opinion’ was struck with a Shanghai-based conglomerate to fix and upgrade the International Airport. Of course, this deal never solidified because another government stepped in, it was a period of political uncertainties.

Political instability ensued. Bribery was involved, and as a result 14 former Members of Parliament were jailed for corruption in 2015.

It must also be noted that the Vanuatu Trade Development company involved in the airport deal is of the same name as the one that recently had 804 expired cartons of cigarette destroyed by the Customs Department. “The Customs Department says the company allegedly owes the Vanuatu Government more than Vt400 million unpaid tax plus interest,” reported the Daily Post on Friday last week.

Transparency International Vanuatu, as one among the few active organizations that endure to advocate against corruption, must continue to demand that the qualities of transparency, accountability, honesty, and fairness be fully expressed by the Vanuatu Government in its initiatives to correct matters that are of national interest, or when developing new structures.

In this same sentiment, if political interests is the cause for a lack of focus in the Airports Vanuatu Limited then it is clear that political interests must be removed. Likewise, if there is a lack of adequate human and material capacity then it is clear that these areas must be strengthened. It is better to prevent this unfortunate incident from happening again than to have to relive it again.

Remember, any structure that accommodates corruption is already a failed vision.

Picture Source: https://hbr.org/2015/01/how-the-u-s-and-india-can-strengthen-their-business-ties

 

 

 

 

Parliament Meets To Elect New Government

AFTER A RATHER LONG period of political uncertainties the parliament of Vanuatu will finally elect a new government today.

Port Vila this morning experienced a string of traffic jams up to the Parliament compound. Dozens of people looked on from outside the parliament as the new elected representatives walked in this morning.

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Elected representatives ready to enter the Parliament chamber.

Inside the parliament media personals are busy sorting out broadcasts transmissions to inform the people of Vanuatu by radio, television, and by live-streaming through the parliament website.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE-STREAM.

Security is also tight. Dozens of security officers are lined up outside the parliament gates while others roam around the parliament compound.

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Former MP Maxime Carlot (right) and new MP Albert William (left) of the GJP Party.

Over the last couple of days the will for stability has been a driving force behind many conversations within the political arena, and the hope for stability continues to remain on  every citizens minds. Evidently, by the end of the today Vanuatu will already have a new government in place.

By 10:30am the swearing in of all the Members of Parliament had finished. MP Joe Natuman (who is the Senior Member) was then chosen to act as the Speaker of Parliament for the election of the new Speaker of Parliament who will then proceed with the election of the Prime Minister.

At midday MP for Malekula Esmon Saimon was elected as the new Speaker of Parliament for Vanuatu.

He led with 33 votes while the other nominated MP for the position of the Speaker, Christopher Emelee, took 19 votes.

Next was the election of the First Deputy Speaker that went unopposed, it shows that the Unity Front for Change Bloc currently holds the majority in Parliament. MP for Santo Mr. Edwin Amblus, who is a former Magistrate, is now the new First Speaker of Parliament.

The election for the Second Deputy Speaker also went unopposed, the nomination was made by MP Jotham Napat and seconded by MP Edwim Amblus. The position of the Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament goes to MP Havo Moli from Malo/Aore Constituency.

The Third Deputy Speaker is MP Alickson Vira from Ambae, and the Fourth Deputy Speaker is Marcelino Barthelemy from Malekula.

MP for Pentecost Charlot Salwai was nominated for the position of the Prime Minister unopposed.

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE-STREAM.

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Acting Clerk of Parliament summons the new elected representatives in the Chamber.