A motion moved in Parliament yesterday by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and seconded by Deputy Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, was passed after it was unanimously supported by both sides of the House.
The motion sought to amend the Standing Order 14 of Parliament on how Parliament can be requested by the majority of members to sit in an extraordinary session.
As a result of the motion, a new Standing Order 14(1)(A) was inserted.
The new Standing Order 14(1)(A) reads: “A request made by the majority of members of Parliament under this Article must be signed by the majority of members at the same time in the office of the Speaker in the presence of the Speaker or the Clerk”.
Initially the Deputy Leader of the Opposition reportedly announced that the Opposition would abstain, but after the Government agreed to change the “and” to “or” in the phrase “in the presence of the Speaker or the Clerk”, both sides supported it.
The change with the unanimous support of Parliament means that a request by majority members of Parliament will no longer be signed at secret locations or nakamals as the signing will have to be made in the presence of the Speaker or the Clerk.
This change to the Standing Order was effective immediately after the vote to give effect to the amendment.
One of the reasons for the motion to be tabled is due to the issue of allegations that signatures of some of the Members of Parliament were forged.
The change is also expected to cut the unnecessary cost to the public purse of running to the Supreme Court to determine whether the signatures of MPs are authentic or not.
The mover of the motion, Mr Salwai, made particular mention of Constitutional Case No.3 of 2013 where the Chief Justice referred to the need to amend the Standings Orders of Parliament to minimize fraudulent practices.
According to Port Vila’s Member of Parliament and Foreign Affairs Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, the change done yesterday to Standing Order 14 does not affect the existing motion of no confidence deposited by the Opposition during the ordinary session.
Mr Regenvanu said the motion passed yesterday deals with how Parliament can be requested by the majority of members to sit in an extraordinary session, not how motions are lodged.