Legislation Power is exercised by a single-chamber legislature known as Parliament.
Legislature power is the power to give, adopt or amend laws. (The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines a law as one of a body of rules which a state or community recognizes as binding on its members or subjects).
One of Parliament's most important functions is to approves the nation's budget, which is submitted annuallyby government as its estimate of the funds required for efficient administration of the country. In addition,all taxation and public expenditure require the authority of a law passed by Parliament. However, only the Government is allowed to introduce legislation levying taxation, or incurring or changing public expenditure.
Constitution of Vanuatu
The Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu came into existance by the virtue of the Constitution, which is the nation's supreme law: Articles 1 & 2 provide the framework for governing the Republic of Vanuatu and make it clear that the Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic of Vanuatu. This means that all other laws must be consistent with the Constitution.
The Constitution provides for the three arms of Government
- The Executive (the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers)
- The Legislature (the Members of Parliament)
- the Judiciary (the Judges of the Courts)
- It also provides for the office of the President (mainly a ceremonial position but with the powers kept for times of political trouble, called (reserve powers") and for the Council of Chiefs (which has the important job of advising the Government about preserving Vanuatu customs and traditions).
Brief history of the Constitution Day
Credit: TIV and First Vanuatu President, Ati George Sokomanu
1978 – 1979. Two Very Important Years: Mr. Sokomanu by tivnews
Before 1980, people in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) were ruled by two colonial powers of Britain and France. People from Britain and France migrated to the New Hebrides, as a result the archipelago was administrated by both Britain and France.
Over time, several aspiring indigenous leaders of New Hebrides decided to work together to gain their independence from the two colonial powers.
Father Walter Lini led the group of indigenous leaders, they worked hard with pride to prove to the colonial masters that they deserve their Independence and are capable or administrating their own country.
Mr. Ati George Sokomanu was a member of that aspiring group, when TIV talked with him he said that “between 1979 and 1980 the group formed the constitution and legislations to prove to the colonial powers that Vanuatu is capable of looking after itself. 1979 and 1980 were two very important and formal years as we tried to form legislatures on how to move forward independently,” Mr. Sokomanu said.
In 1980, New Hebrides was granted its independence after more than 70 years of being colonized. After gaining its Independence it was no longer called New Hebrides but was called Vanuatu – meaning ‘our land forever’.
The leaders struggled for our freedom, they were proud of their achievement and because of that the Mama Law or the Constitution was formed to safeguard those achievements, and to cherish our ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity.
Ati George Sokomanu, who was elected as the first President of Vanuatu, said, “When a country achieves self-reliance, it needs to have a statue, something to bind everyone and start us off as we go through our journey”.
So in 1979, the leaders sat together and started writing the Mama Law. Mama is the Bislama word for Mother.
“When God sends Moses to the Mount Sinai he gave them two stones with the ten commandments written on it. The Constitution is like the Vanuatu’s ten commandments to guide us as we achieve our independence and work through it,” Mr. Sokomanu related. Firstly, Vanuatu is a democratic country where the people hold the power to elect its members of parliament who make up the government. The government then administrates the affairs of the country.
This Mama Law is the highest law for the nation and every other law comes under it. The independence leaders of the Independence also set out on the mama laws the National and official language for the nation. The national language is Bislama, the official languages are Bislama, English and French and the principal languages of education are English and French. Also the republic of Vanuatu must protect its native languages as part of Vanuatu’s heritage and can declare any one of them as the national language. The citizens of Vanuatu have the rights to elect the members of parliament to form the government to rule the country. If the parliament establishes other laws, every citizen over the age of 18 years is entitled to cast a secret vote. Political parties may be formed freely and may contest elections but shall respect the Constitution and the principles of democracy.
This was the first chapter of the Mama Law agreed on by the people who led the country to Independence in 1980.
Standing Orders are written rules of procedure which provide for the conduct of proceedings in the House including the passage of bills, rules of debate, the maintenance of order, appointment of committees, and the matters affecting the operation of the House.
Every Parliament in the world has rules. They have them to try to make conduct of their houses of representatives orderly and constructive. The rules of the Parliament of Vanuatu are in the standing orders of Parliament. These rules started to be used in Parliament in January 1982. They are published in French and English.
Every member of Parliament should be given a copy of the Standing Orders as soon as possible after they are elected. It is very important that all MPs know what is in the Standing Orders. They tell in detail how an MP can add to the life of Parliament. The authority of the Standing Orders is given by the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu 1988 under clause 21(5). This clause hands over to Parliament the right to "make its own rules of procedures".
Member may adress a written question to a Minister relating to a public matter for which the Minister is officially responsible, in which he seeks information on that matter or asks for official action.
Any Member desiring to ask a written question shall give notice thereof by delivering a copy of such question to the Clerk not less that four (4) clear days before the day on which he intends to ask the question.
The written question shall be signed by the Member and shall show the day proposed for asking such question.
The Clerk shall transmit without delay the written question to the Minister concerned with the question.
The Minister to whom a written question has been asked shall deliver a written answer to the Clerk not later than two (2) clear days after the written questions has been transmitted to him.
At the time scheduled for written questions, the Member who signed the question shall read it and the Minister to whom the question is addressed shall read the answer. The text of the written question and answer shall be reproduced in the Minutes of the sitting.
Written questions and answers shall not be debated. But the Speaker may, at his discretion, permit a supplementary question to elucidate an answer.
Any Member who whishes to move a written motion shall give notice thereof by delivering to the Clerk a copy of it signed by him and by one other Member acting as seconder not less than three (3) clear days before the day on which he intends to move such motion.
The Clerk shall give a copy of the motion to each Member as soon as possible before the time on which the motion shall be debated.
The rules contained in Standing Orders 34 shall apply to Contents of any written motion.
When a written motion has been moved, the Speaker shall propose the question thereon to Parliament in the same terms as the motion and a debate may then take place. The mover, or in his absence the seconder,shall be entitled to open such debate and shall have a right of reply.
When the debate on the motion has been concluded, the question shall forthwith be put by the Speaker.
A motion may be withdrawn with the leave of the speaker before the question has been fully put thereon; but so withdrawn the motion may be moved again at some other sitting after due notice.
Statement by Members
Any Member may make a statement to Parliament on any matter relating to his responsibilities as a Member of Parliament or on any question of Government policy. Any such statement shall be limited to fifteen (15) minutes for each Member.
Any Member who whishes to make a statement in accordance with paragraph (1) shall inform the Speaker there-of before the opening of the sitting during which the statement is to be made.
The Speaker shall decide the order in which such state- ment shall be listed on the Agenda.
If no motion for a general debate is presented or accepted in accordance with Standing Order 37, the period of time allotted for a general debate shall be used for statements by Members.