Port Vila, Vanuatu - Vanuatu’s newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) today started a three day induction programme aimed at enabling them to better understand and more effectively perform their roles as parliamentarians.
The 10th Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu is made up of 52 MPs, 24 of whom are first time parliamentarians. The induction programme covers a range of areas including: the constitutional basis of Parliament, the separation and balance of powers, the roles and responsibilities as MPs, how the parliament operates, parliamentary services available to MPs as well as the work of Vanuatu’s accountability agencies and the relationship between MPs and these agencies.
“The aim of this induction programme is to help you understand and perform your role as parliamentarians. We all have important responsibilities and our nation expects us to act with commitment and integrity in fulfilling these responsibilities,” said the Speaker of the Vanuatu Parliament, Hon George Andre Wells.
Former President of Vanuatu, Kalkot Mataskelekele in delivering the keynote address said that MPs had more responsibilities than ordinary citizens, both collectively and individually.
“Honourable members of Parliament your duty as an MP is not easy. From now on, your primary responsibility is to work as a servant: servant of the nation; servant of the community; and servant of your constituency. As you know, some of your other duties are constitutional duties, some are legal duties, some are parliamentary duties, and some are constituency duties,” said Mr Mataskelekele, speaking in Bislama.
The induction programme is an initiative of the Vanuatu Parliamentary Secretariat in partnership with the Australian National University’s Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Knut Ostby, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, in a message to the parliamentarians, delivered on his behalf by UNDP’s Brian Lenga, congratulated them on their election.
“An important lesson that UNDP has learnt from its presence from around the world is that only when the people, and especially the disadvantaged, the marginalized and the poor can participate in the political decisions of their country is their economic and social status adequately addressed. There are many ways to ensure the participation of people, including through opportunities to participate in public hearings, through the media and through their political parties,” said Mr Ostby in his message.
“As parliamentarians, part of your job will be to represent the wide variety of views that exist in society. A vibrant, democratic society will always have people who differ with each other. Different views and different ideas are some of the fundamental factors that create development – it allows a country to find new solutions to problems from the past. To allow these different views to come out, and to harness them into constructive solutions for the country, is a main task for Parliament. This is indeed a great challenge, but it is also one of the most important contributions that a Parliament can make.”
The Centre of Democratic Institution’s Deputy Director Grant Harrison said the theme of public leadership was covered in many of the sessions in the 3 day induction programme.
“MPs around the world are confronted with the challenge of balancing local priorities with national interests in a way that respects accountability obligations. The programme will provide opportunities for participants to discuss these issues with international counterparts and to explore the particular leadership and representational challenges faced by Pacific MPs.”
The parliamentarians will also get an opportunity to hear from Hon Rick Barker, former Minister and member of the New Zealand Parliament, Hon Steve (Stephanie) Chadwick, former Minister and member of the New Zealand Parliament as well the Deputy Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, Dr Mark Robinson and Robert Hansen, Committee Secretary of the Queensland Parliament.
The Parliament of Vanuatu is twinned with the Queensland Parliament through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
UNDP supports Parliaments in several Pacific islands countries and Vanuatu is one of them. UNDP partnered with CDI to deliver a similar induction programme for Vanuatu Parliamentarians in 2008. Last year, UNDP organized a similar induction programme for parliamentarians in Tonga, Kiribati, and Tuvalu and for the Senators in the Federated States of Micronesia Congress.
Shobhna Decloitre, UNDP Communications Specialist on (678) 5465658 or Shobhna.firstname.lastname@example.org or Stephanie Mailesi, Office of the Clerk on (678) 22229