Tue, Dec 07, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Ties with Vanuatu still a mystery

POWER STRUGGLE The Vanuatuan courts will decide whether a no-confidence vote is legal. Their ruling will decide the fate of ties with Taiwan

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vanuatu's Supreme Court delayed announcement of a ruling regarding a constitutional article that may have a vital impact on Vanuatu-Taiwan ties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

The Vanuatuan parliament's plan to call a no-confidence vote after Prime Minister Serge Vohor secretly signed of a communique to establish official diplomatic relations with Taiwan was halted last Thursday, as the country's Constitution forbids parliament from holding such a vote within a year of electing the prime minister.

However, as the constitutional article that bans the vote is yet to be approved by a referendum, the parliament decided to appeal to the Supreme Court for an interpretation of the validity of the article.

"For unknown reasons, the Supreme Court said it would postpone the announcement of its ruling to 10am [today]. Our diplomats in Vanuatu will keep a close eye on the situation," said ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍).

Vohor's majority in parliament collapsed after 16 of the 52 government members of parliament defected to the opposition, giving it a majority of 36 to 14, excluding the prime minister and the parliament speaker, according to AFP reports.

Lu declined to comment on the reported defection or its likely impact on Vohor's political career.

In other developments, China's ambassador to Vanuatu, Bao Shusheng (鮑樹生), responded yesterday to an AFP report that said Vohor "punched" him.

The incident allegedly occurred after Bao asked the prime minister why Taiwan's flag was still flying in the capital after it was supposed to have been removed.

In an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency, Bao denied that Vohor punched him on Nov. 22. "Vohor waved his right fist in front of me and pushed my right shoulder with his right hand," Bao said.

Chalking it up to "Vohor's impolite behavior," Bao said the prime minister, after pushing him, ran to his car and left. Bao said he expressed his discontent to Vanuatu's foreign minister.

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