Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Vote against PM is legal, court rules

COURT DRAMA Vanuatu's Supreme Court ruled that a no-confidence vote would abide by the Constitution, throwing ties with Taiwan into further uncertainty

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vanuatu's Supreme Court ruled that the country's parliament has the power to call a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Serge Vohor, who restated his determination to stand by the decision to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Vohor, who was elected prime minister in July, now faces the very likely possibility of a no-confidence vote in parliament over his secretive signing of a diplomatic communique with Taiwan last month.

After Supreme Court Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek announced the verdict yesterday afternoon, Vohor's lawyers sent the case to the Court of Appeal -- the highest body in the country's judicial system. It is unclear when the Court of Appeal will render a verdict on the case.

At a press conference on the latest developments in the status of Taiwan-Vanuatu ties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said that although Vanuatu's Constitution stipulates that parliament cannot call a no-confidence vote on the prime minister within a year after his or her election, the article is invalid, as it still needs to be approved by way of a national referendum.

The parliament cannot hold a no-confidence vote on Vohor before the Court of Appeal's results come out, Lu said.

"For now, Vohor is still the prime minister and he told our diplomats there that he stands by his decision to establish ties with Taiwan," added Lu.

Paying tribute to Vohor's courage and determination to maintain ties with Taiwan despite great pressure from China and Australia, Lu said Taiwanese diplomats in Vanuatu, including Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂), have visited the country's opposition leaders seeking their support for Vanuatu's diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

"Our diplomats tried to explain to the opposition leaders and officials the benefits of building ties with Taiwan. They also told the opposition side that keeping the `one China' policy does not mean the exclusion of Taiwan," Lu said.

As Kau is scheduled to return to Taipei today, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) told reporters yesterday that the situation in Vanuatu is difficult, as China has scores of officials to the country.

"[Vohor] came here to sign the communique with us, but China simply would not leave [Taiwan and Vanuatu] alone. Who is upsetting the situation? Even Australia joined in to exert its influence. Which side is wrong and which side is right in all this? Think about it," Chen said.

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