Kilman returned but early challenge expected | Pacific Beat

Kilman returned but early challenge expected

Kilman returned but early challenge expected

Updated 20 November 2012, 12:03 AEDT

The Vanuatu Parliament has elected Sato Kilman as prime minister, three weeks after a general election.

Mr Kilman's Peoples Progressive Party won only six of the 52 parliamentary seats but has managed to stitch together a loose, multiparty coalition.

The largest party, the Vanua'aku Party, led by Edward Natapei, won eight seats and as late as yesterday it appeared he may have been putting together a winning coalition.

No fewer than 16 political parties are represented in the house, and there was uncertainty right up until the vote as to which team might emerge with the winning number.

Tony Wilson, Editor of Vanuatu Independent, says that Kilman's political calculations have worked in his favour.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Tony Wilson, editor, Vanuatu Independent


WILSON: Obviously he's very, very proficient at number counting and number crunching, and persuading MPs that he is the way to go. The sad news for the people of Vanuatu is that given the state of things it's highly unlikely that we'll see that government in situ for the next four years. We can probably now expect to see perhaps even a number of changes where MPs are persuaded for various reasons to switch camps. We had some of that leading up to this election, and we had ludicrous situations where the two opposing groups were locked down in resorts that they'd booked out exclusively for weekends with guards on the resorts to stop people coming in and trying to poach their MPs. And of course at the end of all this, there's an enormous cost involved. MPs were being offered fairly large sums of money to switch camps, and sadly for the people of Vanuatu it looks like more of the same.
COUTTS: And is this money being offered all legitimate and above board, it's all legal?
WILSON: That's a very interesting question and rather difficult for a person like myself on a resident's visa to answer 100 per cent. Look the money could have come from any number of sources, but it was common knowledge last year particularly that the government budget was something in the vicinity of 50 per cent short of what it should have been to operate, and we had crazy scenes where as recently as about six weeks ago we ran an advertisement in our weekly newspaper from the Department of Education telling everybody that they'd run out of money for the current fiscal year. In fact we actually had a debate at the newspaper as to whether we'd take the ad because there was some worry about who was going to pay for it, but on a serious note there were quite a few government departments leading up to this election that literally ran out of finance.
COUTTS: Well what does Sato Kilman have to do from this point on now to try and stabilise this government?
WILSON: Well he's going to have to convince the people that it's not going to be more of the same that we've seen in the last 12 to 18 months. Of course what a lot of us are quite amazed about is that so many of the people that were in power before the election have been re-elected and therefore returned to power. It seemed likely that we were going to see a significant change and that didn't happen.
COUTTS: But that's been the theme for many past Vanuatu elections as well, the complaints about the incumbents in the top jobs in Vanuatu, and threatening to overturn them and it never happens. So people are going with the devil that they know?
WILSON: Yeah part of the problem is that a lot of this country is still terribly isolated in terms of communication. So the people in the outer islands pretty much away from this island of Efate and the island of Santo and maybe even to a lesser extent Tanna, have no radio, have no real communications, they have no way of knowing what their representatives in parliament are actually doing or not doing. And each election these people return to their islands, often it's the only time they've been seen since the last election, and they come with the promise of bush knives and 
glass covers and solar panels, which are gratefully accepted the people in the villages in these islands who think that's what an election is all about.
COUTTS: Now do you think that Edward Natapei will accept the top job going to Sato Kilman, or do you think we can expect moves from him pretty soon?
WILSON: I think there'll be moves fairly soon. There's a few people that are players in this scenario who are extremely unhappy to see Sato back in the top job. One of the movers in this is a fairly young politician that's just formed a party and has a few people elected, a man called Ralph Regenvanu, whose mother is actually a Queenslander, and his father says he was in the original Walter Lini government and has a fantastic reputation, and Ralph was Justice Minister in the Kilman government last year and was sacked for standing out against the few things that he felt were being done wrongly by the Kilman government. He's moving heaven and earth to try and make sure that the Kilman reign is short-lived.  
COUTTS: And who would he be backing to takeover?
WILSON: Pretty much anyone, anyone who's not named Sato Kilman to be honest. He's looking at the other side, he's been talking long and hard with people like Edward Natapei and Serge Vohor, and what you said in your preamble is quite correct, right up until the last minute yesterday there was every chance that that group could have formed a government, and this is where we've got such an unstable situation. Everyone here tells me that the first ten years of government after the independence were the best. It's probably no coincidence for most of that ten years we had one party. Now with so many parties, so many candidates, so many independents, the water is so muddied and at the end of the day the chances of long-term stable government are quite remote.
COUTTS: Well given that, the history and Ralph Regenvanu's connection with that history through his father, would Ralph Regenvanu entertain the idea of being prime minister?
WILSON: Yeah I spoke to him about it before the election and he said Tony it's a numbers game. I have no doubt that he would entertain these thoughts and actually there's a lot of people that would think he'd be a bit of a breath of fresh air because everyone else I've mentioned; Serge Vohor, Natapei, etc, they've all been there, done that before. In fact we had six former prime ministers contesting this election.
COUTTS: Alright so it's a case of watch this space, and are you expecting some movement pretty soon Mr Wilson.
WILSON: I would think so, we might have a quiet period for Christmas, but I don't think the so-called honeymoon period will last far into 2013.

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