Source of constitutional authority, Preamble
WE the people of Vanuatu,
PROUD of our struggle for freedom,
DETERMINED to safeguard the achievements of this struggle,
CHERISHING our ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity,
MINDFUL at the same time of our common destiny,
God or other deities
HEREBY proclaim the establishment of the united and free Republic of Vanuatu founded on traditional Melanesian values, faith in God, and Christian principles,
AND for this purpose give ourselves this Constitution.
CHAPTER 1. THE STATE AND SOVEREIGNTY
Type of government envisioned
1. REPUBLIC OF VANUATU
The Republic of Vanuatu is a sovereign democratic state.
2. CONSTITUTION SUPREME LAW
The Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic of Vanuatu.
3. NATIONAL AND OFFICIAL LANGUAGES
Official or national languages
The national language of the Republic of Vanuatu is Bislama. The official languages are Bislama, English and French. The principal languages of education are English and French.
Protection of language use
The Republic of Vanuatu shall protect the different local languages which are part of the national heritage, and may declare one of them as a national language.
4. NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, THE ELECTORAL FRANCHISE AND POLITICAL PARTIES
- National sovereignty belongs to the people of Vanuatu which they exercise through their elected representatives.
Secret ballot, Restrictions on voting, Claim of universal suffrage
The franchise is universal, equal and secret. Subject to such conditions or restrictions as may be prescribed by Parliament, every citizen of Vanuatu who is at least 18 years of age shall be entitled to vote.
Right to form political parties
Political parties may be formed freely and may contest elections. They shall respect the Constitution and the principles of democracy.
CHAPTER 3. CITIZENSHIP
Requirements for birthright citizenship
9. AUTOMATIC CITIZENS
On the Day of Independence the following persons shall automatically become citizens of Vanuatu-
- a person who has or had four grandparents who belong to a tribe or community indigenous to Vanuatu; and
- a person of ni-Vanuatu ancestry who has no citizenship, nationality or the status of an optant.
Requirements for birthright citizenship
10. ENTITLEMENT TO CITIZENSHIP
Every person who on the Day of Independence is a person of ni-Vanuatu ancestry and has the nationality or citizenship of a foreign state or the status of an optant shall become a citizen of Vanuatu if he makes an application, or an application is made on his behalf by his parent or lawful guardian, within 3 months of the Day of Independence or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe. The Vanuatu citizenship of such a person shall automatically lapse if he has not renounced his other citizenship or nationality within 3 months of the granting of Vanuatu citizenship or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe, except that in the case of a person under the age of 18 years the period of renunciation shall be 3 months after he has reached the age of 18 years.
Requirements for birthright citizenship
11. PERSONS BORN AFTER DAY OF INDEPENDENCE
Anyone born after the Day of Independence, whether in Vanuatu or abroad, shall become a citizen of Vanuatu if at least one of his parents is a citizen of Vanuatu.
Requirements for naturalization
A national of a foreign state or a stateless person may apply to be naturalised as a citizen of Vanuatu if he has lived continuously in Vanuatu for at least 10 years immediately before the date of the application.
Parliament may prescribe further conditions of the eligibility to apply for naturalisation and shall provide for the machinery to review and decide on applications for naturalisation.
Conditions for revoking citizenship
13. AVOIDANCE OF DUAL NATIONALITY
The Republic of Vanuatu does not recognise dual nationality. Any citizen of Vanuatu who is or becomes a citizen of another state shall cease to be a citizen of Vanuatu unless he renounces that other citizenship within 3 months of acquiring Vanuatu citizenship or that other citizenship, as the case may be, or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe, except that in the case of a person under the age of 18 years the period of renunciation shall be 3 months after he has reached the age of 18 years.
Requirements for naturalization, Conditions for revoking citizenship
14. FURTHER PROVISION FOR CITIZENSHIP
Parliament may make provision for the acquisition of citizenship of Vanuatu by persons not covered in the preceding Articles of this Chapter and may make provision for the deprivation and renunciation of citizenship of Vanuatu.
CHAPTER 4. PARLIAMENT
Structure of legislative chamber(s)
The legislature shall consist of a single chamber which shall be known as Parliament.
16. POWER TO MAKE LAWS
- Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Vanuatu.
Initiation of general legislation
Parliament shall make laws by passing bills introduced either by one or more members or by the Prime Minister or a Minister.
Approval or veto of general legislation
When a bill has been passed by Parliament it shall be presented to the President of the Republic who shall assent to it within 2 weeks.
Constitutionality of legislation, Approval or veto of general legislation
If the President considers that the bill is inconsistent with a provision of the Constitution he shall refer it to the Supreme Court for its opinion. The bill shall not be promulgated if the Supreme Court considers it inconsistent with a provision of the Constitution.
17. ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
First chamber selection
Parliament shall consist of members elected on the basis of universal franchise through an electoral system which includes an element of proportional representation so as to ensure fair representation of different political groups and opinions.
Eligibility for cabinet, Minimum age of head of government, Eligibility for first chamber, Eligibility for head of government, Minimum age for first chamber, Minimum age of head of state
Subject to such conditions or restrictions as may be prescribed by Parliament every citizen of Vanuatu who is at least 25 years of age shall be eligible to stand for election to Parliament.
18. ELECTORAL COMMISSION
There shall be an Electoral Commission consisting of a chairman and two members appointed by the President of the Republic acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.
- The following persons shall not be qualified for appointment as chairman or member of the Commission-
- a member of or a candidate for election to Parliament;
- a member of or a candidate for election to local government or municipal councils;
- a member of or a candidate for election to the National Council of Chiefs;
- any person who exercises any position of responsibility in a political party.
- A chairman or a member of the Commission shall vacate his office-
- at the expiration of 5 years from the date of his appointment; or
- if any circumstances arise that, if he were not a member of the Commission, would cause him to be disqualified for appointment as such.
19. PRINCIPAL ELECTORAL OFFICER
There shall be a Principal Electoral Officer who shall be a public servant.
20. FUNCTIONS OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION AND PRINCIPAL ELECTORAL OFFICER
The Electoral Commission shall have general responsibility for and shall supervise the registration of electors and the conduct of elections to Parliament, the National Council of Chiefs, local government and municipal councils. The Commission shall have such powers and functions relating to such registration and elections as may be prescribed by Parliament.
- The Principal Electoral Officer shall have such powers and functions relating to such registration and elections as may be prescribed by Parliament. The Principal Electoral Officer shall keep the Commission fully informed concerning the exercise of his functions and shall have the right to attend meetings of the Commission, and shall comply with any directions that the Commission may give to him in the exercise of his functions.
- Every proposed bill and every proposed regulation or other instrument having the force of law relating to the registration of electors for the election of members of Parliament, the National Council of Chiefs, local government and municipal councils or to the election of such members shall be referred to the Commission and to the Principal Electoral Officer at such time as shall give them sufficient opportunity to make comments on it before the bill is introduced in Parliament or, as the case may be, before the regulation or instrument is made.
- The Electoral Commission may lay before Parliament such reports concerning the matters under their supervision, or any draft bill or instrument that is referred to them, as they may think fit.
21. PROCEDURE OF PARLIAMENT
- Parliament shall meet twice a year in ordinary session.
Extraordinary legislative sessions
Parliament may meet in extraordinary session at the request of the majority of its members, the Speaker or the Prime Minister.
- Unless otherwise provided in the Constitution, Parliament shall make its decisions by public vote by a simple majority of the members voting.
Quorum for legislative sessions
Unless otherwise provided in the Constitution, the quorum shall be two thirds of the members of Parliament. If there is no such quorum at the first sitting in any session Parliament shall meet 3 days later, and a simple majority of members shall then constitute a quorum.
- Parliament shall make its own roles of procedure.
22. SPEAKER AND DEPUTY SPEAKERS
Leader of first chamber
At its first sitting after any general election Parliament shall elect a Speaker and one or more Deputy Speakers.
- The Speaker shall preside at sittings of Parliament and shall be responsible for maintaining order.
- The functions of Speaker may be exercised by a Deputy Speaker.
Parliament may establish committees and appoint members to them.
Public or private sessions
24. PROCEEDINGS TO BE PUBLIC
Unless otherwise provided proceedings of Parliament shall be held in public.
25. PUBLIC FINANCE
Every year the Government shall present a bill for a budget to Parliament for its approval.
No taxation shall be imposed or altered and no expenditure of public funds shall be incurred except by or under a law passed by Parliament.
No motion for the levying or increase of taxation or for the expenditure of public funds shall be introduced unless it is supported by the Government.
- Parliament shall provide for the office of Auditor-General, who shall be appointed by the Public Service Commission on its own initiative.
- The function of the Auditor-General shall be to audit and report to Parliament and the Government on the public accounts of Vanuatu.
- The Auditor-General shall not be subject to the direction or control of Boy other person or body in the exercise of his functions.
Treaty ratification, International law
26. RATIFICATION OF TREATIES
Treaties negotiated by the Government shall be presented to Parliament for ratification when they-
concern international organisations, peace or trade;
- commit the expenditure of public funds;
- affect the status of people;
- require amendment of the laws of the Republic of Vanuatu; or
- provide for the transfer, exchange or annexing of territory.
27. PRIVILEGES OF MEMBERS
- No member of Parliament may be arrested, detained, prosecuted or proceeded against in respect of opinions given or votes cast by him in Parliament in the exercise of his office.
Immunity of legislators
No member may, during a session of Parliament or of one of its committees, be arrested or prosecuted for any offence, except with the authorisation of Parliament in exceptional circumstances.
28. LIFE OF PARLIAMENT
Term length for first chamber
Parliament, unless sooner dissolved under paragraph (2) or (3), shall continue for 4 years from the date of its election.
- Parliament may at any time decide, by resolution supported by the votes of an absolute majority of the members at a special sitting when at least three-fourths of the members are present, to dissolve Parliament. At least 1 week's notice of such a motion shall be given to the Speaker before the debate and the vote on it.
Dismissal of the legislature
The President of the Republic may, on the advice of the Council of Ministers, dissolve Parliament.
- General elections shall be held not earlier than 30 days and not later than 60 days after any dissolution.
- There shall be no dissolution of Parliament within 12 months of the general elections following a dissolution under subarticle (2) or (3).
CHAPTER 6. HEAD OF STATE
Name/structure of executive(s)
33. PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
The head of the Republic shall be known as the President and shall symbolise the unity of the nation.
34. ELECTION OF PRESIDENT
Head of state selection
The President of the Republic shall be elected, in accordance with Schedule 1, by secret ballot by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and the Chairmen of Local Government Councils.
- When a vacancy in the office of the President of the Republic arises, election to that office shall be held within 3 weeks of the vacancy arising, or in the event of a vacancy arising when Parliament is dissolved, within 3 weeks after the first meeting of the new Parliament.
Minimum age of head of state, Eligibility for head of state
35. QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELECTION AS PRESIDENT
Any indigenous Vanuatu citizen qualified to be elected to Parliament shall be eligible for election as President of the Republic.
36. TERM OF OFFICE AND REMOVAL OF PRESIDENT
Head of state term length
The term of office of the President of the Republic shall be 5 years.
Head of state removal
The President of the Republic may be removed from office, only for gross misconduct or incapacity, by the electoral college provided for in Article 34 on a motion introduced by at least one-third of the members of the college and passed by at least two-thirds of its members, when at least three-fourths of its members, including at least three-fourths of the Chairmen of the Local Government Councils, are present.
- At least 2 weeks notice of the motion provided for in subarticle (2) shall he given to the Speaker.
- If there is no quorum at the first sitting as provided in subarticle (2), the electoral college may meet and vote on the motion provided for in subarticle (2) a week later even if there is only a quorum of two-thirds of the members of the college.
37. SPEAKER TO ACT AS PRESIDENT
Head of state replacement
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the President of the Republic or the President is overseas or incapacitated, the Speaker of Parliament shall perform the functions of President under this Constitution and any other law.
- When Parliament is dissolved and there is a vacancy in the office of the President of the Republic or the President is overseas or incapacitated, the Speaker of Parliament at the time of the dissolution shall perform the functions of the President of the Republic under this Constitution and any other law until a new Speaker is elected.
Power to pardon
38. PRESIDENTIAL POWERS OF PARDON,COMMUTATION AND REDUCTION OF SENTENCES
The President of the Republic may pardon, commute or reduce a sentence imposed on a person convicted of an offence. Parliament may provide for a committee to advise the President in the exercise of this function.
CHAPTER 7. THE EXECUTIVE
Name/structure of executive(s)
39. EXECUTIVE POWER
- The executive power of the people of the Republic of Vanuatu is vested in the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and shall be exercised as provided by the Constitution or a law.
- The Prime Minister shall keep the President of the Republic fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of the Republic.
- The President of the Republic may refer to the Supreme Court any regulation which he considers to be inconsistent with the Constitution.
Establishment of cabinet/ministers
40. COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
- There shall be a Council of Ministers which shall consist of the Prime Minister and other Ministers.
- The number of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, shall not exceed a quarter of the number of members of Parliament.
Head of government selection, Head of government's role in the legislature
41. ELECTION OF PRIME MINISTER
The Prime Minister shall be elected by Parliament from among its members by secret ballot in accordance with the rules in Schedule 2.
42. APPOINTMENT AND REMOVAL OF OTHER MINISTERS
Deputy executive, Eligibility for cabinet, Cabinet selection
The Prime Minister shall appoint the other Ministers from among the members of Parliament and may designate one of them as Deputy Prime Minister.
- The Prime Minister shall assign responsibilities for the conduct of government to the Ministers.
The Prime Minister may remove the Ministers from office.
43. COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF MINISTERS AND VOTES OF NO CONFIDENCE
The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to Parliament.
Head of government replacement, Head of government removal
Parliament may pass a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. At least 1 week's notice of such a motion shall be given to the Speaker and the motion must be signed by one sixth of the members of Parliament. If it is supported by an absolute majority of the members of Parliament, the Prime Minister and other Ministers shall cease to hold office forthwith but shall continue to exercise their functions until a new Prime Minister is elected.
Head of government replacement
44. TERMINATION OF OFFICE OF MINISTERS
The Council of Ministers shall cease to hold office whenever the Prime Minister resigns or dies but shall continue to exercise their functions until a new Prime Minister is elected. In the case of the death of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, or if there is no Deputy Prime Minister a Minister appointed by the President of the Republic, shall act as Prime Minister until a new Prime Minister is elected.
45. OTHER TIMES WHEN A MINISTER CEASES TO HOLD OFFICE
A Minister, including the Prime Minister, shall also cease to hold office-
- when, after a general election, Parliament meets to elect a new Prime Minister;
- if he ceases to be a member of Parliament for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament; or
- if he is elected as President of the Republic or as Speaker of Parliament.
46. MINISTERS TO REMAIN MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
Members of Parliament who are appointed Ministers shall retain their membership of Parliament.
CHAPTER 8. JUSTICE
47. THE JUDICIARY
The administration of justice is vested in the judiciary, who are subject only to the Constitution and the law. The function of the judiciary is to resolve proceedings according to law. If there is no rule of law applicable to a matter before it, a court shall determine the matter according to substantial justice and whenever possible in conformity with custom.
Supreme court selection, Establishment of judicial council
Except for the Chief Justice the judiciary shall be appointed by the President of the Republic acting on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.
Mandatory retirement age for judges, Supreme/ordinary court judge removal
All members of the judiciary shall hold office until they reach the age of retirement. They shall only be removed from office by the President of the Republic in the event of-
- conviction and sentence on a criminal charge; or
- a determination by the Judicial Service Commission of gross misconduct, incapacity or professional incompetence.
- The promotion and transfer of members of the judiciary may only be made by the President of the Republic on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.
- Parliament may provide for the appointment by the President of the Republic, after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission, of acting judges for such periods as may be set out in their instruments of appointment.
- Subarticle (3) so far as it relates to the removal from office shall apply to acting judges.
Establishment of judicial council
48. THE JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMISSION
- The Judicial Service Commission shall consist of the Minister responsible for justice, as Chairman, the Chief Justice, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, and a representative of the National Council of Chiefs appointed by the Council.
- The Judicial Service Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or body in the exercise of its functions.
Structure of the courts
49. THE SUPREME COURT, THE CHIEF JUSTICE AND OTHER JUDGES
- The Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction to hear and determine any civil or criminal proceedings, and such other jurisdiction and powers as may be conferred on it by the Constitution or by law.
Number of supreme court judges
The Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and three other judges.
Supreme court selection
The Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President of the Republic after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
Eligibility for supreme court judges
A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Chief Justice or other judge of the Supreme Court unless he is qualified to practise as a lawyer in Vanuatu.
Structure of the courts
50. APPEALS FROM SUPREME COURT TO COURT OF APPEAL
Parliament shall provide for appeals from the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and may provide for appeals from such appellate jurisdiction as it may have to a Court of Appeal which shall be constituted by two or more judges of the Supreme Court sitting together.
51. ASCERTAINMENT OF RULES OF CUSTOM
Parliament may provide for the manner of the ascertainment of relevant roles of custom, and may in particular provide for persons knowledgeable in custom to sit with the judges of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal and take part in its proceedings.
Structure of the courts
52. VILLAGE AND ISLAND COURTS
Parliament shall provide for the establishment of village or island courts with jurisdiction over customary and other matters and shall provide for the role of chiefs in such courts.
53. APPLICATION TO SUPREME COURT REGARDING INFRINGEMENTS OF CONSTITUTION
Constitutionality of legislation
Anyone who considers that a provision of the Constitution has been infringed in relation to him may, without prejudice to any other legal remedy available to him, apply to the Supreme Court for redress.
- The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to determine the matter and to make such order as it considers appropriate to enforce the provisions of the Constitution.
Constitutional interpretation, Constitutionality of legislation
When a question concerning the interpretation of the Constitution arises before a subordinate court, and the court considers that the question concerns a fundamental point of law, the court shall submit the question to the Supreme Court for its determination.
Supreme court powers
54. ELECTION DISPUTES
The jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to whether a person has been validly elected as a member of Parliament, the National Council of Chiefs, and a Local Government Council or whether he has vacated his seat or has become disqualified to hold it shall vest in the Supreme Court.
55. PUBLIC PROSECUTOR
The function of prosecution shall vest in the Public prosecutor, who shall be appointed by the President of the Republic on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. He shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or body in the exercise of his functions.
56. PUBLIC SOLICITOR
Parliament shall provide for the office of the Public Solicitor, appointed by the President of the Republic on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, whose function shall be to provide legal assistance to needy persons.
CHAPTER 12. LAND
73. LAND BELONGS TO CUSTOM OWNERS
All land in the Republic of Vanuatu belongs to the indigenous custom owners and their descendants.
74. BASIS OF OWNERSHIP AND USE
The rules of custom shall form the basis of ownership and use of land in the Republic of Vanuatu.
75. PERPETUAL OWNERSHIP
Only indigenous citizens of the Republic of Vanuatu who have acquired their land in accordance with a recognised system of land tenure shall have perpetual ownership of their land.
76. NATIONAL LAND LAW
Parliament, after consultation with the National Council of Chiefs, shall provide for the implementation of Articles 73, 74 and 75 in a national land law and may make different provision for different categories of land, one of which shall be urban land.
Parliament shall prescribe such criteria for the assessment of compensation and the manner of its payment as it deems appropriate to persons whose interests are adversely affected by legislation under this Chapter.
- Where, consequent on the provisions of this Chapter, there is a dispute concerning the ownership of alienated land, the Government shall hold such land until the dispute is resolved.
- The Government shall arrange for the appropriate customary institutions or procedures to resolve disputes concerning the ownership of custom land.
79. LAND TRANSACTIONS
- Notwithstanding Articles 73, 74 and 75 land transactions between an indigenous citizen and either a non-indigenous citizen or a non-citizen shall only be permitted with the consent of the Government.
- The consent required under subarticle (1) shall be given unless the transaction is prejudicial to the interests of-
- the custom owner or owners of the land;
- the indigenous citizen where he is not the custom owner;
- the community in whose locality the land is situated; or
- the Republic of Vanuatu.
80. GOVERNMENT MAY OWN LAND
Notwithstanding Articles 73 and 74 the Government may own land acquired by it in the public interest.
Protection from expropriation
81. REDISTRIBUTION OF LAND
- Notwithstanding Articles 73 and 74 the Government may buy land from custom owners for the purpose of transferring ownership of it to indigenous citizens or indigenous communities from over-populated islands.
- When redistributing land in accordance with subarticle (1), the Government shall give priority to ethnic, linguistic, customary and geographical ties.
CHAPTER 14. AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION
Constitution amendment procedure
84. BILLS FOR AMENDMENT OF CONSTITUTION
A bill for an amendment of the Constitution may be introduced either by the Prime Minister or any other member of Parliament.
Constitution amendment procedure
85. PROCEDURE FOR PASSING CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
A bill for an amendment of the Constitution shall not come into effect unless it is supported by the votes of no less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament at a special sitting of Parliament at which three-quarters of the members are present. If there is no such quorum at the first sitting, Parliament may meet and make a decision by the same majority a week later even if only two-thirds of the members are present.
Constitution amendment procedure
86. AMENDMENTS REQUIRING SUPPORT OF REFERENDUMS
A bill for an amendment of a provision of the Constitution regarding the status of Bislama, English and French, the electoral system, or the parliamentary system, passed by Parliament under Article 85, shall not come into effect unless it has been supported in a national referendum.