A Troubled House

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The Vanuatu government boycotted parliament Monday, a move that comes as the opposition attempts to pass a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Sato Kilman less than a month after he came to power, Radio New Zealand reported.

Last week, opposition lawmakers filed a no-confidence motion against Kilman for multiple reasons, including the government’s failure to attend regional and international meetings, and his appointment of a minister who was found to have misappropriated $8 million during a previous administration, according to the Pacific News Service.

The opposition said it had the support of 27 legislators, versus the government’s 24. Observers noted that by boycotting the session, the government would gain additional time to lobby for support.

The boycott comes shortly after the country’s supreme court upheld the recent removal of government lawmaker Bruno Leingkone from parliament. Leingkone’s exclusion was based on his repeated absences from parliamentary sessions without seeking the speaker’s permission.

The opposition has also filed a motion to suspend another government legislator, Gracia Shadrack, following an outburst in parliament in which he reportedly threatened to set the house on fire.

Meanwhile, Kilman came to power after a court upheld a vote of no-confidence against his predecessor, Ishmael Kalsakau.

Kalsakau had sought closer ties with the United States and its allies, amid an ongoing rivalry between the US and China over the Pacific region, Reuters noted.

Late last year, he signed a security pact with Australia, which critics said compromised Vanuatu’s “neutral” status and could jeopardize development assistance from China, its biggest external creditor.

Shortly after taking office, Kilman said he would “revisit” the agreement with Australia.

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