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Vanuatu Finance minister expelled from party

Vanuatu Minister of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) and Nagriamel’s Member of Parliament for Santo, Gaetan Pikioune, has been expelled from the party by the Nagriamel Upper Council of Chiefs (NUCC) of the Nagriamel Movement (NM).

The Chairman of the NUCC, James Tangis, informed Minister Pikioune of the decision in a letter dated April 9, 2018.

In the letter, Chief Tangis wrote that following the Minister’s refusal to adhere to the direction of the NUCC requesting him to resign as a MP of the NM, a meeting of the chiefs of the NUCC was held and the NUCC was now formally expelling him from the NM as of April 9.

The reason given for the expulsion was that he was continuously working in contravention to the procedures of the Movement.

Prior to this decision, on February 20, the President of the National Executive of the National Executive (NE) of the Nagriamel Political Commission (NPC), John Lum, wrote to the Chief Tangis, Chairman of the NUCC setting out a total of 14 complaints against the Minister of Finance and Economic Management.

Lum requested the NUCC to consider the charges by the NE against Pikioune and to “take strong disciplinary action against MP Gaetan Pikioune.”

Some of the allegations of misconduct against MP Pikioune were that he was working for his personal own political gain and not for the growth and development of the Nagriamel Movement, including providing ‘false statistics’ which allowed him to contest the last general election and the previous election to that.

This, the President of the NE claimed enabled the MP to field his own candidates in the Sanma Provincial Election, which resulted in Nagriamel not winning any councilor in the new council.

Lum claimed that following the election, Pikoune accepted the portfolio of Finance and Economic Management without any consultation with the National Executive.

Another is the Minister decided to accept the proposal to introduce income tax in Vanuatu without consultation with the NE, a policy which contravened the principles of the NM.

The NE also charged Pikoune with nepotism, accusing him of appointing people related to him and without consultations with the NM to the Ministry of FEM and other government statutory bodies.

Another charge is that Pikoune, a shareholder of Air Vanuatu, allowed the sacking of his ‘boss’, the President of the NE, John Lum, who was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the national airline of Vanuatu.

Finally, that MP Pikioune allowed deductions from the salaries of those people he appointed political appointees in ministries and statutory authorities without the approval of the NE and that he had no power to authorise the deductions.

The letter from the President of the NE, Lum claims that these continuous malpractice by MP Pikioune did not help the growth and development of the Movement and recommended to the NUCC that it should discipline Mr. Pikioune to make an example of him for any politician of the Movement in the future and, to rebuild confidence and trust for future coalition arrangements with government.

On February 28, 2018 the chairman of the NUCC, Chief James Tangis, wrote to Pikioune requesting him to submit a detailed financial report to the NUCC and giving full details on the party dues being deducted from political appointees under the Ministry and statutory bodies, such as name and account number, signatories to the account, details of expenditures and receipts, name of bank, bank statement since 2016-2018, and percentage of deduction of salaries of political appointees.

Chief Tangis gave the Minister 10 days from the date of the letter to respond.

On the same date, chief Tangis wrote to minister Pikioune, attaching a copy of the letter of 14 complaints from NE President, John Lum. In the letter he directed the MP to answer to the complaints in writing and gave him 10 days from the date of his letter for him to provide his response.

Chief Tangis informed the minister that if he failed to respond within the 10 days given, he should take the honorable decision of resigning as a MP of the NM.

On April 9, 2018 Chief Tangis wrote again to the Minister, this time to inform him that because he did not resign as directed by the NUCC he was now being expelled by the NUCC from the Movement effective from that date.

When contacted by Daily Post, Minister Pikioune said he had not yet received the expulsion letter from the Chairman of the NUCC.

But he added that the NM has a constitution which required that any disciplinary issues against a member must be heard by a Disciplinary Committee and given a chance to respond to any allegations.

He said so far, he has not received any summon to appear before any disciplinary committee hearing. Additionally, he said that under the constitution of the Movement, when two of them were elected under Nagriamel’s ticket – MP Jacob Mata, of Ambae and himself, they automatically become members of the National Executive of the Movement.

He mentioned he has not received any summon to attend any NE meetings.

Minister Pikioune added that he considered any expulsion of himself unconstitutional and he preferred the Congress of the Movement to decide on his case.

The next Congress is set for August this year at Port Vato, West Ambrym.

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