Last weekend a UMP congress convened at the Lycee Lab in Port Vila but had not yet deliberated on the congress agenda when the party president, detainee Serge Vohor, was recalled from the meeting.
This followed a directive from the Director General of the Ministry of Justice, Mark Bebe. Signed documents by acting correctional centre manager, allowing Vohor to attend the congress, were revoked by Mr Bebe.
Vohor appeared at the meeting despite a failed attempt by certain senior members of the party to slam a court injunction against him that could have prevented him from attending the congress. Another UMP group, that refuses to recognize the election of Jacque Meriango’s new executive, held a separate meeting.
The remaining members continued and by Thursday this week elected a new National Executive Committee for UMP with the former vice president, Jacques Nauka Meriango being elected new president of the UMP national executive. He has been vice president of the national executive for 3 years and was also the president of UMP for Port Vila region.
Meriango replaces Vohor who held the position for 29 years, the longest serving president of a single political party in Vanuatu’s political history.
Jacque Nauka Meriango’s new executive lineup is as follows:
1. President Jacques NAUKA MARIANGO
2. Vice President Hon. Noris JACK KALMET (MP Efate)
3. Second vice President Hon. Jerome LUDVAUNE (MP Malekula)
4. Secretary General Steven SAU
5. Vice Secretary General Hon. Nako NATUMAN (MP Tanna)
6. Treasurer Hon. Seoule SIMEON (MP Epi)
7. Vice Treasurer Hon. Tomker NETVUNEI (MP Tafea outer islands)
8. Representative of TORBA Taylor STEVEN
9. Representative of SANMA Amos WARSAL
10. Representative of SHEFA Tom LORI
11. Representative of TAFEA Benson SAMUEL
12. Representative of PENAMA Gregory TARABAN
13. Representative of MALAMPA Matthieu LEIGNKONE
14. Representative of Port Vila Theophile MASSING
The lineup has intentionally left the leader of opposition, Ishmael Alatoa Kalsakau out of the picture. Kalsakau’s group is closely aligned with detainee Serge Vohor. He was Vohor’s chosen candidate for the position of president.
Prior to the congress, many UMP supporters, particularly from the Port Vila region had anticipated Kalsakau as their next party leader but his qualification and wealth of experience was set aside when delegates were deciding the fate of the party leadership.
The election of the new executive was dubbed by a prominent UMP member as a coup d’etat as many mandates were not present for the election which took place at 1am in the morning.
What is evident from the results of the election is that the new UMP national executive is made up of long serving members of UMP. Ishmael Kalsakau, a longtime ally of Vanua’aku Pati, joined the UMP not long before the snap election in January this year. He was elected into parliament under the UMP banner, with the support of VP breakaways, UMP and other political parties. But he too, had the backing of some long-serving members of UMP.
The events leading to the election of the new UMP executive is not new in Vanuatu’s political history. Both the VP and the UMP which had encountered this experience, eventually ends up with court injunctions preventing potential members party activities – leading to the formation of new political parties. But that experience is certainly not what UMP supporters would want to see.
Pic: Jacque Nauka Meriango – UMP’s new president