Constitutional crisis in Tuvalu


Governor General Sir Italeli Iakoba has removed Prime Minister Willy Telavi from office and appointed opposition leader Enele Sopoanga to take his place in a caretaker position according to Australian and Islands media.

The decision was taken after the opposition attempted to table a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister but the motion was refused by Speaker of the House Kamuta Latasi.

The problem started back in December last year when Finance Minister Lotoala Metia died and the prime minister delayed holding a by-election until he was ordered to do so by the High Court. Meanwhile the prime minister had suspended parliament pending the by election and no sessions had been held this year until parliament was recalled on 30th July. The opposition won the by-election which eventually took place in early July.

Yesterday the Health Minister, Taom Tanukale announced that he was resigning from parliament and Speaker Kamuta Latasi announced that there would be a further recess of parliament for six weeks to allow the new by-election to be held. The Speaker indicated that parliament cannot sit whilst a vacancy exists, however, Section 113 a) would suggest that parliament can proceed with a vacancy occurring.

It would appear that the delaying tactics by the diminished government had finally tested the Governor General’s patience and he ordered the suspension of the prime minister and that the parliament should sit on Friday with only one item of business being the motion of no-confidence.

In the meantime Prime Minister Willy Telavi is reported to have ordered the removal of the Governor General from his post. Division 3 of the Constitution of Tuvalu makes it clear that “(1) The Governor-General shall be appointed, and may be removed from office at any time (with or without cause), by the Sovereign, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister given after the Prime Minister has, in confidence, consulted the members of Parliament”. That being the case it is clear that the Prime Minister has not met the needs of the constitution.

The likelihood is that parliament will meet on Friday and the government will be defeated in a no-confidence motion. The constitutional crisis is likely to continue.

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