For the first time ever, three decades after the colonial era, Minister for Justice and Community Services Ralph Regenvanu has tabled in Parliament amendments seeking effecting changes in Vanuatu’s Law Commission Act.
This information is for the people who could not access these amendments online; because they are in the outer islands or other reasons the Bill for the Law Commission (Amendment) Act no. of 2011 amends the Law Commission Act [CAP 115] repealed sections 3, 4 and 5 and replaces them with new sections which introduced the following:
Members of the Commission (Section 3)
This provides for the appointment of the members of the Commission by the Minister comprising of:
1. A person who is unconditionally registered as a legal practitioner in Vanuatu nominated by the Vanuatu Law Society;
2. A Senior Law Lecturer nominated by the University of the South Pacific;
3. A legal officer of the State Law Office nominated by the Attorney General;
4. A person nominated by the National Council of chiefs;
5. A representative of the civil society, who must be a woman, nominated by the Director of the Department responsible for Woman’s Affairs;
6. A person nominated by the President of the Vanuatu National Youth Council; and
7. A person nominated by the Chairman of the Vanuatu Christian Council.
Further amendments required that: (a) persons nominated by the National Council of Chiefs, the Director responsible for Women’s Affairs, the Vanuatu National Youth Council and the
Vanuatu Christian Council must have attained year 13 level of secondary education.
(b) Members are appointed for a term not exceeding 3 years and are eligible to be reappointed. (c) Minister to appoint a chairperson of the Commission. (d) A person must not be appointed as chairperson unless the person has been a legal practitioner for not less than 7 years.
Removal and resignation of members of the Commission (Section 4)
This provides the following grounds for a removal and resignation of a member of the
Commission from office: If the member ceases to hold the office under which he or she was appointed under, if the member is absent from three consecutive meetings of the Commission without informing the Chairperson or giving a reasonable excuse, if the member has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to a term of Imprisonment of 12 months or more, if the member fails to perform his or her functions as a member, and if the member is incapacitated or unable to perform his or her functions as a member.
Secretary (Section 5)
The Amendments here provide for the appointment of a Secretary of the Commission by the Public Service Commission (PSC). Currently, the Secretary of the Commission is appointed by the Minister. However, this change is to ensure that the person occupying the office of the
Secretary is a public servant.
Despite the Secretary being appointed by the PSC, he or she is to report directly to the Director General for Justice and the Law Commission.
Transitional arrangements (Section 5A)
This provides for the person who is occupying the position of Secretary immediately after the commencement of the Act is continue to be employed as an Employee of the PSC.
Functions of the Secretary (Section 5B)
Section 5B provides for the functions of the secretary which include: managing all staffs and finances of the Commission; advising the Chairperson and the Commission members on law reform issues through strategic briefing and the preparation of reports; ensure the Commission provides comments on all Bills, including private member bills before any Parliamentary sitting.
The second amendment repeals sections 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 and replaces them with new sections 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Functions and powers of the Commission (Section 7)
This provides for the functions of the Commission which are to receive proposal for the review of a particular area of law and critically examine that area of law and report back to the Minister on the result of the examination. The purpose of carrying out the examination is to determine whether the relevant law:
• is old-fashioned, unnecessary, incomplete; or
• reflects distinctive concepts of custom law, common law and civil law legal systems and reconcile them where necessary; or
• is to be changed to consider modern conditions, approaches and concepts;
• contains anachronisms or anomalies.
The section provides further that the Minister is to table the report and recommendations made by the Commission in Parliament as soon as practicable after he or she receives it and also to present a copy to the Council of Ministers.
Procedures for submitting proposals to the Minister (Section 8)
This provides for the procedures for submitting proposals to the Minister as follows- That;
(I) The Commission submits to the Minister any proposal for the review of any area of Law.
(II) The Minister must respond within 1 month of receiving the proposal made to the Commission.
(III) If the Minister does not respond to the Commission within the timeframe specified the Commission may proceed with the relevant review.
(IV) The Commission is to deal with a proposal of review once it has received a response from the Minister.
(V) Provides an opportunity to the Commission to appoint working groups or consultants to deal with particular issues that are submitted to the Commission from time to time.
Procedure concerning Bills (Section 9)
This makes provision for:
(I) The Parliamentary Counsel must as soon as practicable make available to the Commission copies of government bills that are lodged with Parliament for any Parliamentary sitting to enable the Commission to provide comments and recommendations on the Bills to the Speaker.
(II) The Speaker of Parliament must as soon as practicable make available to the Commission copies of private member’s bills that are lodged with Parliament for any Parliamentary sitting to enable the Commission to provide comments and recommendations on the Bills to the Speaker.
(III) That once the Commission receives a Bill from the Parliamentary Counsel or the Speaker, it must provide its comment and recommendations, if any, to the Speaker 5 days before Parliament is due to meet.
(IV) The Speaker to distribute to all members any comments or recommendations of the Commission concerning a Bill before the bill can be tabled in Parliament.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that any Bill that is lodged with Parliament must be reviewed and scrutinised by the Commission.
Funds of the Commission (Section 10)
This makes provision for the funds of the Commission consists of monies appropriated by
Parliament and any other monies received by the Commission.
Remuneration of members of the Commission (Section 10A)
This makes provision for the remuneration of a member of the Commission which is to be determined by the Minister by way of regulation.
Annual reports (Section 11)
This makes provision for:
(I) The Commission must provide a report to the Minister on its activities and proceedings for a year three months after the end of each year.
(II) The Minister to cause a copy of the report to be tabled before Parliament as soon as practicable.
(III) The Commission must make a copy of the report available to the public within 3 months after it has been tabled in Parliament.
The purpose of this change is to ensure that there is transparency on any activities and proceedings carried out by the Commission and the people are informed about these accordingly.
Extracted from Vanuatu Daily Post Website