Vanuatu Parliament passes Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations

The first Bill that Vanuatu Parliament dealt with when the First Extraordinary Session convened Monday was the Bill for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (Ratification) Act No. of 2018. Picture: HILAIR BULE/VANUATU DAILY POST

PORT VILA – The first Bill that Vanuatu Parliament dealt with when the First Extraordinary Session convened Monday was the Bill for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (Ratification) Act No. of 2018.

When introducing the Bill, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu, explained that the 1961 on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (the “Convention”) outlines the rule of diplomatic law and codifies the rules for the exchange and treatment of envoys between states.

The Convention is fundamental to the conduct of foreign relations and ensures that diplomats can conduct their duties without threats of influence by the host government. In particular the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 (the” Convention”) outlines rules of diplomatic law and codifies the rules for the exchange and treatment of envoys between states.

The Convention is fundamental to the conduct of foreign relations and ensures that diplomats can conduct their duties without threat of influence by the host government. In particular, the Convention establishes the following:

  • Rules for the appointment of foreign representatives;
  • The inviolability of mission premises;
  • Protection for the diplomat and his or her family from any form of arrest or detentions;
  • Protection of all forms of diplomatic communication;
  • The basic principle of exemption from taxation;
  • Immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction, with limited exceptions; and
  • That diplomats must respect the laws of the host state.

As is stated in the preamble of the Convention, the rules are intended to facilitate the development of friendly relations among nations, irrespective of their differing constitutional and social systems. The purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions.

The convention requires diplomats to obey local laws; however, the only sanction permissible under the Convention, in the absence of a waiver of immunity, is expulsion. This prevents the potential abuse by local authorities of the power of a state ‘s law enforcement system. Reciprocity also forms an effective for the observance of the rules of the Convention.

Vanuatu is not new with the implementation of the Convention. The country has been enjoying the benefits of this Convention since the 30th of July 1989. However, the Government of Vanuatu must ratify the Convention in order for the country to enjoy more of the following benefits provided by the Convention:

  • Vanuatu can have access to more foreign relations with plenty more countries;
  • Vanuatu can further strengthen the foreign relations that is already has with other countries or states;
  • Vanuatu’s Diplomatic missions that have already been established and are yet to be established in other countries and states may have reference to the Convention as their basis of establishment;
  • For host countries to Vanuatu’s Diplomatic missions, to have recognition of the legality of Vanuatu as a member country of the Convention and respect the requirements stated in the Conventions towards Vanuatu;
  • For Vanuatu’s Diplomats who are already stationed in established and future Diplomatic missions in other countries and states, to have diplomatic privileges and immunity as stated in the Convention;
  • To maintain inviolability and respect that was already established between Vanuatu’s Diplomatic mission and host countries
  • To maintain the respect of diplomacy between diplomats, diplomatic carriers and missions established and are yet to established in the Future.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Malekula, Sato Kilman, said Members of Diplomatic Missions in Vanuatu, even pick up phones and make direct calls to Prime Ministers and State Ministers.

He said this would not happen anywhere outside Vanuatu because, the protocols and diplomatic procedures are always respected.

Kilman said it is time for the Government to tell foreign diplomats in Vanuatu to apply same respect as Vanuatu does to their countries. The names of other Foreign Missions in Vanuatu including China, France and other Diplomatic Mission in Vanuatu were also mentioned in relations to mutual diplomatic respect accorded by Vanuatu to Foreign Missions in Vanuatu and vice a versa.

“There must always be equal respect accorded by Vanuatu to foreign missions in Vanuatu and vice a versa,” said Malekula MP and one-time Prime Minister Sato Kilman.

Torress MP Christopher Emelee, also raised concern that there are occasions when MPs are not notified of the visits by diplomats to their constituencies.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu, pointed out that the Bill provides for national protocol and guidelines and said as far as making phone contact is concern, this is important to maintain closer relationship with diplomatic missions in Vanuatu.

Earlier when the Minister of Foreign Affairs introduced the Bill, the Leader of the Opposition, MP Ishmael Kaslakau, questioned why it has taken so long since after independence when Vanuatu signed diplomatic relations with many countries abroad and has just come forward with the Bill to ratify it.

The Former Director General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MP Johnny Koanapo, explained that most successive governments after independence signed diplomatic relations with many countries, but that it has always remain a question of whose responsibility was to take this to parliament and gave example as whether it should be the States Law Office or other Government authorities.

He said it was a domestic responsibility to ratify the Bill and added that it has now reach the parliament and congratulate the present Minister of Foreign Affairs Ralph Regenvanu, to table the Bill and to be passed and ratified.

The Bill for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (Ratification) Act No. of 2018, was passed by Parliament while the Opposition group abstain from voting for the Bill.