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Vanuatu - Sources of Law

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VANUATU

VANUATU

INTRODUCTION

by Professor Don Paterson

PRE-INDEPENDENCE

From 1906 until Independence on 30 July 1980, the New Hebrides, as Vanuatu was then called, was a condominium territory, jointly administered by Britain and France. Each of the administering countries made laws for its own nationals and optants and together they made laws for indigenous New Hebrideans and for all other residents.

(i) British Laws:

British laws applied to British nationals and the nationals of other countries who opted to be subject to British laws, called optants. These laws comprised:

    • British Acts of Parliament and subsidiary legislation - which were stated to apply to overseas territories;
    • British Acts of Parliament of "general application" - i.e.: whose terms were not confined to England, except to the extent that they were inappropriate to the circumstances of the country. Statutes of general application passed after 1 January 1976 did not apply;
    • English rules of common law and equity - which applied except to the extent that they were inappropriate to the circumstances of the country;
    • Queen's Regulations - made by the British High Commissioner of the Western Pacific (situated initially in Fiji and later in Solomon Islands) and by the British Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides.

(ii) French Laws:

French laws applied to French nationals and the nationals of other countries who opted to be subject to French laws, called optants. These laws comprised:

    • French Acts of Parliament and subsidiary legislation - which were stated to apply to overseas territories;
    • French Acts of Parliament and subsidiary legislation - which were applied to the New Hebrides by the French High Commissioner of the Pacific, who was stationed in New Caledonia;
    • Regulations - made by the French High Commissioner of the Pacific.

(iii) Joint Laws:

    • Joint Regulations - made jointly by the British and French Resident Commissioners in New Hebrides applied to all residents of the New Hebrides, including indigenous New Hebrideans.

After 1977, Resolutions passed by the elected Representative Assembly, which was established in response to the growing movement for independence, were, when approved by the Resident Commissioners, enacted as Joint Regulations.

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POST-INDEPENDENCE

Since Independence, on 30 July 1980, the laws of Vanuatu comprise:

    • Constitution of Vanuatu - the supreme law;
    • Acts of Parliament of Vanuatu ;
    • Joint Regulations in existence on 30 July 1980 - which continue in force until repealed by the Vanuatu Parliament ( s. 95(1) Constitution );
    • British and French laws in existence on 30 July 1980 - including Acts of Parliament, subsidiary legislation and English common law and equity, which continue in force until repealed by the Vanuatu Parliament ( s. 95(2) Constitution );
    • Customary laws of Vanuatu ( s. 95(3) Constitution ).

1999 Professor Don Paterson, USP.

For more information on this topic see Introduction to South Pacific Law (1999) Cavendish
by J. Corrin Care, T. Newton & D. Paterson
Available from all good legal book shops, at  Stop Press in Vanuatu or by ordering from Cavendish
.


© 2001 University of the South Pacific

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