The Government & Legal System

The Republic is a democracy, with a 52 member Parliament, elected every four years. Vanuatu is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and also of the French equivalent.

The laws consist mainly of local legislation, which covers constitutional law, companies, crime, customs, business licensing, employment, land titles, natural resources, health, liquor, immigration, stamp duties, shipping, and partnership. English and Commonwealth models have been used to a large extent. Where there is no applicable local legislation, e.g. in contracts, trusts, and torts, English or French law is used as a supplement, depending on which has been chosen, or otherwise on the nationality of the parties.

All land in the town areas is owned by the Government, and in the rural areas by the indigenous owners in custom law. In the urban areas of Port Vila and Santo, leases of fifty years from 1st July 1980 are standard, and readily transferrable. In rural areas, leases of 30 to 75 years (depending on investment) are obtainable. There is a Torrens-type system of registration of titles and all dealings with them.