Vanuatu Daily News Digest | Pipite confirms pardonsPosted: October 11, 2015
Vanuatu’s acting president Marcellino Pipite has confirmed he has used his interim executive powers to pardon himself and 13 other MPs convicted of bribery.
Liam Fox, ABC
Mr Pipite told assembled media in his office in Port Vila that the pardon was to maintain peace and unity in Vanuatu.
He pointed to disturbances in Solomon Islands, Bougainville and Fiji as reasons behind maintaining the nearly one-third of parliamentary members convicted of bribery on Friday.
When pressed on how the bribery convictions could spark instability, Mr Pipite failed to answer.
The acting president said he had received advice from five lawyers to enact the pardons, and gazetted the decision on Sunday.
The move was made possible after Mr Pipite, as parliamentary speaker, assumed the top job when president Baldwin Lonsdale left the country for a visit to Samoa.
Under Vanuatu law, the speaker acts as president when the latter is travelling abroad, and has the power to pardon anyone, including himself.
The ABC understands Mr Lonsdale is returning to Port Vila later this afternoon.
Earlier, opposition MP Ralph Regenvanu told the ABC that police and the court’s prosecution were aware of the move and were "working on it" — in regards to stopping the process.
The deputy prime minister was found to have made cash payments amounting to 35 million vat ($452,000) to his fellow MPs last year, when they were all in opposition.
Justice Mary Sey ruled that the payments were corruptly made, corruptly received, and designed to influence the MPs in their capacity as public officials.
The MPs were facing a maximum of 10 years in jail and were due to be sentenced on October 22.
In September, Vanuatu finance minister Willie Jimmy was convicted on two bribery charges, for breaching the leadership and penal codes, after entering a guilty plea.
His conviction was not overturned in Sunday’s announcement.