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Pardon call for jailed Vanuatu politicians

The recent ordinary Vanuatu Parliament sitting heard at least three different calls from both sides of the House regarding the plight of the jailed politicians.

Member of Parliament for Santo Rural and First deputy Speaker of Parliament, Edwin Macreveth was the first to call on the Prime Minister and the incumbent government to consider the possibility of pardoning the former national leaders.

The call comes after six former Members of Parliament (MPs) were sent back to jail to serve another term of three years and 10 months for conspiracy to defeat the course of justice.

Marcellino Pipite, Silas Yatan, John Amos, Tony Nari, Jonas James and Thomas Laken were among the 14 MPs jailed on bribery and corruptions charges in 2015.

MP Macreveth told Parliament he is making the call on behalf of the children, mothers, and families of the imprisoned former MPs.

“The Constitution provides a provision in Article 38 that the President can pardon convicts but the Parliament has to provide a committee to advise the President to exercise his pardoning power,” the Santo Rural MP, who is a former Magistrate told Parliament.

MP Macreveth asked if the government has any plans to look into the possibility to pardon the jailed politicians in the near future.

Leader of Opposition, Ismael Kalsakau also joined the Santo Rural MP to question Prime Minister Charlot Salwai on the coalition government’s intention regarding the former national leaders.

Minister of Justice, Ronald Warsal was not present to comment of the issue, however Prime minister Salwai said information provided to the Council of Ministers by the Minister of Justice stated that if a committee is formed, the chairman of the committee will be a Supreme Court Judge.

“The Chief Justice also advised that the government has to come up with a legislation to address the issue of pardoning,” Prime Minister Salwai told Parliament.

He said the parliament could amend the members of the pardoning committee to exclude court judges.

“Having a court judge as a chairman in the committee would be a conflict to their ethics and work as a judge,” PM Salwai added.

The call for pardoning continued even after the Prime minister’s comment.

Another Santo Rural MP, Hosea Nevu says the former leaders have been punished and he asked the government to appoint a committee to pardon the jailed politicians.

“We have learned and believed in these leaders, and that is why we became MPs today,” he said.

Declaring his interest as a Vanua’ aku Pati MP, the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs mentioned that the Party’s leader (former Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman) has also been sentenced and is serving a suspended sentence.

Nevu added that getting pardoned would mean he can contest again in the by-election.

Meanwhile, the six MPs who were recently jailed pleaded guilty to the charges.

They were part of a group of 11 - 10 MPs and a lawyer who were charged with conspiracy to defeat the course of justice.

The other five of their colleagues facing the same conspiracy charge have pleaded not guilty.

They are Paul Telukluk, Arnold Prasad, Sebastien Harry, Jean-Yves Chabod, and lawyer Wilson Iauma.

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