Vanuatu MPs' Pardon Hopes Rest With Parliamentary Committee

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Pardon push coming from Opposition group of MPs

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 3, 2016) – The Vanuatu government says any consideration of pardons for jailed former MPs would have to be made by a parliamentary committee.

In October, 14 MPs from the previous Sato Kilman-led government were convicted on bribery and corruption charges.

Since the MPs' jailing and the subsequent snap election, a new government led by Charlot Salwai has emerged.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the office of the Prime Minister, Johnny Koanapo, said the government won't take any action inconsistent with Vanuatu law, regarding the jailed MPs' hopes for a pardon.

"The government has agreed that it's absolutely necessary to have a parliamentary committee that will work in close collaboration with the parole board to try and address that. But we have to be very careful also that we do not undermine the course of justice. But I think that's something that a parliamentary committee will need to look carefully at."

The push for pardons appears to be coming mainly from the Union for Moderates-led opposition grouping.

However, sources around the government say there is little political will within the ruling coalition to have the jailed MPs pardoned since the courts have dealt with them already.

But the government has signalled it would probe the legality of gratuity payouts of US$36,000 dollars to each of the convicted former MPs after they were jailed.

The parole board is understood to have recently rejected applications by the jailed MPs for early release on the grounds that they have yet to serve half of their three or four year sentences.

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