23 Aug 2012

Vanuatu parliamentary sitting stalls police attempt to interview Cabinet Ministers over Phocea

3:43 pm on 23 August 2012

Vanuatu police say parliamentary immunity has prevented them taking statements from two Cabinet Ministers over allegations they boarded the yacht Phocea before it was given official clearance by Vanuatu authorities.

Photographs have been published in local papers of the Minister of Education, Marcelino Pepite and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfred Carlot, on the yacht with the owner Pascal Anh Quan Saken prior to the customs clearance.

A number of crew have been fined for immigration offences but the skipper remains on bail and the owner has fled the country.

Our correspondent, Hilaire Bule, says an attempt has been made to take statements from Mr Pepite and Mr Carlot but police now say the MPs are currently protected.

"They wanted to take the statement of the two ministers but they realised that Parliament has been already summoned last week so because Parliament was already summoned they cannot take the statement of the two ministers. They can only take their statements after the end of this extra-ordinary session which will end some time next week."

Our correspondent in Vanuatu, Hilaire Bule.