12 Oct 2015

Pipite says he had lawyers' advice on Vanuatu MPs pardon

3:18 pm on 12 October 2015

The Speaker of Vanuatu's parliament, Marcellino Pipite, took advice from five lawyers before deciding to pardon himself and 13 other MPs convicted of bribery, he says.

Mr Pipite made the decision to pardon the MPs when he stood in as Vanuatu's acting President at the weekend.

On Friday the Supreme Court convicted the MPs, including deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, of corruption.

They were found to have accepted bribes offered by Mr Carcasses to lure support for changing the government when he was the leader of the opposition.

Mr Pipite said he had to sign the pardon for the sake of stability and to avoid the civil unrest seen in other parts of the region.

"If anyone in this region questions me, just pick up the pictures of people in Honiara, in Solomons, in Papua New Guinea, in Bougainville and don't duplicate this in Vanuatu."

Marcellino Pipite

Marcellino Pipite Photo: RNZI/Hilaire Bule

Vanuatu anti-corruption campaigner Jenny Ligo said the decision to pardon MPs convicted of corruption was a disgrace and Vanuatu's image had been tarnished.

Ms Ligo, who is the chair of Vanuatu's Women Against Crime And Corruption, said the Speaker has taken advantage of the president's absence and there was no reason to fear civil unrest.

"There was no tension like on the actual day when the court handed down the judgement, there was no reaction of riots. Everybody respects law and order.

Ms Ligo said the group was in the process of getting permission for a protest march against the pardons tomorrow.