1 Jul 2017

Final list of Vanuatu presidential candidates released

5:02 pm on 1 July 2017
A statue at the entrance to Vanuatu's parliament in the capital, Port Vila.

An electoral college will meet at Vanuatu's parliament (pictured) on Monday to elect a new president. Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

Former prime ministers, politicians, chiefs, priests, teachers and public servants are among the names on the final list of candidates for Vanuatu's presidency.

An electoral college will meet on Monday to decide a replacement for President Baldwin Lonsdale, who died of a heart attack two weeks ago.

The electoral commission released a list of the final 16 candidates on Friday night, which includes some prominent names.

Among them are former prime ministers Barak Sope and Maxim Carlot Korman, and former speakers Dunstan Hilton and Sam Dan Avock.

The only woman on the list is Doroline Laloyer, a pastor and rights advocate.

The electoral college - made up of MPs and provincial chairs - will meet in Port Vila on Monday to vote for the new president.

They will go through successive rounds of voting until one candidate receives an outright majority of two thirds.

The list of candidates:

1. Maxim Carlot Korman was born on Erakor, Shefa, in 1941. He was Vanuatu's first speaker of parliament after independence, serving from 1980 to 1983. In the 1991 election, following his Union of Moderates party's victory, Mr Carlot Korman became Vanautu's first francophone prime minister, holding the position until he was ousted in the 1995 election. But after two months in opposition, Mr Carlot Korman rallied enough support to oust Serge Vohor to become prime minister again. This only lasted seven months, as Mr Vohor managed to oust Mr Carlot Korman in another no confidence vote later in 1995. In 2009, Mr Carlot Korman was again made speaker, a term which included a three week stint as acting president. After nearly a year out of the speaker's chair he returned in December 2010, but after weeks of political impasse initiated by Mr Carlot Korman, who had rigidly applied standing orders to stop the government bringing in a supplementary budget, he was forced out of the chair by parliament, which then voted to ban him for the rest of the term.

Former Vanuatu prime minister Maxim Carlot Korman.

Former Vanuatu prime minister Maxim Carlot Korman. Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post

2. Joshua Bong is a former - and controversial - police commissioner. Mr Bong became commissioner in 2009 and served until he was sacked by then-president Iolu Johnson Abil in 2012 amid bitter infighting and allegations of mutiny. In 2012, Mr Bong went on leave - which he claimed was forced, but others said was of his own accord - and his deputy, Arthur Caulton, became acting commissioner. But when Mr Caulton refused to stand down a bitter feud opened. In June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Bong should resume his duties, but days later President Abil stepped in to suspend Mr Bong. But while suspended, Mr Bong managed to rally officers to arrest Mr Caulton and two other senior officers, who were then charged with mutiny and inciting mutiny. Mr Bong was then sacked by the president.The feud has been playing out in the courts ever since, and has even engulfed deputy prime minister Joe Natuman.

3. Reginald Garoleo is a long-serving teacher and education official, most recenly known as the principal of Port Vila's Malapoa College, a school which has produced many prime ministers. According to the Daily Post, Mr Garoleo, a Malapoa alumni, was the first ni-Vanuatu citizen to graduate as a school principal and served under the Ministry of Education for 26 years. Mr Garoleo retired as principal at the end of last year.

4. Hamlison Bulu is a former judge and lawyer who has presided over various courts, including time as a justice of the Supreme Court. In 2006, Justice Bulu ordered the release from jail of the then-publisher of the Daily Post newspaper, Marc Neil-Jones, for what he described as faulty procedure. Mr Neil-Jones was arrested by officers for careless driving and thrown in jail, which he said was in retaliation for the newspaper's tough stance against drunken officers at a rugby game. Mr Bulu is also a former attorney general.

5. Tallis Obed Moses is a long-serving pastor of the presbyterian church, based in Port Vila.

Former Vanuatu Prime Minister Barak Sope

Former Vanuatu Prime Minister Barak Sope Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

6. Barak Sope is a former prime minister who was convicted of corruption before being controversially pardoned by President Father John Bani. Mr Sope, 67, was elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote in 1999, ousting Edward Natapei. He held the position for less than 17 months before he himself was ousted in April 2001. Shortly after, Mr Sope was convicted on charges of forging several million dollars worth of government bonds and sentenced to three years in prison. Mr Sope blamed Australia and New Zealand for his imprisonment, accusing them of manipulating the judicial system because they disagreed with his foreign policy. In 2002, despite fierce opposition from some parliamentarians, Australia and New Zealand, President Bani pardoned Mr Sope on medical grounds. Later that year, Mr Sope tried to resume his seat but found he had been barred from parliament, which sparked a series of legal battles. However, he returned in 2004 and served in a variety of portfolios including foreign minister, which he was stripped of after he spoke out against Vanuatu's attempts to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Mr Sope's foreign policy is fiercely independent: he's highly supportive of One China, dismissive of Australia and New Zealand, and one of the most vocal advocates for an independent West Papua. He was eventually voted out of parliament in 2008, but remained a vocal commentator on local and regional affairs. Last year, Mr Sope said 14 members of the previous government who were jailed for corruption in 2015 should be pardoned: "In custom, leaders can do that," he said, arguing that leaders should be treated differently from ordinary people. A number of the MPs have since been released, but the late President Lonsdale refused to pardon them.

7. John Morris Tarilama is the central island of Ambae's highest ranking chief in the capital, Port Vila, where he is also a leader in the Fresh Wota settlement. A staunch advocate of traditional custom, Mr Tarilama has also for better public safety in Port Vila, and for more to be done to protect women and children from domestic violence. After a spate of violence in the town in 2011, Mr Tarilama, who is a former chairman of the Port Vila town council of chiefs, proposed a competition to see which community or province showed the best behaviour. Mr Tarilama has also called for greater custom provisions to apply for men as a means to stop domestic violence, and has spoken out for the cause of West Papuan independence.

8. Pastor Doroline Laloyer is the only woman on the list of presidential candidates and, if successful, would become Vanuatu's first female head of state. Ms Laloyer has already broken through one glass ceiling, becoming the country's first female pastor in 2010, after working for the adventist church on Santo since 1990. Ms Laloyer has spent her life fighting for women's and children's rights and is a founder of El Haven, a project which seeks to establish a refuge for mothers and babies shunned by their families becaue they fell pregnant to rape, incest or out of wedlock.

9. Sam Dan Avock is another former speaker of parliament and former chair of the police service commission. First elected to Paama in 1998, Mr Avock first became speaker of parliament in 2004 and served until 2008. During that time, Mr Avock presided over a period that saw nearly non-stop motions of no confidence filed against then-Prime Minister Ham Lini. In 2006, Mr Avock fell foul of the ombudsman when he was found to have breached the leadership code as speaker when he appointed a staffer to travel to his home island regularly for party-political purposes, thus abusing parliamentary funds. However, he stayed in the job.

10. Louis Patu Navuko is another former police commissioner. Originally from the paramilitary Mobile Force, Mr Navuko was sworn in in 2006, ending a two-year period where Vanuatu had no police commissioner after his predecessor, Robert de Niro Obed, got off side with then-prime minister Serge Vohor. His term was dogged by controversy from the get-go, with officers claiming Mr Navuko was involved in a 2002 mutiny and levelling allegations of misappropriated funds in the selection process. However, Mr Navuko swore to unite the force and revamp its structure. He stood down in 2009 after his term as commissioner expired.

11. John Leeman is a pastor and former president of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Vanuatu.

Vanuatu MP Dunstan Hilton

Vanuatu MP Dunstan Hilton Photo: Parliament of Vanuatu

12. Dunstan Hilton is a member of parliament hailing from the islaand of Mere Lava, in the northern islands. Mr Hilton was first elected to parliament for Banks in 2004 and has held various government portfolios. He was the speaker of parliament from 2011 to 2012 after Maxime Carlot Korman was suspended from parliament. In June 2015, Mr Hilton threw his support behind Sato Kilman in his bid to overthrow Joe Natuman's government, subsequently becoming the justice minister. But later that year, scandal hit Port Vila when half of Mr Kilman's government was convicted of accepting payments by Mr Kilman's deputy, Moana Carcasses, to support the motion. Half the government was jailed, and Mr Hilton was one of the few members of Mr Kilman's government left standing until President Lonsdale dissolved parliament, calling snap elections for January 2016. Mr Hilton is currenty an opposition MP.

13. Selwyn Leodoro is a long-time public servant and political advisor to various administrations. Among his various roles, Mr Leodoro served as chairman of the government's environment and conservation committee in the 1980s, and was the secretary to former president Kalkot Mataskelekele. He is also heavily involved with the anglican church.

14. Raymond Malapa

15. Louis Kalnpel is a business advocate and former political operative. Before becoming the clerk of parliament in 2012, Mr Kalnpel was the general manager of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce, where he pushed for the protection of Vanuatu's industries. In the early 2010s, he became a founding member of the Vanuatu Presidential Party, with former presidents Ati George Sokomanu and John Bani, which won its first seat in the 2016 snap elections. From 2012, Mr Kalnpel was the clerk of parliament, including during the 2015 political crisis and the events leading up to the dissolution of parliament by former president Lonsdale. Mr Kalnpel is the current chief executive of the Vanuatu People's Investment and Equity Fund.

16. Solomon Lawrence