13 Jan 2003

Sope launches legal challenge to exclusion from Parliament

5:46 pm on 13 January 2003

Vanuatu's former Prime Minister, Barak Sope, says he is going to court next month to force the Government to allow him to resume his Parliamentary seat.

Mr Sope, who received a pardon for his fraud conviction two months ago after spending three months in jail, was stopped from resuming his seat with the Government saying a by-election is required.

The Speaker barred Mr Sope from Parliament after a legal opinion that he needed to have lodged an appeal to the conviction within 30 days.

But Mr Sope says the pardon given him by the President Father Sir John Bennet Bani completely removed his conviction.

In addition he says the law allows up to 150 days to make an appeal and he was in the process of doing this prior to the pardon being granted.

Mr Sope says if the court does not reinstate him he will contest the by-election.

The Opposition Leader Willie Jimmy has already indicated that other Opposition parties would not stand against Mr Sope in such a vote.

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission says it has received no directive to prepare for a by-election.