19 Nov 2002

Vanuatu's opposition leader supports president's decision

6:09 pm on 19 November 2002

Vanuatu's opposition leader, Willie Jimmy, says he supports the decision made by the president to release former prime minister, Barak Sope, from prison.

Mr Jimmy says the president, Father John Bani, received lots of approaches at different levels for Mr Sope's release, including from the church and several chiefs groups, which he doubts any other politician would have.

"I don't want to speculate to say anything in challenging the presidential power. Whether it's good or not, I believe the president is a mature person. He knows the constitution, he knows what he's doing. Whether it involves a leader of a political party or a leader at a political level. I believe he knows what he is doing, so I don't want to challege his decision."

Mr Jimmy says he spoke to the prime minister, Edward Natapei, over the weekend and would support an amendment to the constitution whereby the president would have to consult a parliamentary committee before granting a pardon.

Under the present constitution, the president has full powers to pardon a prisoner and may refer to an advisory committee if he wants to.