16 Oct 2015

Vanuatu ministers removed from cabinet following arrests

9:15 pm on 16 October 2015

Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, has removed four ministers who were arrested this afternoon from cabinet.

Paul Telukluk, Tony Nari, Thomas Laken, and Tony Wright are among 14 MPs whose pardons were overturned by the country's president, Baldwin Lonsdale, this morning.

Vanuatu President, Baldwin Lonsdale.

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale Photo: AFP

A week ago, the Supreme Court convicted 14 MPs, including the deputy prime minister and speaker of parliament, of giving and receiving corrupt payments.

Mr Pipite, who is the speaker, pardoned himself and 13 other MPs.

Mr Lonsdale was out of the country last weekend and, on his return, said Mr Pipite had acted unlawfully and promised action.

He has now overturned those pardons, citing constitutional obligations on leaders to conduct themselves in such a way that avoided conflicts of interest, compromising official duties, demeaning the office, allowing their integrity to be called into question, or endangering or diminishing respect for - or confidence in - the integrity of Vanuatu's government.

A police van arrives at Vanuatu's correctional facility carrying the arrested MPs.

A police van arrives at Vanuatu's correctional facility carrying the arrested MPs. Photo: RNZI / Hilaire Bule

The MPs were due in court for sentencing on the original charges next Thursday.

But the Supreme Court has also ordered police to re-arrest 11 of the MPs and three lawyers who had been advising them.

They are facing a charge of conspiracy to defeat the course of justice.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reports that the arrested MPs have been taken by police van to the correctional facility in Port Vila, where a crowd of hundreds has gathered outside.

The MPs are being held at the Correctional Facility in Port Vila.

The MPs are being held at the Correctional Facility in Port Vila. Photo: RNZI / Hilaire Bule

The other three MPs - Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, Serge Vohor and Steven Kalsakau - are believed not to have been involved in the push for pardons which sparked the conspiracy charge.

March still on despite president revoking pardons

The group Vanuatu Women Against Crime and Corruption still plans to go ahead with its planned march in Port Vila on Monday.

It had initially focussed on the controversial pardoning of the 14 MPs after they had been convicted of giving and receiving corrupt payments.

With that pardon now revoked, march organiser Jenny Ligo said they were keen to march to show their solidarity for Mr Lonsdale's action.

"This is to demonstrate that we also do not want to see these illegal activities happening in Vanuatu, so I think that is the most important thing for women who live in Vila to show physically our demonstration on what has happened."

Ms Ligo said the group had police approval for the march on Monday but were waiting for the green light from the government.

The arrested MPs

  • Marcellino Pipite (Speaker of Parliament)
  • Paul Telukluk (Former Lands Minister)
  • Silas Yatan
  • Tony Nari (Former Minister of Public Works)
  • John Amos
  • Arnold Prasad
  • Tony Wright (Former Minister for Youth and Sports)
  • Sebastian Harry
  • Thomas Laken (Former Minister for Climate Change)
  • Jean Yvees Chabot
  • Jonas James

The arrested lawyers

  • Robin Kapapa
  • Gregory Takau
  • Wilson Iauma

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