8 Dec 2015

Vanuatu's Jimmy says MPs punished twice

4:47 pm on 8 December 2015

Vanuatu's former finance minister, Willie Jimmy, says he is planning to appeal against a Supreme Court decision banning him from holding public office for 10 years.

Willie Jimmy wipes away a tear as he exits, head bowed, from the Supreme Court. Alone of the 15 MPs facing sentencing, Mr Jimmy's sentence of 20 months was suspended for two years.

Willie Jimmy wipes away a tear as he exits, head bowed, from the Supreme Court. Alone of the 15 MPs facing sentencing, Mr Jimmy's sentence of 20 months was suspended for two years. Photo: Vanuatu Daily Post

Fifteen Vanuatu politicians, former members of the government, were convicted on corruption and bribery charges in October, and on Monday were banned from holding public office under the provisions of the Leadership Code.

Fourteen of the former politicians are in jail with just Jimmy given a suspended sentence, which had allowed him to continue as finance minister.

But on Monday Justice David Chetwynd ruled all 15 could not hold public office for 10 years and that their entitlements are withdrawn.

Jimmy believes that because the 15 had been convicted under the penal code, applying the Leadership Code is unconstitutional.

"You cannot punish a person on the same offence on two occasions. What was reported to us yesterday was a double punishment. And we think it is an anti-constitutional action by the court."

However, a Vanuatu politician Kalfau Moli says the Supreme Court decision is long overdue.

Mr Moli says the decision, under the Leadership Code, will change the way Vanuatu leaders operate from now on.

"It should have been done long ago especially with the Leadership Code that has just been activated in this case, so it has been welcomed by all of us, but it has set a precedent for all of us to be aware of what to do when we get into parliament or even public office, yeah."

Kal Moli was given immunity in the bribery case after becoming a witness for the state.

He is now aligned with the former opposition which is seeking to overturn the president's dissolution of parliament and planned elections at the end of January.

A ruling on their court application is due on Thursday.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs