19 Nov 2002

Concern at pardon for jailed former Vanuatu leader

11:21 am on 19 November 2002

The Vanuatu Government says it is disappointed at the decision of the Vanuatu President to pardon jailed former Prime Minister Barak Sope.

And the nagriamel movement, which spearhead the push for Vanuatu's independence, says the President's actions mock the rule of law.

Mr Sope, who had been jailed for forgery, was pardoned last Wednesday, with President Father John Bennet Bani saying it was on medical grounds.

George Stevens, who heads the nagriamel movement, says he has nothing against Mr Sope, but that there should be one law for everyone, not just the grassroots.

The Government agrees - here's its spokesman Daniel Bangtor.

"I think it's a slap in the face of the justice system in Vanuatu,... the rule of law for example,... the government supports that the rule of law should be upheld in the country, but the law is for everyone, leaders and small people alike, but the fact that Mr Sope has been pardoned, I think it will have a lot of implications in the society."

Daniel Bangtor says the President was expected to refer to an advisory committee before making a decision on any pardon.

And he also says the Government had understood from medical reports that Mr Sope's diabetes condition was improving.