20 Nov 2002

Pardoned Vanuatu leader told he must admit wrongdoing

5:51 pm on 20 November 2002

The head of Transparency International in Vanuatu, Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson says former Prime Minister Barak Sope should admit his wrongdoing.

Mr Sope, who was jailed in July for fraudulently signing letters of guarantee, was pardoned on medical grounds a week ago.

He claims he did nothing wrong and blames his conviction on Australasian officials, who he says were meddling in Vanuatu's affairs.

But Marie Noelle Ferrieux Patterson, who is a former Ombudsman in Vanuatu, says he was found guilty under Vanuatu law and that is that.

She also says apart from Mr Sope's forgery of signatures on the letters of guarantee, he would have been well aware that the banking instruments were themselves a scam and could not work in Vanuatu.

Mrs Ferrieux Patterson says the refusal to accept his wrongdoing is frightening.

"...because at some point someone has got to admit that, that some wrong has been done. Unfortunately the experience in, I don't know if it's only in Melanesia or if it's the Pacific,... it is very, very difficult it seems for people to admit, that they have done something wrong, and there's a refusal to accept the consequences of the wrong doing, and that's probably the basic problem of the Melanesian culture, here."