21 Nov 2002

Vanuatu to open inquiry into Sope pardon

5:53 pm on 21 November 2002

The government of Vanuatu is to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into the pardoning of former prime minister, Barak Sope.

Mr Sope, who was jailed in July for three years for forgery, was freed last week by President Father John Bani on medical grounds.

The government says there is growing public discontent over the president's move.

Its spokesman, Daniel Bangtor, says there were other options such as releasing Mr Sope "on licence" which would not have removed his conviction as has happened with the pardon.

He says as a long-term measure the government is looking at amending the constitution to rein in the right of the president to pardon prisoners.

"in the meantime it seems the governments hands are tied up. The only immediate option open to the government now is perhaps to commission an inquiry into the issue"

Daniel Bangtor says the council of ministers gave the go ahead for a commission of enquiry at its meeting yesterday.

He says it will look at how and why the President reached his decision.