15 Oct 2015

Mystery payments made to all 52 Vanuatu MPs

8:21 pm on 15 October 2015

A member of the opposition in Vanuatu says mysterious one million vatu payments from the government have been made to all of the country's MPs.

The opposition is concerned the payments of almost 9,000 US dollars per MP, which are labelled 'Tropical Cyclone Pam Refund', are unlawful.

Ralph Regenvanu says a deposit was made into his private account on September the 29th and he discovered the payment when he saw his latest bank statement.

He says a parliamentary finance official has confirmed the payment was made to all 52 MPs.

"Maybe there's been a decision and maybe they intend to pass a supplementary budget later to justify or to make it lawful but otherwise we're very concerned that it may be an unlawful payment. So we're asking the Prime Minister to clarify it as soon as possible."

Mr Regenvanu says the opposition wants clarification in light of last week's conviction of 14 MPs for corruption.

Vanuatu flag

Vanuatu flag Photo: Supplied

Protest march planned

Anti-corruption campaigners in Vanuatu are waiting for the final go ahead for a protest march on Monday against the controversial pardoning of convicted MPs at the weekend.

A spokesperson for the group Vanuatu Women Against Crime and Corruption, Jenny Ligo, says they have given seven days notice and have permission from the police.

They are just waiting for the Minister of Internal Affairs Hosea Nevu to give his endorsement for what she expects to be a peaceful demonstration.

"Whatever happens we will get on the streets. We will want to show our solidarity in upholding the law in Vanuatu. We want to give our messages clear to the leaders of this nation."

Mr Nevu was a prosecution witness in the case which saw 14 MPs convicted on bribery charges.

No role of Attorney General in pardoning

The office of Vanuatu's Attorney General says it provided no advice about last weekend's pardoning of 14 MPs convicted in a bribery case.

The acting Attorney General, Angelyne Dovo, made the statement five days after the acting president, Marcellino Pipite, gazetted the decision.

She says her office played no active role in the gazetting of the instrument.

Ms Dovo and her staff explained that is normal practice for the president, the prime minister and many government agencies and offices to consult with the state law office on matters of law.

She says there is no legal requirement to do so, nor is it a requirement that they follow the advice of the Attorney General if they do consult.

Mr Pipite said last Sunday during the gazetting of the instrument of the pardoning, that he had been advised by five lawyers.

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