Friday, October 16, 2015


Last week, Vanuatau's Speaker of the House (and half the government) was convicted of bribery. Over the weekend, he abused his position as Acting President to purportedly grant himself and his fellow corrupt MPs a free pardon (oh, and sack the Ombudsman who had uncovered the whole thing into the bargain). But now, those purported pardons have been purportedly revoked.

"Purportedly" because the idea of revoking a pardon is very queasy constitutional territory. Yes, these people were guilty. Yes, power was abused to let them off the hook. But putting them back on it seems to breach double jeopardy. Vanuatu's President claims that the pardons were issued prematurely, and should have waited until after sentencing, and I'll be pleased if he's right. But that's a view which the corrupt MPs can (and likely will) challenge in court. Meanwhile, it does illustrate the whole problem of the feudal relic of giving the King's President's friends a "get out of jail free" card, doesn't it?

But regardless of what the court decides, it looks like there's growing pressure for a political solution. Vanuatu's Prime Minister responded to the conviction of half his government for bribery and a subsequent abuse of power to let them off the hook with absolute silence. When he finally spoke up after a week, it was to hide behind the sub judice rule and accuse the opposition of "making mountains out of molehills". That's simply appalling. Meanwhile, with the opposition planning a no confidence motion, MPs have all mysteriously been paid US$9000 by the government in what seems to be another attempted bribe. So, basicly the Vanuatu government have learned nothing at all from this and do not wish to change the way they do things. Fortunately it looks like they won't remain the government for much longer.