Vanuatu’s Appeal Court upholds 10-year ban on 14 former MPs

The Port Vila courthouse ... two banned MPs' appeal rejected. Image: Loop Vanuatu

By Thompson Marango in Port Vila

The Supreme Court decision to ban the 14 convicted former MPs from holding public offices in Vanuatu for 10 years has been upheld after the appeal by two of the former politicians was dismissed by the Appeal Court.

The principle argument of the appeal was that the MPs were no longer leaders when the ban was made last December after the Leadership Code charges were invoked by the Public Prosecutor.

The two appellants, Willie Jimmy and Silas Yatan, claimed the December decision should have happened earlier in October when they were initially convicted for bribery and corruption. They said they were no longer leaders when the ban was made.

“In our opinion this argument is misconceived,” the Appeal Court ruled in its judgment on Friday.

“The provisions in the Leadership Code, section 41, 42 and 43 are not substantial, they are in a nature of sanction here because of the conviction of the corruption case.”

The Appeal judges added in their ruling that the provisions simply followed the conviction on the bribery charges.

“They do not create new offences,” the Appeal Court ruled.

Suspended MPs
The Supreme Court suspended the former MPs’ rights to hold public office last year according to  Section 41 of the Leadership Code that covers the dismissal of a leader from office and Section 42 ‘Disqualification from future office’: “Where the leader is dismissed from office under section 41 the leader is disqualified from standing for election as, or being appointed as, a leader of any kind for a period of 10 years from the date of the conviction”.

Section 43 on “Loss of benefits” further stipulates: “If the leader is entitled to any other payment or allowance, on ceasing to be a leader, as a result of being dismissed from office under this Act, the entitlement ceases”.

The Leadership Code charges were originally part of the case during Preliminary Inquiry stages in the Magistrate Court.

When admitting the case to Supreme Court, the Chief Magistrate dropped the charges saying the Ombudsman would have to issue a report.

An Ombudsman report was made and the charges were added to the case by Supreme Court Judge, Mary Sey.

After the conviction of the bribery case the process followed by the Ombudsman investigation was challenged and the report was later declared null and void.

Leadership charges
The Leadership Code charges were brought back to the case following the appeal judgment on the bribery case  last year.

The Public Prosecutor last year had requested the Appeal Court during the bribery case appeal hearing for the Leadership Code charges not to be considered so that if the appeal is dismissed he would proceed under sections 41 and 42 of the Leadership Code seeking an order for dismissal of each of the appellants at that time from office.

The bribery appeal case was dismissed.

The Public Prosecutor then invoked the Leadership Code charges and this led to the Supreme Court’s decision in December 2015 on the 10-year ban.

The appeal by Jimmy and Yatan on the 10-year ban was dismissed on Friday.

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