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Pardons appear to be legal

Tuesday 13 October 2015 | Published in Regional


MELBOURNE – Professor Cheryl Saunders, from Melbourne University’s law school, said that while controversial pardoning of 14 convicted MPs in Vanuatu the pardon appears to be constitutional, it remains to be seen whether the decision can be overturned by a court.

“There is a provision in the Vanautu constitution that allows the president to pardon people who have been convicted, and the section appears to be unrestricted in the sense that it doesn’t prevent a president pardoning himself or herself,” Saunders said.

“So if the speaker is standing in the shoes of the president, the speaker has power to perform all the president’s functions, so on the face of the constitution it seems to be allowed – extraordinary it may be.

“On the other hand, you can ask yourself are there any subtle legal arguments that might enable for this decision to be attacked, is there an argument based on separation of powers – or is there some sort of argument based on bias – the principle that says a person may not be judge in his own court.”

In 2004, then-Vanuatu president Alfred Maseng Nalo refused to use his special powers to pardon himself of his criminal conviction.

An anti-corruption group in Vanuatu has blasted a minister’s move as “a national disgrace”.

Jenny Ligo, the chair of Women Against Crime and Corruption, said it is “a national disgrace” and her group is planning a protest march to express their feelings.

“This is not on. They should wait patiently for the sentencing. But instead they have come to another level of doing a criminal act,” she said.

“They don’t care about this country and its people, they only care about themselves.

“The opposition having not come out yet, even the prime minister of this country is not doing anything. Prime minister Sato Kilman also allows part of his government to mess up his administration.”