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‘Presidential’ pardons ruled illegal

Friday 23 October 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT VILA – Vanuatu’s Supreme Court ruled against the speaker of parliament, Marcellino Pipite, for pardoning himself and 13 other MPs convicted for bribery while acting as president.

The court also ruled that the retaliatory revocations of the pardons by the fulltime president were legal.

Lawyers representing the convicted MPs had tried to argue that President Baldwin Lonsdale’s revocation was “unconstitutional”.

But the State Law Office, representing the president, countered that Lonsdale has the power to revoke a pardon, and it was the MPs who had acted unconstitutionally.

They argued that a presidential pardon can only be used when all other legal avenues have been exhausted.

Justice Saksak agreed, saying the Pipite pardon was invalid and unconstitutional while President Lonsdale has the right to pardon and revoke pardons under the constitution.

Speaker Pipite, as acting president, used his temporary powers to initiate the multiple pardons while Lonsdale was on an official visit to Samoa.

Lonsdale revoked the pardons soon after returning to the country.

“In layman’s terms, the justice ruled that just because you’re acting in a position does not give you a blank cheque to exercise all of the powers,” Dan McGarry, media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post, told the ABC.

“He upheld an argument, that was not particularly surprising, that the pardons were not made in the national interest, that they were made in the act of self interest, and were in breach of Article 66 of our constitution, which basically talks about acting in good faith.

“He said there was a very clear conflict of interest.

“He also ruled in favour of the revocation of the pardons by the president, which could be unprecedented.”