Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) says it will be a backward step for Vanuatu if the former members of parliament that were convicted in 2015 are pardoned.
TIV Chairman, Dr Willie Tokon who stated this on behalf of TIV, warned of the negative impacts of a pardon of the former MPs on the country if the President issues a pardon for the convicted individuals.
“When these people were convicted by the courts, we were ashamed at first that our leaders could be involved in this high level of corruption.
“But then we heard from people in other countries that they are surprised and impressed that Vanuatu could stand up to corruption and put the wrongdoers in jail.
“Vanuatu’s commitment to following the rule of law was held up as an example to the whole of the Pacific Islands region,” Dr Tokon said.
He says the only reason for the pardoning of the former MPs is to allow them to contest the national elections next year.
“Most of them are no longer in prison; they are back home with their families and in their communities.
“For those that are in prison, the President has the option of commuting their sentences, which would mean they could be freed,” TIV stated.
TIV has also written to President Moses Obed Tallis to raise its concern about the proposed pardoning of the former members of parliament.
“We have seen media reports indicating that you are considering issuing pardons to a number of former MPs who were sentenced in 2015 on charges relation to very serious corruption.
“We humbly recognize that the power to pardon is assigned to you and you alone under section 38 of Vanuatu’s Constitution.
“We are aware that the Office of the President has been under a lot of pressure to issue these people with pardons.
“We are very sorry that you have been subject to these pressures and that the late President Baldwin Lonsdale experienced the same.
“We can understand this has been very difficult.
“We remember that late President was steadfast in his resistance to the many calls that were made for him to pardon these people.
“We are praying that you too will be able to stand steadfastly against these calls for the good of our country,” TIV stated in its letter to the President, signed by Chairman Dr Tokon.
Dr Willie Tokon was a member of the Pardon Committee established by Minister of Justice Don Ken. He represented the Health Practitioners Board in the Committee.