The Presidential powers to Pardon Convicts under Article 38 of the Constitution should be reviewed and amended so as to provide certain criteria by which the Head of State could be guided instead of being pressured by politicians.

The latest Presidential Order No. 138 of 2021 to pardon the convictions and sentences of three politicians, comes as a surprise to the people of Vanuatu.

It is a mockery to the rule of law in Vanuatu and brings us right back to where we started — square one.

The former prime ministers have been tried by the highest court of the land, found guilty of committing serious crimes against the laws of Vanuatu and were convicted and sentenced.

Whilst the Head of State has the discretionary power under the Constitution to issue pardons, commutations and reduction of prisoners’ sentences, this presidential power must always be exercised with care and due consideration for the importance of the rule of law.

It remains unclear what might be the real motive behind this move by the Head of State, but it happened after a political party’s golden jubilee with its annual congress and the announcement of forthcoming by-elections.

It is obvious that the Presidential Order No. 138 to pardon a former Prime Minister who is also former President of the Vanua’aku Party, Joe Natuman, former Prime Minster Serge Vohor, who is president of the Union of Moderate Parties and Charlot Salwai as former prime minister and president of the RMC is made under political pressure.

The imprisonment of the three leaders was heralded by international community and regarded as boost for the credibility of Vanuatu in the international arena.

It showed the ability of the law enforcement, quality of the work of the Public Prosecution Office and the unwavering work of our independent and impartial judiciary.

By the stroke of the pen of the Head of State, these remarkable efforts have been reduced to nothing.

Campaign For Justice

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