Smol Melanesian Na Pasifik Nius Digest # 1130a ( Monday 12 October 2015 )
1a) Convicted Vanuatu MP engineers mass pardon
Monday 12 October 2015
A convicted Vanuatu MP, Marcellino Pipite, has used Saturday’s absence of the president to pardon himself and more than a dozen other convicts.
Mr Pipite, who is also the speaker of parliament, issued a presidential pardon in his capacity as acting head of state – a role he assumed while the president, Baldwin Lonsdale, was abroad.
On Friday, the Supreme Court had convicted Mr Pipite and 13 other MPs of corruption for accepting bribes by the deputy prime minister, Moana Carcasses, who at the time of the payments was the opposition leader.
Mr Carcasses admitted to offering loans to MPs from his own funds, but denied they were bribes to lure support for changing the government.
The court, however, found that the payments were corruptly given and accepted by MPs to influence their roles as public officials.
Sentencing was due next week and Mr Carcasses had said he would appeal his conviction.
One MP, the finance minister Willie Jimmy, had pleaded guilty.
1b) Vanuatu’s acting president uses interim executive powers to pardon himself and 13 others convicted of bribery
Updated 11 October 2015, 18:25 AEDT
By Liam Fox in Port Vila, staff
Vanuatu’s acting president Marcellino Pipite confirms he has used his interim executive powers to pardon himself and 13 other MPs convicted of bribery.
Vanuatu’s acting president Marcellino Pipite has confirmed he has used his interim executive powers to pardon himself and 13 other MPs convicted of bribery.
Mr Pipite told assembled media in his office in Port Vila that the pardon was to maintain peace and unity in Vanuatu.
He pointed to disturbances in Solomon Islands, Bougainville and Fiji as reasons behind maintaining the nearly one-third of parliamentary members convicted of bribery on Friday.
When pressed on how the bribery convictions could spark instability, Mr Pipite failed to answer.
The acting president said he had received advice from five lawyers to enact the pardons, and gazetted the decision on Sunday.
The move was made possible after Mr Pipite, as parliamentary speaker, assumed the top job when president Baldwin Lonsdale left the country for a visit to Samoa.
Under Vanuatu law, the speaker acts as president when the latter is travelling abroad, and has the power to pardon anyone, including himself.
Mr Lonsdale returned to Port Vila late Sunday afternoon, ending Mr Pipite’s acting role.
Earlier, opposition MP Ralph Regenvanu told the ABC that police and the court’s prosecution were aware of the move and were “working on it” — in regards to stopping the process.
On Friday, the court found Pipite, deputy prime minister Moana Carcasses and 12 other MPs guilty of bribery charges.
The deputy prime minister was found to have made cash payments amounting to 35 million vat ($452,000) to his fellow MPs last year, when they were all in opposition.
Justice Mary Sey ruled that the payments were corruptly made, corruptly received, and designed to influence the MPs in their capacity as public officials.
The MPs were facing a maximum of 10 years in jail and were due to be sentenced on October 22.
In September, Vanuatu finance minister Willie Jimmy was convicted on two bribery charges, for breaching the leadership and penal codes, after entering a guilty plea.
His conviction was not overturned in Sunday’s announcement.ABC
2b ) Vanuatu Daily News Digest | 10 October 2015 Here is the Judgement!
Thanks to the hard-working Paclii team, thoughtfulness of the USP and Judiciary staff and owing to the considerable public interest, here is yesterday’s judgement as given by Justice Mary Sey.
If the attachment to this Digest bulletin comes un-stuck for any reason (most likely the IT incapacity of your editor) you can find it for yourself by going to paclii.org and choosing Vanuatu Supreme Court cases for October. You are looking for Criminal case 73 of 2015. It’s there!
Criminal case 73 of 2015.pdf
2) Indonesia could change law on Papua mine contract
12 October 2015 Indonesia’s government is planning to amend its rules on mining contracts to allow the United States company, Freeport-McMoRan, to extend its contract at the Grasberg mine in West Papua.
Freeport’s contract for the world’s largest copper and gold mine ends in 2021, but present rules only allow talks on an extension to end two years before a contract is due to expire.
Reuters reports a mines ministry official, Bambang Gatot, saying a revision to the government’s regulations is being processed by the economics ministry, and should be released by the end of the year.
The new rules may allow companies to propose an extension 10 years before their contracts expire.
Freeport says it has been assured by the Indonesian government that its Grasberg contract would be extended beyond 2021.
The company plans to invest 18 billion dollars to transition the mine from an open pit to underground mining in late 2017.RNZ
3) China joins Pacific military disaster training for first time
12 october 2015
The New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands says a New Zealand-led military exercise in the northern Cook Islands has enforced very important partnerships in the Pacific region.
The 60-strong Exercise Tropic Twilight team, made up of military engineers from China, New Zealand, Britain and the United States, has spent six weeks working on a range of infrastructure projects on Penrhyn and Manihiki.
The exercise aimed to develop the New Zealand Defence Force’s capability to deploy alongside other militaries to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Pacific.
Nick Hurley says it saw the Chinese participate for the first time.
“It’s very significant as a genuine partnership issue. Getting that interoperability, getting used to each other has been one of the key learnings from this and it’s been really great having that opportunity.”
The New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Nick Hurley.
The exercise, funded by the New Zealand government, cost almost 670,000 US dollars.RNZ