Vanuatu’s Political Conspiracies
In recent years we have seen high profile figures in the form of the two previous Prime Ministers receiving suspended sentences which prevented them from contesting general elections.
For former PM Joe Natuman, it was a conviction after a guilty plea for a charge of perverting the cause of justice.
In the case of former PM Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, it was a case of perjury.
For both of the above former Prime Ministers, when they did what they did, they thought they were doing the right thing with the best of intentions, yet they still suffered serious consequences which cut short prominent and illustrious political careers.
And today we see in the news that we may have another high profile figure being Speaker Seule Simeon, on the cards for a charge – which if Judge Oliver Saksak’s words in court are anything to go by – of “an attempt to pervert the cause of justice”.
The reason for the Judge’s assertions was that Nigel Morrison lawyer for the Speaker filed a facts not on 24 hour events before court on Friday to say he will cease to act for the Speaker because of the events which happened on Thursday night which to him were unethical and did not confirm to court ethics.
This is a more serious case than for Natuman and Salwai as it concerns a sitting Speaker and it would seem that it was done with purpose and intent to change the consequences of former Speaker – Gratien Shadrack’s ruling which resulted in 19 mps vacating their seats in Parliament.
The motive was no doubt to maintain the government caucus and prevent the 19 mps from vacating their seats as announced by former Speaker Shadrack in accordance with the Standing Orders of Parliament and the Vacation of Seats Act.
Judge Oliver Saksak ruled in the case of the Government Mps against the Speaker, that the Speaker had the right to make the announcement regarding the vacating of seats by 19 Mps and also ruled that the 19 Mps had vacated their seats.
The Government Mps have of course challenged the ruling claiming that the judgment went beyond what was requested in their submission so it is now up to the Appeal Courts to decide.
The big question will be whether the current Speaker acted on his own or did he do this with the knowledge and agreement of the 19 mps whom the judge ruled had vacated their seats, or worse still, with the consent and support of the whole Government caucus of 33 Members of Parliament.
In a case like this, if the Courts feel that the current Speaker did not act on his own but with the agreement and support of the 19 mps affected by the Vacation of Seats Act, these individuals for the basic reason that they stood to benefit, may have another case to answer for being accessories to a conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.
This will be a more serious case as the matters in question had serious national implications and were already before the Courts for consideration, hearing and decision.
The big question will be whether it was just the leaders of the Government caucus or all the 19 affected Mps or all 33 government Mps who knew of the Speaker’s intentions. It is inconceivable that on something like this, the Speaker would act on his own.
Four of the Government Mps being the former Minister of Lands and 3 others defected to the Opposition side and no doubt they will be singing like canaries so the country could see another crises looming.
Ironically in former PM Charlot Salwai’s perjury case, the current Speaker had the charges withdrawn against him by the Public Prosecutor as he became a witness for the prosecution in that case. Simeon Seule, had been acquitted of criminal charges including damage to property and attempted kidnapping in a case that goes back to 2016.
It will be a truly interesting next few weeks for the people of Vanuatu and the country as a whole with an already challenging situation because of the global pandemic now complemented by the political rows that are going on.