Vanuatu has both a prime minister, who serves as head of government, and a president, who serves as head of state. The president, currently Baldwin Lonsdale, has extensive constitutional powers to pardon convicted criminals — he is rather like the American president in that respect. President Lonsdale was visiting Samoa when the convictions came down. Under Vanuatuan law, the speaker of the parliament temporarily assumes the presidency when the president is out of the country. The current speaker, Pipite, happened to be one of the 14 legislators convicted in the bribery scandal. How convenient. Pipite used his temporary powers to pardon himself, Carcasses, and their other 12 co-conspirators. He claimed he was doing this to head off instability.A law professor at Auckland University says, however, that Vanuatuan law may "implicitly" grant the president the power to reverse the pardon, especially since the pardons "technically" happened before the trial was finished (the defendants had not yet been sentenced). The Vanuatu's constitution gives the president the power to "pardon, commute, or reduce a sentence" but not vacate the conviction itself. See full story here.
Thursday, October 15, 2015