Former Vanuatu MPs returning to court next month


Vanuatu Magistrates Court was not able to hear the charges against five former Members of Parliament during the preliminary inquiry (PI) when it convened Tuesday.
Caretaker Prime minister Charlot Salwai, former speaker Simeon Seule, caretaker Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah and former MPs Tomker Netvunei and Jerome Ludvaune were present in court and represented by their lawyers.
The audience was brief as the defence lawyers namely, Marie-Noelle Ferrieux Patterson who acted on behalf of  Salwai, Seule, Ludvaune and Netvunei requested the court to give her sufficient time to be able to prepare her defense as she only received the prosecution file Tuesday.
Caretaker Minister for Agriculture’s lawyer, Nigel Morrison, also asked for at least 10 days to be able to prepare for the defense file of his client.
The court granted an adjournment with the approval of the Public Prosecutor Josiah Naigulevu who was present in court with Deputy Public Prosecutor, Tristan Karae.
Prosecutor Naigulevu said he has no objections on the wishes of the defense lawyers and that has been considered by the judge hearing the PI, Acting Chief Magistrate Anna Laloyer.
The preliminary inquiry was adjourned to 17 March.
The court also rejected a restraining order presented by  Patterson not to allow the public or media to be in court sessions on this case but it was later withdrawn by  Patterson as the judge and Public Prosecutor Naigulevu opposed the application.
After hearing the parties in court, acting Chief Magistrate Laloyer, said the application should be made to the Supreme Court of Vanuatu as stated by the law.
The acting Chief Magistrate also ordered normal bail conditions against all defendants, citing they are not allowed to leave Efate and they are required to report to police on a weekly basis and have no communications with the prosecution witnesses.
The bail conditions have been disputed by the defense lawyers who will seek adjustment in the Supreme Court.
This case has raised lot of concerns as all of the defendants are also possible candidates in the upcoming elections.