FOR ABOUT A WEEK now a norm has evolved around the Supreme Court; every morning and afternoon, about half an hour before each court session begins, a crowd of citizens gather near the gate entrance to the Supreme Court at Dumbea Hall waiting for the gates to be opened. When the gates are opened, people hurriedly find their way into the Court premises with the hope of securing one of the few seats available inside the court room.
Why are they doing this? It is because everyone is graving for first-hand information rather than second-hand information on one of the most interesting court sessions ever in Vanuatu since 1980. Later on the information heard will be delivered to people in the streets, coincidently producing hundreds of separate ‘storians’ that will unfold throughout the course of the day, unsurprisingly some will have their own attractive twist.
Everybody is talking about it; Corruption. The ongoing bribery case is being spoken about in public transports, kava bars, homes, schools, offices and in places around the world.
Inside the court room the scene is packed, all of the accused are seated on the left side of the room, the defense counsel in the middle, the Prosecution counsel on the right side of room and in front of them rests the witness box. The Judges seat is right at the front centre of the room, at the back of the room the more fortunate members of the public occupy the available chairs. Outside the court yard it is silently busy with people peering in through the window screens while others gather closely around the PA system set up near the door.
Witnesses after witnesses were being called into the court room this week by the Public Prosecutor to provide evidence to the court. “I swear by the almighty God that the evidence I give to this court shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God,” vowed each witness before testifying against the defendants.
Transparency International Vanuatu has been following the bribery case. Since Monday several witnesses have testified against the accused MPs and giving evidence to court: These witnesses were MP Joe Natuman, MP Philip Boedoro, MP Kalfau Moli, and MP Richard Mera, some of which have confirmed to the court that they received some money from the accused Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil.
Bank Witnesses Revealed VT 1 million Transactions To MPs
In addition, witnesses from the three commercial banks in Port Vila, Westpac Bank, ANZ Bank, National Bank of Vanuatu and Bred Bank Ltd provided evidences of the transactions of the VT 1 million each being transferred to the accounts of the accused MPs by Moana Carcasses. All those transactions were made between October and November 2014.
VT 1 Million To Bribe MPs In No Confidence Motion Against Former PM Natuman
As alleged, the VT 1 million vatu was to bribe MPs and Ministers to sign a no confidence motion against the then Prime Minister Joe Natuman in late 2014. When former Speaker of Parliament Philip Boedoro testified in court, Tuesday Morning, he confirmed the dates and signatures of the motions.
Mr. Boedoro confirmed to the court that three MPs withdrew their signatures earlier in September 2014 after he received a notice of a no confidence motion from Moana. It contained the signatures of Moana Carcasses, Serge Vohor, Jean Yves Chabod, Tony Nari and some other MPs. Since three MPs withdrew their signatures, Boedoro ruled out the motion. As a result the matter was taken to court but the court ruled in favor of Boedoro’s decision.
Afterwards in November 2014, a motion of no confidence against PM Natuman was tabled in parliament containing signatures of Moana Carcasses, Serge Vohor, Hosea Nevu, Kalfau Moli and some other MPs.
MP Testimony On The Bribery Charges
On Tuesday afternoon, MP for Santo Kalfau Moli confirmed to court that he had signed a loan agreement of VT1 million from the Greens Confederation Community Development Ltd. Again, bank statements supplied by the ANZ bank shows that the VT 1 million was transferred from Moana Carcasses’ bank account to Kalfau Moli’s account.
Meanwhile, Richard Mera confirmed to the court on Wednesday afternoon to have received an amount of VT470, 000 from MP Tony Nari who claimed to be a loan from an Investor as was mentioned in the Daily Post yesterday.
In court, MP Richard Mera revealed that one evening he was taken to the domestic airport where they met MP Tony Nari in a yellow bus. That was where he got the VT470, 000 and signed two different papers in the bus without recognizing or knowing what the printed contents were. MP John Tesei confirmed to that they court that he drove them there in a government vehicle plated G301.
Later on, when Mr. Mera learnt that his signature was on a no confidence motion against the then Prime Minister he and three other MPs approached the then speaker of parliament to withdraw their signatures. Mr. Mera told the court that those signatures were believed to be the signatures signed on the two papers in the yellow bus at the airport that night with Tony Nari.
The defense council claimed that MP Kalfau Moli is witnessing for the Prosecution because he was annoyed that his accused friends had toppled the Natuman Government seven or eight days after he was given a ministerial portfolio by Natuman. In response Mr. Kalfau Moli denied it and said that was not a reason at all.
Meanwhile the defense council also claimed that MP Richard Mera borrowed VT 2 million from Moana Carcasses which he denied in court.
The bribery court case sessions against the 16 MPs is still ongoing in the Supreme Court, it is the first of its kind in Vanuatu’s 35 years as a sovereign nation, a mark in our history.
Overall, significant progress has already been attained concerning anti-corruption efforts in Vanuatu. A lot of people were doubtful that this case would get this far, yet it has. Furthermore, because Vanuatu’s history shows that it is very rare for a leader to be convicted on corruption charges a lot of people were very doubtful of that happening in 2015, yet a leader has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
It is evident that the following court proceedings will slowly bring about a new era of anti-corruption sentiments in Vanuatu. It may take a while, but it will one day change behaviors and attitudes. And that is what we all need to strive for; change.
VIDEO:The defendants leaving court during their plea hearing.