Half of Vanuatu's government is going to jail

On October 9, the Supreme Court of Vanuatu found that fourteen members of the government had accepted bribes from the opposition in exchange for a promise of support in a vote of no confidence. Vanuatu's president, Baldwin Lonsdale, was out of the country at the time, leaving speaker Marcellino Pipite as head of state in his absence. As Pipite was one of those convicted, he promptly pardoned himself and his co-conspirators and suspended the country's ombudsman.

Upon his return, President Lonsdale reversed the pardon, a move backed by the Supreme Court, and now the fourteen face prison sentences of up to ten years. Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, from the opposition, has been convicted of paying the bribes, and has been sentenced to four years.

But as Pipite was granted executive powers while the president was abroad over the weekend, he pardoned the group on Sunday "to maintain stability in the government of the republic of Vanuatu", according to a letter he sent to the court.

"We want peace in Vanuatu, we want unity, and we want business to prosper," he later told reporters. The list of pardoned parliamentarians included deputy prime minister Moana Carcasses.

Vanuatu court sentences 14 MPs to jail for corruption

While the president's away: Vanuatu speaker pardons himself and 13 MPs
[Oliver Holmes/The Guardian]