PORT VILA, 19 MARCH 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST) — Vanuatu deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Trades, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business, Joe Natuman told Daily Post he “was not satisfied with the verdict outcome but he accepted it.”
MP Natuman made the remark Friday after the verdict was handed down Friday, adding, “It is the justice system and we respect that.
“It is a democratic country.
“We are humans and we make mistakes.
“The law always points out the right directions.”
The Deputy Prime Minister was given a suspended sentence of two years by Justice Paul Geoghegan, in front of a packed court room.
Natuman was charged on two counts related to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice contrary to section 79 (c) of the Penal Code.
He was joined by the other defendant in the Criminal Case 188 of 2016, the former Acting Commissioner of Police, Aru Maralau, who was found guilty on one count of complicity to obstruct or interfere with the execution of a criminal process.
Like MP Natuman, Aru Maralau received an end sentence of two years which was also suspended. He was also ordered to do 150 hours of community works.
In his submission, Public Prosecutor Josaia Naigulevu noted that the defense counsels have alluded to the Willie Jimmy case as a precedent to support their submission for Natuman. In distinguishing the difference between the two cases PP Naigalevu pointed out that former MP Willie Jimmy pleaded guilty at the first instance, whereas, Natuman had initially entered a not guilty plea.
Defense counsel representing both Natuman and Maralau, Nigel Morrison, used the Willie Jimmy case and acknowledged that the Judge in Willie Jimmy’s case started a three year out of a 10 years maximum sentence, “so I drew in parallel with that. I fully accepted that Natuman had not pleaded guilty in the first reasonable opportunity”.
But he asked the Judge to take into consideration that at the time the decision of not guilty plea was made, they do not have a deep understanding of the matter.
“Maralau was one of the hard-working officers who takes orders from his superiors including ministers without question,” Morrison stated.
Natuman on the other hand was referred to as a well-respected person.
“He is a pioneer of Vanuatu’s political independence, a man of integrity, a humble man, and man of principle.”
On September 19, 2014, and on another occasion, Natuman in his capacity as the Prime Minister and minister responsible for people issued instructions via a letter and verbally to the then Commissioner of Police to cease investigations into a mutiny case involving high ranking police officers.
Natuman further issued the instruction subsequently to Maralau, the then Acting Commissioner of Police who obeyed Natuman’s instructions and ceased the investigations.
In his defense, Natuman said the initial motive behind his actions and decision was made for the best interest of the Vanuatu Police Force, to unify the Force.
In his judgment, Justice Geoghegan said Maralau was one of the officers involved in the mutiny case and his decision to proceed with Natuman’s instructions was obviously a conflict of interest.
“You chose to act which was directly of benefit to you.
“These offenses are serious offenses and they are of nature that strike the heart of the administration of justice,” Justice Geoghegan said.
The charges carry a penalty of maximum seven years imprisonment.
The Supreme Court Judge said that he deals with both cases similarly.
The appropriate starting point for both is three years imprisonment.
Geoghegan took into account the mitigating factors including that both are respected individuals in the society. He acknowledged Natuman for being remorseful for his actions.
Geoghegan made his final decision to suspend their sentences of two years imprisonment.
Meanwhile, in his short interview with Daily Post, Natuman acknowledged that he was happy that Judge Supreme Court Judge considered the fact that Natuman acted in good faith when he made the decision to stop the investigations.
He reiterated that his actions were not for personal gain but for the best interest of this country.
On the issue of whether he will relinquish his current position, Natuman said he will consult with the Prime Minister and his voters prior to making a decision on his future with the Government. PACNEWS [/restrict]