Public Report on the alleged bribery of voters and alleged breach of the Leadership Code by Mr. Barak Tame Sope – July 17, 1998 - Emalus Campus
At all material times, Mr. Barak Sope was the Minister of Trade Commerce and Industry and Member of Parliament and Leader of the Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP). A national election campaign took place in the weeks leading up to the election on March 6, 1998.
A long dry season in 1997 in Vanuatu resulted in a lack of food in communities around the country. Aniwa Island was one area that was badly affected. The National Disaster Management Office and the Tafea Provincial Government Disaster Committee worked to relieve the effects of the drought in Tafea Province, where Aniwa Island is located.
Mr. Marcel Manua, the Senior Planner of the Tafea Provincial Government contacted Mr. Alcide, who is an agent in Australia for the suppliers of rice to the Cooperative Federation in Vanuatu and a representative of the MPP Party of Vanuatu to seek a donation. Mr. Manua was unable to arrange a donation of rice from Mr. Alcide. The owners of the MV Saraika, ignored requests for transport of other donations of rice to Aniwa Island. The owners of the ship are the people of Ifira and are strong supporters of the MPP party.
Approximately 2 weeks before the election the Cooperative Federation loaded 100 bags of rice and 50 bags of flour onto the MV Saraika. This shipment was originated with Mr. Alcide and was addressed to Pastor Samuel Betfo, reputed to be a strongman for the MPP in Aniwa. This was done on the instructions of the personal security guard for Mr. Sope. Mr Robert Figa of the Cooperative Federation also had a part in arranging the shipment. At no time was the Tafea Provincial Government or the National Disaster Management Office notified of this shipment. On arrival of the MV Saraika, the rice and flour was taken to the house of Pastor Betfo and it was announced that the rice would be distributed only to supporters of the MPP. This message was later conveyed throughout the community.
Although Mr. Alcide maintained that the shipment of rice was a promotion of a new brand of rice to be marketed in Vanuatu, and not related to the election, the Ombudsman rejected this explanation and concluded that Mr. Sope had arranged for the shipment of rice to Aniwa. The Ombudsman concluded that Mr. Sope breached section 45 of the Representation of the People Act which prohibits bribery and undue influence in relation to the gaining of votes. Further the Ombudman found that Mr. Sope breached the Leadership Code in attempting to gain private advantage through his position as a Minister.
· That the Police and Public Prosecutor investigate the matter with view to laying charges pursuant to the Representation of the People Act.
· That Mr. Sope not hold a position as a Minister of State in the future.
Written by Edward R. Hill
UNDP Governance and Accountability Project
© Ombudsman of Vanuatu
Published here by University of the South Pacific, School of Law Web Site - www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj