Natuman Takes Leave of Absence

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism, Trade and Industry, Joe Natuman, is on a three-day leave of absence.

He wrote to the Prime Minister on Tuesday this week requesting the three-day leave of absence.

In a letter dated December 5, 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman, stated to the Prime Minister that the reason for leave of absence sought is to attend to personal matters and to appear in court.

The Deputy Prime Minister requested the Prime Minister to look after the Ministry or make other appropriate arrangement for the Ministry until his return to office.

He informed other ministers, Speaker of Parliament, Director General (DG) in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Industry and Cooperative and Ni-Vanuatu Business of the leave of absence and reasons given to the Prime Minister. Speaking to the Daily Post yesterday afternoon, Natuman confirmed his letter to the Prime Minister and also confirmed that his leave of absence is for three days and for reasons stated in his letter.

Meanwhile, the Court resumed yesterday on Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman’s case and agreed that the trial should resume today.

Mr Natuman was set to be tried together with the former Acting Commissioner of Police, Aru Maralau.

An earlier conference asked Mr Natuman to seek the Parliament’s authorization to stand trial despite the parliamentary immunity provided by section 27 (2) of the Constitution of Vanuatu.

Justice Jean Paul Geoghegan clarified that it is not a matter for the court to issue an order for, but for Mr Natuman and the Parliament to determine.

Earlier this year the court fixed the trial date to commence as of yesterday.

The judge said that he received advice that the extra ordinary session will be scheduled to end on December 1, 2017 and the second ordinary session will commence on December 11, 2017.

He said that it was preferable that the trial should commence yesterday as opposed to adjourning the trial entirely to another date.

“In discussing the potential complications which might be presented by the extra ordinary session extending beyond December 1, I have referred counsel to Article 27 (2) of the Constitution which provides that no member may, during a session of Parliament or one of its committees, be arrested or prosecuted for any offence except with the authorization of Parliament in exceptional circumstances,” he said.

Both Mr Natuman and Mr Maralau were criminally charged for ceasing a police internal investigation into an alleged mutiny back in 2012.

At the time Mr Natuman acted in his capacity as the Prime Minister and the minister responsible of the police.

Mr Maralau is to be tried on one count to complicity interfering with the court of justice while the DPM will stand trial on one count of interfering with the justice.

The trial starts at 9am.

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