Former Member of Parliament for Ambrym, Albert William told the Court yesterday that he was approached early morning on November 22, 2016 by Member of Parliament Simeon Seule, then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with an offer for an unspecified position in the Government.
Former MP William, who was appointed the Government Special Envoy on Climate Change – a position he held for about six months – was a signatory to the motion of no confidence against then Prime Minster Charlot Salwai.
When questioned by the Public Prosecutor (PP), he affirmed that he had a visitor on the said date.
“Yes, I had a visitor around 1 o’clock in the morning – it was Member of Parliament for Epi, Simeon Seule and some of his friends in a government vehicle,” he said.
“I was asleep at the time but woke up as the dogs in the yard barked when the vehicle arrived. MP Seule told me there was an offer but he did not elaborate on it.
“I thanked him and told him it was late, proposing to sleep on it and talk more later.”
William said he was asked to withdraw his signature on the motion but he refused.
When asked why he persisted in this stance, he replied that he sought legal advice about the situation and shared this advice with his colleague MPs at the time, particularly that if they accept positions offered after signing a motion of no confidence it would constitute a form of bribery.
He was cross-examined by Mr Vilimone Vosarogo and Mr Nigel Morrison, before re-examination by PP Josaia Naigulevu.
MP Nakou Natuman took his oath to testify at 10.24am.
The Union of Moderate Parties (UMP) MP affirmed there was a division in the party at the time, 5 UMP MPs led by MP Jack Norris Kalmet (current Minister of Lands) were with the government and the UMP faction in the Opposition was led by MP Ishmael Kalsakau (incumbent DPM and Minister of Internal Affairs).
The 5 were: Mr Kalmet, Mr Jerome Ludvaune, Mr Tomker Netvunei, Mr Seule and Mr Natuman.
He confirmed his signature on the motion, saying he signed the document on the 22nd of November at Mr Kalmet’s residence in the presence of his UMP colleagues, except Mr Ludvaune.
When questioned, he confirmed going to the airport to pick Mr Ludvaune, explaining the motion, signatures and dropping him off at Vila North but that he has no knowledge of what happened after that.
Mr Vosarogo suggested it was him (Mr Natuman) who offered to pick Mr Ludvaune on the 27th of November and he agreed this was true.
However, when suggested he didn’t specifically mention a motion but a petition to Mr Ludvaune, Mr Natuman maintained he talked about the motion signed, not a petition.
He denied knowledge of an arrangement with former Vanuatu Green Confederation MP Kalo Seule to drop Mr Ludvaune at Pango Point to sign the motion after the stop at Vila North.
Mr Hosea Nevu, a former Minister of Internal Affairs and Agriculture also testified yesterday.
The former Iauko Group MP confirmed signing the motion of no confidence against Mr Charlot Salwai in November 2016 at the Opposition Office in Parliament where the then Leader of Opposition explained the grounds of the motion to around 21 or 22 MPs who were in attendance.
At the time the Iauko Group had 4 MPs – Mr Nevu, Mr Jay Ngwele (current Minister of Infrastructure), Mr Mark Ati (current Foreign Affairs Minister), Mr Kalo Pakoasongi and the support of an Independent MP – Tom Noam – bringing the total to 5 MPs.
Mr Nevu told the Court on the 23rd of November, 2016 he was at the airport when he received a call from Mr Ngwele.
As a result of that conversation, he returned directly to Mr Kalmet’s house with a mat and performed a custom ceremony to Mr Ludvaune, assuring him that they will set up the government on his return from Santo.
The assurance, he said, was made because there were rumours the Iauko Group was withdrawing its support for the motion and joining the government.
At the time they had the numbers to form a new government because there were 28 signatures.
During cross-examination, Mr Vosarogo asked Mr Nevu to confirm it wasn’t Mr Ludvaune who called him to bring the mat over, he acquiesced, saying the call was from Mr Ngwele.
Mr Morrison questioned why the mat was given to Mr Ludvaune, when the statements clearly highlighted that Mr Kalmet was the leader of the UMP group, to which Mr Nevu responded that it was because Mr Kalmet said it was Mr Ludvaune in particular who needed assurance that they were not going to back out.
The trial continues today.