Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities Christophe Emelee has accused Opposition Leader Ishmael Kalsaku of misconduct during the 2012 election campaign.
Mr Emelee produced documents that he claims show that Mr Kalsakau received a salary, housing allowance and other benefits throughout the campaign period and in the following months, during which time Mr Kalsakau was pursuing an electoral petition challenging the results.
He claimed that Mr Kalsakau, who was Attorney General at the time, wrote to Prime Minister Sato Kilman, giving notice that he would resign.
But that the resignation was not accepted by the Prime Minister. In a letter dated January 10, Mr Kilman wrote to him and told him so. He further suggested that the Attorney General resolve his election petition before resuming his duties, and that someone else should be appointed to assume the duties of Attorney General.
Mr Kalsakau responded to the Prime Minister’s letter with an acknowledgement, and wrote, “whilst I am obliged by law to continue to superintend over the conduct of my officers I shall do so without having to be present from the State Law Office.”
That same day, Mr Kalsakau wrote to Frederick Gilu, appointing him Acting Attorney General. He continued to receive full pay during this period. In the letter, Mr Kalsakau wrote, “I will be available at my residence to be consulted on any matter of state upon any matter of state you require my indulgence.”
Mr Emelee argued that the language of the letters suggested that Mr Kalsakau had to know about the request sent to Mr Gilu concerning the Prime Minister’s desire to create the position of Parliamentary Secretary. How could he superintend their conduct if he wasn’t aware of their activities regarding important matters of policy such as this.
He also noted that Mr Kalsakau’s signature appears as a witness on the contract appointing at least one Parliamentary Secretary.
He further argued that Mr Kalsakau knew what the correct procedure was for civil servants wishing to contest in elections, because he followed them during the 2015 by-election.
These allegations form part of an extended list of complaints against the Opposition Leader, sent by Mr Emelee to the Daily Post. The Minister requested that the statement be printed verbatim, but the Daily Post declined to publish it as a press release in that form. The decision was then taken to print it as a paid advertisement.
Mr Emelee insisted that the State Law Office “provided legal advice on all Parliamentary Secretary appointments, drafted the employment contracts and all amendments to the Official Salaries Act at no point in time did he as the former Attorney General raise a single hair on his eyebrow by questioning the process.”
The Minister cited the Constitution, which guarantees ‘equal treatment under the law’. Based on this, he said, every single person who appointed one or more Parliamentary Secretaries should be subject to the same penalties the Opposition Leader is seeking against Prime Minister Salwai.
“If the practice had already been prevalent under the three Governments, one Attorney General and two Acting Attorney Generals, then it is evident that the current Government did not initiate, participate in creating the now deemed illegal positions nor was it in a position to question what had already been endorsed by the former Governments and Attorney General.“
The Daily Post requested comment from the Opposition Leader, who was campaigning in north Efate for most of the week. He was asked what his employment status was during the 2012 election campaign; what he felt his duties were during the time Frederick Gilu was Acting Attorney General; and was he in contact about any legal matters with his staff during the period of the 2012 campaign and his subsequent electoral petition.
Mr Emelee and Prime Minister Charlot Salwai have both retained legal counsel and are reportedly considering their legal options, including the filing of a criminal complaint against the Opposition Leader.