Vohor and Kalsakau released after 18 months

THERE were mixed feelings Friday morning inside and outside the low risk prison in Port Vila.

Emotions ran high as the two former politicians, Serge Vohor and Steven Kalsakau, walked out on parole after 18 months’ imprisonment for bribery and corruption charges.

Other former MPs embraced them as they left while family members embraced them as free men again.

Steven Kalsakau (centre) and Serge Vohor (in blue cap) say their farewells, to fellow inmates including former MPs Jean Yves Chabot, Marellino Pipite and Tony Nari, among others.
Steven Kalsakau (centre) and Serge Vohor (in blue cap) say their farewells to fellow inmates including former MPs (from left) Marellino Pipite, Tony Nari and Jean Yves Chabot, among others. (Picture: Evelyne Toa)

Less than 50 people, including families, friends and supporters, were outside the main gate of the prison to welcome them as they were driven out by the Deputy Leader of Opposition and Vice President of the Union of Moderate Parties (UMP), former Attorney General, Ishmael Kalsakau, and escorted by Saby Natonga, a strong supporter of all moderates in the country.

“See you next week with smiling faces,” were some of the words from their colleagues who are still at the low risk facility, waiting for the Parole Board to decide on their release.

In a brief interview with The Independent, before they left the prison premises, Mr Vohor said he was happy to be released.

“I am out today, it means, I am outside and people would expect me to undertake some ‘tasks’ from me as a national leader,” he said.

Mr Kalsakau took the opportunity to thank their families and the people of Vanuatu for their prayers and support while they were in prison.

“We are here following a court decision. Today we are happy to return to our respective communities, to participate and be involved in community activities,” he said.

He also thanked the Director of Correctional Services and his officers for taking good care of all inmates.

In its meeting this week, the Parole Board decided to release the duo under certain conditions and after the Appeal Court had quashed their conviction for conspiracy charges a week ago.

The two formers MPs received the lower sentence of three years for one count each of corruption and bribery of officials, contrary to section 73 (2) of the Penal Code Act.

Director of the Correctional Services Department, Johnny Marango, said earlier that their release was a privilege and that the procedure of releasing them, was because of their good behavior, and having completed half of their sentence, and their involvement in the rehabilitation programs in the Correctional Centre.

The Independent understands that the Parole Board will sit soon to deal with the application of another 10 former MPs: Marcellino Pipite, Paul Telukluk, Tony Wright, Silas Yatan, John Amos, Arnold Prasad, Jean Yves Chabod, Thomas Laken, Jonas James and Sebastien Harry