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Ra High School Manager Tells Trial Of Former Education Minister: I Didn’t Complain Against Reddy: School Manager

Ra High School Manager Tells Trial Of Former Education Minister: I Didn’t Complain Against Reddy: School Manager
Former Education Minister Mahendra Reddy outside the Suva Magistrate’s court on September 6, 2017. Photo: Jessica Savike
September 07
12:26 2017

Ra High School manager Waisea Lebobo told the court yesterday he did not complain against former Education Minister Mahendra Reddy.

He is our saviour for the day as water is our struggle everyday, he told the Suva Magistrates Court as the trial of Reddy on bribery charges opened.

Mr Lebobo, who admitted he was SODELPA campaign manager for Ra in the 2014 general election, said it was FICAC that approached him and informed him of the alleged offence.

He said he was also shown a video that showed a talanoa session where the alleged offence took place.

Defence lawyer Devanesh Sharma asked Mr Lebobo if his political rights had been interfered with. Mr Lebobo said that because Reddy had confirmed they would get water if his party won the election, that made him change his vote.

He was the first prosecution witness to take the stand.

Reddy is charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) with a count each of bribery and undue influence. He has pleaded not guilty. The matter is being heard before Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili.

Prosecutor Rashmi Aslam asked if Mr Lebobo considered his water issue a joke. He said no because it was a big issue.

Mr Aslam further asked him if he expected Reddy to take his question as a joke to which he said no.

Mr Lebobo, in his evidence, said that they (school) were sharing the source of water with a village through pipes.

The source is a spring 12 miles away from the school,he said.

Mr Lebobo said: The last meeting was in Rakiraki where we met the Minister for Education and that is when the management book was launched at Penang Sangam Hall in Rakiraki.

The management book contains the direction and manuals on how to use the resources and grants.

Mr Lebobo said: Time was given to us to bring up our issues regarding our schools during the meeting;sat in the front and asked the minister what you have done about the issue of water that we have raised previously?

He said Reddy told him in front of the crowd that do not go to the media. If I am with them in the next election then my water will be given.

Mr Lebobo in his evidence continuously referred to a video which he was shown by FICAC during the early stages of investigation.

Mr Sharma had objected against the video being played in court as Mr Lebobo was not the author of the video and they felt that FICAC was trying to supplement his memory with a video.

It is highly prejudiced as the only evidence in the video is the Minister speech, said Mr Sharma.

Mr Aslam replied saying that the basis of objection was prejudice and that the prejudicial fact had no merit.

He said: The point is the subject matter recorded in the video which is about a question Mr Lebobo asked Reddy.

Mr Ratuvili overruled the objection and allowed the video to be played.

Mr Aslam further asked Mr Lebobo what he understood from Reddy’s statement about not going to the media.

Mr Lebobo replied saying that after TC Winston, he gave an interview to the media on a request for a boat from the Ministry of Education to assist students to go across as the Wainibuka bridge was damaged and students had to swim across to go to school.

He was further questioned on what Reddy had said about the elections during the talanoa session at Rakiraki.

Mr Lebobo said: He (Reddy) said if after election we go into government again, you will get your water so I thanked the minister and joked to others that we will get the water.

“I made an important choice that day because it was an important issue I raised. It made me want to wish that they go back into government.”

He said that the political party of his choice was SODELPA but after FijiFirst won the 2014 election he had always supported the Government.

During cross-examination Mr Sharma put it to Mr Lebobo that on the day of the talanoa session the elections had not been declared hence it was not confirmed who or which party will be running for the next election.

Mr Lebobo agreed.

Mr Sharma revealed that Mr Lebobo had written many letters to the Government requesting for treated water for the district of Ra as he was also the Chairman for the Tikina Council to which Mr Lebobo said yes.

When Mr Lebobo was questioned whether he had any personal grievances against Reddy, Mr Lebobo replied no, his my best friend.

Mr Lebobo confirmed that before TC Winston Ra High School had received a grant of $95,000 on Reddys approval after they had told him of all their problems regarding their facilities.

It was stated by him that they had to return the funds as two weeks later TC Winston had struck and the Government had asked for the funds back.

Mr Sharma questioned him regarding the school Audit report to which he said that the school had sent their audit report. Mr Lebobo said the ministry had sent a group of people who had audited a two months report in three hours and that they did not agree to the report prepared by the ministry.

He was asked if he was being paid as the school manager. He said that the annual general meeting (AGM) allowed him to receive an allowance.

Mr Sharma put it to him that school managers were not supposed to be paid and that he was willing to act against the direction of the ministry.

Mr Lebobo said it was the AGM that allowed it and that the school had two accounts. One for the Government grants and the other account contained the school money.

He was further questioned about funds amounting to $48,164.80 which was unaccounted for in 2016 under his watch.

Mr Lebobo said that it was according to the ministry audit report to which they did not agree to.

Mr Sharma asked: Were you apprehensive that you would be removed from the school as the manager by the ministry. He replied saying yes.

He was further questioned whether he had a motive to remove Reddy. He said that he did not want to remove him, however, the law said so.

He further told the court that he never made a complaint to FICAC and neither was he a complainant but rather it was FICAC that approached him and informed him about the alleged offence committed by Reddy.

The trial will continue tomorrow. There are four more prosecution witnesses left to take the stand.

Edited by Maraia Vula

Feedback: jessica.savike@fijisun.com.fj

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