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Judge: If Not Nipped In The Bud, Conduct Of MPs Could Spread Like Fungus

Salote Radrodro will spend the next 30 months in jail. The former SODELPA MP was found guilty and convicted of giving false information to a public servant and of obtaining financial advantage.
23 Sep 2022 09:39
Judge: If Not Nipped In The Bud, Conduct Of MPs Could Spread Like Fungus
Lawyer, Simione Valenitabua, with his client and former SODELPA MP Salote Radrodro as she is escorted by a Police officer following her sentencing outside the court house in Suva on September 22, 2022. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Salote Radrodro will spend the next 30 months in jail. The former SODELPA MP was found guilty and convicted of giving false information to a public servant and of obtaining financial advantage.

Radrodro breached the Parliamentary Remuneration Act of 2014 when she claimed travel and accommodation allowances she was not entitled to amounting to $37,921.13 between June 2019 and April 2020 by falsely stating to the parliament in a Member of Parliament Declaration form that her permanent place of residence was in Namulomulo Village, Nabouwalu, Bua, which was 30 kilometres away from the parliament.

Radrodro has been sentenced to a total of 36 months imprisonment out of which 30 months she has to serve with a non-parole period of 24 months and the remaining six months is suspended for a period of five years.

 

While delivering his sentence, Anti-Corruption High Court Judge Justice Dr Thushara Kumarage said in comprehending the gravity of the offences committed by Radrodro, he was mindful that the maximum punishment for the offence of tendering false information to a public servant was an imprisonment term of five years while the maximum punishment for obtaining financial advantage was 10 years.

He said in the absence of a confirmed tariff regime enunciated by the superior courts in our country for the two offences Radrodro committed, without venturing into a mathematical archetype of additions and deductions to reach the applicable sentence.

So he intended to take guidance from the pronouncement made by Justice Marsoof of the Supreme Court of Fiji with a two-tiered process.

However, the Judge said in determining the appropriate sentence for Radrodro, he intended to depart from the two-tiered process and adopt an instinctive process of reasoning in arriving at the final determination.

 

Judge’s Comments

He said at the time of committing the offences, Radrodro was a parliamentarian of this country for several years.

And the court was of the view she was well aware she was reposed with trust and responsibility on behalf of her voters and had a responsibility to the Fijian Constitution by the oath of office and oath of allegiance she took in parliament.

He said the level of trust that was posed on her by her voters was of the highest degree and by breaching the laws; she had committed the highest breach of trust in the eyes of the general public and to the Parliament.

 

He said this was a case where a Parliamentarian had misused allowances provided to Parliamentarians through the Parliament Remuneration Act of 2014 by the use of public money, in recognition of the onerous duty expected from the MPs.

He said in recognising that if not nipped in the bud, conduct of this nature by honourable MPs could spread like a fungus and corrupt the political culture of this country and bring the apparatus of the Government to a standstill.

Justice Dr Kumarage said in Radrodro’s capability of claiming a large amount of public money during a short period of time in the commission of these offences, it was contended that Radrodro claimed reimbursements from the parliament when there was no actual expenses incurred by her.

 

He said on the nights when Radrodro claimed public money on the premise that she was out of her station in Namulomulo, she was in fact sleeping in her own bed and eating her own food in the company of her husband at her home in Tacirua Heights, Suva.

He said as alluded by Radrodro during the trial the lack of facilities available for our security personal at border control posts in rural areas, in hindsight, the money Radrodro wrongfully claimed from the public coffers could have been used by the authorities to provide better facilities to our border control officers who were executing a very important responsibility in providing border security and protection to our nation.

The Judge said he could not agree with the submission in relation to losing earnings.

 

The Judge said according to the law of our country, if someone committed an offence, regardless of the designation, that person needed to be punished according to the contours of the existing law.

Justice Dr Kumarage, considering the espoused circumstances of this case, noticed that this was an appropriate case where an aggregated sentence could be imposed.

The Judge warned Radrodro that if she committed any crime punishable by imprisonment during the operational period of five years and found guilty by the court, she was liable to be charged and prosecuted for an offence.

 

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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