The National Federation Party (NFP) provisional candidate, Pradeep Chandra, is being charged with one count of racial or religious vilification under the Electoral Act of 2014. Mr Chandra, who is
25 Aug 2018 11:59
National Federation Party provisional candidate Pradeep Chandra.

The National Federation Party (NFP) provisional candidate, Pradeep Chandra, is being charged with one count of racial or religious vilification under the Electoral Act of 2014.

Mr Chandra, who is also the human resources officer of Dayal’s Quarries Limited in Ba, appeared in the Ba Magistrates Court yesterday. Despite the charges being laid against him, Chandra will remain a provisional candidate of NFP.

This was confirmed by the Party leader, Biman Prasad.

“We are aware of the charges brought against Mr Chandra. He remains a provisional candidate for NFP. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Our belief in Mr Chandra does not change simply because he has been charged by FICAC. The matter is now before the court and everyone should now leave this matter to the courts to decide,” Mr Prasad said.

The case:

It is alleged that Mr Chandra made statements encouraging and inciting hatred towards the Muslim community in the country in June and July this year.

The allegations were first brought to light when Fiji Sun reported on the matter when three people came forward and spoke on record and one spoke on the condition of anonymity. They alleged that these comments were made by Mr Chandra when he started his campaign in Nukuloa in Ba. A golf buddy of Mr Chandra also came forward and alleged that similar comments were made by Mr Chandra on the golf course in Ba.

FICAC lawyer Sam Savumiramira told the court that first phase disclosures was served and they were not objecting to bail.

Chandra appeared before Magistrate Samuela Qica who granted his bail with a bail bond of $800, one surety and to report to the nearest Police station twice a month.

He was also instructed not to reoffend and not to interfere with prosecution witnesses. Lawyer Navin Padarath represented Chandra.

The matter was adjourned to October 22, for second phase disclosures to be served.

NFP’s stance:

During the NFP annual general meeting in Ba last month, Party leader Prasad had acknowledged the allegations dogging his provisional candidate and defended Mr Chandra while putting the blame on Fiji Sun for highlighting the allegations.

He had said: “This week the Fiji Sun has joined the FijiFirst Party, playing the politics of race and religion. Pradeep Chandra, our Ba provisional candidate, was accused of anti-Muslim remarks. These accusations are false. Very soon the Fiji Sun will be hearing from our lawyers.”

This is not the first NFP candidate to be charged for a crime. Another NFP provisional candidate is fronting court charged with rape. He has since resigned from the Party. Another candidate, Romanu Tikotikoca, was also accused of rape. It is alleged he raped a woman while he was the High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea. He also resigned from the Party after Fiji Sun reported the allegations against him.

FICAC warns:

In a statement issued yesterday, FICAC encouraged the public to be vigilant about politically motivated speeches which incite hatred or violence against any person, group of people or against any race or religion.

“The public is reminded that engaging in any of the above practices is unlawful and should they come across this at any instance, they should lodge a complaint with FICAC by calling toll-free line 1322,” it said.

“Inciting hatred towards race or religion is a detestable form of campaigning and it is not in the public or national interest to take such statements lightly. FICAC reminds all political parties and aspiring candidates to refrain from this type of campaigning as severe actions will be taken against individuals doing this.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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