NEWS

Minister for Lands Ashneel Sudhakar Sacked Over Sexual Harassment Allegations

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has dismissed the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Ashneel Sudhakar.
14 Mar 2020 09:27
Minister for Lands Ashneel Sudhakar Sacked Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
Ashneel Sudhakar.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has dismissed the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Ashneel Sudhakar.

He acted after Mr Sudhakar refused to resign as minister and a FijiFirst member of Parliament over allegations of sexual harassment.

The party would have to initiate an internal disciplinary hearing against him. If he is expelled from the party, he will automatically lose his seat in Parliament.

At a press conference yesterday, Attorney-General and FijiFirst Party General Secretary Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum, said Mr Bainimarama had the power to dismiss ministers under the Constitution.

“He (Mr Sudhakar) has chosen to go down that path and as we have already said that there is a particular formal process that needs to be followed, which will commence by next week and then we will go through the particular process and then a decision will be made,” Mr Sayed- Khaiyum said.

Mr Sudhakar has strongly denied the allegations and threatened legal action.

The handover of duties was held yesterday with the Acting Permanent Secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Craig Strong, who will now oversee the ministry.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the party believed in women’s empowerment and had in place policies that they, “not only talk about, but adhere to.

“We gave him the option to resign both as minister and as a member of Parliament because we believe it was not good for him personally and also for the party itself,” he said.

“The honourable Prime Minister and the FijiFirst Government are very much against sexual harassment.”

Mr Bainimarama will now appoint an acting minister or a substantive minister in Mr Sudhakar’s place.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “If you look at the Constitution in respect of disciplinary matters it does say that an action can be brought against a member of Parliament by the particular political party subject to them (party) following the procedures laid out in the Constitution or the procedures of that particular political party.”

A disciplinary committee will be put together to hear all the evidence brought by both parties before it makes a decision and the party takes over.

“We are dealing with this matter not from a criminal perspective but from a matter of expectant standard of behaviour required of a public office holder in particular a minister and also an MP.

“Political parties may have different standards that they adhere to but we take this matter very seriously. We don’t believe that matters of sexual harassment should be treated lightly or swept under the carpet and in particular when you do get a formal complaint that’s been lodged. That’s stated in our constitution. The Constitution of the office holders.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there were other complaints against Mr Sudhakar, however, the complainants were not forthcoming.

“There were other people who had in the past told us issues or anecdotes but nobody’s willing to come forward and it becomes difficult.

“In this particular instance there’s now a statutory declaration in place which has kind of led to other people coming forward and giving verbal representation or sending us text messages that they saw as untoward behaviour.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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