NEWS

 Tui Namosi’s Fate To Be Decided On July 1

It was alleged that the MP breached the Parliamentary Re­muneration Act of 2014 when he claimed travel and accommoda­tion allowances he was not enti­tled to.
21 Jun 2022 17:06
 Tui Namosi’s Fate To Be Decided On July 1
SODELPA Member of Parliament, Tui Namosi, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua (right) alongside his legal counsel Filimoni Vosarogo at the High Court in Suva on June 20, 2022. Photo: Leon Lord

On July 1, Tui Namosi, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua will know his fate on whether the Anti-Corruption High Court will set him free or not.

The Fiji Independent Commis­sion Against Corruption (FICAC) charged Matanitobua with one count of false information to a public servant and one count of obtaining financial advantage.

It was alleged that the MP breached the Parliamentary Re­muneration Act of 2014 when he claimed travel and accommoda­tion allowances he was not enti­tled to.

The allegations were brought by the former Parliament Secretary-General, Viniana Namosimalua.

Matanitobua was alleged to have falsely stated that his permanent place of residence was in Namosi village, Namosi, and allegedly ob­tained $38,378.22 between August 2019 and April 2020.

The trial was presided by Judge Justice Thushara Kumarage at the Anti-Corruption High Court in Suva.

Defence

In closing submissions on Mon­day, defence lawyer Filimoni Vosa­rogo said FICAC had not provided what they stated as the true place of residence as opposed to Namosi Village.

He said FICAC’s first two wit­nesses who were the village head­man and former village headman had accepted that Matanitobua lived and had a place of residence at Namosi Village.

He further stated that there was no evidence provided to the court that on November 26, 2018, during the induction workshop, his client was aware of the requirements of the statutory declaration and did not identify that it was needed for the purpose of allowance.

Mr Vosarogo said the form con­tained more than that which was sought to be criminalised by Pros­ecution.

Issue

He added that the issue of perma­nent residence was not defined in the Parliamentary Remuneration Act of 2014 nor in any other Act.

He said Tui Namosi was never a visitor to Namosi Village but owned the land where the village was situated.

He said Matanitobua belonged to the villagers as their chief.

He further added that by defini­tion of a statutory declaration, because it was called a Member of Parliament Statutory decla­ration form, it lacked form, and most importantly, the jurat was non-compliant when Section 3 of the Statutory Declaration Act 1970 stated that it must be in the form provided in the schedule.

Mr Vosarogo said because of that, the basis and genesis of the entire case were flawed.

He added that Matanitobua’s other statutory organisation’s residential addresses reflected Veivatuloa Village in Namosi as his permanent residence.

FICAC did not prove that on November 26, 2018, Ratu Suliano had the necessary criminal mind, which was necessary to complete the prohibited conduct of giving false information.

FICAC

FICAC Commissioner and senior counsel Rashmi Aslam said FI­CAC had established its case and where Matanitobua was residing.

He added that despite the fact that one held a position in society when it came to the Rule of Law, everyone was treated equally.

He said Matanitobua lied about his permanent residential address being Namosi Village.

He then said that the question was why he stated Namosi Vil­lage as his permanent address if he was residing in Veivatuloa Vil­lage.

Mr Aslam said the MPs could only claim for the travelling and meal allowances if they were trav­elling outside of the 30-kilometre radius and Veivatuloa was within the 30 km radius.

He said Matanitobua, despite be­ing the Tui Namosi, should not be treated differently from other or­dinary citizens.

Equal status

He said the criminal courts did not differentiate between people and all Fijians had equal status and identity under the Law.

Mr Aslam said Matanitobua was the Tui Namosi which was by tra­dition and that tradition was dif­ferent from the law.

He said the MPs were expected to use the taxpayers’ money with care and transparency.

Mr Aslam said apart from the Parliament, no other statutory organisations’ addresses of Ma­tanitobua were linked to Namosi Village.

He said the intention of the MP from the beginning was to make the claim on the basis that he was residing at Namosi Village.



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