NEWS

Wise Expected to Replace Ratu Suli

2018 SODELPA candidate, Albert Wise, is expected to replace the Tui Namosi, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, in Parliament.
07 Jul 2022 12:30
Wise Expected to Replace Ratu Suli
From left: Defence Lawyer, Filimone Vosarogo and Tui Namosi, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua outside Court on June 6, 2022. Photo: Ashna Kumar

2018 SODELPA candidate, Albert Wise, is expected to replace the Tui Namosi, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, in Parliament.

Yesterday, the former Member of Parliament was found guilty and convicted of one count each of giving false information to a public servant and obtaining financial advantage.

Matanitobua is the second parliamentarian from SODELPA found guilty and convicted for the breach. This follows Niko Nawaikula’s conviction and sentencing in May.

 

Anti-Corruption High Court Judge, Justice Thushara Kumarage, from Labasa, delivered the judgment through skype with a courtroom filled with Matanitobua’s friends, family, and supporters.

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) prosecuted Matanitobua for corruption and fraudulent conduct.

The Anti-Corruption High Court found that the MP breached the Parliamentary Remuneration Act of 2014 when he claimed travel and accommodation allowances, he was not entitled to.

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

 

Matanitobua 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.

FICAC produced 16 witnesses in the trial and marked 68 documents tendered for evidence while the defence had produced two witnesses and marked 14 documents.

In his judgment, Justice Kumarage said Matanitobua was actively involved in political activity in Fiji since 2000.

 

He added that Matanitobua served the country as the shadow Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports and the Court was of the view that he should have known and should not have had any doubts about the need for his permanent residency for the Parliamentary administration.

He said the Court was content that Matanitobua knowingly provided false information to the Office of the Secretary- General to the Parliament about his permanent residence in Namosi Village, Namosi.

Therefore, he said the court was satisfied that the element had been proved beyond reasonable doubt by FICAC.

 

Justice Kumarage said the court was also satisfied that FICAC had by inference proved beyond reasonable doubt that Matanitobua knew, with the information he was exposed to of the Parliamentary process, he would cause the Acting Secretary- General to reimburse his claims, which she would not have done if she knew that his permanent residence was not Namosi Village, Namosi.

He also said the court could not consider that Matanitobua was an amateur in relation to Parliamentary procedures and applicable laws in determining allowances and benefits for Parliamentarians, therefore, it was reasonable for the Court to presume that he was knowledgeable with time-tested experience.

He added that it was established by FICAC that Matanitobua was not permanently residing in Namosi Village, Namosi during the time period, and the Court could reach the conclusion that Matanitobua knew that he was not eligible to receive the subject financial advantage consequent to the false information provided by him to Parliament.

He said it was established that Matanitobua claimed his permanent residence to be other localities and not Namosi Village, Namosi to a few organisations, a few months before and a few months after making the declaration to the Parliament.

 

Justice Kumarage said through the evidence provided in court, it was demonstrated that Matanitobua participated in the Members of Parliament induction that highlighted the requirement for eligibility for reimbursement of claims tendered by Parliamentarians under the Parliamentary Remunerations Act of 2014.

He said that Matanitobua had all this information before submitting any of the claims to the Parliament.

Justice Kumarage also commended both the FICAC and the defence counsels and said that their approach in the trial was thoroughly appreciated by the Court.

Matanitobua has been given 30 days to appeal.

 

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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