Friday, January 04, 2008

Tui Cakau Defies Voreqe

Chief defies election ban
MARIA BURESE-LIGA
Thursday, January 03, 2008

THE Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu says he will contest the next general election despite a warning that former convicts will not be allowed to stand.

Ratu Naiqama, who was sentenced last year for his involvement in the events of 2000, questioned who interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama was to force the People's Charter on citizens of this country.

The paramount chief said the Constitution allowed him to stand for election.

Speaking on the Fijian television program, Noda Gauna, Commodore Bainimarama reiterated his warning that those with previous convictions would not be permitted to run for a parliamentary seat because the People's Charter would make certain of it.

But Ratu Naiqama said: "Who is he (Bainimarama) to judge. He cannot force the charter on the people. The charter is illegal and can only be made legal by a Parliament. As far as I'm concerned the Constitution is still supreme."

He questioned whether Commodore Bainimarama would allow interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, who also had a past conviction, to contest the election.

"Chaudhry was convicted for manslaughter in 1978 in a hit-and-run road accident. Will Bainimarama, if he plans to disqualify people like me, also disqualify Chaudhry?"

Mr Chaudhry was sentenced to nine months imprisonment for failing to stop after the accident but was released on a Compulsory Supervision Order three days later.

During the ousted government's tenure, then Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase drew the media's attention to the manslaughter case in response Mr Chaudhry's criticism of Government decisions to show leniency to those convicted of involvement in the 2000 coup.

They included former vice-president, Ratu Jope Seniloli and Ratu Naiqama a former Lands Minister.

Ratu Naiqama said the ousted Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) Party had plans to contest the election and win big because "we have a lot of unfinished business".

"The SDL is a very mature party and we are going to stand and win and Bainimarama cannot take that away from us," the former minister said.

"If he really thinks the charter will stop us from exercising our constitutional rights, then he is wrong. If he tries to force the charter on us we will take the matter to court for a decision.

"The SDL has been fully observing the rule of law and we will take matters to court if the need arises," Ratu Naiqama said.

The chief referred to a speech by ousted Vice-President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi where Ratu Joni spoke strongly about the Constitution as something Commodore Bainimarama should take heed of.

"Ratu Joni made it quite clear the Constitution was in place and should be followed otherwise abrogate it. That was Ratu Joni's advice.

"So Commodore Bainimarama really should think hard and long before making comments about who can stand and who cannot."

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