21 May 2002

Fiji parliament rejects juducial probe of agriculture ministry scam

8:24 am on 21 May 2002

Fiji's parliament has rejected a motion calling for a judicial inquiry into the 13 million US dollar agriculture ministry scam allegedly used to buy votes in last year's general election.

The Labour Party, which moved the motion, had wanted 12 government MPs, including the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, to be disqualified from voting because they were part of the then interim administration.

But the deputy speaker, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, rejected the request which would have resulted in a win for the Labour motion.

The Fiji Sun quotes Mr Qarase as saying a judicial inquiry was not necessary because police and the public service commission were already carrying out investigatios into the abuse.

Mr Qarase said the judicial inquiry would be open to manipulation by the Labour Party, adding that irregularities such as misuse of public money was nothing new - in fact they were as old as government itself.

But the Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, said indigenous Fijians had been used to justify coup and now a scam.