19 Jun 2002

Former Fiji interim administration taken to court over agriculture ministry scam

9:28 am on 19 June 2002

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and his entire post-coup interim administration are being taken to court in connection with the 13 million US dollar farming asssistance scam.

Fiji TV says the action has been brought by the suspended head of the agriculture ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba.

Mr Kunatuba is seeking a court order that the 26-member interim cabinet repay the money used in the scam because they benefitted from it in last year's general election.

In papers filed before the high court, Mr Kunatuba asks why the interim cabinet allowed the money to be spent after the appeal court had validated the 1997 constitution in March last year.

He says once this declaration was made, the interim administration knew it was illegal to spend the money without parliamentary approval.

The writ alleges that ministers at the time spent millions of dollars in distributing farming implements throughout Fiji.

Mr Kunatuba says he and other officials of the agriculture ministry have been made scapegoats for the action of others.

His legal action comes just ahead of today's hearings where he is supposed to answer charges brought against him by the public service commission.