3 Dec 2004

Accused Fiji minister to retain his portfolio

2:22 pm on 3 December 2004

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says his information minister, Simione Kaitani, will retain his portfolio despite facing serious coup-related charges.

Fiji TV quotes Mr Qarase as saying Kaitani's position will be the same as those of two other Cabinet ministers who are before the courts for coup offences.

Kaitani and four others were arrested and remanded in custody until they were brought before the court yesterday

They have been charged with taking illegal oaths to become purported ministers in George Speight's failed administration the day after the coup.

This is the same charge on which deputy speaker Vakalabure, former vice-president Seniloli and three others were found guilty and jailed in August.

The magistrate's court has referred the case to the High Court because of the seriousness of the charge.

Kaitani and the others were released on bail after they surrendered their passports, and were ordered to report to a police station every Sunday until they reappear in court on January the 28th.

Meanwhile, the ruling SDL party has congratulated the indigenous Fijian population for maintaining law and order, despite what the party says is the humiliation some of their chiefs have been subjected to by the courts in recent weeks.