15 Apr 2005

Fiji government says two politicians serving jail sentences extramurally will keep their seats

10:25 am on 15 April 2005

The Fiji government has confirmed that two prominent politicians released days after they were jailed for coup related offences will not lose their parliamentary seats.

The Attorney General, Qoriniasi Bale, says the jailed former minister for lands, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, and government senator, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, can keep their seats because they are serving their sentences extramurally.

Their release at discretion of the commissioner of prisons, Aisea Taoka, came 11 days after they were jailed for eight months for their role in the Labasa army mutiny, at the height of the 2000 coup.

Mr Bale says that under the constitution the two can attend meetings of the House of Representatives and Upper House while doing public works as part of their sentence.

"Release on extramural punishment generally, because their sentences are less than 12 months, they are not disqualified, they are not required to vacate their seat in parliament."

Mr Bale says the government is committed to doing what is legally permissible.