30 Nov 2005

Former Rabuka minister attacks record of two of his former colleagues

11:47 am on 30 November 2005

It's been revealed in Fiji that the current finance minister, Ratu Jone Kubabola, was ordered to resign when he was chairman of Fiji Pine Ltd in the 1990s.

The Fiji Sun reports that the disclosure comes from the former minister for agriculture and forests in the Rabuka government, Miltoni Leweniqila, as Ratu Jone seeks parliamentary approval for a state guarantee for a 9 point 5 million US dollar loan to Fiji Pine.

Mr Leweniqila says Ratu Jone was told that if he did not resign, he would be sacked because he had failed in his duty as chairman of Fiji Pine.

Mr Leweniqila says the current forestry minister, Konisi Yabaki, who was managing director of Fiji Pine at the time and another board member, Navitalai Naisoro, were also later removed by his ministry.

Mr Leweniqila says it is a very sad day for the pine industry that Mr Naisoro is now the chairman of both Fiji Pine and Tropik Woods Ltd.

He says a service contract for Mr Yabaki drawn up by Mr Naisoro on November 9th 1998 was described as a fraudulent document by the company's legal advisers, Young and Associates.

A letter from Young and Associates, dated January 27th 1999, said " both Mr Yabaki and the chairman were in collusion with each other in the execution of the contract."

The revelations have been made in the middle of a controversy over repeated complaints by indigenous landowners of low returns from their pine forests.