24 Dec 2003

Fiji Labour leader calls for public inquiry into alleged corruption in fisheroies ministry

2:15 pm on 24 December 2003

The Fiji Labour Party has called for a public inquiry into the fisheries scandal in which senior officials are alleged to have been receiving cash in return for issuing licenses.

Radio Fiji quotes the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, as saying a public inquiry is necessary because police cannot be trusted to investigate it.

Mr Chaudhry says public confidence in the police force and the force's impartiality is fast waning because there have been no arrests in the 13 million US dollar agriculture ministery scam, the Public Works Department scam and others.

He says this is particularly so where ministers and senior officials are concerned.

Fiji's fisheries minister, Konisi Yabaki, the permanent secretary for fisheries Vuetisau Buatoka, his director, Maciu Lagibalavu, and deputy director, Malakai Tuiloa, are facing allegations of corruption.

The managing director of Fiji Fish Limited, Graham Southwick, has written to the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, seeking the suspension of the three officials from the fisheries licensing committee until investigations are over.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says ministers and officials should do the right thing and step aside, instead of waiting for the prime minister to decide.