16 Dec 2005

Fiji opposition senators accused of cowardice over mahogany corruption claims

2:09 pm on 16 December 2005

Fiji opposition senators have been accused of cowardice in claiming there's corrupt links between the highest level of government and the mahogany industry.

The secretary of the main government party, the SDL, Jale Baba, has denied accusations of receiving government favours by being contracted to the Fiji Hardwood Corporation to harvest mahogany in Tailevu.

Opposition senators questioned why Mr Baba had been offered a loan of 47-thousand US dollars from the Fiji Development Bank and wrote the debt off in six months.

Mr Baba says that's a baseless accusation.

"That's a cowardly way to attack a person, to go and do it in parliament. They say that my loan was written off after six months, I've put in an application for a loan, and I think I waited six months for my loan to be finally approved, and I'm still paying for it."

Mr Baba is accused of operating a banned circular saw, and the prime minister's son, Laisenia Qarase Junior, was offered a contract to haul the mahogany from the forest at Sote.