25 Sep 2007

Fiji inquiry hears claims of bribery and corruption during last year's election

10:11 am on 25 September 2007

The recent Commission of Inquiry into the Fiji general elections last year was told of alleged vote buying before and during the polls.

Radio Legend says one of the candidates for the Kadavu Fijian seat, Sir James Ah Koy, told the commission that in their campaign in the outer islands, they spent the night in what they thought was a hardware shop.

Sir James told the commission made up of G P Lala, Taufa Vakatake and Dr David Neilson that he and his campaign workers were surrounded by outboard motors, cane knives and agricultural implements.

Sir James said he later found out that the implements were being distributed through the agriculture ministry and were party gifts to the voters.

Sir James said he thought that the 13-million US dollar agriculture ministry scam to buy votes in 2001 had continued during last year's elections.

In another case a Labour Party candidate in Nadi, Vijay Prasad, told the commission that a village had been asking for road humps for years to slow down traffic, but in the week of the elections the prime minister campaigned there and the road humps were installed.

Another Labour Party witness, Maika Moroca, told of various road upgradings that began just before and continued during the election but were abandoned as soon as the elections were over.

The Commission says evidence suggests that there was more than just unintentional bias associated with the 2006 election.

The commissioners expressed deep concern about the number of reported incidents that indicated serious intentional corruption, especially around vote buying, vote casting and vote counting.

They also expressed concern about the serious and unacceptable blurring by the SDL of the distinctions between party, government and the broader state during last year's general election and throughout the whole SDL period of government from 2001.