SUVA, Fiji (Sept. 30) – The best thing the Minister for Multi-Ethnic Affairs, George Shiu Raj, can do for his party, his government and his country today is resign.

The Auditor General found evidence of wrongdoing sufficiently serious to report the matter to the police and the minister’s response has been to let his chief executive officer take the inevitable flak. It’s not good enough.

The chief executive officer in the Ministry of Labor, Brian Singh, accused of identical misbehavior, has been suspended and the question the public is asking today is why should the minister be treated any differently? The excuse that Mr Singh is subject to the Public Service Commission regulations while Mr Shiu Raj is not amounts to a smokescreen. Both are bound by the rules of common decency, as are those who purport to enforce them.

Mr Raj is accused of taking business class air tickets, traveling economy class and pocketing the difference. He has said through his CEO that he has repaid the money. But to repay it, he must first have taken it, something the police will doubtless seek to establish. The silence of the Government on this issue speaks volumes. The Auditor General’s report cites strong evidence that will be difficult to counter, though Mr Raj should be given every opportunity to do so. The public expects no less.

However, it also expects that the Government should apply the same rigorous rules it rightly applies to the civil service to those within its own ranks, regardless of the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is far more important in this instance. George Shiu Raj cannot sensibly continue to serve as a government minister with such serious allegations hanging over his head. Indeed, the government he serves is damaged by every day he remains in office under such circumstances. He should voluntarily step aside until such time as the allegations are proved or disproved. If he will not do so, the Prime Minister has little choice but to remove him.

September 30, 2004



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