CONVICTED FIJI SENATOR GETS LEAVE WITH PAY

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By Frederica Elbourne

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Mar. 16) - A Fiji senator convicted of complicity in the country’s 2000 coup yesterday won approval of his application for indefinite leave from the Upper House with full pay, a move, which the Parliament Secretariat defended and said should be respected.

Government nominee to the Upper House Ratu Inoke Takiveikata had applied for leave pending an appeal against his conviction in the High Court of Suva. This was approved in February, said Secretary to Parliament Mary Chapman.

The decision by the Speaker of the Lower House, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, which declared as vacant his deputy’s seat after Rakuita Vakalalabure’s absence in two sessions, should not compare to Senate president of Senate Taito Waqavakatoga’s ruling to a similar matter.

"The independence of both Houses must be respected. This is Ratu Inoke’s first application, which has been approved as was done to Rakuita’s initial application for the same," Chapman said. Ratu Inoke was convicted last year of mutiny-related charges and serves his sentence at Korovou prison.

Chapman said he would continue to collect his salary as a senator, which is about $19,000 according to the Emoluments and Benefits Commission report of 2003.

His term in Senate will be determined after a ruling by the High Court on his appeal against his sentence and conviction.

He remains one of the three high chiefs of the Naitasiri Province where he holds the title Qaranivalu.

March 17, 2005

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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