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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, August 25) – Opposition leader Fred Fono has scorned Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare's handpicking of two Australian lawyers to top posts in the country.

Mr Sogavare intends to hire controversial Australian lawyer Julian Moti, as the country's next Attorney General.

Recently, he had appointed retired Australian Federal court judge Justice Marcus Einfeld as chairman of the April riot inquiry.

"The handpicking of these two Australian lawyers by the prime minister now backfires on him," Mr Fono said yesterday.

His comments came amidst revelation of Moti's previous conduct and dealings in both Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

Moti was once declared a prohibited immigrant by the Solomon Islands Government, over alleged political interference.

In 1998 he faced charges of statutory rape, involving a 13-year-old girl, in Vanuatu.

The girl alleged that Moti raped and molested her.

Moti denied that and he was never convicted, on the charges that arose from the allegations.

When the criminal case was thrown out of the court on a technicality, the girl launched a civil case against him.

That was suddenly settled, out of court, under a deed of agreement.

Mr Einfeld, a well-known human rights lawyer, is facing a fraud squad investigation into evidence he gave to a Sydney Magistrates court recently that allowed him to avoid a $77 speeding fine.

He told the Downing Centre Local Court that at the time of the offence in January he had lent his car to professor Teresa Brennan, who had been visiting from Florida.

It later emerged that Brennan, an Australian-born academic, had died in 2003.

It has also emerged that two US university doctorates Mr Einfeld lists in his official CV were conferred by institutions which some claim are little more than "diploma mills".

Pacific Western University, which awarded one of the two doctorates claimed by Mr Einfeld, was investigated by the US Government Accountability Office and named in Congress in 2004 for handing out doctorates for the flat fee of US$2595 (SI$20,061).

Pacific Western University, which is based in San Diego, is not accredited by the American Bar Association or the Association of American Law Schools.

Mr Einfeld also said he holds a doctorate of laws from Century University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is also unaccredited with the ABA or the AALS.

Mr Fono said the Government has failed miserably to consult widely and get an intelligent check on the status and credibility of the two people.

"Honiara-based embassies, the Interpol and even the Central Bank of Solomon Islands can provide such information," Mr Fono said.

He said foreigners needed to have clean police records in their own countries before the Government could engage them on important constitutional posts and public offices.

August 28, 2006

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