Solomons Government Must Settle Moti Claims: Sogavare

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Former PM says settlement money must not be from taxpayers

By Ellliot Dawea

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 16, 2014) – The Solomon Islands government must settle Julian Moti’s claim, but not from tax-payers’ money, a former prime minister says.

Manasseh Sogavare, who brought controversial Fijian-born Australian lawyer Mr Moti, to be his attorney-general in 2007, offered the suggestion in an interview with the Solomon Star on Wednesday.

"This government must fulfil the promise Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo made in parliament last month to settle Mr Moti’s claim," Mr Sogavare said.

"But money for the settlement must not come from tax-payers.

"Those who are responsible for Mr Moti’s illegal deportation must be made to meet this obligation from their pockets.

"Tax-payers shouldn’t be burden with this settlement," Mr Sogavare said.

He added tax-payers must not be forced to pay for the actions of a few ignorant officials who handled Mr Moti’s deportation and refused to take proper legal advice.

Mr Moti was deported at the behest of the Australian Government to face allegations of child sex offences in Australian courts, just a few months after taking on the job.

But the courts later found the allegations to be politically motivated and cleared Mr Moti of the charges.

The deportation occurred after Mr Sogavare fell from power in a motion of no-confidence in parliament.

Dr Derek Sikua, now Opposition leader, took over and facilitated the deportation request from the Australian government.

After he was cleared from the allegations by the Australian courts, Mr Moti wrote to the Solomon Islands government seeking compensation for "his illegal deportation and premature termination of his contract."

Prime Minister Lilo last month told parliament the government will pay Mr Moti his dues in an out-of-court settlement.

The exact amount of settlement has not been disclosed.

But Dr Sikua said he disagreed with the government’s decision and has written to Mr Lilo about it.

The Government last week dispatched Attorney General Billy Titiulu and MP Bradley Tovosia to meet Mr Moti in Australia over the issue.

Mr Titiulu yesterday confirmed meeting Mr Moti in Australia last week.

He said he will report to cabinet today about the meeting before the details could be made public.

Commenting on the deportation, Mr Titiulu said those who facilitated the process acted illegally because under the law, Mr Moti should be given a probation period to appeal the decision in the courts.

"This was not done in this case," he said.

But many critics have questioned Mr Titiulu handling the case, saying Mr Titiulu and Mr Moti were once partners in the Honiara-based Pacific Law firm.

"Mr Titiulu is not the right person to deal with this issue. There’s a perceived conflict of interest with him handling the case," one critic said.

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