Suspended Fiji Opposition MP Cleared Of Financial Charges

Ratu Isoa Tokoca says acquittal is 'major win for him politically'

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 20, 2017) – A suspended opposition MP in Fiji, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, says his court acquittal last week is a major win for him politically.

Ratu Isoa, who represented SODELPA in the Fiji parliament before being suspended in September last year was found not guilty last week of failing to declare his liabilities before the 2014 election.

He said the allegation that he owed the government more than US$45,000 was a set-up and he sees the case brought against him as a plan which ultimately backfired.

"Any chance that they could they put my case in the television and on the papers almost on a weekly basis, purposely doing it for character defamation and all that but I think the nation has looked at it otherwise.

"It's probably a plus for me."

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) charged Ratu Isoa, then the Opposition Whip, in April 2015 with one count of failing to declare liabilities under the Political Parties Decree.

He went on trial in the Suva Magistrates Court in January this year accused of not declaring debt he allegedly owed the Fijian government for school fees for his son while working as Fiji's High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea.

The former Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was summoned as one of the defence witnesses.

"The FICAC actually drilled me down to a level that I thought I was a murderer because of the treatment given to me, but I stood fast because I'm used to this type of situation," said Ratu Isoa.

On Friday Suva magistrate Makereta Mua found that Ratu Isoa did not owe any money to the government, saying that he had in fact overpaid by FJ$4037 (US$1958).

In an interview with RNZ International Ratu Isoa said he would wait for his lawyer's advice before deciding on whether to apply for the costs incurred over the trial.

Meanwhile he is awaiting the outcome of legal action over his suspension from parliament in September last year.

He has sought a judicial review of that decision which stemmed from a complaint by the prime minister Frank Bainimarama who had accused him of making a racist speech by listing the number of Muslims in high office in Fiji.

The decision, following two other suspensions of opposition MPs, drew criticism from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Ratu Isoa's two-year stint in parliament was also marked by a confrontation with the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum whom he had accused of corruption.

Ratu Isoa said the FICAC case had not deterred him from seeking re-election.

To the contrary, he had benefited from media attention which he said normally eluded Fiji's opposition parties.

"This has cleared my name and I am ready for the election and even today I am going out to the first village to go and explain to them that I had difficulty in trying to visit them because we need to clear this doubt first before I can then visit them."

Ratu Isoa said he was grateful to the magistrate who stood by her oath without fear or favour.

Radio New Zealand International
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