Namosimalua, witnesses testifying at Ratu Suliano’s trial

The MP is accused of breaching the 2014 Parliamentary Pay Act when they demanded travel and accommodation allowances to which they were not entitled.

Former Secretary General of Parliament Viniana Namosimalua at the High Court in Suva on May 19, 2022. Photo: Leon Lord

Parliament’s affidavit forms contain no reference to criminal proceedings where Members of Parliament have given false information.

This was revealed yesterday by former Parliament Secretary Viniana Namosimalua during cross-examination on the second day of trial in the case of SODELPA MP Ratu Suliano Matanitobua.

MP Ratu Suliano Matanitobua at the Supreme Court in Suva on May 19, 2022. Photo: Leon Lord

Matanitobua is being charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) on one count of providing false information to an official and on one count of obtaining a financial advantage.

The MP is accused of breaching the 2014 Parliamentary Pay Act when they demanded travel and accommodation allowances to which they were not entitled.

Matanitobua reportedly falsely stated that his permanent residence was in Namosi Village and received $38,378.22 between August 2019 and April 2020.

Matanitobua’s attorney, Filimoni Vosarogo, questioned the witness whether the form said anything that the contents of the form were read to the applicant, the applicant understood the contents, the contents of the statement were read back and the applicant understood the contents before signing had.

Ms. Namosimalua said this was not the case.

Mr. Vosarogo questioned the Witness if anywhere on the form was it mentioned that the purpose of its filing was to establish eligibility for the allowances.

Mrs. Namosimalua said no.

She also revealed in court that the Prime Minister had sent her a Viber message expressing his concerns about allegations against some MPs claiming aid.

She also said that a month later the Prime Minister sent her another Viber message asking what her office had done in relation to the allegations against the MPs.

Ms Namosimalua said her response was that she was awaiting the response of then-Attorney General Sharvada Sharma, from whom she had sought legal advice. She also said the economy minister also inquired about the matter at a parliamentary referral, amid talks about allegations that MPs were receiving allowances to which they were not entitled.

Ms Namosimalua said she had briefed the Speaker of Parliament on what was going on in relation to the allegations and talks and was told to try to look into the matter internally.

She said in a telephone conversation between Mr Sharma and her that she had been advised to report the matter to FIAC.

She had visited the opposition office and met with MPs to discuss the allegations, but Matanitobua was not there.

She then did not attempt to contact the MP about the allegations.

FICAC witness Peniasi Daveta

Mr. Daveta told the court that he had completed the Matanitobua aid application forms.

He said the forms were signed by Matanitobua and later filled out by him to help with the claims.

He said the forms had been checked by his senior official before being submitted to Parliament’s office of the secretary-general.

He said in the form he had written 86 kilometers as the distance between Namosi and Suva, as stated by Matanitobua.

FICAC witness Sarwesh Narayan

Mr. Narayan is Chief Financial Officer in the Fiji Parliament.

Mr. Vosarogo questioned the witness, if an MP had traveled 31 kilometers from Parliament, whether the MP was entitled to claim an allowance.

Mr. Narayan said yes.

He said the amount claimed for food and lodging is the same for all MPs, even though their permanent residence is more than 30 kilometers from Parliament.

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