By RNZ Pacific
The leader of Fiji’s main opposition party, Sitiveni Rabuka, was today charged by anti-corruption investigators, apparently over “anomalies” in his financial declarations.
The SODELPA leader, who is a former prime minister and was the first coup leader in 1987, was called in for questioning last night and for much of this morning before the charges were announced at about midday.
He was due to appear in court later today.
In a brief statement outside the Suva offices of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC), Rabuka’s lawyer Lynda Tabuya confirmed he had been charged with a regulatory offence.
RNZ Pacific understands the charges relate to an alleged anomaly in his financial declarations for 2017, a requirement under the Political Parties Decree. Rabuka maintained his innocence.
Rabuka is not currently an MP, so SODELPA’s makeup in parliament will not be affected by the charges. However, this does throw a spanner into the party’s plans ahead of elections scheduled for later this year, on a date yet to be announced.
The instigator of both 1987 coups, Rabuka was made party leader in 2016 to go up against Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, the FijiFirst leader and instigator of the 2006 coup.
In his statement, Rabuka hinted that the charges could be politically motivated.
“We are under attack,” he said to a group of journalists outside the offices.
“So many forces coming against us at this time, the only thing we can do is appeal to the supreme strength, and that is God.”
In an earlier video statement posted to his Facebook page, Rabuka called for supporters to remain calm.
“I urge all members to remain steadfast and not to panic. If I go I go, others will be there to continue the race.”
Earlier this week, in an interview with RNZ Pacific, Rabuka criticised what he considered a lack of democratic freedoms in Fiji, particularly the sedition laws under which The Fiji Times, a letter writer, and senior journalist were being tried and acquitted.
The SODELPA leader is the second member of the opposition party to be taken in by ICAC this parliamentary term, after the MP Ratu Isoa Tikoca was charged and suspended.
He was acquitted last year.
This RNZ Pacific news item is published under a content sharing agreement with the Pacific Media Centre.