February 4, 2023

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Ratu Suliano lied about his permanent residence: Justice Kumarage

Opposition MP Ratu Suliano Matanitobua after his verdict today.

The High Court today ruled that former Opposition MP Ratu Suliano Matanitobua is not a permanent resident of Namosi and Veivatuloa Village in Namosi.

Justice Thushara Kumarage said the court recognizes that the phrase “permanent residence” does not seem to have an all-encompassing definition in the legal literature and has been determined subjectively on the relevant circumstances.

He said the court perceives that in identifying a suitable definition for the phrase “Permanent Residence” for the contentious reimbursements made by the Parliament to the accused, it is useful to comprehend available determinations for the two words independently and apply the circumstances to determine the definition subjectively.

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Justice Kumarage adds that the word “permanent” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, “lasting or remaining unchanged indefinitely, or intended to be so; not temporary”.

The high court said the evidence given during the trial confirmed that Ratu Suliano does not own a house in Namosi Village and he was not permanently residing in Veivatuloa village from the year 2014 until 2022.

However, he said several witnesses claimed that as the paramount chief of Namosi, Ratu Suliano owns the people, animals, and land in the province.

He said Ratu Suliano was entitled and recognized by his people as a leader and he was impressed with the level of respect that was shown by the witnesses during the trial.

Justice Kumarage said the paramount chief’s third locality in question was whether the MP was occupying a home at Fletcher Road in Vatuwaqa.

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The question of whether Ratu Suliano was physically residing in Vatuwaqa was confirmed by a few witnesses who stated that they had visited him during the time in question.

He said the evidence presented in court proved that Ratu Suliano knowingly submitted false information to the former Secretary-General to Parliament Viniana Namosimalua.

The second count of the charge is related to the first count of the offense and according to the judge, Ratu Suliano knowingly submitted those financial claims even though he was aware of the consequence.

As a seasoned politician and leader, Justice Kumarage said Ratu Suliano was aware of the Parliamentary regulations in place and the Fijian Constitution stated that everyone should be treated equally before the law.

As a result of his actions, the Social Democratic Liberal Party MP obtained over $38,300 between August 2019 and April 2020.

Ratu Suliano has been convicted of one count of giving false information to a public servant and one count of obtaining a financial advantage.

The matter has been adjourned to July 29 to confirm the sentencing submissions date.