Magistrate Puamau acknowledges High Court findings

March 18, 2024 12:32 pm

Former Prime Voreqe Bainimarama (left) and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho

Magistrate Seini Puamau did not pronounce former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho guilty this morning as directed by Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo.

However, Puamau acknowledged the findings of the High Court in convicting Bainimarama for attempting to pervert the course of justice and Qiliho for abuse of office where they interfered in an ongoing investigation at the University of the South Pacific.

The matter was called before Magistrate Puamau this morning after Justice Temo overturned the non-guilty plea the Magistrate had initially handed down last year.

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The argument in court got heated as Puamau tried to explain to counsels from the Office of the Director Public Prosecution why she would not be pronouncing the two guilty as per the directive of the High Court.

However, the ODPP lawyers argued that the state is bound by the directive of the High Court, which is for the Magistrate to pronounce the convicted persons guilty.

Magistrate Puamau then put to them that the two can only be convicted once, and this has already been done.

She, however, says that she acknowledges the findings.

Magistrate Puamau says it would be an error of law for her to convict the former Prime Minister and Qiliho the second time, stating it is a matter of common sense.

She says that she is trying to work according to the law in a way that is respectful of the High Court, and she is trying to find an elegant way of getting to the sentencing process.

Bainimarama and Qiliho will be sentenced next Thursday.

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