Statement by the Registrar of Political Parties
Mr Mohammed Saneem
FEO Media Centre – 16/10/20 – 3.30pm
The Registrar of Political Parties wishes to publicly highlight questionable conduct by solicitors engaged by Hon. Biman Prasad to be his legal counsel namely Mr. Adish Narayan. The Fijian Elections Office informed Mr Prasad that we would refer his conduct to FICAC in terms of the donations that he has made to the National Federation Party, particulars of which has been released to you earlier today through a press release.
The Registrar received a letter this morning signed by Mr. Adish Narayan of AK Lawyers advising that they carry instructions to reply to our letter that we sent to Mr Biman Prasad. At this juncture I highlight that the notification to Hon. Prasad was not designed to seek any responses but merely to notify him of the findings of the Registrar and the necessary actions that we have taken thereafter.
However, as instructed apparently and instead of producing a substantive reply, Mr. Narayan has demanded that the Registrar seeks further clarifications from his firm to ‘avoid both embarrassment and legal consequences of any retraction of your proposed complaint to FICAC”.
Further, after being advised that the matter had already been referred to FICAC, Mr. Narayan through one Elizabeth Saverio threatened the Registrar “We still caution you regarding any media releases or other action you take without verification from us.” All this time no verification has yet been provided if there was any.
The FEO has referred Hon. Prasad to FICAC and as has been the practice of the FEO, we issued a media release briefly outlining what Hon. Prasad had been referred to FICAC for, and the particular section that the Registrar found Hon. Prasad to have breached together with a brief detail on the basis for which the Registrar felt there was a probable breach of the law.
This statement is consistent with every other time the Registrar has referred a Party or a person, for purportedly breaching a provision of the law.
It is always noted by the Registrar in light of his responsibilities under the statutory role that the referral to FICAC of a probable breach is afterwards determined by FICAC whether it intends to prosecute or not.
The Registrar has always been transparent about the activities of the Registrar and in the event the Registrar becomes aware that a breach is no longer committed or was not committed, the Registrar has acted to quickly withdraw the complaints and we have made public statements of that information as well. You may note recently from the example where a Company had donated to the National Federation Party and once the party informed the Registrar that it had refunded the money, since there was no more breach, the Registrar withdrew the complaint.
It is in the genuine public interest to be informed of any purported breaches of the law that has been identified by the Registrar and has been referred to FICAC for investigation. The Registrar has consistently issued such brief statements to uphold the public expectations.
The correspondence from AK Lawyers purportedly acting on behalf of Hon. Prasad in which the lawyers have sought to pressure or coerce the Registrar from issuing any statement is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that the firm of lawyers purportedly acting for and on behalf of Hon. Prasad saw it fit to attempt to unduly influence the Registrar from carrying out his functions and necessary responsibilities under the law and carrying out his functions as expected in public interest.
I wish to put both Hon. Prasad and his purported law firm on notice that such actions attempting to compromise the role of the Registrar will not be taken lightly.
If the law firm claims to have been retained by Hon. Prasad to provide a purported response to the Registrar, then it should do exactly that. Resorting to threatening and condescending behaviour in attempts to circumvent the Registrar’s processes only shows desperation and it is highly irregular.
The Registrar respects that any person in Fiji has the constitutional right to be represented by a legal counsel, however at this point in time, this matter is neither civil nor criminal in nature. It is merely a correspondence by the Registrar to a person directly involved or believed to be involved in the commission of a probable offence. It is therefore the responsibility of that person to obtain legal advice and respond to the Registrar rather than having a firm of lawyers issuing directives to the Registrar.