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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Moti is likely to be Solomon Islands new Attorney General

There is growing concern in Honiara yesterday after indications the controversial Australian lawyer Julian Moti has been appointed the country’s next Attorney General.

Mr Moti was Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s choice for the post after kicking out Primo Afeau from the job. An earlier Solomon Star report that another Australian was selected to replace Mr Afeau was proven to be inaccurate.

Sources close to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission told the Solomon Star Mr Moti was the only candidate for the job. “For your information the Judicial and Legal Service Commission chaired by the Chief Justice has appointed Mr Moti as AG. But I don’t think the appointment has been made public yet,” one source said. Attempts to talk to Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer were not successful.

According to the Constitution, the government can recommend a candidate for the post but the final decision rests with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. Some members of the commission, were said to have been strongly opposed to Mr Moti taking up the job.

Mr Moti is a personal friend of Prime Minister Sogavare. He was the one rumoured to have advised the prime minister on the establishment of the controversial Commission of Inquiry into the April riots. The Solomon Islands Bar Association had recently opposed to Mr Moti becoming the AG on the basis that he was a foreigner. Questions were also raised about Mr Moti’s track record. He was once expelled and banned from the country for alleged interference into local politics. The ban was lift when a new government came in.

A member of the Bar Association, lawyer John Keni, said Mr Moti was an unsuitable candidate for the post. He said Mr Moti’s ethical behaviour had been seriously questioned in Vanuatu. Moti’s CV, as listed on the website for Bond University in Queensland, where he is an adjunct law professor, states he practices and teaches constitutional, corporate and commercial law in jurisdictions extending from the Solomons to India.

Court records show Moti, a QC at the Honiara bar, was charged with two counts of rape of a girl under the age of 16 in 1997 in Vanuatu. Moti denied the charges, which were dismissed by a magistrate. When the girl initiated civil proceedings, Mr Moti settled the matter out of court.

A spokesman from the Prime Minister’s Office said any announcement of the new Attorney General is likely to be made when the prime minister returns from New York.

Source: Solomon Star

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