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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SI government rubbished claims that Moti was not cleared by Vanuatu courts

The Solomon Islands government yesterday rubbished claims that suspended Attorney General Julian Moti was not cleared by Vanuatu courts on child sex charges in 1999.

In a statement from Honiara yesterday, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s media officer Deli Oso also accused Australia of trying to revive the child sex charge against Moti dismissed in Vanuatu eight years ago.

“As far as the Solomon Islands government is concerned, Mr Moti had been cleared of the rape allegations against him by the Vanuatu court. The judge who dismissed the case against him also confirmed the dismissal to the Australian media last year. The judge was surprised at Australia’s action,” Deli Oso said.

She added the Solomon Islands government respected the decision by the Vanuatu judiciary and sees no reason why Australia was pursuing the return of Moti to Australia to answer the allegations that were already dismissed.

“The Solomons government sees Australia’s action as purely politically motivated,” Ms Oso said from Honiara.

She also rejected PNGDF inquiry chairman Justice Gibbs Salika’s comment that he had documents that suggested that Moti had not been cleared by the Vanuatu courts on child sex charges. Mr Moti was cleared by a Vanuatu magistrate Bruce Kalatri in 1999 after being charged with rape of a 13-year-old Vanuatu girl in 1997. However, the Australian government insists that Mr Kalatri was bribed to dismiss those charges. Mr Kalatri, now retired, has denied the bribery charges. He was allegedly sponsored by Moti to study at an Australian university in Sydney following the dismissal of Moti’s sex charges.

Meanwhile, PNG Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Paul Tiensten suggested yesterday that the PNGDF Board of Inquiry should just consider using telephone interviews with those in Solomon Islands implicated in the Julian Moti escape.

Mr Tiensten said the Department of Foreign Affairs had been in dialogue with the Solomon Islands government on whether they changed their mind but there was no response. The Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister said there was nothing wrong with telephone interviews but for the inquiry to go there brings to fore the question of jurisdiction. He said although the inquiry lawyers do not agree and claim that the inquiry had jurisdiction to travel, the issue has all to do with the interpretation of the laws.

“The Solomon Islands government had refused any attempt by them to go and as I stated already, the position of their government’s stand as far as their diplomatic note is concerned, we are not welcomed.”

The motion to allow passage for the PNGDF board of inquiry to travel to Honiara to conduct interviews with persons of interest, which was raised by the Opposition leader Hon Fred Fono, was defeated in parliament last week.

Source: PNG National

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