THE High Court in Suva yesterday heard that former prime minister Laisenia Qarase indicated his wish to withdraw as financial adviser of Cicia Plantation Co-op because he was standing for elections.
However, Adriu Ledua Ratumaiyale, who was the Co-op secretary from 1982 to 1995, told the High Court in Suva that he could not recall the year.
Mr Ratumaiyale told Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption senior counsel Michael Blanchflower, that he met the former prime minister when he attended a Cicia Plantation Co-op annual general meeting.
Speaking through a translator, the former co-op secretary said other members told him that Mr Qarase was the adviser to co-op.
Mr Qarase is charged with six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharge of duty with respect to property in which the accused, a former director on FHL's board, had a private interest.
Mr Blanchflower asked Mr Ratumaiyale if he could recall a discussion the co-op had on investing in Fijian Holdings Limited and if Mr Qarase was present.
Mr Ratumaiyale said while he could recall the meeting, Mr Qarase was not present in the meeting.
Referring to the elections, Mr Blanchflower asked the witness if and how the people supported Mr Qarase.
Mr Ratumaiyale said the people supported Mr Qarase as he had taken his people from nothing to what they now had.
He told the court he could not recall how much was received in dividends but that the co-op had invested in various places and this amounted to $100,000.
Mr Ratumaiyale said the money was distributed to shareholders in the five villages.
Defence lawyer Tupou Draunidalo in cross examination asked Mr Ratumaiyale if Vanuabalavu was the closest island to Cicia, to which the latter replied it was some distance away.
Mr Ratumaiyale agreed with Ms Draunidalo that there were one or two islands between Vanuabalavu and Cicia.
Ms Draunidalo told the witness that Mr Qarase did not attend some meetings and asked where the meetings were held.
The witness said the co-op's AGM was held on Cicia and agreed that it was some distance to travel from Suva.
Ms Draunidalo then asked if it took 12 hours or less to travel by boat to which Mr Ratumaiyale responded that it would take 21 hours if the boat travelled at 21 knots per hour.
Ms Draunidalo said "you said dividends were distributed to shareholders, are the landowners shareholders?"
Mr Ratumaiyale said the dividends were distributed to the head of the mataqali and it was the head's job to distribute it to the members.
The trial is being heard by Justice Priyantha Fernando.