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Dr Reddy a free man

Aqela Susu
Saturday, December 02, 2017

FORMER education minister Dr Mahendra Reddy will now await the announcement of his reinstatement by the Prime Minister after he was found not guilty and acquitted of one count of bribery and one count of undue influence by the Suva Magistrates Court yesterday.

Dr Reddy was alleged to have conferred or offered to confer a benefit namely a steady water source for the Ra High School in order to influence the vote of Waisea Lelobo, the school manager.

He was alleged to have interfered with the free exercise or performance of a political right of Mr Lelobo that is relevant to the 2018 election.

The alleged offences took place in May this year in the Western Division.

Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili ruled yesterday that the first count of bribery appeared to fall squarely within the statutory defence. He said the proposed benefit offered to Mr Lelobo could fairly be described as a promise of public action.

And for the second count, Chief Magistrate Ratuvili said the State had not provided evidence as to how the exercise of Mr Lelobo's political rights were hindered or interfered with by the accused.

"There is no conclusive evidence as to how a statement made on or about 8 May, 2017, will adversely interfere with this registered voter exercising his political rights in a yet to be declared general election scheduled some time in 2018," he said.

Now a free man, Dr Reddy said in a statement yesterday he was relieved that justice had prevailed and that he had been acquitted of charges that were wrongly br­ought against him. He described the past months as a difficult time for him and his family.

"If anything, I have emerged stronger from this challenge and my optimistic view of the matter is that it has provided an opportunity for judicial scrutiny of a critical legislation that has a key role in our democratic processes," Dr Reddy said. "Despite the case, my strong conviction was that I had neither transgressed any laws of my country nor infringed any moral or ethical standards. I stood aside as minister to enable the judicial process to proceed without any perception of undue influence, and for the Education Ministry to maintain its integrity as a key entity in the education of our children."

Dr Reddy said he wished to return to his ministerial portfolio and continue on the good work that they have been doing in the past three years.

"However, I shall await the honorable Prime Minister to make the formal announcement of reinstatement, as agreed at the time of my stand-down from the ministerial position."

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