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'No vote buying tactics'

Aqela Susu And Luke Rawalai
Tuesday, November 07, 2017

ACTING Prime Minister Jone Usamate says the $1000 small and micro business grant distributed by Government was not "vote buying".

Mr Usamate made the comment in response to claims by the Fiji Labour Party that the grant disbursed by Government was blatantly a vote buying tactic.

FLP leader and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry last week called on the Electoral Commission to investigate the cheque handouts.

Mr Chaudhry claimed the issuing of cheques also contravened the Electoral Act.

"There was no criteria, no transparency in the handing out of these monies and nor was there any followup to see that it is utilised accordingly," he said.

"It is an abuse of the Government of India's funding for micro finance. I am sure the Indian Government did not mean the fund to be used for political purposes."

Mr Usamate said he expected nothing less from FLP losing out on winning a seat in the 2014 General Election.

"Now they are trying to come up with all kinds of things," he said.

"The Fijian Government has always focused on the most marginalised in society."

Mr Usamate said the $1000 grant could make a huge difference in the lives of these people.

"This money can grow business, a micro enterprise into a small enterprise, which becomes a medium enterprise and that's what we want to do, to give grant recipients the opportunity to do something with their lives.

"It's not about vote buying, it's about assisting someone who is struggling."

He said Government was focused on a better Fiji for all.

Queries sent to the Electoral Commission last Friday remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.

Questions were also sent to the office of the Minister for Industry and Trade, Faiyaz Koya, who distributed the cheques on Vanua Levu last week, but remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

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