28 Jun 2005

Fiji's Daily Post stands by report of Labour pardon offer

4:00 pm on 28 June 2005

Fiji's government-backed Daily Post is standing by its report that the opposition party offered to pardon a leading coup convict in return for his joining the party.

The Labour Party's threatening legal action over claims that an indigenous Labour senator and doctor, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, offered the deal to Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, a vice president of the ruling SDL party.

The Post's editor, Mesake Koroi, says the source of the story was Takiveikata, who is serving a life sentence for inciting the November 2000 mutiny.

Labour says it doesn't even have the power to grant a pardon, but Mr Koroi is adamant the story is true.

"That's just what they would say. It's a carrot that they've been dangling and to us that's a good story and we'll stand by that story."

The former opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, doubts the story is true.

Frankly I think it's outrageous, and I would be surprised if in actual fact the Labour Party would have done that. Coming from the Daily Post, perhaps this is more of a setup or a fictitious report to put the party in bad light .

Mr Beddoes says it would hardly be a smart move for Labour to offer a pardon on the presumption of winning the next election, when it has been so opposed to the government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Labour has indicated it expects the newspaper to publicly apologise otherwise it could sue it for defamation.