13 Oct 2005

The Fiji Government rejects latest scam claim

6:57 pm on 13 October 2005

Fiji's agriculture ministry has denied allegations of another vote buying scam in its farming assistance scheme.

The opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, made the allegation this week saying timber and corrugated roofing iron were being distributed to farmers in hundreds of villages to buy their votes in the next general election.

He said such actions are tantamount to bribery and illegal under the law.

But in a statement, the agriculture ministry says the allegations are outright lies.

It says the Rural Farmer Assistance Programme is not a vote buying ploy but a recognised scheme to assist farmers with farm inputs to promote local crop and livestock production.

The agriculture ministry says it is currently distributing items to approved applicants only, including a backlog that has built up over the past two years.

It says should Mr Chaudhry have proof of instances of misuse or abuse, the ministry would be most willing to follow them up and take the appropriate action.