The Fijian Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has committed the grave offence of misleading the Fijian Parliament with his claim that the government does not tell the Fiji Sun what to put on its front page. It is a lie.
On multiple occasions when I was the government’s principal communications advisor, the AG directed me to contact the publisher of the Fiji Sun, Peter Lomas, and instruct him to put a particular story on the front page. “Tell him to put it on the front page”, he would say and I would telephone Peter Lomas to relay the instruction. I felt uncomfortable doing so because I believed it was inappropriate for the government to give such an instruction to a supposedly independent media organisation. But I did it as part of my duties and do not recall an occasion on which Lomas resisted.
In the light of the AG’s statement to the Parliament on August 18 that no such instruction has been given, I am prepared to attest under oath in a court of law or any other appropriate forum that it is false. I am also aware of, and sometimes witnessed, multiple instances in which the AG gave other instructions to the Fiji Sun to cover certain stories or ignore others. Many of these were conveyed personally by the AG to the Fiji Sun’s News Editor, Jyoti Pratibah. I am also willing to swear on oath that I was informed by Peter Lomas that the AG had instructed him to withhold opinion polling commissioned by the Fiji Sun before the 2018 election that showed the erosion of the FijiFirst vote.
It is contrary to all principles of proper parliamentary conduct that the people’s house should be misled by the Attorney General – the chief law officer of the state, who has responsibility for supervising Fijian law and advising the government on legal matters. The AG’s economy with the truth is a grave violation of his duty to maintain the highest standards of probity in the conduct of his official duties and an assault on democracy that makes him unfit for high office.
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August 19 2021