Former Education Minister Doctor Mahendra Reddy has been acquitted of both charges by Chief Magistrate, Usaia Ratuvili. It was earlier alleged that Doctor Reddy, on or about 8th May this year, in Rakiraki, in order to influence the vote of Waisea Lebobo, the Manager of Ra High School, directly conferred or offered to confer a benefit namely a steady water source for Ra High School.
It was also alleged that Doctor Reddy interfered with the free exercise or performance of a political right of Lebobo that is relevant to the 2018 election. Doctor Reddy had pleaded not guilty to one count of bribery and one count of undue influence. Now Chief Magistrate Ratuvili has found him not guilty of both counts after the trial.
The Chief Magistrate says there is no dispute that those words to that effect were uttered on the day in question by the accused in answer to a question that was posed to him by Lebobo. He says there is also no dispute that at the time in question the accused held the position of Minister of Education.
Chief Magistrate Ratuvili says Lebobo is clear that the promise by the accused as Minister at the time in question caused him to change his political allegiance. He says Lebobo also confirmed under cross-examination that at the time of voting, only he knows who he will vote for. The Chief Magistrate says as the evidence stands the first count appear to fall squarely within the statutory defence.
He says the proposed benefit to Lebobo being a steady water source for Ra High and surrounding villages and a settlement could fairly be described as a promise of a public action. Chief Magistrate Ratuvili says for the second count, the state has not provided any evidence as to how Lebobo’s political right has been hindered or interfered with by Doctor Reddy. He also says there is no conclusive evidence as to how a statement made on or about 8th May 2017 will adversely interfere with the registered voter’s right in a yet to be declared election in 2018..
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