• 14th May 2003
  • 2003
  • // Display comment count + link

Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry maintains that the law firm of Munro Leys acted unethically in helping establish and register a company for Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and four of his senior ministers.

Mr Chaudhry said he was surprised that the firm’s acting administration partner Richard Naidu should seek to defend and justify their unethical action.

Mr Chaudhry said that Article 3.20 of the Prime Minister’s company, Duavata Initiatives Limited, provides for it to enter into any arrangements with any government or authority, or municipality, and to obtain any rights, privileges and concessions which the company may think it desirable to obtain within the Company’s objects or any of them and carry out such exercise and comply with any such arrangements, rights, privileges and concessions.

“This article is a blatant violation of section 156 of the Constitution which states that holders of public office including ministers must so conduct themselves in relation to the performance of their public duties as not to place themselves in positions in which they have or could be seen as having, a conflict between their private interests and their public duties.

“The same section of the constitution requires ministers and other holders of public office not to compromise the fair exercise of their public duties; to use their office for private gain; to allow their integrity to be called into question; or to cause respect for, or confidence in, the integrity of the government to be diminished, said Mr Chaudhry.

A full examination of the memorandum and articles of association discloses, without doubt, that the Duavata Initiative Limited, is an initiative that can become an instrument for corrupt deals, extortion and money laundering.

The objects of the company are far reaching and wide, permitting it to engage in almost everything from owning and managing real estate to acting as agents, brokers, executors and issuers of promissory notes, bills of exchange debentures and other negotiable instruments. The objects even allow the company to procure incorporation overseas and to operate its activities from off shore.

The directors of the company are not precluded from gaining privately from the company’s trading activities. There are provisions in the memorandum and articles of association which would make this possible.

The action of the Prime Minister and his senior ministers in registering and holding directorship of the company is also a gross violation of the code of conduct of ministers as stipulated in the manual of ministerial practice and procedure.

Article 3.20 where the company is empowered to negotiate concessions, privileges and rights with government and municipal authorities is blatantly unethical, immoral and indeed unlawful.

“Imagine the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and other senior ministers negotiating contracts, rights and other financial arrangements for the company with the government. What nonsense is this and how can one give it a clean image and say it is within the law for such things to happen?” questioned Mr Chaudhry.

It is a shame for the legal profession for one of its senior firms to engage in registering a shady company and then claim that all is within the law, said Mr Chaudhry.

Mahendra Chaudhry