May 02, 2014 04:55:37 PM
Justice Madigan has criticised the “political anti-government speech” made by Catholic priest Father Kevin Barr on behalf of Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry as being in contempt of court.
Father Barr, a character witness on behalf of Chaudhry, was speaking on behalf of the Fiji Labour Party leader, who was today convicted of exchange control violations charges and told to pay a $2 million fine for holding $A1.5m in his Australian bank accounts.
Father Barr had claimed “strong voices in the business lobby” wanted Chaudhry out of the way via the coup of May 2000 because he refused to indulge in “under the table” business dealings.
He recalled comments made by a prominent businessman in Suva (while Chaudhry was PM and Finance Minister) that Chaudhry “does not know how business is done in Fiji” and that unlike other Finance Ministers, “you could make your request, pass something under the table and get what you wanted, but this Chaudhry won’t take something under the table and wants everything on top of the table.”
Father Barr went on to question why those involved in the 2000 coup were not investigated despite calls to do so adding that it “appears to me to be an absolute lack of justice that this was never done.”
He also criticised the “number of anti-union decrees” and treatment of unionists, and the continued lobbying by employers to keep “workers wages low.”
“So, as I said above, it is in the interest of some powerful business people to have Mr Chaudhry out of the way,” Father Barr said.
Justice Madigan said Father Barr’s statement only served to “cancel the work of the rest of the character evidence.”
“More outrageously he cast disparaging remarks on the nature of these proceedings against Chaudhry by saying that it was a ‘sad attempt to discredit a great and honourable and a man of integrity for petty, vindicative reasons’.”
Justice Madigan said Chaudhry’s lawyer, Matthew Hutchings must also be seen as a party to this contempt of court “because he had a typed a copy of Father Barr’s antipathy.”