Monday, 7 January 2008 1:15 PM

Former Ministers Defy Calls to Return Official Vehicles

Former Ministers have vowed to defy calls by the new government to return official vehicles in their possession.

The new government, led by Prime Minister Dr. Derek Sikua, reasoned it does not have enough money to buy new vehicles and demand the vehicles be returned for re-allocation to new Ministers.

But the Leader of Opposition, Manasseh Sogavare, has instead said his group will be taking legal action to challenge the new government's decision.

Mr. Sogavare said the twelve former ministers in the last government were given the approval to purchase the vehicles, most of which are double cabin hiluxes.

"... the former government had, after due consultation by the relevant authorities, duly approved the sale of the vehicles to the former Ministers," he said.

Mr. Sogavare said he had approved the sale under the relevant provisions of the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission Amendment Regulation 2006 and other relevant provision of the Constitution.

He said Cabinet has no power to undermine the exercise of discretion of the Prime Minister, adding any action to alter the decision would be seen as null and void.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Opposition Lawyer, Wilson Rano of Pacific Lawyers Limited, had written to Prime Minister, Doctor Derek Sikua, requesting that the Government not take action in retrieving the vehicles from former Ministers until the legal interpretation of the Parliamentary Entitlements Regulation is given by the courts.

Mr. Rano said while the final valuation assessment of purchase price for the vehicles is still being done by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, he had advised the former Ministers to maintain legal custody of the vehicles until the matter is settled by the court.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. Rano referred to a similar case, when former Deputy Prime Minister, in the former Government, Toswell Kaua, was allowed to purchase a government vehicle allocated to him under the same provision.

Mr. Rano points out that the former Ministers expect the same treatment to be given to them.

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