DPPs Office remains concerned about the conduct of the Magistrate in Bainimarama and Qiliho’s case
Magistrate Puamau denies application saying it does not meet the threshold for actual or apparent bias

DPPs Office remains concerned about the conduct of the Magistrate in Bainimarama and Qiliho’s case

Magistrate Puamau denies application saying it does not meet the threshold for actual or apparent bias

By Vijay Narayan , Rashika Kumar
Monday 13/03/2023

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions remains concerned about the conduct of the Magistrate throughout the hearing in the case of former Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho.

DPP lawyer, Jayneeta Prasad had made an application for Magistrate Seini Puamau to recuse herself from the Bainimarama-Qiliho case on the grounds of apparent bias however it was denied.

Bainimarama and Qiliho pleaded not guilty to a count each of abuse of office and have been granted bail.

The charges relate to a complaint laid with the police by the University of the South Pacific in July 2020 in relation to the activities of former staff members of the university.

Prasad had requested to make the application in closed chambers however it was denied by the Magistrate.

The DPP lawyer says the alleged bias stems from comments made in the morning during the hearing on bail where Magistrate Puamau had said "they may come back into power again".

While responding to the application on Friday, Bainimarama and Qiliho’s lawyer, Devanesh Sharma said they oppose the application as there has to be actual or apparent bias that goes to the heart of the fact.

He says the comments are made based on facts.

Sharma adds it is speculation what position Bainimarama may have in the future.

Magistrate Puamau denied the application stating that it does not meet the threshold for actual or apparent bias.

She says she can cite historical figures who came back into power such as Winston Churchill or Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.

She further says that is how politics works and that the former Prime Minister, if interested, may stand again and Qiliho is only suspended.

The Magistrate says she did not intend to treat them differently.

The Office of the DPP says a recusal application is made whenever there is actual bias shown by a judge or magistrate or where there is an apprehended risk of bias.

The DPPs Office says in this case, the Magistrate had made statements in open court that could be perceived as bias against the State.

As a result of those comments, the State made an application for the Magistrate to recuse herself.

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