Update: Lands Minister Ashneel Sudhakar has been removed from his ministerial position this afternoon.
A fracas within Fiji’s ruling Fiji First Party could see the return to Parliament of lawyer and former Tourism Minister, Faiyaz Koya.
Lands Minister, Ashneel Sudhakar, has been cited over a number of messages he allegedly sent a young woman last year.
The messages suggested a dinner and date with the woman, the use of a ministerial driver and vehicle for her transportation to the venue and the possibility of career advancement.
Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also Fiji First’s General Secretary, has called for Sudhakar to resign but the minister has refused, claiming innocence.
If Sudhakar – who polled 755 votes in the 2018 General Election – quits or is forced out, he will be replaced by Koya who received 547.
But Sudhakar may prove difficult to dislodge after claiming the move to remove him was based on his investigations into questionable land dealings in Labasa.
According to local media reports, the last Fiji First MP to face disciplinary action due to impropriety was Balmindar Singh in January 2018. Singh refused to resign and was sacked over drunk driving charges.
Meanwhile, Sudhakar has told local media outlets he is willing to face a party disciplinary hearing.
*This story was updated for clarity at 16:31, 13/3/20.